Tempered Steel vs. Regular Steel? Mattress Shopping Mystery?
Posted: 06 August 2009 07:41 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Kind of an odd topic, but I’m purchasing a new mattress, and I’ve heard from a couple people that it’s important to make sure the steel coils are tempered steel. Does this make a difference? Some brands claim to be “double tempered” what does this mean? I know nothing of steel.

A salesman steered me away from one I liked, because it “wasn’t tempered” and would not hold up well due to this, he said. (For what it’s worth, it was an expensive one, so he would have made a nice commission.) What are the differences in steel, and does it matter since we’re talking about a mattress and not, say, a high rise building?

I just want a comfy firm mattress my husband will not leave a dent in, which usually happens after a couple years because he’s a big tall guy. I don’t think I want a memory foam or rubber latex, the latest crazes, they seem too smooshy to me. No fluffy pillowtops to leave body shaped dents in. Just a good strong spring mattress that will last. If I want fluff, I will purchase a fluffy mattress pad that can easily be replaced for $100 if I do not like it.

Review sites have fake entries obviously written by the company themselves such as “My X-Brand mattress has great edge support, a high coil count, and a 10 year limited warranty! I was highly satisfied with my purchase. Call them now!”

There are also fake reviews that appear to be posted by competitors, such as “My X-Brand mattress was just terrible. Made my back hurt and caused thousands of dollars in chiropractor bills. I bought Z-Brand instead for great customer service. I awoke refereshed and renewed. Call Z-Brand today!” (I’d love to get a side job writing those reviews. Some of them are funny!)

Anyhow, I thought this would be a fun topic since I’m sure there are some people here who know the differences in steel, which the coils are made of. Also, because everyone has such varied taste in mattresses and varied experiences in shopping for them, it’s a lively topic.

But most of all, when I have questions on expensive purchases, I like to ask the smart people of the world what they think first.  wink

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Posted: 06 August 2009 07:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Dunno. I’ll only say that it sounds fishy. Mattress sales techniques are historically some of the more underhanded, along with used cars.

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Posted: 06 August 2009 08:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Many of the salesmen I spoke with were sleazy. One tried to follow me out to the parking lot to get me to change my mind. I hear there are lots of scams and shady things to watch out for, which I am trying to read up on in Consumer Reports and the like. I’m also aware they mark the prices way up and you can talk the price down significantly.

Strange, Consumer Reports does not rate mattresses, they only offer a general buying guide. They said it was impossible to test all of them, as each mattress is sold under different model names in each store. For example, a near identical Sealy or Simmons model might be called the “Fluffy” at major retailer X, and be called the “Softy” at major retailer Y. But some part of the mattress will be made slightly different to justify using different names, such as different fabric or foam edges, etc.

That is supposedly how they get around a price match guarantee. A store will say if you find it for less, they will refund the price difference. When you say “I found the Softy at Store Y for $500 less than your Fluffy and it’s the same mattress” they will say “No, ours has a suede cover so it’s not really the same.”

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Posted: 06 August 2009 08:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Tempered steel is springier. That is, it can bend more without breaking. The significance of this in a mattress would be that the springs would not lose their shape as quickly—in other words, the dents you describe would be slower to develop. Moreover, springs of tempered steel would be less likely to break after years of use. Tempering must be the last step in the process of making the steel.

Of course, “tempered” is not a rigorously defined term. It refers to heat treatment of the steel, and much depends upon how precisely you control the tempering process. It’s possible to do quick and dirty tempering that has a minor benefit, or complex and expensive tempering that makes a big difference. If you really wanted to know, you could demand to know the specification of the steel used in the springs. There are numerical categories of steels (and there are literally thousands of different kinds of steel) that have precisely defined characteristics. But interpreting those specifications would require major effort.

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Posted: 06 August 2009 12:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Interesting. So there is something to be said for the steel being tempered, but not all tempered steel is the same.

I think I need an industrial strength mattress. It has to take years of me flopping onto it exhausted, a snoring grizzly bear husband rolling on it, a kid who thinks it’s a trampoline when I’m not looking, and a dog who jumps on and off of the foot of the bed all day. It’s a high traffic area.  LOL

But considering I’m going to spend a third of every day on it for years, I want to get a good one. I think I will have fun quizzing the salesmen about tempered steel springs on my next visit. Wonder what answers they will - or won’t - have?

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Posted: 06 August 2009 12:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Because of my allergies, buying a mattress is a nightmare I put off for as long as possible. I need to know what is inside of the mattress to make sure they are not using kapok which gives me asthma. Thank goodness they stopped putting (horse hair, I think)in the box springs. When I would question the salesperson, I would get the answer “Only the best things”. Useless. I didn’t want latex, I don’t like the way it feels, besides, nurses have a high incidence of latex allergies because of our exposures, even though the mattress is of higher quality latex. I was so frustrated last time, I just went to CostCo, found one I liked and took a chance that it would not contain an allergen. Luckily for me it didn’t, if it had, I would have given it to my son and started all over again!!
Good luck to you!

