ad collaborative post // Despite its unbeatable squishiness and body contouring capability, memory foam has a significant disadvantage – low breathability. Over the last two decades, mattress manufacturers have developed open-cell memory foams that are more breathable than closed-cell memory foams. Still, even open-cell design limits how breathable memory foam can be.

The problem is simple – when the cells are open too much, memory foam loses the low responsiveness it is known for. It changes into a soft, willowy material that is too squishy and easy to manipulate, losing its spring with minimal pressure.

Thankfully, a better solution exists – infusing the memory foam with charcoal bamboo.

Infusing memory foam with additive ingredients lets manufacturers increase cell size without losing the original feel of the foam. The most popular infusion is charcoal bamboo, a relatively recent technology that works like a charm.

Charcoal-bamboo memory foam

Charcoal-bamboo memory foam is an open-cell foam infused with tiny shreds of refined charcoal and bamboo. The bamboo gives the foam structural stability and retains heat for only a short time, keeping the foam firm and cooler. The charcoal is not a cooling aid but an odour eliminator – it absorbs odours, helping keep a mattress smelling fresh for longer.

So, charcoal-bamboo memory foam has two purposes:

  • It decreases heat retention in the foam and enables larger open cells, increasing breathability without affecting comfort.
  • It reduces odours by introducing charcoal, which you can refresh by cleaning the mattress with a dry absorbent detergent.

Charcoal-bamboo memory foam vs regular memory foam

Regular memory foam has either a closed cell or open cell structure – closed cell memory foam is the worst for breathability, while open cell foam is around 60% better but can still make you sweat profusely on a hot night.

Charcoal bamboo memory foam improves the breathability of open cell foam by around 50%, delivering a significant, perceptible improvement.

The only difference between regular foam and charcoal-bamboo memory foam is that the infused foam doesn’t feel as sticky when you press on it because the bamboo is dry and won’t absorb heat like polyurethane foam.

What about memory gel?

Pictured: Silentnight Geltex 3000 Affluent Mattress. Available from Bedstar.

Memory gel is an open-cell memory foam containing millions of gel beads or strands to dissipate body heat. The foam is infused with gel that doesn’t absorb or retain heat, making the surface cool to the touch.

The critical difference between memory gel and charcoal-bamboo memory foam is one contains gel, and the other is infused with charcoal and bamboo.

Which is best? Because most manufacturers develop proprietary technologies, comparing them is difficult. However, in our experience, memory gel is better on softer mattresses, and charcoal bamboo is better on firmer mattresses. Read our article on memory gel mattresses to find out more.

Our favourite charcoal-bamboo mattresses in 2022

If the idea of a charcoal-bamboo memory foam mattress sounds great, check out these mattresses from Mlily (our favourite brand for this type of foam):

Mlily Bamboo (medium-soft, £649, king)

The Mlily Bamboo has a 2cm charcoal-bamboo top layer and 800 pocket springs, delivering a soft, cloud-like sleep in any weather. This mattress is also available as the Bamboo Deluxe, which has 1,500 pocket springs and 3cm of foam.

Pictured: Mlily Bamboo Deluxe 5FT King size Mattress. Available from Bedstar.

Mlily Bamboo Superb (medium-firm, £849, king)

With medium-firm support and 2,500 zoned pocket springs, the Milly Bamboo Superb is perfect for back sleepers. It has 5cm of charcoal-bamboo memory foam and an Aero-Flex border, keeping you cool in all seasons.

Mlily Bamboo Serene Ortho (firm, £999, king)

This mattress is perfect for front and back sleepers, delivering firm support with 2,000 mini-springs and 3cm ortho support foam. It also has Nanocool fabric and 4cm of charcoal-bamboo memory foam for temperature regulation.

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