When you own a bedding store, you inevitably get asked what is the best kind of bedding available. And while the "best" can be a very subjective thing, here are some facts about the different materials available and my opinion (since you asked).
From the photo above, you can see some very different characteristics of the various fibers used in bedding. Wool, Silk and Cotton are three of the most widely used materials, due to their effectiveness, performance and availability. The most commonly used material, however, is the one at the far right of the chart, polyester, or plastic. Let's talk a little about the different materials.
Wool is very popular and has been used for centuries for everything from clothes to bedding. Wool is one of the most time honored and tested natural textile. Except for those opposed to using an animal products, wool is, in my opinion, the best solution for bedding. PIctured above, you can see the wool threads are very scaly, which accounts for the increased surface area and is why wool is great for absorbing and wicking away moisture. Wool is great for regulating body temperature by pulling moisture away from your body and helping it evaporate by providing proper air flow. You will note some wool is coarser than others. Merino wool, which is used in much of the wool products we sell in the store, is very good for direct skin contact due to its soft and silky nature. The thicker the fiber, the more you get that itchy wool feel. Wool is used in the production of most organic and natural mattresses due to its durability and also to its naturally fire retardant quality. Wool also makes for a nice pillow and is ideal in a topper or comforter.
A note about allergies to wool: a quick read around the internet and you will see that it's quite rare to have a true wool allergy. Most people have just been exposed to chemically treated wools, and their reaction has been to the materials used to process wool, such as lye.
Cotton is King when it comes to all around acceptability in textiles. Most of our clothing and bedding contains cotton. Grown abundantly in the US in the early days of our country, most cotton in our country is sourced from overseas. We take pride in finding organic, local sources of US grown cotton, a rare find these days. Cotton is great for direct skin contact due to it's softness. Cotton, in it's natural state, is a neutral color and has an natural scent. Processed or Non-Organic cotton has been subjected to chemical fertilizers, pesticides and many more in the processing of the finished materials. With its twisted strand, cotton has increased surface area, creating the cooling affect you get with cotton. Cotton makes for a great material covering mattresses and pillows due to its durability, affordability and comfort.
As you can see in the photo on the far right, polyester is a very straight and slick surface. While this makes for a silky feel, it does not make for a very efficient material to pull moisture away from the body. Have a favorite comfy polyester shirt? Didn't think so. But you do likely have a comfy favorite T-Shirt or Sweater. Though there are lots of pillows, sheets and blankets available in polyester and other fancy named fabrics, such as microfiber, that are all basically plastic, it is not a good bedding material.
Another ancient fabric, popular due to its silky soft feel, silk makes for a great bedding material. An all-climate fabric, silk is warm and cosy in winter and comfortably cool when temperatures rise. Its natural temperature-regulating properties give silk this paradoxical ability to cool and warm simultaneously. Silk garments thus outperform other fabrics in both summer and winter. Silk worn as a second layer warms without being bulky. Silk is naturally hypo-allergenic. Silk is highly absorbent: it can absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture without feeling damp. Silk will absorb perspiration while letting your skin breathe.
Silk is derived from cocoons. Like nearly anything in nature, there are natural occurring substances in the cocoon of the silkworm that protect from various threats. Because the process of turning those cocoons into silk is a gentle one that does not strip away those natural substances, the benefits of them are still in the silk when you purchase silk products. Silk is fine, durable, light. The individual fibers are approximately a half a mile long, which is what gives the fabric its luster and ultra smooth surface so beneficial to sensitive skin. It has been said on more than one occasion that the amino-acids in silk are good for a person's skin and help delay wrinkling in the skin as well as being good for a person's hair. They are also said to be helpful to the central nervous system helping to calm a person. Silk can also benefit people dealing with:
- Sensitive Skin
- allergic rash
- skin inflammations (psoriasis)
- post-chemotherapy sensitive skin
- post surgery sutures
Silk is also a very durable material. A fiber of silk which is of the same diameter as a fiber of steel is said to be stronger than the steel. One silk thread is typically four to eight of the silk thread filaments twisted together. And because silk naturally tends to adhere to itself, the silk filaments bond themselves making them less likely to pull apart even after years of use.Silk will not deteriorate over time because of its natural fungal repellent nature and because chemicals are not used in processing.In spite of its delicate appearance, silk is relatively robust. Its smooth surface resists soil and odors well. Silk is wrinkle and tear resistant, and dries quickly, while silk abrasion resistance is moderate, it is the strongest natural fiber and, surprisingly, it easily competes with steel yarn in tensile strength. Silk takes color well; washes easily; and is easy to work with in spinning, weaving, knitting, and sewing. We have two mattresses in our lineup which utilize silk, the Natural Silk Elegance foam mattress and the Silk Elegance Adjustable, both memory foam beds from Bed In A Box, available at Nest Bedding in the Albany Berkeley area.
So, personal opinion? Avoid down and feathers, look for organic US grown cotton, wool and silk, kapok and hemp. Those are in my opinion some of the most durable and natural materials you can buy in a mattress, blanket, bedding, comforters and more.