In harsh humid climates and when your furniture is going to be used a lot, it is important to ensure you get a filling that is going to wear well. Last week we covered two types of filling or padding for sofas and sectionals—down/feather filling and foam. This week, we will cover two other common types.
Polyester, also referred to as polyfoam, is found in low-cost upholstered pieces. It is generally the lowest cost filling available. It has been around since the 1960’s. Polyfoam is made using the same process that is used in making petroleum from crude oil. Unfortunately, with the lower price also comes some downsides. The first is its questionable safety. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) consider facilities that manufacture polyfoam potential sources of harmful pollutants. According to studies, when polyfoam breaks down, it can be released into the air as microscopic particles. These particles which could be inhaled have the potential to cause health issues.
Polyfoam tends to flatten out very quickly resulting in lumpy cushions. It is also very porous. In our humid climates, any material that holds moisture runs a higher risk of mildew and mold. Another downside is that it is extremely flammable. Firefighters refer to polyfoam as solid gasoline. Unless it is treated, it will burn very hot and very fast. When it does so, the resultant fumes are toxic. Just one breath of super hot toxic gas would incapacity an average sized human. Fire retardant polyfoams still carry some potential risk due to the type of coatings used.
Batting, commonly made from wool, cotton and polyester is used to wrap foam. Batting keeps everything smooth and prevents the cover from slipping. The cheaper the batting, the more problems you will have. 100% cotton batting tends to poke through the sofa cover so it is not recommended for seat cushions. Polycotton blends work much better. Wool batting is best used to cover sofa springs, but not generally used as a cushion.
Newest to the scene is foam made from soybeans. Manufacturers claim it to be a great alternative option since it is a renewable resource and it further reduces our dependence on fossil fuels. Since it is so new, there are a lot of unknowns. Whether it is healthier for us and the environment is still up for discussion and debate. Today, very few upholstery manufacturers use soy foam but we can expect this to most likely grow in future years.
When you purchase an inexpensive sofa, its poor quality materials means it will collapse quicker and pose potential health and environmental issues. The average lifespan for an inexpensive sofa made from lower grade materials is 2 to 3 years. Investing in a well-made item, with quality materials should give a lifespan of 20 to 25 years. And a lot more comfort!
Sheryl Novak is an expat Canadian who has owned a home in Mexico for over ten years. She is the owner of SOLutions Mexico and The Furniture Store by SOLutions Mexico. She is an expert on sourcing all styles of furniture for all sizes of budgets, in Mexico.