Wool/Joma™ Wool

Now, What’s the Big Deal With Wool?

Wool is a highly favored fiber for many reasons. Like silk (see my article on silk here), wool is a proteinous, renewable fiber, and unlike silk, wool is carbon dense. Sheep used for wool production are generally allowed to graze in spacious, open fields and spend their days consuming plant matter. Plants extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in their tissue for later use in tissue growth and photosynthesis. As the sheep digest the plant fibers, the carbon is then extracted from the plant and used in the production of wool, where it is then stored. Fifty percent of wools weight is pure carbon. This carbon is stored in the wool for the duration of its life, thus removing it from our atmosphere, and since wool is the most heavily recycled fabric on the planet, that life is very long. Wool is also praised for its ability to clean the air around it by absorbing chemicals from its environment such as formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide which it then locks away like the carbon (5). When wool inevitably reaches the end of its use, it is 100% biodegradable (3,28). 

Unlike silk, wool is not a smooth strand but a crimped fiber. This natural crimping prevents the wool fibers from laying side by side, instead forcing the fibers to construct hundreds of tiny air pockets throughout the animals coat. The air trapped in these pockets is then able to be warmed by the body, which is exactly how the sheep insulates its own core.The construction of this fiber also adds bounce, loft and supportive contour which comes into play most readily in our mattresses (1). The quality of wool depends on the animal it comes from, and the manufacturing process by which it goes through. Cashmere, for instance, is a smooth and silk-like thread that is soft to the touch and used in clothes meant for layering or for warmer climates, while the hair from a black sheep is so rough and course that it can’t even be used in clothing manufacturing (Side note, did you know most black sheep are castrated or worse since they are considered to have “bad genes” that are undesirable if spread to the herd, hence the phrase “black sheep of the family?” I’ll never use that phrase lightly again). The thread in which the wool is woven into also makes a difference. Threads such as “worsted thread,” a favorite in men’s suits, is combed over and over and over again to remove as much of the natural crimping as possible, whereas the threads in your favorite scruffy sweater or tweed jacket are left loose and jagged (6).

This leads us into Joma™ wool which is found in a few of the mattresses my company carries. The JomaWoolⓇ company is located in New Zealand and relies on the participation of local New Zealand farmers to acquire their wool. The sheep are all free roaming and their farmers all follow the five freedoms rule (Freedom from hunger and thirst. Freedom from discomfort. Freedom from pain, injury or disease. Freedom to express normal behaviour. Freedom from fear and distress). For more on the ethical practices of the JomaWoolⓇ company, click here. To make Joma™ wool, the raw product is run through a crimping machine with an end result of curly on steroids. This added texture grants hyper focused levels of bounce and support to the fibers. The wool is then pressed and compacted down into its packaging, and if opened, would spring back into its original volume. This is the same premise as our pocketed coils. When a theoretical coil of 8 inches is compressed down into a 6 inch bag, it creates a constant force always pressing upwards, trying to escape. This technology gives the wool push-back and offers a greater level of support and body alignment.

In sum, wool is a carbon dense fiber that removes harmful CO2 from the environment for the duration of its life. Wool is 100% renewable, biodegradable, and recyclable. The wool used in our mattresses is harvested from ethically farmed and cared for sheep. Wool traps in pockets of clean air and allows the body to heat it up preventing those in contact from getting cold. Wool also filters the air around it, removing and trapping harmful chemicals inside its structure thus creating a healthier sleep environment. Wool adds life to a bed and yet again extends the quality you can expect out of your investment. Why wouldn’t you want something healthy and natural in your sleeping environment?

