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What is Memory Foam?

What is Memory Foam?
We all try to gain the maximum comfort out of amenities that we invest in. Even if we’re looking for something that is affordable, we wish that it provides greater return in the long run.

Fortunately, you can invest in items made with memory foam to maximize your returns.

Memory foam is a synthetic material that is famous for its molding abilities and durability, and consequently, it is used in mattresses, car seats, and even pillows.

What is Memory Foam?

Memory foam is made of polyurethane, a polymer that is commonly found in car seats, mattresses, spray foam, sofas, and pillows.

And the primary reason is its ability to relieve pressure and provide good support.

Highly durable, the material is capable of retaining its original shape for its entire lifespan.

What are the Types of Memory Foam?

Several varieties of memory foam are used in different products. Let’s take a look at different types of memory foam and advantages and disadvantages of each.

Traditional Memory Foam

It’s simply a solid block of memory foam.

It provides very good support and conforms to the shape of your body. It’s widely used in pillows and mattresses.

However, using it may be a problem in high temperatures, as it retains body heat and passes it back to the user.

So you can rely on other types of memory foam products if you happen to live in a warm climate and without an air conditioner.

Open Cell Memory Foam

This memory foam has an entirely different structure to promote airflow and keep the pillow or mattress cool.

As the air moves easily inside the memory foam, the hot air escapes from the memory foam pillow or mattress easily. When the hot air escapes, the product stays cool.

Gel Memory Foam

Gel infused memory foam prevents the retention of body heat to provide relief to people who suffer from night sweats or who live in hotter climates.

When it comes to cooling gel, there are two types:

  • Heat absorber: this gel simply absorbs heat to keep the pillow or mattress cool.
  • Phase-changing material: phase changing gel also absorbs heat, but passes some of it back to effectively regulate temperature.

And the best part is that your mattress and pillow will have an increased density because of the infused gel.

But if the gel isn’t infused properly, then your pillow or mattress won’t last as long.

Shredded Memory Foam

Shredded memory foam comes with or without the cooling gel. This Shredded memory foam pillow has a unique quality - you can adjust its height and firmness.

The amount of shredded memory packed in the pillow’s zipper case can be altered to change the loft and firmness of the pillow.

So instead of testing out multiple pillows, you can rely on a single one and save money.

If body heat is a problem for you, then simply purchase one with infused cooling gel.

Advantages of Memory Foam

Memory foam has gained much popularity simply via word of mouth marketing. Because of its ability to mold and provide good support, many people have reported experiencing better sleep.

However, perspectives can often differ. So let’s look at the advantages and then the disadvantages of using a memory foam pillow or mattress.

Creates a Mold of the Body

Memory foam uses heat and pressure to mold according to the shape of an object.

As a viscoelastic material, it uses the body heat and pressure to become viscous, which makes it mold according to the shape of your body.

When the mattress or pillow creates a mold of your body, it better supports your joints and relieves much of the pressure by promoting good alignment of the spine and head.

So by providing better support and maintaining good alignment, memory foam can enhance your sleep.

Relieves Pain

If you suffer from chronic pain, then you know that stress on joints and misalignment of spine can exacerbate your symptoms.

This is where memory foam shines.

By ensuring that you have proper support and by promoting better alignment of your body, memory foam may provide some relief from pain.

And if the underlying reason for your pain is incorrect sleep posture, then memory foam may help you in eliminating the pain altogether.

So you can rely on memory foam pillows and mattresses if you suffer from arthritis, joint pain, or any other chronic pain.

And if you’ve ever used traditional spring mattresses, then you know that the soft cover usually flattens, leaving the spring to press into your body and cause discomfort.

Memory foam pillows don’t flatten out over time and retain their original shape in contrast to traditional pillows.

And because the foam is so dense, you won’t feel any movement from your partner because of which your sleep won’t be disturbed. When memory foam molds to the shape of your body, the foam absorbs all the vibrations caused by tossing and turning around.


If you suffer from allergies, then you should go with a hypoallergenic fill for your pillow and mattress.

Memory foam is hypoallergenic, i.e, it rarely causes any allergies.

