Why is Copper in so Many Mattresses?

Copper has been the rage in mattress construction for awhile now, the question is why?

Propel & Layla: what do they all have in common?
They each incorporate copper into their foam.

If you ask this guy, he would probably tell you about the health benefits of copper. Or the relief of joint pain.

However, that’s not what I wanted to discuss today. I wanted to tell you about a series of scify books that I recently read.  It’s called the Safehold series by David Webber.  If you “skip past” the science fiction part, what you will find is mainly a tale of rediscovering human technology as our species relearns/reinvents things that have been previously taken away.

For example, before we discovered gun powder, our weapons consisted of spears and bows.  Later bows were upgraded to longbows, to crossbows to compound bows etc.  Then gun powder comes along and the crossbows are rendered entirely obsolete.

If I asked you to build a computer from scratch could you?  Perhaps if you really know your stuff you could buy a computer tower, a power source, a mother board, some memory, some fans, etc.  Great, but that’s not what I asked.  Build it from scratch.  Your case is going to be plastic probably right?  Ok, go build me a plastic case so we can start putting components in it to build a computer.  What’s that?  You don’t know how to manufacture plastic from scratch?  Alright, maybe you know how to manufacture a really tiny processor, then?  I’m guessing you don’t have the tools, which of course you would need to build, or the components that go into that processor.  Are you going to build tools that require power?  Well, build me a power source to get electricity to those tools.

As you could imagine if we had to start from scratch and build anything that we take for granted it would be a task that takes many brilliant people entire generations to build.

The first few books of the Safehold series center around naval warfare and merchant marine commerce.  The kingdom with the best fleet was picked to get hints to “nudge” their technology development a bit more than their peers.  Imagine a scenario where one kingdom has sails on their ships and the other has galleys, powered by people and oars.

Once both sides upgrade their ships to Galleons, below, they are on equal footing.

If you have ever been to an ocean side dock you will notice barnacles near the waterline of the wood.

If your goal is to get from point a to point b in a boat, if you can reduce your drag you can get there faster. As you can imagine a boat that has to carry additional weight and is no longer smooth will go slower than one which has not yet attained barnacles or other types of fouling creatures. In addition, they can eventually eat into your ship producing leaks, which I heard are bad for boats…

If your boat is made of wood you need to take it out of the water ever once in awhile and scrape off all of these fouling creatures. This is both time consuming and costly. So, in the book the side which had a bit of help started to experiment with different types of coating on the hulls of their ships. After a bit of trial and error they settled on plating their outer hulls with copper.

In historical context copper was used to plate the hulls of ships as early as 1500 BC by Mediterranean cultures the Carthaginians and the Phoenicians. It saw widespread use by the British navy in the late 1700s.

If copper can fight off infestation from worms, barnacles and other fouling creatures, what can it do for your mattress?

Copper can inhibit the growth of microbes.

But, I like having a nice breeding ground for microbes in my mattress. I’m especially fond of the extra weight that they can add to the mattress over time. Have you read any studies on how much weight a mattress will gain after a few years? People say that it could double, but that’s a stretch. However, it’s not unheard of for a mattress that you purchase weighing 100 pounds being 125 pounds a few years later.

Gross right? I’m sure some scientist is dreaming up a way to perfectly control for the same amount of sweat and dead skin cells on each mattress over time. Then they could test mattresses made of different substances (like a copper infused memory foam vs a regular memory foam). The downside is that they would need to find a way to accelerate the testing, unless they really wanted to do the experiment for years at a time.

Wikipedia does a nice job of selling copper with the following benefits of Copper:

  • Copper has many desirable properties for thermally efficient and durable heat exchangers. First and foremost, copper is an excellent conductor of heat. This means that copper’s high thermal conductivity allows heat to pass through it quickly. Other desirable properties of copper in heat exchangers include its corrosion resistance, biofouling resistance, maximum allowable stress and internal pressure, creep rupture strength, fatigue strength, hardness, thermal expansion, specific heat, antimicrobial properties, tensile strength, yield strength, high melting point, alloyability, ease of fabrication, and ease of joining.

Copper’s thermal conductivity is second among metals. Are we likely to see silver infused foam anytime soon?

Although it may do a slightly better job of cooling, silver is more costly and could in extreme circumstances turn you blue:

Paul Karason, turned blue after applying silver to treat dermatitis.

Short answer, no we don’t expect to see silver show up in mattresses as the next great thing.

Copper helps to prevent the spread of microbes and helps to dissipate the heat that could otherwise accumulate in your mattress. In addition, if you are a Green Bay Packers fan or a Brett Favre fan you may enjoy other health benefits of copper. Copper is naturally found in the human body, so if a small amount of it came off of your mattress it shouldn’t be an issue. That said, I probably wouldn’t eat my mattress and neither should you.

From Wikipedia on copper:

The EPA has approved a long list of antimicrobial copper products made from these (copper) alloys

Disclaimer: I don’t work for the EPA, or the copper industry, or the ship building industry (pre 1800s). I’m just a bit nerdy and stumbled on some copper stuff and decided to do some research.

Check out our reviews on mattresses that use copper in their construction:

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Reviews of mattresses with copper in them

2 Responses

  1. I’m wondering if using a mattress protector will decrease the benefits of copper. I have always used a mattress protector and over time, they do get stained due to body oil‘s, lotions etc. I am considering buying a copper infused memory foam mattress, but why should I pay extra for the copper if I won’t reap the benefits from putting a cover over it

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