Mattress Industry Glossary

A-to-Z list of bedding industry terminology

Adjustable base

An electro-mechanical or manual bed frame construction that permits the raising and lowering of the head and/or foot portions of the mattress.


An air mattress with a core that is an air-filled vinyl bladder. Better airbeds are multichambered, covered with cushioning, upholstered with ticking and sold with a foundation.

Anti-microbial fiber and foam

Treatment that inhibits the growth of microbial contaminants.


Any fabric or sheeting material that is used during quilting to anchor the stitches.


See Cotton Felt.


Commonly used as a generic term for a mattress and foundation set, but may also apply to accessory items such as blankets, sheets, pillows, comforters, mattress pads, etc.

Bedding ensemble

A complete sleep support system, consisting of a metal frame or a bed, a foundation and a mattress set.

Bed frame

A metal or wood frame with legs used to support a mattress and foundation.  Conventional height is 7-1/4 inches and the low-profile version is 5-3/4 inches when measured from the floor to the bottom of the foundation.  Generally a headboard can be attached.  Metal frames are sometimes known as a “Hollywood” frame.


Open-spring or wire fabric box springs without upholstery materials or cover.

Binding tape

Fabric tape used to bind and close the mattress or foundation where the vertical and horizontal panels of outer ticking come together, providing the edge trimming for the mattress or foundation.  See Tape and Tape Edge.

Body impressions

Indentations occurring on the surface of a mattress over time, due to the compression of materials by the human body.


A knotted, round-top, hourglass-shaped steel wire coil. When laced together with cross-wire helicals, these coils form the simplest innerspring unit, also referred to as a Bonnell.


The vertical side or edge of a mattress or foundation. Pre-built borders are constructed by stitching together the ticking, foam or other filling materials and a backing material.  Commonly quilted or vertical-stitched.

Border rod

A heavy gauge wire rod attached to the perimeter of the innerspring unit (top and bottom) by means of a helical wire or metal clips.

Boric acid

A chemical additive applied during the garnetting of cotton and/or other fibers to provide cigarette ignition resistance characteristics.

Box spring

Also referred to as a “foundation.” A base for an innerspring mattress, consisting of coils or other forms of springs mounted on a wood or metal frame and secured with a wire-interlaced or welded-wire grid, topped with upholstery and insulating materials (felt, urethane or other resilient materials), and covered on the top and sides with ticking and on the bottom with a dust cover.  It is an important part of a bed set since it serves as a shock absorber, distributes weight, and supports and interacts with the innerspring mattress to properly support the body.

Box-top mattress

A mattress featuring a raised surface finishing treatment where a separate, sided and rectangular encasement of soft materials–usually with a tape edge–is attached via a welt to the entire surface on top of existing cover and upholstery.

Bunk bed

A two-tiered wood or metal frame designed to accommodate two mattresses, typically twin-size, one above the other. Some models allow the upper and lower units to be detached and used as separate beds.


A mattress, usually twin-size, and platform base used on bunk beds.

Cal 117

Refers to California Technical Bulletin 117, which specifies a vertical flame testing procedure for bedding and furniture component materials. Foam referred to as “Cal 117 foam” has passed this test.


The principal hardening element in steel. The higher the carbon content, the harder the metal and the more temper it will take, thus giving longer “memory.”

Cellulose acetate pad

Woody fiber compacted into a pad and used as an insulator.  May be glued or sandwiched between plastic netting to help hold it together.

Coil count

The number of coils in an innerspring unit. Though the count can affect weight distribution, it is not the determining factor for firmness.  The count is usually based on the number of coils in a full-size unit.


The individual wire springs that form an innerspring unit. See Hourglass, Continuous and Offset Coils.

Coir pad

An insulator pad made from coconut husk fiber, garnetted, needled, bonded and pre-cut to size.

Comfort system

Refers to the upholstery layers of the mattress, generally consisting of a combination of materials (cover, cushioning, topper pad, insulators, etc.).

