As a common material, foam is appreciated for its softness and its function to provide comfort and insulation in many ways. Generally, people do not prefer very soft foam. It has to have enough hardness or resistance to pressure -- almost equal to that of the human body -- in order to maximize and balance comfort and support. Not too soft, not too hard – moderate as that of the air temperature in relation to the body temperature level.
In ancient times and even at the present, cotton, kapok and other cushioning materials have provided the function that foam now efficiently provides. However, due to their setbacks and difficulty to source out, these traditional raw materials have given way to the modern industrial foam we have learned to accept as the be-all and end-all for cushion and insulation purposes. Cotton, within a short period, loses its bounce. It is not as easily washable as other materials. It also has the tendency to attract a lot of microorganisms and produce unpleasant smell especially when it absorbs moisture.
Foam, unlike those materials mentioned above, can be washed and even vacuumed without destroying its quality. It can also be recycled, cut and reused for other purposes as well. Organic materials have the advantage of being biodegradable; whereas foam may pose a hazard to the environment when not properly disposed of. Other than this and some other disadvantages of foam (it can also be quite a challenge to clean big foams), foam is still the choice of many people in our highly industrialized, modern world.
Softness and hardness then are not mere physical qualities of foam but also a description of its performance in terms of dynamic application as well as versatility in terms of recycling (soft or easy to cut) and cleaning (not so “hard” to wash and vacuum).
Certain new foam products now also have the ability to “remember” the user’s body form and has great application for bedding use, as pillows and seat cushion. The quality of softness and hardness, in short, has been augmented with the ability to retain a shape while not losing its original softness/hardness. A very practical and healthful benefit, as claimed.
So, foam has come a long way to becoming not merely a good substitute for traditional agricultural products but as a way to make life more comfortable and efficient. The question of whether we are less becoming natural or organic in the process -- and, therefore, less balanced with Nature -- is an entirely different matter altogether. Landor Associates Dyman Foam