Source List

  1. https://joma.nz/ourwool
  2. https://www.iwto.org/wool-industry
  3. https://www.iwto.org/sustainability
  4. https://www.iwto.org/sites/default/files/files/iwto_resource/file/Green%20Wool%20Facts_April%202014.pdf
  5. http://oregonshepherd.com/why-use-wool/
  6. https://www.realmenrealstyle.com/man-wool-fabrics/
  7. https://www.brintons.co.uk/why-choose-wool

Silk

The Luxury of Silk In Mattresses and Bedding

According to Chinese legend, sericulture, or silk production, originated in China during the reign of the Yellow Emperor in 3,000 BC when it was taught to the people by his wife, Lady Hsi-Ling-Shih, the goddess of silk. Archeological evidence, on the other hand, suggests that silk production might be twice as old, if not older. In 1924, silk eggs were discovered dating back to around 2300 BC. Later, silk ribbons were found dating back to around 3000 BC. More recently, an ivory cup with carvings of silkworms was found alongside sericulture tools. All date back to around 6,000 – 7,000 BC (1). These findings show that humans owe a longstanding loyalty to silk.

There are over 500 varieties of silk moth in the world, and an even crazier number of silk producing insects as well as arachnids (spider webs), but only three species of silk moth are used commercially. Those moths are Bombyx mori, Samia cynthia, and Antheraea pernyi. B. mori is a blind, flightless, domesticated moth and is not found in the wild. B. mori also has a very unique diet – it only eats the leaves of the mulberry tree. B. mori produces the most lustrous silk of the three. S. cynthia only eats the leaves of trees belonging to the Ailanthus genus or “The Tree of Heaven,” and has a coarse, yet more durable silk which is more affordable than B. mori silk. A. pernyi, or the Chinese tussah moth, is the one who lends his name to “wild silk,” which is commonly known as Tussah silk or Ahimsa silk. Wild silk is produced by any species of moth other than B. mori. (2)

Silk is made up largely from insoluble protein fibroin and protected by a coating of a water-soluble protective gum known as sericin (about 25-30% of raw silk protein). Silk proteins form into triangular prisms which allow the fiber to catch and refract light in many dazzling ways giving silk its notable shimmer. Most of the sericin (but not all) is stripped during processing and discarded as a pollutant, however, studies have shown some benefit to sericin. Sericin has proven to be antibacterial, UV resistant, oxidative resistant and possesses moisturizing properties. In cases where sericin was separated from the degumming liquor, this biomolecule mixed well into creams and shampoos to make them more moisturizing and was blended into textiles, making them more resistant to molds, bacteria, and overall wearing (5). Some websites I stumbled across that talked up their silk sheets even indicated that the sercin left behind in the silk offered restorative, anti-aging properties to the user.

Despite less expensive, synthetic fabrics such as rayon appearing in the world, silk production has doubled over the last thirty years, with about fifty percent of all silk originating out of China and Japan (1). This increase in demand is due to several factors. One being that silk is smooth to the touch without being slippery like its synthetic counterparts. It is one of the strongest fibers produced by nature and silk only loses 20% of its strength when fully saturated as opposed to rayon’s 75%. Silk is not particularly flexible, however, and when forced to stretch tends to stay stretched, whereas rayon has a nicer bounce-back, especially when married with polyester and spandex. Both rayon and silk are prone to shrinkage and dry cleaning is recommended over machine washing. Silk is also a poor conductor of electricity and is prone to static cling unlike rayon (2). However, this low conductivity is also a good thing as it keeps warm air close to the skin in low temperatures, and its high absorbency makes it a favored fabric for hot places and for physical exertion, since as the fabric absorbs moisture it becomes cooler.

Silk production has seen a rise in criticism in the 21st century since the silkworm is typically killed in the extraction process and is then later eaten or used in fish food. For this reason, the industry has seen an upswing in wild silk, which is produced largely by S. cynthia and A. pernyi. These two species of moth cannot be cultivated in a domestic setting, and therefore most of these cocoons have already been vacated by the time they are retrieved. When a moth is ready to escape its cocoon, it produces a chemical that fills the cocoon and bores a hole in one side so that it may escape. This chemical damages some of the silk fibers resulting in shorter strands. Long-fibered silk from a B. mori (which was not allowed to complete metamorphosis) is reeled when processed, while short fibers from S. cynthia and A. pernyi are spun (7).