Conjugate polyester fiber

Spirally crimped fiber that is crimped chemically rather than thermally.  Is very durable and resilient.

Continuous coils

An innerspring configuration in which the rows of coils are formed from a single piece of wire.

Conventional bedding products

Mattresses and foundations in the conventional adult sizes of twin, twin extra long, full, full extra long, queen and king.

Convertible sofa

A sofa with a bed folded beneath the seating surface, generally consisting of a mattress resting on a metal mechanism.  Also called “sleep sofa” or “sofa sleeper.”

Convoluted foam

Better known as “egg-crate” foam that is specially cut to produce hills and valleys, giving gentle softness and more surface comfort.  Foam surface treatment is available in multiple patterns.

Cornell test

Devised by Cornell University School of Hotel/Motel Administration.  Designed to test cosmetic performance of bedding sets, such as body impression or support firmness.  Two round surfaces are pounded into the finished product 100,000 times and checked periodically for failure or changes.

Corner guards

Molded plastic or metal, (sometimes upholstered) fittings secured to foundation corners to prevent material damage from the bed frame.

Cotton felt

Produced by a garnett machine which combs cotton and other fiber binders into a continuous web or layer.  Several such layers combined are called cotton “batt”.   For compressed cotton felt, thick layers of garnetted cotton fiber are mechanically compressed to reduce body impressions.

Cotton linters

The short fibers adhering to the seed after the long staple fiber has been removed in the ginning process.  Used in making cotton felt.

Cotton pickers

“Fall out” from ginning or garnetting.  These shorter staple cotton fibers are blended with linters to produce cotton felt.


A convex surface on a mattress.  Mattresses with a half-inch crown are a half-inch thicker at the center than at the edges.


Materials that lie above the insulator and below the fabric covering in an innerspring mattress.  These materials are typically combinations of polyurethane foam, cotton felt, and/or made-made fibers.


Woven ticking produced on a loom that has yarns running at 90-degree angles to each other, the warp and the weft. The damask design is woven into the fabric rather than printed on the surface.


A measure of weight per cubic volume, usually expressed in pounds per cubic foot.  Often referred to when discussing foam.

Double tempering

Heating of wire components, usually in an oven, after they have been given shape or form and have been electronically stress-relieved.  Refers to tempering coils as well as border rods and helicals in a complete spring unit.


A broad term used to include all sleep pieces, which can be converted to other uses, including:  convertible sofas, high-risers, daybeds, futons, etc.  See Convertible Sofa.

Dust cover

A woven or non-woven fabric attached to the underside of a foundation to prevent the collection of dust inside.  May also be known as “sheeting” or “cambric.”

Edge guard

Generally an extra component added to the edge of a mattress and/or box spring to give support on the sides.

Engineered edge support

A special design where the coils on the outer edge of an innerspring unit are actually positioned under the border rod.  Most units have the coils recessed from the edge, which can contribute to a “roll out of bed” feeling.

Euro-top mattress

A mattress featuring a raised, squared-off surface finishing treatment filled with soft comfort layers and attached to the mattress upholstery at the tape-edge.

Fabric cover

Cloth or textile material woven, knitted or felted of any fiber or mixture of fibers. Often referred to as “ticking” or mattress fabric.

Fales pad

Compressed cotton felt that is stitched together to better retain compression.

Fiber pad

Usually refers to man-made or natural fibers (wool, silk, etc.) that are garnetted, needled, carded and/or bonded together.  Often used in quilting panels for mattress tops.

Filler cloth

Refers to a plain fabric used on the top of a foundation instead of ticking.  Commonly offers non-skid characteristics.


The process whereby a strip of fabric is sewn to the edge of the mattress cover and, in the assembly process, secured to the perimeter of the innerspring unit to prevent the cover and filling materials from shifting.

Foam foundation

Consists of a built-up wood slat frame covered with a sheet of cardboard or similar material, topped with at least 2” of foam and covered with ticking.


