Memory Foam vs Polyurethane Foam – The Choice Is Yours

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In this post I am going to do my best to explain some of the differences in memory foam vs polyurethane foam.  I wrote a post about seat cushions for back pain here and I had some questions myself about the topic.  I wanted to share my findings.  So, my intention with this post is to share with you the fascinating differences in foam!  Okay, it’s really not that exciting, but here we go anyway.

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Both memory foam and poly foam start with polyurethane.  During the manufacturing process, chemicals are added to give memory foam a different set of properties. These added chemicals increase the viscosity and density. This increase in viscosity in terms of liquids can be thought of as honey versus water.   Memory foam is also known as viscoelastic polyurethane foam.

Memory foam will warm up quicker than poly foam, which is better if you are looking for a seat cushion that will provide a warmer surface for you to sit on.  Poly foam may be better if you are looking for a cooler solution.  Both will give off a certain smell for a while, but it just depends on the product.  Memory foam softens with body heat which allows it to warm up your butt.

Memory foam doesn’t recover as quickly as poly foam.  So you can imagine that the memory foam cushions will compress and not spring back like a typical foam seat cushion would.  The fact that memory foam retains heat, can actually provide some help with certain conditions where heat helps to decrease pain, ie back pain. Now I can’t say this is going to provide heat like a hot pad would, but some body heat is retained none the less.

Density and compression

The chemicals added to make memory foam, make it more dense than poly foam.  This increased density will make memory foam heavier than poly foam.  Compression is the amount of pressure it takes to compress the foam.  Memory foam will be high density, but low in compression, which means it will mold to your body, but it won’t spring back as fast as poly foam.  Poly foam comes in a wide variety of densities and compression factors, whereas memory foam is, well, pretty much just memory foam.

Some products will use one, or both of these materials in there seat cushions

Memory foam was originally develop to improve safety of aircraft cushions.  Today, memory foam is used in a wide variety of products, like beds and seat cushions.  Memory foam is typically more expensive and runs warmer that poly foam.

Pros of Memory foam:

It is usually soft

It will conform better to the shape of your backside, butt, or whatever you want to call it

Provides pressure relief

More dense but soft

Typically will last longer than regular poly foam

It is sensitive to temperature, not only your body heat

Cons of memory foam:

Tends to run warmer than typical poly foam

Heavier material than poly foam

More expensive

Pros of poly foam:

Available in a wide variety in regards to firmness

It will be cooler than memory foam

Less expensive

Bounces back quicker than memory foam

Cons of poly foam:

Not as durable as memory foam

Will not last as long

Will not retain heat like memory foam, which may or may not be a con

You will find that some seat cushions will use a combination of poly foam, or more dense foam in the core of the cushion and then use memory foam on the top layer.  This allows the memory foam layer to absorb and conform to your body to provide just the right fit for you.  Since memory foam is softer, that will also be an added bonus for your sitting area.

What this combination does, is allows for the seat cushion to bounce back quicker and yet provide the benefits, or positives of each material.  The dense poly foam will provide support and bounce back quicker, while the memory foam layer will warm up and conform nicely to your body.

As I mentioned earlier though, some cushions will be made of either material by itself.  If you are like me, and try to limit sitting during the day, the memory foam cushion is great.  I will sit for a while, and then stand at my desk.  I may mix a walk in there sometimes as well.  This gives the memory foam cushion a chance to bounce back, or recover.  Then later on when I am ready to sit again, it will be all nice and refreshed, waiting for me to sit again.

With a poly foam cushion, you don’t have the “waiting period”.  These cushions bounce back pretty much the moment they don’t have pressure applied to them anymore.  Again, these cushions are sometimes less expensive and usually don’t last as long.  So the choice will ultimately be up to you.

As for firmness, there are differing levels when it comes to poly foam.  Of course it comes down to personal preference.  I have read a lot of reviews and some people prefer a more firm seat cushion and others will prefer a soft pad to sit on.


I will not tell you flat out which material is better, because it is not possible, that will depend on you.  I can tell you that I have a memory foam cushion and I love it.  I try to vary my posture throughout the day, so I can sit for some time and then stand.  The first thing I do when I get to work is raise my sit stand desk, since I have been sitting in the car long enough on my way to work.  Then I will change it up, lower the desk and ahhh, sit on my seat cushion for a while.  If standing is a problem for you, then you may choose a different option, but this is what works for me.

Well, I hadn’t really planned on writing an entire post dedicated to foam, but I wanted to be able to give people some kind of an idea what the difference in these seat cushions is all about.  I am pretty curious, so I answered a lot of the questions that came to my mind.  Hopefully you have gained some value and some good information that will help you make a seat cushion choice that works for you.

Thanks for taking the time to read my post about poly foam versus memory foam.  What do you think?  Do you have a preference?  Let’s help other people and get some engagement and some comments in the section below.  You are also free to ask me questions, or send me an email.  I will get back to you as soon as I can.


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