In contrast to traditional pillows and mattresses that enable dust, dust mites, and mold to build up inside, memory foam prevents such a buildup because of its dense nature.

If you’re allergic to dust, dust mites, and molds, then a memory foam pillow or mattress can help you avoid both allergies and interrupted sleep.


Pillows and mattresses flatten out over time. As your pillow or mattress flattens, it becomes uncomfortable and fails to provide both good alignment and good support.

Memory foam retains its original shape throughout its lifespan.

Although it molds to the shape of your body, it quickly bounces back to its original shape when you get off of it.

Further, the material is hypoallergenic and prevents the buildup of dust, dust mites, and molds.

So a memory foam pillow or mattress can easily last you for more than 5 years if you use it correctly.

However, you may have to replace the case and cover of your mattress and pillow.

Shredded Memory Foam

Shredded memory foam pillow

Often used in pillows, shredded memory foam enables you to customize the loft and firmness of your pillow.

The shredded memory foam is usually packed into a zipper case.

When you insert additional memory foam into the case, the loft and firmness of the pillow increase.

When you remove memory foam from inside the case, the loft and firmness of the pillow decrease.

So you can avoid the hit and trial method most people employ to find the pillow that fits their curves perfectly.

Disadvantages of Memory Foam

Although beneficial, memory foam has some disadvantages that you should take a note of. And it isn’t an elixir for pain relief either.

Here are the disadvantages of memory foam:


Density of memory foam provides good support. However, it can become a disadvantage.

Because of its density, memory foam mattresses are usually heavier than traditional ones. And its weight makes the mattress difficult to move around.

And some people do find it difficult to tuck in the sheets by lifting up the memory foam.

The lighter mattresses made from memory foam generally contain only a layer of this foam.


As stated earlier, memory foam uses your body heat to become viscous and mold to the shape of your body.

But by retaining body heat, the mattress and pillow can become heated, a problem for people who live in warm climates or who suffer from night sweats.

Overheated pillow or mattress can increase the temperature of your body, interrupting your sleep throughout the night.

And it may exacerbate symptoms of people suffering from night sweats.

However, there is a workaround.

You can get gel memory foam pillows or mattresses to reduce the heat passed back to your body. Pillows and mattresses with gel memory foam stay cool and promote sleep.

Not Waterproof

Although highly durable, memory foam degenerates upon coming into contact with moisture.

So you should keep water away as much as possible from your memory foam pillow and mattress.

You can complement the mattress with a waterproof cover in order to protect it from moisture. And new waterproof covers are not only not like plastic but also smooth and comfortable.


Some memory foam mattresses and pillows aren’t checked for odor. So they naturally emit the odor of chemicals.

This happens because of the off-gassing process and VOCs (volatile organic compounds). For people with sensitive noses, this can be a dealbreaker.

And if you purchase a cheaply manufactured memory foam product, then the odor can last from a week to even a month.

So when you purchase a memory foam pillow or mattress, you should ask the manufacturer about the chemical odor and the time it takes for the odor to disappear.

However, the off-gassing process doesn’t release harmful gases. The gases released are rather benign, but can cause problems for people who’ve a keen sense of smell.

How Long Does a Memory Foam Pillow and Mattress Last?

Memory foam has a very long lifespan because of the following reasons:

Density is the key

It is a very dense material, so dust, dust mites, and molds don’t build into it.

And if you purchase a product with high quality memory foam, then it won’t lose its shape for 8 to 10 years.

Because of this, a mattress or pillow made with memory foam can last you for a very long time.

But here are two factors that can impact the durability of memory foam pillows and mattresses:

  • Your weight: a heavier person will sink deeper into the foam, wearing it down faster than usual. The difference still wouldn’t be substantial.
  • Body oils: our body releases natural oils along with sweat. Both oils and sweat from our body can soak into your pillow or mattress and lower its durability.

But most memory foam products can last you for more than 5 years if used properly.

When to Replace your Memory Foam Pillow or Mattress?

As mentioned earlier, memory foam is very durable because it retains its original shape and does not flatten out with use.

So a good memory foam pillow or mattress can last for eight to 10 years. However, you’ve to be cautious with the low quality ones, as they wear out faster.