Any base or support for a mattress, sometimes used as a generic term for box spring.  A foundation may be made entirely of wood or a combination of wood and steel or steel springs. See Box Spring and Foam Foundation.


A Japanese-style mattress construction, consisting of a cover and filling material, which is typically cotton but can be innerspring and/or foam.


A mechanical process whereby short cotton fibers and/or other fibers are combed into a specific orientation and formed into a thin web, which are then layered to create a batting used as an upholstery material.  See Cotton Felt.

Gauge, coil

A measurement of the diameter of the steel wire used in coil construction.  Wire gauge for innerspring coils range from 12.5 to 17. The higher the gauge, the thinner the wire.

Gel foam

Generally a visco-elastic foam containing “beads” or particles of semi-solid gel–also called “gel-infused foam.” Originally used in medical products to help prevent decubitus ulcers, gel is a popular component in consumer mattresses and pillows. Semi-solid, poured gel also can be used as a separate component in the comfort layer of a bed. Another type of solid gel comfort layer found in mattresses has a honeycomb or grid profile and is used at the top of the bed, beneath the ticking.

Hair pads

Horse tail or mane, cattle tail or hog hair, which has been processed and curled for use as a mattress or upholstery filler.


An undesirable characteristic sometimes associated with worn out or low-end mattresses.  When weight is placed in the center, the corners tend to rise and bow in response to deep compression much like a hammock.  Terms “dish” and “sagging” also used to describe this phenomenon.


Term used to describe the touch or feel of fabrics (e.g., soft, smooth, etc.).


The process of hand-lacing the coils in a box spring together with twine.  Seldom used, this process has been replaced with modern technology and new designs.


An upright unit of wood, metal, plastic, or upholstered material, to be attached at the head of a bed, usually with the bed frame.


A tightly-coiled, elongated wire used in the manufacture of innerspring units to join individual coils to each other and to the border rod.

High-contour mattress

Measures 9” – 13” thick.  A mattress under 9” thick is considered “standard”; over 13” thick is considered “custom.”

High riser

Usually a frame or sofa with two mattresses of equal size without a backrest.  The frame slides out with the lower bed and rises to form a full bed or two single beds.

Hog ring

Metal ring used to secure the insulator and flange material to the innerspring unit.  Takes its name from its similarity to the metal ring in a hog’s nose.

Hourglass coils

Coils that taper inward from top to middle and outward from middle to bottom, thus resembling an hourglass in shape.  Employed in bonnell and offset coil designs.


Commonly used industry term for a mattress that combines an innerspring unit with specialty foams such as visco-elastic or latex.

Ideal weight distribution

Equalization of support in such a way as to eliminate pressure points that cause discomfort resulting in tossing and turning.  Best achieved with coil on coil construction and properly designed insulation and cushioning material.

Innerspring unit construction (for mattresses)

The spring construction used as the main support system inside an innerspring mattress.  Some common types are:  pocketed (see Marshall) and all metal (i.e., bonnell, offset and continuous wire).


Any material used on top and bottom of an innerspring unit to prevent the upholstery layers from cupping down into the coils.  Some common types are:  a fiber pad, non-woven fabric, netting, wire mesh or foam pad.


A basic polyester or nylon ticking fabric produced through a knitting process (tricot) rather than weaving. Designs are printed onto the surface.

Lacing wire

Finer gauges of wire used to form helicals.


A flexible foam created from a water dispersion of rubber, either from the rubber tree (natural latex) or a man-made, petroleum-based product (synthetic latex). Most latex used in mattresses today is a combination of natural and synthetic latex rubber.


An unknotted offset coil with a cylindrical or columnar shape.

A wire foundation for bedsprings, cots, studio couches, sofabed mechanisms and gliders.  So called because the fabric is a succession of metal links.


A type of innerspring construction in which thin gauge, barrel-shaped, knotless coils are encased in fabric pockets.  Also known as “pocketed coils.”


A manufactured product to sleep on, consisting of various resilient materials covered with an outer ticking.  Comes from the Arabic term “matrah” meaning to throw down.  Early Arabs traveled with their bedding and threw it down on the ground or floor at night.


