Why You Should Buy a Futon Mattress

Futon mattresses have significantly improved in the last decade and are now just as comfortable and sometimes even more comfortable than regular mattresses.

By Teri Olcott

 

Today’s futon mattress is based on the Japanese shikibuton mattress which is a thin cotton-filled mattress that’s rolled out over a rice-straw mat for sleeping and then rolled up during the day. The word “futon” is Japanese for "bedding," including the mattress and any coverings.

 

The futon concept came to the U.S. in the late 1960s. The mattresses were originally handmade and stuffed with cotton. Thicker than the Japanese shikibuton, the American futon was designed to be used with a small foldable frame or placed directly on the floor. The appeal was that that mattress could be folded up and stowed out of the way during the day making it great for small spaces. The futon was also much cheaper than a standard mattress. Today’s modern futon has undergone many changes since its handmade beginnings and is now just as comfortable and thick as a standard mattress. Futon stuffing ranges from memory foam to padded spring coils. Thinking of incorporating a futon into your lifestyle? Here are seven reasons why a futon might be right for you.

 

1. Versatility

The biggest appeal of a futon is that it can be a bed or a couch or both. The mattress is made to fold, and when used with a futon frame, it can be a couch during the day and folded down for a bed at night. For small studio apartments or a home office that doubles as a guest room, a futon is a real space saver. The flexibility of the mattress also makes it somewhat easy to move from room to room.

 

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2. Comfort

The first futons were stuffed with cotton and recycled fibers which settled over time. They were also thin and sold with cheap metal frames. Acceptable for college students and slightly better than sleeping on the floor, few people used futons for everyday sleeping. The futon of today has undergone many improvements and is now just as comfortable as a standard mattress.

 

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Photo by Teri Olcott

 

The mattress filling material, which is the most important part of the futon, determines how comfortable the futon will be to sit and sleep on. A basic futon mattress is still filled with mostly cotton. A layer of foam is sometimes added to help the futon keep its shape. Cotton will compact when weight is put on it which means you will need to flip the futon often to keep indentations from forming. A polyester foam mattress is a better choice and considered one of the best futons for sleeping. Polyester is light and tends to retain its shape. It also offers some bounce which makes it feel more like a couch or bed. Memory foam and latex are also used in futon mattresses. Much like a mattress topper, a core of high-density foam is wrapped with layers of memory foam or latex for a very comfortable futon mattress. If you’re not a fan of memory foam, a high-density foam futon mattress might be a better choice.

 

At the upper end of the scale are innerspring and pocket coil futon mattresses. Innerspring futons feel like a conventional mattress but can still be folded when space or a couch is needed. A pocket coil mattress features individually wrapped coils which provide a firm surface for everyday sleeping and sitting. These mattresses are a little harder to bend and heavier than foam or cotton. If you’re converting your futon from a bed to couch daily, the springs can wear out prematurely.

 

3. Selection

When shopping for a futon, you have many choices when it comes to size, material, and coverings. A futon mattress comes in full and queen bed sizes. There’s also a futon chair which converts to a twin size bed. The mattresses vary in thickness and range from 4 to 12 inches. Eight inches is about right for most people. The thicker the mattress, the softer it will be.

 

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Frames range from cheap metal to elaborate wood. If being regularly used as a couch, you will want to cover the mattress. Futon covers come in all colors and patterns. Fabric choices include cotton, microfiber, and microsuede. If you get bored with the look or color of your futon cover, it’s easy enough to change it.

 

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4. Price

Like anything, you get what you pay for, but a quality futon is much cheaper than a quality mattress. Unlike boxsprings, a futon frame never has to be replaced as long as it’s not broken. Because a futon can be either a couch or a bed, you only need to purchase one piece of furniture.

 

5. Durability

The durability of a futon is dependent on the outer covering and the filling inside. Higher-priced futons typically have a tough outer cover, and the filling is made to last for many years. The less cotton inside a futon, the less chance of settling and clumping. One of the main reasons people get rid of a futon mattress is because it has become hard and lumpy. Foam and spring mattress will retain their shape and comfort much longer. A decorative cover will also help protect the outer cover of the futon. If this cover rips or gets holes, it can easily be replaced.

 

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6. Space

The biggest reason for buying a futon usually has to do with space or the lack of. A futon takes up less room than a couch and easily converts to a comfortable bed. Futons are great for small rooms, studio apartments, guest rooms, and any room that does not have enough space for both a couch and a bed frame.

 

7. Bug Resistance

No one wants to think about bed bugs, but another advantage of futon mattresses is that they're more resistant to bed bugs than regular mattresses are. The inner stuffing of a futon mattress is encased in a cover, and then that cover is protected by yet another cover. Unlike a traditional mattress, a futon mattress does not have much air space inside it to harbor bed bugs. As long as the zipper on the outer cover is zipped up tight, it's less likely that bed bugs can get inside a futon mattress than a regular mattress. Bed bugs can congregate along the folds of a futon's outer zipper, but because the outer cover can be washed or thrown away, the actual mattress is somewhat protected from an infestation. Another factor that makes futons more resistant to bed bugs is that futon frames are usually made of metal or varnished wood, which bed bugs tend to avoid.

 

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Photo by Teri Olcott

 

A futon mattress allows you to make the most of a small space, but it also serves as a comfortable piece of furniture. Because there are now so many different types of futons available, you should be able to pick just the right one for your needs. If you’re going to use the futon as your primary bed, you will want to purchase a good quality futon. If being used in a guest room or in a summer home, you can probably go a little bit cheaper. Just make sure to test out the mattress as you would a conventional bed or read online reviews before you buy.

 

Images used with permission, courtesy of Teri Olcott and www.shutterstock.com

Next: What to Do When Your Guest Room is Your Office