There are two prevalent mattress panel styles: non-quilted, tight-top covers (we’ll call them squishy) and quilted mattress tops (what I refer to as ploofy). Quilted mattress panels and quilted border materials have long been popular components of mattress construction. Non-quilted mattress covers are a fairly recent production method that has gained some traction.
A recent industry survey conducted by Sleep Geek, and a visual scan of most mattress showrooms, shows that though squishy beds have gained some ground in the industry, ploofy beds are still the dominant style. In fact, almost 90% of retail sales associates surveyed said their retail store displays more quilted mattresses than non-quilted.
Predating either of these styles were tufted mattresses. Tufting is when a mattress builder uses a giant needle and thread to connect comfort layers and support springs between the top sleep surface and bottom of the mattress. This heavily manual assembly was not well-suited for high-volume production, so the machine quilting process was developed and has become the most popular production method in the industry. Quilted beds became an appealing alternative that satisfies production needs, and it still retains the aesthetic and comfort qualities of a tufted bed.
According to QwiltBilt.com, quilt machines automatically stitch together the layers of soft goods that form the comfort layers of the sleep surface. That can be various combinations of foams, fibers, natural wools, and other soft materials. Depending on the quilting patterns and the machine’s speed capabilities, quilted mattress panels can be produced at a rate of up to three per minute.
In the same survey conducted by Sleep Geek, over 90% of RSAs reported selling more quilted mattresses than non-quilted. However, there are still two main arguments for non-quilted. For most, the argument between the two boils down to style vs. substance. Proponents of non-quilted beds say it’s a new, alternative look. Opponents claim it is just another step toward cheapening the product that drags down the value of all mattress styles.
Non-quilted beds are constructed by sewing together pieces of fabric to form a sock, or thin covering, that is pulled over a foam core or a hybrid combination of foam and springs. Non-quilted bed advocates claim sleepers can feel the foam layers better through this thin covering, though quilting fans like the option of providing different material combinations for different sleep needs. They also insist the non-quilted covering can stretch, wrinkle, and bunch up in ways that disturb that highly prized sleep surface.
One final contrast between squishy beds and ploofy beds is the potential health factor. One of the most dangerous health risks in a bed is the formation of bacterial molds. The greatest catalyst for the growth of unhealthy molds is heat and moisture, while a strong deterrent is fresh air flow. Though there is no definitive scientific study comparing mold growth between these two bed styles, it’s been argued that the stitched fibrous layers of quilted beds promote better air flow through the bed. The glued layers of foam beneath the non-quilted covers have been compared to a big sponge trapping stagnate moisture from the air and sleeper’s body.
The quilting, or lack thereof, of a mattress is a key focal point in the selling of a mattress. Sleep Geek’s survey reported that mattress quilting comes up in the sales process over 58% of the time. End consumers do care about the top of their mattress, and learning the pros and cons for both mattress styles can help in creating products that fit your market.