The ability of tempered steel, foam or some fabrics to return to their original state after being compressed or stretched.


Plastic netting generally stretched across the face of an innerspring unit as an insulator.


A low-profile metal spring unit, typically with individually wrapped coils, used in the top comfort layers of a mattress.

Molded foam core (for mattresses)

A core made of flexible foam is made in molds and used as the main support system in a foam mattress.


Attachment of a box spring unit to a wood or metal frame.

Needlepunched fabric

A manufacturing process for which high-strength, lightweight, non-woven construction fabrics are produced.  These fabrics are produced by garnetting fibers, entangling or inner-locking these fibers together by a series of needles and then mechanically bonding or fusing them together via heat to produce a fabric without glue or binders.

Needlepunched pad

A manufacturing process used to produce insulator pads and non-woven fabrics whereby loose, garnetted fibers are inner-locked by a series of “needles.”  This process usually requires additional bonding to keep the fibers in place.

Offset coils

An hourglass type coil on which portions of the top and bottom convolutions have been flattened.  In assembling the innerspring unit, these flat segments of wire are hinged together with helicals.


Generalized term to imply set gives proper postural alignment and support.  Should not necessarily mean hard or board feeling.  Proper support with a degree of comfort to contour to the body is best.


The part of the ticking that constitutes the top sleep surface of a mattress, as well as the bottom of a mattress on a two-sided bed.

Pedestal-type metal or wood bed frame

A low-profile bed frame with a solid pedestal base underneath each side of the frame, instead of legs.

Phase-change material

PCMs are organic and inorganic compounds that store and release heat as they melt and solidify at certain temperatures. It is decades-old technology based on centuries-old thermodynamics research into the nature of “latent heat.” Also known as latent heat storage, phase-change material has applications in many industries, from building products to bedding. The mattress industry uses microencapsulated phase change material technology in foams, fabrics, yarns and as topical applications.

Pillow-top mattress

A mattress featuring a surface finishing treatment where a separate encasement of soft materials is attached to the entire surface on top of existing cover and upholstery.

Plus 4 Edge

Two border rods engineered with one inside of the other and designed so that they make the edge 4% firmer than the balance of the sleep surface to eliminate that “roll out of bed” feeling and edge sag.

Pocketed coil

See Marshall.

Polyurethane foam

See Urethane Foam.


A ticking fabric, which can be a woven or non-woven sheeting, commonly of synthetic fiber composition, on which a design has been printed.


The surface treatment in which the cover, foam and/or other fibers are sewn together, using various stitch patterns on quilting machinery, including scroll or panel quilters (single needle) and multi-needle quilters.


Surface liveliness and spring-back ability.

Rollator test

An approximately 230 lb., six-sided roller is passed across a sleep set to determine the structural strengths or weaknesses of the set and components (i.e., foam or quilt failure, breaking of helicals and coils).  The industry standard to duplicate the life of a mattress is 100,000 passes.

Rollaway bed/cot

A portable metal bed/cot with a frame that folds in half with the mattress when not in use so it can be rolled away into a closet (or elsewhere) for compact storage.


A woven or non-woven fabric other than knits that have a degree of sizing and are somewhat stiff.

Side rail

A metal or wood rail, which hooks into the outside edges of a headboard and footboard to provide the support base for a foundation and mattress.


A product of the henequen plant formed into a pad and used as an insulator.  Named after the.small port of Sisal in Yucatan.


Narrow strips of wood used to support the coils in the box spring frame.  Also used in a bedstead to support the box spring.

Sleep Products Safety Council hangtag

Since 1987, bedding producers have voluntarily used the safety hangtag program to provide critical consumer information about the safe use of sleep products. Manufacturers certify that they use the tag only on mattresses that meet the Federal Standard for the Flammability of Mattresses and Mattress Pads.The tag is available as a hangtag or permanent label.

Smooth top

A plain surfaced mattress, neither tufted nor quilted.  Also called button-free.

