The best foam for sofa cushions and their replacement

If the sofa’s body is a one hundred percent practical element, then the functions of the sofa cushions are more extensive. Firstly, it is they who form the harmonious silhouette of the sofa, and, secondly, they create the conditions for your comfortable pastime. That is why both manufacturers and buyers pay so much attention to pillow fillers.

Previously, natural materials were used to fill the elements of the sofa – down and feathers, as well as natural cotton. For all their merits, they had severe drawbacks – rapid deformation and fragility. Today, these materials are also used for small-sized classic-style furniture and outdoor products, albeit to a much lesser extent.

The need for more practicality and clear, strict silhouettes has led to the fact that today various materials from polyurethane foam and natural foam components have come to the fore. All of them are combined under the general name “foam” – and therefore, it will probably be helpful for you to study the properties and advantages of each type of filler, as well as find out if they can be changed in cushions.

Polyurethane fillers (PU foam)

The progenitor of modern polyurethane foam materials can be considered good old foam rubber. We all remember very well the mattresses, armchairs, and sofas stuffed with it – moreover, it is still used in cheap products. However, let’s leave it aside and talk about foams that are in demand today for high-quality furniture.

PU foam: features

When buying a sofa or mattress with polyurethane foam, you most likely will not see a detailed description of the filler: most manufacturers limit themselves to abbreviations and numerical indicators. To avoid being mistaken in the choice, let’s take a closer look at what kind of polyurethane foams are and what properties are especially important for us.

By itself, polyurethane foam consists of two critical components derived from petroleum – isocyanates and polyols. Substances are mixed in certain proportions and baked in special chambers. Under the influence of high temperature, processes resembling bread baking occur – the mixture rises and becomes dense and porous. After heat treatment, the polyurethane is easy to cut to be shaped into any shape.

In terms of filling sofa cushions, the following foam parameters are essential for us:

  • Density. It can be measured in kilograms per square meter or pounds per cubic foot. So, the higher the indicator, the denser the foam – which means it is more durable and retains its shape longer.
  • Compression ratio. This value indicates how much force (in kPa) is required to compress the foam layer by 40% in thickness. The higher this number, the harder the material and the longer it will last.
  • Elasticity. The elasticity test is carried out simply: a special ball is thrown onto a layer of PU foam, and its rebound height is measured. The greater it is, the more rigid the polyurethane foam.
  • Permanent deformation. The most crucial parameter that allows you to assess the ability of the material to maintain its original shape. To check this, the polyurethane foam plate is compressed by half the thickness and left for a certain time under certain conditions. Then the deviation from the original dimensions is measured as a percentage. The lower it is, the better – polyurethane foam with high permanent deformation is not used for stuffing upholstered furniture.

So, density, hardness, elasticity, resistance to deformation are essential criteria for assessing the quality and properties of foam for cushions. Now let’s dwell in more detail on the types of materials selected based on these indicators.

Standard polyurethane foam

The key characteristic of the material marked with the ST mark is its density of 1.2 lb per cubic foot. In the four-digit numerical designation, which you can see on the product label, such a PUF goes under the first two digits 12.

This type of material belongs to the so-called commercial grades. Its production costs are minimal, and therefore it is relatively short-lived. Literally, after 1-3 years of use of upholstered furniture, it begins to lose its shape, squeezes, and the cushions no longer look voluminous and precise. At the same time, products with standard polyurethane foam are very cheap, so this solution is optimal for those whose budget is limited, as well as for those who want to buy affordable furniture for a summer house or gazebo.

High-Density Foam

The most popular type of polyurethane foam used in most modern upholstered furniture. The price is still affordable for 1.9 pounds per cubic foot, keeping costs for sofas and armchairs with this filling in a reasonable range.

Compared to standard polyurethane foam, HDF provides more support and a higher degree of comfort. Its approximate service life is 4-5 years. Over time, the foam becomes softer and gradually degrades, but until then, it not only makes the furniture comfortable but also maintains its clear silhouette.

Lux Foam

This type of foam is used in higher-class furniture. With a density of 2.2 pounds per cubic foot, high compression ratio, sufficient elasticity, and low permanent deformation, this material creates all the conditions for long and comfortable product life.

It is very comfortable to sit on sofas and armchairs filled with Lux Foam thanks to tangible support. It quickly returns to its original shape and, moreover, has a longer service life, which is at least 6 years. At the same time, such foam is more expensive than ST and HDF, but if you are willing to pay for durability and quality, this filler will be an interesting offer for you.

High Resilience

The highest possible density polyurethane foam has an initial rating of 2.5 lbs per cubic foot, although 2.8-3 lbs are more commonly seen.