Here’s all that you need to check:

  • Bounce of the foam: if you get up off the pillow or mattress and it retains the impression of your body for a long time, then you should replace it. You may also find lumps or bumps on the pillow.
  • Sleep problems: if the pillow or mattress has become uncomfortable or gets too warm while you sleep, then you should replace it.
  • Allergy: if the pillow or mattress is very old, then it may lose its hypoallergenic properties because of the dust that builds up in the cuts and holes.

And most people are able to know that it's time to change their memory foam product. So trust your instincts as well.

How to Clean Memory Foam?

Sweat, natural oils, and dead skin cells from our body can accumulate on the pillow and mattress. Further, these things work as fodder for microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria.

Apart from increasing acne outbreak, a dirty pillow or mattress can also induce allergy symptoms: runny nose, breathing difficulties, watery eyes, coughing, and skin rashes.

So you should clean your sheets and pillow cover regularly to avoid these problems.

But sometimes that’s not enough. Sometimes you do get your mattress or pillow dirty, and need to clean them.

But memory foam disintegrates when washed with water. So you must use one of the following options to clean a memory foam pillow or mattress:

Vacuum Clean

Memory foam products can be vacuum cleaned.

You can vacuum the entire surface of both the pillow and the mattress. For the easiest cleaning experience, you can rely on a handheld vacuum cleaner.

Spot Clean

Spot cleaning is another effective option to get rid of stains from your memory foam product. You’ll require a fabric cleaner solution to spot clean.

Simply spray the solution onto a particular spot and gently clean the surface by moving your hands in a circular motion.

Now take a clean cloth and wipe the area to prevent moisture buildup.

Here’s what you can use to spot clean your memory foam mattress and pillow:

  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Mild detergent
  • Diluted fabric cleaner

Clean your mattress regularly to increase its life. You should also dry the mattress and pillow in the sun, as moisture can build into them.

Read Also : How to Wash Bamboo Pillow

Tips to Increase the Life of your Memory Foam Pillow and Mattress

If you want to make your pillow or mattress last for a long time, then you need to take a few measures:

  • Vacuum the surface before changing the sheets
  • Rotate the mattress every 6 months
  • Dry the pillow and mattress in sun
  • Don’t use hard chemicals, such as bleach, to clean your pillow
  • Consult your manufacturer for instructions on cleaning

Although durable, memory foam can deteriorate because of ill use. So maximize the lifetime of your products by following the tips provided above.

What is the Memory Foam off Gassing Process?

Like freshly roasted coffee, a new memory foam pillow off-gasses when you take it out of the package. Some people don’t find the chemical odor pleasant, or even bearable.

New memory foam releases volatile organic compounds (VOC) that give an unpleasant odor and may cause symptoms of allergies in some people.

But the odor disappears within a few hours or days.

And they also indicate that the memory foam is brand new. Further, a foam that smells too bad is usually of a lower quality.

If you’re worried about VOC, then purchase a memory foam product certified by one of these organizations:

  • CertiPur-US

These organizations certify that a memory foam product contains negligible amounts of VOC.

What is a CertiPUR-US® Certification?

CertiPur-US certifies foam products after analyzing the following:

  • Content
  • Durability
  • Emissions

A CertiPUR-US certification means that your memory foam product:

  • Has negligible amounts of VOCs (volatile organic compounds)
  • Free from 
    • toxic chemicals such as CFCs and Formaldehyde
    • heavy metals such as lead and mercury
    • PBDE flame retardants
    • Phthalate softening agents
    • Ozone depleters

The foams are tested in independent laboratories. The test aims to help users make informed decisions about polyurethane foam.

So if you want a safe product, along with peace of mind, then purchase a certified memory foam product.

Is Memory Foam Safe?

Because it's a naturally hypoallergenic material, most people sleep on memory foam products without any problems or side effects.

However, chemicals used in the manufacturing process may pose a problem in rare cases.

The new and premium memory foam products generally don’t contain chemicals that may pose a threat to your well being. However, the cheap ones may contain harmful chemicals.

Again, look at certifications to ascertain the quality and safety of a memory foam product.

Is Memory Foam Flame Retardant?

