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Fluff 101

by: Kent Schneider 8/19/08

At the heart of any comfortable sofa are the cushions and pillows. Several different types of both are available in the marketplace and as with most goods, you usually get what you pay for. This month we thought we would take a look at the types of cushions you are likely to find available on the market today along with some of the pros and cons of each type.

    Polyurethane Foam:

    Also know as "Polyfoam" has been a standard fill in most furniture since its wide scale introduction in the 1960's. As the name might suggest, this is a synthetic, petroleum based fill made from toluene diisocyanate. Polyfoam is cheap and widely available in a variety of densities making it easy to work with and the preferred choice of most furniture producers. Unfortunately Polyfoam has some hidden costs. Polyfoam breaks down more rapidly resulting in lumpy cushions that can release dust and off gas. Polyfoam has poor porosity making it less effective at dissipating moisture which may result in mold. Polyfoam's can also become extremely toxic if ignited.

    Synthetic Rubber:

    Often referred to as Latex Foam or "Syntex", synthetic rubber is a hybrid product made from natural latex and an additive called Styrene Butadiene which speeds the production and adds consistency to the cellular structure of the rubber. Syntex has better recovery properties than Polyfoam, a longer useful life, and a very consistent density. Unfortunately the chemicals used to ease the production do tend to "off gas" and can irritate those with allergies or chemical sensitivities. Like Polyfoam it too uses synthetic petroleum based chemicals in production and is therefore not considered a sustainable product in the long term.

    Natural Latex Rubber:

    Natural latex is a rapidly renewable foam produced from the sap of the Hevea brasiliensis tree found in warm climate countries. Unlike Syntex which uses chemical additives to level the cell structure, natural latex uses either the Dunlap or Talalay processes to remove imperfections and create the cell structure. Dunlap latex is made by first frothing the latex sap in a centrifuge before pouring it into a mold and then covering and baking it at a low temperature. During this process heavier sediments fall to the bottom yielding a slightly firmer base layer. Talalay latex has the added steps of vacuum sealing and then flash freezing the mold prior to baking in order to remove some air that would weaken the structure. Debate exists as to which produces the better end product but both share the following benefits. Natural latex is mold, mildew and dust mite resistant. Natural latex rubber has a very high elastic quality meaning that it will not easily form impressions over time. Because natural rubber is more time consuming to produce and less widely available it is more costly.

rubber tree

    Soy Based Polyfoam:

    Soy based poly is the new kid on the block and was born out of the creation of BiOH soybean oil. The idea is to suplant the need for petrochemicals by replacing them with rapidly renewable soy oil. Unfortunately the current soy foams contain 20% or less soy oil, as concentrations greater than that have been shown to emit strong odors. Advances in soy foam technology will hopefully eliminate this moving forward but for now be leery of so called "sustainable" foam if it is in fact soy based as teh majority of the cusion is most likley Polyfoam.

At Verde Home we offer the Cisco Basal Living line of natural upholstery. All of our pieces come standard with a 100% natural latex core surrounded by a clean mix of feathers and down. For those with sensitivities we also offer a premium wool core surrounded by feathers and down or a 100% natural latex core wrapped in premium wool. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about our offerings please visit our website or feel free to contact us.

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