The futon mattress has long been a popular style of bedding in the West; however it was adapted from the original Japanese futon. While the two styles are widely different in practical use, the basic function remains the same: to provide a comfortable sleeping experience for the user. While the Japanese version is frameless and can be folded up to be neatly stored in a closet, the futon mattress of the West has a configurable frame that folds near the middle and typically doubles as a couch. Nonetheless, both styles provide for an economy of space where there is a call for it.
This article will focus specifically on the Western style of futon mattress, with brief mentions of the not-so-subtle differences between that and the futon from Japan. I would also like to address the different ways they are made in the West, take a look at the varying degrees of softness and size, and ultimately how to care for a futon mattress should you be in the market. You can see examples of futons and traditional beds at http://www.cheapupholsteredbeds.com/.
If you aren't familiar with the futon mattress of Japan, let me explain the difference. In Japan futons are much thinner mattresses made of cotton batting, very different than what someone from the West is used to. It's thinner and folds up for easy storage in a closet when not in use. It serves to conserve space for a room that has several functions other than that for sleeping. As I stated earlier, they did not rest on frames and instead were placed on Tatami mats made from rice and straw.
For the most part, the futon mattresses in Western countries rest on frames, and they are made of varying materials; from cotton to foam to polyester or wool. There are no springs in most, though some more modern designs have implemented the use of springs: These of course would be used solely as beds. Many come with futon mattress covers: This is important for all-cotton and cotton blended futons, to prevent absorption of moisture. As the Japanese style is easily hung out to air, the Western futon is bulkier and less manoeuvrable this way. Having a futon mattress cover provides an alternative to airing the mattress.
The Cotton Futon Mattress
This mattress most resembles the Japanese futon except for its bulk. It is more full-sized in thickness and made entirely of a cotton fill, which makes it a very firm mattress, while still allowing it to be doubled over as a chair or loveseat. Mostly it will come with a basic wood frame for use as a sofa as well as a bed. As it is most prone to moisture absorption, the cotton futon mattress requires active and frequent maintenance. Usually it needs to be flipped and rotated every few weeks or at least once a month, to air it out and keep it from lumping in a particular area.
The Cotton and Foam Mattress
This style is probably the most popular, as it holds its form better than the standard cotton futon mattress and is cheaper. It provides firmness and resiliency while allowing a softer more pliable sleeping posture. The number of layers of foam will vary between manufacturers, but the more layers there are the softer the mattress. This type of mattress will hold its shape nearly twice as long as the cotton variety.
Wool Futon Mattresses
Wool futons are a great idea for cooler climates, as wool is a natural insulator. It isn't 100% wool as it needs foam to help keep its form, but is more of a wrap of wool around an inner core of foam. It provides warmth in the cool months and will even stay cool in warmer months. It also requires a futon cover to prevent moisture from settling in and distorting its shape. You should flip and rotate a wool futon just as often as you would a cotton futon mattress.
Foam and Polyester Futon Mattresses
The more you move away from cotton and wool, the better lifespan your futon mattress will have; foam and polyester mattresses are testimony to that. Polyester provides medium to medium-firm support; that is wrapped around a foam core with a layer of cotton batting. This type of bedding will support all body types and maintain a high resilience over time. It's a lightweight mattress that can still hold up to frequent usage. It should be flipped and rotated every three months.
Innerspring Futon Mattresses
This is more like your typical mattress and box spring, and comes in sizes from full up to a queen futon mattress. It has a centre core of springs to provide a more fluid sleeping experience. It is used exclusively for the purpose of sleep and does not fold over for sitting or storage purposes; the springs are wrapped in several layers of foam to give it that futon feel, while providing longer lasting usage. It rarely requires flipping and rotating, mainly like a standard mattress it should be done every six months.
Caring For Your Futon Mattress
It depends on the type of mattress you have, as to what kind of care it needs. Obviously a firmer futon mattress with inner springs will require less care, as it holds its shape better than a full cotton mattress, which requires a lot of flipping and rotating to prolong its form. The number one way to prolong the lifespan of your futon is to buy a futon cover. It is easy to manage, is somewhat water resistant, will keep out dirt and dust and can be easily washed. For cotton and other folding futon mattresses you should air them out outside once a year for good measure.