I do not know whether the mattress industry as a whole tends to use more domestic silk or if they prefer wild silk for their products. I spent a sizeable amount of time looking for this information and had this vague memory in the back of my head of one of our sales reps telling me the industry tends to use a method of silk extraction that doesn’t kill the worm. Could it be possible that mattresses prefer wild silk instead of domestic silk? It certainly makes the most sense looking at the processes involved in their making. When a B. mori caterpillar weaves its cocoon, it uses one continuous line of silk for the entire process. When the cocoons are later boiled, the end of the silk string is found and the cocoon carefully unspun. One cocoon can reach over 3,300 feet, meaning it would take only ten cocoons stretched vertically to reach the height of Mount Everest! These long fibers are then spun together, requiring up to ten individual silk fibers to make one silk “thread.” Wild silk, since it has been damaged by the emerging moth, has been severed into many short fibers, and is, therefore, a better contestant for “loose fiber” silk/wool blend (which is what we have in many of our natural mattress lines). This is all speculation, of course, all I do know is that every ingredient that goes into our US made mattress is OEKO-TEX Ⓡ certified. OEKO-TEXⓇ will be further expounded upon in my piece on latex.

In sum, silk is one of the strongest fibers generated by nature. It’s excellent at cooling a body down, is highly absorbent, and is smooth to the touch without being slippery. The sericin that remains in the silk after degumming is believed to have restorative properties and is naturally antimicrobial. There are two types of silk, domestic and wild, and it’s not entirely far-fetched to believe our mattresses use wild silk for their filler. Silk not only adds to a products story of longevity, but also to its breathable, temp-regulating story.

  1. http://www.silkroadfoundation.org/artl/silkhistory.shtml
  2. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Silk
  3. http://textilelearner.blogspot.com/2011/08/characteristics-of-silk-fabrics_5368.html
  4. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Protein
  5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/biochemistry-genetics-and-molecular-biology/sericin
  6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/fibroin
  7. https://www.ehow.com/how_8163302_determine-silk-rayon.html
  8. https://www.oeko-tex.com/en/business/business_home/business_home.xhtml
  9. http://www.silkewerk.com/rtsr.html

Why We Love Rayon

So What’s the Deal With Rayon?

The word “Rayon” was first coined as a generic term for “regenerated cellulose fiber,” which refers to the manufacturing process used to create it. Rayon is known the world over as the first man-made textile and was invented and perfected in the late 1880s-1890s. The first chemist to accidentally stumble upon the beginning stages of manufacturing such a fiber was a British man named, Sir Joseph Wilson Swan (1). I mentioned in my last mattress article that cotton cellulose is sometimes used in the production of explosives, but in 1884 and 1885, cotton cellulose, which was dyed and treated with nitric acid, was just as likely to explode the gun in which it was loaded as it was the bullet it was meant to project (1,5). So, Sir Joseph Wilson Swan decided to experiment. His finished product were fibres made of nitrocellulose that had been chemically treated and changed back to nonflammable cellulose. However, these experiments were soon after abandoned. It wasn’t until an industrial French chemist by the name of Hilaire Bernigaud, comte de Chardonnet, entered the scene that cellulose regeneration was revisited and perfected. After the commercialization of “Chardonnet silk,” in 1891, everyone wanted to get in on this synthetic fabric action (1).

There were several key players from both France and Britain in the textile game during this time period. From their efforts, three successful methods were discovered for cellulose regeneration. The manufacturing process most commonly used today was discovered in 1891 by a group of three British scientists, Charles F. Cross, Edward J. Bevan, and Clayton Beadle (1). By 1901, this new fiber was being mass produced under the name “viscose rayon.” The second form of rayon we will look at is High Wet Modulus Rayon or HWM Rayon, which is more commonly known as Modal or Lyocell ™ (2). Both forms of Rayon are commonly used in mattress fabrics as well as many sheets, pillows, and other sleep essentials, so we will take a look at them both.

