I keep touching on this method of mattress selection and as it is the biggest method that customers use it does require a detailed explanation of why it is so wrong . As always, these are my personal views and I open the page up for counterbalance.
Firstly, in the mattress industry there has to be precise definition of Soft, Medium or Firm (SMoF) which there isn’t, so some sort of benchmark is required in order that your definition of SMoF is the same as everyone else’s, particularly the retailer. And so here lies the problem.
What exactly are you asking for?
Say your perceived comfort level is firm. Are you asking for a firm support from the spring system or firm sleep surface from the comfort layers? If it is a firm support from the springs then a 1000 pocket spring unit is ‘firmer’ than say a 1500 unit. But, a 1000 unit is a lesser quality. The same is true with the waddings. Soft = Polyester (cheap) – Firmer = wool and cotton (expensive).
The support from all similar spring foundations are relatively the same, such as all 1500 pocket spring units for example should relatively be the same and similarly, all 12.5 gauge ortho cage springs or whatever should again be relatively be the same.
The same is true for pocket springs. Far superior to any cage sprung system but if you press down on a pocket spring unit it easily ‘gives’ to exactly where the pressure is being applied which feels softer – but is ultimately, overall more supportive.
How heavy are you?
Again, this plays a major part in which mattress you should be choosing but is very rarely mentioned by the customer or indeed questioned by the retailer. A light person will find an orthopaedic mattress rock hard, whereas a heavier person may find it just right. So what kind of mattress would be chosen for the heavier person who is asking for a firm mattress believing that this would be the only option for them?
This is where the expertise of the retailer should come into play. For me, I know exactly what mattress would be entirely unsuitable for a person with a bodyweight of say 18st and equally I also know what would be entirely suitable. More so than the customer. I know which materials would be more durable, I know what spring type would be more supportive, I know whether a particular mattress would be better if an additional layer of wadding was included/replaced and so on. It really should not fall on you to make a decision based purely on the mattress you want to replace. You need to know all the viable alternatives.
Another thing to bear in mind is that mattress tension is also relative to the size of the mattress. .. [deep breath] .. a single mattress will be firmer than a double mattress, a lot firmer than a king size and much firmer than a superking, and of course vice-versa - The bigger the span of the mattress – the ‘softer’ it will feel. So going out to buy a mattress bigger or smaller than the one you are looking to replace will have a direct influence on the mattress tension.
As if that wasn’t enough there is also the fabric to consider. Mattresses that have a final layer of Latex or foam will always have a soft knitted fabric to face the mattress. Whereas final layer Polyester will usually have a damask (woven fabric) to face the mattress - When manufacturers want the mattress to have a softer overall tension, then they would use a knitted fabric rather than a damask – It does not work the other way round – A damask should not really be used with latex or foam.
Summary: I repeat what I say in the post what-can-you-expect-for-your-money that initially you should be looking for the best combination of components you want that your money can buy, rather than whether it is SMoF. If you are lucky enough to have a budget in excess of £5000 then you could have a hand built mattress tailor made to your exact requirements composed of the best available fillings and finest materials. For many of us this is not an option. And so, me knowing what the most suitable alternatives are for your budget will get you as close as possible to your dream mattress.
Finally, there are some people who really do prefer a rock hard mattress (Ultra Firm) or an all engulfing Ultrasoft mattress. If this is you, then let me know your preference, making it easier for me to select a product within your price range that will be suitable for you.