As someone who has slept on a futon mattress pretty much my whole life, I’d like to think I know a thing or two about them and would hope you find this quick guide useful in your search for the “perfect” futon. The Japanese futon dates back thousands of years ago and yet are still the main form of bed used in modern Japan and for good reason: futon mattresses not only provide you a good night’s sleep for very little cost but are also excellent for your back and overall body posture.
A traditional Japanese futon mattress is anywhere from 2 to 4 inches thick and is normally made with staple cotton which is by far the most expensive type of cotton due mainly to its strength and its tendency to hold it’s shape better. These futon mattresses are designed to provide excellent body support but may not have enough softness or comfort for the average westerner. The futons are made thinner as well so that they can be folded up in the morning and put away in the closet each day (to conserve space). It’s also customary for the Japanese to hang their futons outside in the sun to air them out, kill off any bacteria, and allow any moisture to escape that may have built up during the night.
You probably can guess that I have a bit of a bias for the traditional Japanese futon mattress. However, I am also the first to admit they aren’t for everyone and are nowhere nearly as popular as the more common thicker futon mattresses we have in North America and throughout most of Europe. As such, I’ll be devoting the rest of this post to what we gaijin (foreigners) know as futon mattresses.
The first thing you should know about futons is that they come in pretty much every standard mattress size available. There’s the classic single futon mattress, full, queen, and even kind size futons. Probably the most common size is the single futon as these are a common choice for students, single adults, and pretty much anyone who wants a cheap comfortable, and space saving bed.
After you’ve decided on a size, you’ll want to choose the futon thickness, and type of filling that best suits your needs. If you visit any reputable futon company, they’ll likely have at least a few different options for you as far as what’s inside the mattress. Essentially, the vast majority of futon mattresses are filled with a combination of foam and cotton. It’s not as simple as that, however; more specifically you’ll need to decide what type of cotton and foam are you looking for as well as how many layers of each.
According to foam globes guide, the best part of cotton for a futon mattress is stapled cotton so if you’re looking for a premium futon and price is no object, I wouldn’t consider anything else. In reality, however, many people are completely fine with the more common high-loft linter cotton used in most futon mattresses today. One very important aspect to do with the cotton, however, is that it be precompressed cotton. If the cotton is not precompressed, it’s likely to lose its shape flatten down over time.
The other vital factor in a good futon mattress is the foam and more specifically how many layers of it compared to the cotton as well as its density. The foam is such an important element in the western futon as it serves to stabilize the mattress, helps keep its shape and prevent the cotton from getting lumpy or bunching up. I personally find one good quality layer of high-density foam in between two layers of cotton to be sufficient but then again I personally prefer a very firm mattress. If you are aiming for a softer mattress, you may wish to go with two or more layers of foam. The most important thing about the foam, however, is that it be high density and when I say that I mean at least 1.5 lbs per cubic feet.
Once you’ve decided on a mattress, you’ll probably want to choose a good futon mattress cover. Futon mattress covers come in a variety of colors, thicknesses, and of course sizes. Most of them are machine washable (check the label) and can easily be zipped on and off. When deciding on a futon cover, by all means, choose a color and style that suits your tastes. However, assuming the main function of your futon mattress is for a bed and not a futon sofa or chair, I will say that the material of futon mattress covers should be a naturally breathable material like cotton or linen. Why? Simply, you don’t want moisture being built up in your mattress; that’s a breeding ground for mold and mildew which is the last thing you want lurking your bed.
You’ll need to find a good futon frame that can well support your futon mattress…or do you? I say this because the Japanese don’t actually use frames at all. Instead, they place the futon directly on tatami which is essentially flooring made of woven straw. For the rest of us though, you’re going to need a decent futon frame. Essentially there are two main choices when it comes to frames; metal futon frames and wood futon frames. I personally prefer a wooden futon frame mainly because it is a natural material and will typically last longer than its metal counterpart. The most important factors in a futon mattress frame is the type of wood it’s made of (pine, maple, ash, birch, or oak are ideal), the width of the slats (at least 3 inches), the distance between each slat (less than 3 inches), and the overall quality and sturdiness of its construction.
Lastly, make sure you choose a reputable futon company to purchase from. Look for companies that specialize in futon mattresses and that actually know what makes a good mattress. You might be tempted to just go with a cheap futon from a discount store but believe me, it’s worth to spend a little bit more to get a way better quality mattress that can last you for decades.
Best Futon Company to Purchase From
When shopping for a futon mattress, there are many important aspects to consider so it’s always best to find a good futon company outlet that can help steer you in the right direction. Though I’m not going to pinpoint the “best futon company”, I will say that a reputable company should know exactly what a particular futon has to offer, the various types of futon mattresses available, and be able to adjust their recommendations based on each individual’s needs. Now if you self-educate yourself beforehand, the company’s ability to provide guidance may not be as crucial to you. Regardless however you should still aim to purchase your mattress from a reputable supplier whether from an online company like Amazon or a local store with a good track record.
The best futon companies will carry most, if not all of the various types of futon mattresses available from traditional cotton futons to innerspring futon hybrids. Since futons are often used as designer pieces, the futon covers also come in a myriad of materials such as leather, cotton, polyester, and microfiber. A good futon mattress company should be asking what type of material you prefer and whether or not that fits with how it will be used. For example, if you’ll be primarily using your futon as a sleeping surface, it’s best to choose a breathable fabric like organic cotton. On the other hand, if it will be used primarily as a futon sofa, a more rugged material like leather is a much better choice. The futon supplier should also be asking you whether a soft or firm mattress is preferred, as there are various fillings and thicknesses available that will dictate the firmness of the futon. You’ll probably find that since most of the futons are designed to support the skeletal frame, they are especially beneficial for individuals with back and other skeletal issues.
You will also probably discover, as with any futon supplier, that there are major differences in price, depending on the size, thickness, and filling of a futon mattress which only a knowledgeable futon seller can help determine. In order to find the right fit for any individual, several different factors need to be considered and are important in order to guarantee long term satisfaction. The average person spends about 50 hours a week in bed so it is vital to determine whether the futon is going to be used as a permanent sleeping solution or to be placed into a guest room, or equivalent. One must also consider that price will play a major role in the overall quality of the mattress. Of course, there are several different, cheaper options out there, which can be considered as a short-term solution but these cheap futons should only be reserved for occasional sleeping arrangements.
Lastly, if in your search you do end up visiting a physical futon store in your area, you as the customer should be encouraged to lie down on the various futon mattresses in all the different sleeping positions you might lie in, such as the side, back, and stomach to make sure the futon feels right on every level. All in all, a good company will know these types of beds well enough to read the customers needs and be able to point every individual to their own perfect fit. Of course, if you have already done your research and are well-versed in what makes a good futon mattress, ordering one from a reputable online futon company is also a great option.