Both viscose rayon and HWM Rayon are favored materials due to their being relatively inexpensive to make. They are also remarkably soft to the touch, are about 50 times more absorbent than their rival fabric, cotton, and have a very pleasing fluidity to the way they move. Rayon’s ability for moisture retention makes it an ideal summer fabric since it helps with lowering temperature (no form of rayon that I’ve stumbled upon yet is known for being proficient at heating, just cooling) however, once viscose rayon becomes fully saturated, it’s overall fiber strength drops by about 75% making it more susceptible to damage as well as shrinkage or permanent stretching. Therefore, submersion or full saturation should be avoided and dry cleaning sought as an alternative. Modal is more resilient in the face of saturation and is generally machine washable. Modal is also commonly blended with other materials such as polyester, spandex, or cotton to add strength or to give it a silkier hand (2). Rayon is easily damaged and discolored by microorganisms, such as bacteria and mildew, as well as heavy direct sunlight and heat, such as that from an iron. These stressors can cause the fibers to grow weaker, loose or distort their color, and eventually begin to yellow, therefore a mattress or pillow protector is mandatory for any products made from a high percentage of rayon (3).

While all forms of Rayon are derived from either wood pulp or plant cellulose, such as that from cotton seeds, it is not a natural material and should not be mistaken as such. The manufacturing of this product requires the use of many caustic chemicals and releases many pollutants into the environment. Most customers won’t know this, but those that are well versed on the “evil’s of corporate manufacturing,” as one of my customers put it, will call you on your bluff if you suggest that Rayon or Modal are “natural.” Try suggesting instead that they are made “using natural wood and plant fibers,” or, “from natural materials.” For those more nature-savvy customers, this line generally draws an eye roll but little more, and those less-versed won’t spot the difference.

In sum, Rayon holds the exciting title of being the world’s first man-made fiber. Rayon is praised for its ability to cool the body, for it’s silk-like hand, for being fairly inexpensive to manufacture, and for being twice as absorbent as cotton. Rayon should never be fully saturated and loses a terrifying 75% of its tensile strength when wet, it’s highly susceptible to discoloration and break down when exposed to microorganisms and heavy, direct light or heat, and should therefore always be paired with a mattress protector when used as the surface layer in a mattress or a pillow. Rayon is an ideal and affordable choice for a quality sleep surface as long as it’s not neglected.

Sources

  1. https://www.britannica.com/technology/rayon-textile-fibre
  2. https://www.garmentcare.com/blog/history-and-care-of-rayon
  3. http://textilelearner.blogspot.com/2012/04/properties-of-rayon-fiber-physical-and.html
  4. http://www.museumtextiles.com/blog/category/rayon
  5. https://www.americanrifleman.org/articles/2017/9/21/back-to-basics-gunpowder/

Mattress Fibers

What’s the Big Deal With Cotton in a Bed?

Cotton is a regular ingredient in many all natural or luxury mattress lines. I feel it is the most important fiber to look at first. Largely because all other fibers compare themselves against cotton, and it will help things to flow better throughout the rest of my future articles if we start with the fabric baseline. Cotton is the first fiber we will look at comprised of the macromolecule, cellulose. Now, bare with me for a moment, because we’re about to get technical (don’t worry, I’ll translate). The cellulose in cotton differs greatly from that of rayon (which we’ll get to next) or wood pulp, in that it has higher degrees of polymerization and crystallinity. Polymerization is determined by how many repeating units are in the fiber, and a “unit” is a combination of elements (in cotton that unit is anhydro-beta-cellulose). Crystallinity then refers to how closely those molecules are packed and to their parallelism (5). The translated version- cotton is one of the strongest fibers used in the textile industry.

Due to cotton’s high levels of crystallinity, and because the molecules in cotton are bonded together using hydrogen, water is not allowed to pass into cotton’s molecules. This means that cotton doesn’t lose any of its natural strength when saturated, in fact, cottons strength nearly doubles when wet, according to most sources I’ve investigated. When molecules in other fibers become saturated, the overall strength of the fiber is compromised which allows for warping, stretching, and tearing, meaning that other fibers become weaker when wet. I feel it is also important to mention that many synthetic fibers, such as polyester, are hydrophobic and their strength is generally unaffected by moisture (5).