Spacer fabric

Used as mattress fabric or ticking on bed panels and borders, available in a range of heights, these airy 3D textiles are composed of two layers of fabric separated—and joined—by short vertical fibers that create a pathway for air circulation.

Spring wire

Wire made from high carbon steel, characterized by toughness, strength and ductility.  Typically furnished in 8 to 18 gauge for bedding industry applications.

Steel unit construction (for box springs)

The spring construction used as the main support system inside a box spring.

Stitch bonded pad

See Fales Pad

Straightline deflection

Pertains to mattress innerspring construction and refers to the constant ratio between stress and strain, weight and movement.  The benefit is that constant support is provided regardless of the weight applied.  No bottoming out of soft spots.  Basically it means that two people of unequal weight, sleeping on the same mattress, receive the same support.

Stretch knit

A heavy-weight mattress ticking consisting of a top layer, bottom layer and filling material knitted together and intermittently stitched to keep the filling yarns stable.

Super zoned box spring frame

A support, generally wood, attached longitudinally to the underside of a foundation for added support where the main body weight rests.  Another important structural point is that the vertical slats are turned on edge for added strength.  This is extremely important on queen sizes and for 4-poster beds where typically no center support is provided. Also known as a “center rail.”


Fabric material that closes over the rough-sewn edge where the top and bottom panels are joined to the border of a mattress or box spring.

Tape edge

A specified type of sewing machine designed to stitch binding tape around the top and bottom edges of the mattress, joining the panels with the border and closing the mattress.


Heat treatment of wire to reduce brittleness.  Accomplished by electric charge, oven heat or both.  Also known as “stress relieved”.


Fabrics for covering mattresses and foundations. Also known as mattress fabric. Common types include: stretchy double knits, woven damasks, woven upholstery-style fabrics, knits and nonwovens.

Torsion bars

A type of spring system used in box springs characterized by square-shaped wire forms.

Trundle bed

A low bed that is rolled under a larger bed.  In some constructions, the lower bed springs up to form a full bed or two single beds as in a high riser.


Consists of passing twine, cords or tape vertically through the mattress from top to bottom, knotting and securing the loops thus formed with tufts, buttons, or lacing.  The purpose is to hold the mattress filling in place.

Uniflex grid

A steel wire grid used to bridge the “mouth” of the coils on an innerspring unit to prevent “pocketing” of insulation down into the coil and to eliminate “coil feel.”  Also helps to distribute the body weight of a person.

Urethane foam

Synthetic (chemically foamed) flexible urethane used for mattress cores and as a cushioning material.  As a core, it’s the main support system.  A generic term covering both polyester and polyether foams.


Metal or plastic screens attached to the sides and sometimes the ends of mattresses to permit the passage of air.  Unnecessary with normal high quality materials used today, except for hospital type mattresses with wet-proof covers.

Visco-elastic foam

Also known as “memory foam.”  Slow recovery urethane foams that are temperature sensitive.  They conform to the body and distribute pressure according to body heat and dynamics.


A sleep system employing a water-filled vinyl bladder as its primary support system.  Original models relied on rigid framing to contain the vinyl components and were known as a “hardside”.  Newer styles consist of vinyl components (bladder and liner) typically encased in foam and made to look like a conventional mattress, usually paired with a regular upholstered foundation.  Also called a “softside” waterbed.  All versions are sometimes referred to as “flotation beds.”

Welded grid top

Basic wire welded into a lattice to which box spring coils, formed wire or modules are fastened.  Offers even weight distribution, yet allows some flex and give.

Wood bed

A bed with a headboard and footboard made of wood, having side rails of wood or metal that support the foundation and mattress.

Wood frame (for box springs)

The wood frame in a box spring on which the spring construction is mounted.

Woven stripe

A once ubiquitous woven ticking with colored stripes. The style was referred to as “ACA”, the traditional designation for the 8 oz. blue- and white-striped ticking that has mostly fallen out of favor and is seldom produced.