HR foam has an impressive list of advantages – it is high elasticity that provides comfort and a small indicator of permanent deformation. Sitting on a sofa with this foam in the pillows, you can feel the uniform structure and impeccable support. The foam holds its shape perfectly, and products with it look new for a very long time: the service life of the filler is from 8-10 years or more. That is why HR usually uses prestigious furniture brands in the production of luxury sofas and armchairs.

The choice of upholstered furniture with polyurethane foam filling depends on your financial capabilities and the purposes for which you purchase a sofa or armchair. So, for a gazebo, winter garden, and country house, you can easily choose products with polyurethane foam of ST or HDF class. For frequent use at home, it makes sense to consider sofas with Lux Foam filling, and if you don’t want to deny yourself (and can afford it), HR is your choice.

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Other types of sofa foams

Polyurethane foam is not the only material of this type that can be used for stuffing couch cushions. Let’s look at less popular options, but which have their own list of advantages – and you have to know about them to make the right choice.

Latex foam

Before discussing the properties of latex as a filler for cushions, it is worthwhile to clearly understand that there are two types of material – artificial and natural.

Artificial latex is a type of highly resilient polyurethane foam with a density of about 5.6 pounds per cubic foot. This material is more rigid than natural, has a characteristic yellowish color, but generally has properties similar to natural latex – such as good elasticity, moisture resistance and breathability, and long service life. A quality filler can retain its benefits for 10-15 years.

Natural latex is made from foamed hevea juice, which can be processed using two technologies – Dunlop or Talalay. The second option is preferable for mattresses, as in this case, softer latex is obtained. For sofas, a filler obtained using Dunlop technology is used – it is softer and more comfortable than artificial, elastic, with long service life and excellent hygroscopicity.

When choosing a sofa with latex cushions, pay attention to the markings. Thus, a product with an artificial filler will be labeled SBR (styrene-butadiene latex). All-natural filler is marked with the designation 100% Latex. However, you may come across products tagged Latex or Natural Latex. This means that the material contains at least 15% natural latex, and the rest is polyurethane foam.

Memory foam

A lot of praise has been written about memory foams – and first of all, about their amazing ability to take the shape of your body and then restore the original one. However, if this feature is precious for mattresses, filling sofa pillows with it is a somewhat controversial issue.

The fact is that if you sit down on such a sofa and then get up from it, it will look deformed for some time: it takes time for the memory foam to straighten out. This is why manufacturers prefer to use it only as a top comfort layer of  2 inches (5 cm) thick. This is enough to relax, and the flooring of this height spreads out faster.

Soy foams

Soy-based foams are the perfect combination of environmental friendliness, resilience, comfort, and durability. Of course, the filler does not consist of one hundred percent natural material: it contains at least 30% soy-based polyols. However, even this is enough to obtain a truly environmentally friendly material with excellent performance properties. Soy foam furniture can be expensive, but the pleasure of using it is worth it.

Replacing the filler in sofa cushions: is it possible with foam?

Of course, not a single filler in a sofa will last forever – sooner or later, the foam will begin to break down even for expensive furniture and accessories. You can understand this by the following signs:

  • The surface of the pillow is no longer homogeneous; the filler is gathering into lumps.
  • The sofa has lost its clear silhouette, looks a little shabby and deformed.
  • The upholstery fabric has noticeably sagged.
  • The padding no longer unfolds when you get off the couch, and there are deep indentations in the seat cushions.

All these signs mean only one thing – it’s time for a change. And you have to change either the furniture itself or the filler. Is this possible in the case of foams? Of course! Especially when it comes to polyurethane materials.

One of the advantages of PU foams is their flexibility in processing. They lend themselves well to cutting, and therefore a layer of such foam can be given any shape. That is why the replacement of the foamed filler is possible even in sophisticated sofas. There is only one question left – will you do it yourself, or will you call specialists?

If you have sufficient experience and skill and your couch is not too complex in design, you can update the PUF yourself. And if your furniture has zippered pillows, then you’re just in luck, and replacing the foam filler will take even less time. All that remains is to choose the suitable material and enlist some guidance: there are plenty of them on the net.

However, the services of specialists will be helpful to you if you do not have such skills or do not have enough time. In addition, latex and soy foams are also difficult to replace without special equipment since they have their own nuances in working with them. It is much more reasonable in all these cases to contact a special service, where they will not only update the filler quickly and efficiently but also offer several types of foam to choose from at once.

What is the best foam to use for sofa cushions?: Conclusion

Today, foams of various compositions remain the most popular filling options for upholstered furniture. If you know enough about their varieties and properties, you will be able to unmistakably choose the sofa cushions that perfectly match your idea of comfort.

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