When cotton exists in it’s raw form, nature protects it under layers of oils and wax making it waterproof and thereby preventing the formation of molds and rot. Cotton, therefore must be processed to strip off these protective layers to give it the absorbent properties it is known for. Once processed, cotton can absorb over 24 times its own weight in water (11)! This makes cotton excellent at pulling moisture and perspiration away from the body allowing for better temperature regulation for the user. This absorbency does vary based on the variety of thread and on the knit or weave pattern it is manufactured into, but this variation is slight.

Human kind and cotton have a long-standing history, the length of which is still not entirely clear to historians today. The earliest records I could find were of cotton balls found in Mexican caves which dated back to about 7,000 years ago. The first historical records of cotton fabrics originate from Pakistan and from Egypt at about 3,000 BC. It was an American machinist named Noah Homes who first patented the cotton gin (short for engine) in 1793 which revolutionized the cotton industry. Today, cotton is the most heavily utilized fiber in the world, and is a leading American cash crop lending to over $5.3 billion worth of supplies and services on the farm level alone. It is therefore notable that humans have a natural affinity towards the fiber and that cultures around the world have recognized its value, but what does all this mean for the mattress buyer/seller?

For starters, cotton is a renewable resource that is 100% biodegradable and hypoallergenic and every single piece of the plant is utilized, leading to a zero waste product (5, 8). The “lint” is the white cotton ball on the top of the plant which is used for cloth. The stock is plowed into the field and used as an enriching fertilizer. The “linters,” or the short hairs on the cotton seeds, are used for extracting cellulose which is used in the manufacturing of rayon, certain plastics, explosives, high quality paper products, and even processed into “batting” which we find in some of our mattresses. The cotton seeds are crushed and separated into cottonseed oil, cotton meal, and cotton hulls. The oil is used for cooking and baking, and the meal and hull is generally used in animal feed or fertilizer.

We covered why cotton is strong, but we didn’t talk about why that matters. After all, the cotton in all the beds I work with is buried way down in there, it’s not like we’re going to be rolling around on the fiber itself so that it can soak up all our sweat. So to put cotton into perspective, let’s take a look at foams. According to our sales manager and to a whole lot of overly technical data I could barely wrap my understanding around, standard Poly foam has about a 50% degradation rate over the course of ten years regardless of how it is used. Foam is filled with gas pockets that slowly leak out as they become contaminated with oxygen (11). Without the gas to hold the foam’s shape, it begins to “deflate” in a sense and becomes yellowed and diminished. Cotton doesn’t suffer from this same affliction, and since the cotton in our mattresses is generally compressed and compacted down into a thick matt and then tufted into place, we don’t have to worry about the cotton “flattening out” on us. Your average polyurethane foam mattress promises a life span of anywhere from 8 to 10 years, whereas an all cotton and natural fiber mattress, such as the ones from the company “Custom Comfort Mattress” boasts their mattresses living 15+ years. In short, you are removing a layer that is guaranteed to last no more than 8 – 15 years (depending on foam quality) and putting in a comfort layer that will last 15 plus years.

In sum, cotton is 100% biodegradable, renewable, a zero-waste product, and is naturally hypoallergenic. It’s one of the strongest working textiles with one of the longest life spans. It is highly absorbent and becomes stronger when saturated. It’s a leading cash crop that is generating billions of dollars of internal revenue and jobs within the United States (which is in the top three largest cotton producing countries). It only seems logical that cotton should be included in any product one hopes to keep around for a prolonged length of time.

Source List

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macromolecule
  2. https://www.britannica.com/science/cellulose
  3. https://www.google.com/search?q=parallelism&rlz=1C1AVFC_enUS814US814&oq=parrallel&aqs=chrome.3.69i57j0l5.5594j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
  4. https://www.barnhardtcotton.net/technology/cotton-properties/
  5. http://www.fao.org/natural-fibres-2009/about/15-natural-fibres/en/
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macromolecule
  7. https://www.cotton.org/pubs/cottoncounts/story/importance.cfm
  8. https://customcomfortmattress.com/blog-posts/benefits-of-a-cotton-mattress/
  9. https://thefabricofourlives.com/learn-about-cotton/the-benefits-of-cotton
  10. https://www.barnhardtcotton.net/technology/cotton-properties/
  11. https://www.tmasc.ca/memory-foam.html