Memory foam isn’t naturally flame retardant.

However, law requires all mattresses to have some kind of fire barrier. So a chemical flame retardant is often added to a memory foam mattress.

And it may be necessary to check for the type of chemical flame retardant used, as some flame retardants are toxic.

What is Memory Foam Made of?

A synthetic material, memory foam contains the following ingredients:

  • Polyols: these are organic compounds found in almost everything, from sugar to plastic.
  • Diisocyanates: these chemicals turn polymers to polyurethane foam, the parent category of memory foam.
  • Blowing agents: used to create the chemical reaction to form polyurethane. Companies often use water for this purpose.

Some people are worried about the toxicity of memory foam products. To alleviate your fears, you should purchase only certified memory foam products.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question 1. Does a memory foam pillow smell?

Answer. That depends entirely on the manufacturer. In many instances, memory foam gives the smell of chemicals for a few days, but the smell usually disappears. You can fluff up your pillow and leave it for a few days to get rid of the smell.

Question 2. Does a memory foam pillow get warm?

Answer. Yes, it does. Memory foam absorbs body heat to mold according to the shape of our body. But once it absorbs heat, it starts to pass it back to our body.

If you live without an air conditioner in a hot climate or suffer from night sweats, then this can be a problem for you.

So look for products with:

  • Gel infused memory foam
  • Open-cell memory foam

These ones prevent excess buildup of heat and keep the memory foam cool.

Question 3. Can I steam clean a memory foam pillow or mattress?

Answer. Don’t steam clean a memory foam pillow or mattress. Steam cools down and becomes water, which can build up moisture inside the memory foam. So avoid steam cleaning any memory foam product.

Question 4. Can I wash memory foam pillows?

Answer. No. Although you can wash the cover, you shouldn’t wash the fill, as memory foam disintegrates when washed with water.

Memory Foam Products

A variety of memory foam products have sprung up because of its popularity as a material that can mold according to body shape.

Here are a few of the most popular memory foam products.

Memory Foam Pillows

memory foam cervical pillowYou can find various types of memory foam pillows, some of which are listed below:

  • Solid memory foam pillow
  • Shredded memory foam pillow
  • Cooling gel pillow (both solid and shredded foam)
  • Orthopedic cervical memory foam pillow

Orthopedic memory foam pillows have an ergonomic design to fit the curvature of your cervical spine so that they can provide good support. If you suffer from neck pain and/or stiffness, then you should get a cervical memory foam pillow.

If you’ve a folding bed, then you can purchase a memory foam futon, which can be rolled up or folded into two.

Memory Foam Mattress

Memory foam mattresses are dense but mold to provide good comfort so that the pressure on your joints is minimized.

But if body heat is an issue for you, then purchase a mattress that is infused with cooling gel.

Memory Foam Chair Cushion

Memory foam chair cushions are great for anyone suffering from sciatica or tailbone pain.

In fact, there are special memory foam coccyx pillows that promote better sitting posture and provide great support to your tailbone to relieve pain.

If you sit for prolonged time, then a memory foam seat cushion can provide some relief to your lower back.

Memory Foam Dog Bed

If you’re looking for the perfect bed that provides great comfort and stress relief for your dog, then you should get a memory foam dog bed.

These beds have a high-loft and are firm and plush enough to provide great comfort.

They also promote better alignment of the body so that your dog enjoys relaxing naps and sleep.

Memory Foam Slippers/ Flip-Flops/ Sandals

A wide variety of memory foam footwear's are available on the market -

  • Memory foam slippers
  • Memory foam flip flops
  • Memory foam sandals

They’re great for home use and they relieve stress from pressure points in your soles. However, you should keep them away from water.

Another great option is to get memory foam insoles or memory foam shoe inserts for orthopedic purposes.

Memory Foam Crib Mattress

These mattresses come with a water resistant cover and are ideal for infants.

The firmness of the mattress and its ability to mold offer a great sleeping experience to your infant. The outer cover of the mattress is washable.


Memory foam has become popular because of its ability to mold and provide good support. It’s being used in car seats, mattresses, pillows, etc.

It’s durable, so any product made with it can last for a long time. And it’s naturally hypoallergenic.

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