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Posted: 06 August 2009 01:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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A friend bought that memory foam bed. She could not stand it! She said it was hot hot hot. It was firm at first, but then she started sinking into it and no air gets in, so after an hour or so, she would sweat as if wrapped in plastic. She put it in her guest room and got a spring mattress for herself instead.

Of course the salesman pitched the name brand memory foam bed to me as “Oprah’s Bed.” Yes, I could have the same bed as Oprah - wouldn’t I like to purchase it right then and there? He was not amused when I told him I can’t stand her and did not want anything she recommended. He was highly disappointed and rather confused that I did not shriek with delight and scream “I’ll take it!” when I heard the name Oprah.

I’ve heard the latex beds - which claim to be more supportive and durable than memory foam - still turn into “hammocks” after a few months, with body shaped dents in them. And as you mentioned, some people have very serious latex allergies, which can be a problem.

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Posted: 06 August 2009 02:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Jules - 06 August 2009 01:26 PM

Of course the salesman pitched the name brand memory foam bed to me as “Oprah’s Bed.” Yes, I could have the same bed as Oprah - wouldn’t I like to purchase it right then and there? He was not amused when I told him I can’t stand her and did not want anything she recommended. He was highly disappointed and rather confused that I did not shriek with delight and scream “I’ll take it!” when I heard the name Oprah.

LOL

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Posted: 06 August 2009 03:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Yeah, Jules, I’ve never understood the pull of those foam beds. Apparently they are big sellers but who the heck buys them?

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Posted: 06 August 2009 03:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Annealed or untempered steel has a low yield point.  That is, that when deformed very much it bends and doesn’t recover.  Since one can expect a fair number of heavy people to lie on it, for kids to jump on it, and for someone to put all of their weight on their hands (if the guy isn’t thinking of his partner’s comfort) to localize the weight, an untempered steel coil would not recover, but would stay stuck in the down position.  So, I would guess that all bedspring steel is tempered.  Much more important, I would think, would be the amounts and types of the metals used to alloy the iron (to make it into steel), the diameter of the spring wire and the number of springs per square foot. 

Having said that, I don’t have any idea how one could determine this information.  Mattress stores figure you won’t be back for many years so they don’t have to retain your long term good will so they can con you into high prices for junk.  I’d suggest that you buy a mattress from a major department store like Costco, Sears, Penny’s, etc. since they don’t want to have you leave them for all the other goods they have to sell you.

To demonstrate tempering to yourself.  Take two hairpins, hold each with pliers and put the bend end in the flame of a gas burner until the metal glows red.  Let one of them cool slowly (annealed) and plunge the other in cold water (tempered).  Now, try to open them both up.  The annealed one should open easily and not snap back.  The tempered one should be hard to open and will snap back until you reach the point where the metal breaks.

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Posted: 06 August 2009 04:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Occam - 06 August 2009 03:28 PM

To demonstrate tempering to yourself.  Take two hairpins, hold each with pliers and put the bend end in the flame of a gas burner until the metal glows red.  Let one of them cool slowly (annealed) and plunge the other in cold water (tempered).  Now, try to open them both up.  The annealed one should open easily and not snap back.  The tempered one should be hard to open and will snap back until you reach the point where the metal breaks.

That is a very neat demonstration! I’m going to try that soon, I have some hair pins somewhere. I’ll let my kid watch (carefully around the fire) and help test the pins after they’re cooled. That will be fun for him.

The salesman said one brand in particular was not tempered at all. I think it was the Simmons Beautyrest? The one with the bowling ball commercial for the individual pocketed coils. I liked the no motion transfer feature of that model. That way when my husband hops into his side of the bed, I would not catapult out of the other side. No motion transfer. However, the guy said that model is not tempered, and we’d have big “hammock dips” after a while.

Other than the Simmons, it seems most other brands are tempered (although I’ve learned from one of the above posts that the term is loosely used). Others like Sterns and Foster brand and Sealy brand are supposedly “famous for their double tempered coils.” I have no idea if double tempered is better than single tempered, or if it’s just a marketing gimmick.

It’s very frustrating trying to find a good mattress. My husband says “Pick what you want.” He’d be happy with a water-bed and a disco ball.

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Posted: 06 August 2009 05:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Just for the fun of it, you may want to take some of the salesmen claims, go to the website of the mattress manufacturers and ask.  For example go to Simmons and ask if their springs are tempered.  I’d be willing to bet that they are because they’d be like mush if they weren’t. 

As I recall, most mattress springs are attached to adjacent ones so when you push down in one area the surrounding area also sinks.  Possibly the Simmons springs are not connected to each other at the top surface.

Too bad I already had my weekly lunch today with my Libertarian Metallurgist friend.  I could ask him about single vs double tempering (likely a sales gimmick).

Oh, I don’t recall which is which with hairpins.  One is a wire shaped like a U while the other is made of a flattened wire and the two sides are tightly together.  The second is the better one to try the annealing with.

Occam

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