October 2021

Pocket spring mattress guide

Pocket springs are the support unit of high-quality mattresses and are a fundamental component that you should fully understand. The key thing to remember in this section is that pocket springs, types and counts are not all the same. Read on for all you need to know about pocket spring mattresses and why understanding mattress springs is essential to finding the right mattress!

Calico pocket springs in a soft spring tension

What is a pocket spring mattress?

A pocket spring is an individual wire spring that is then encased in some form of fabric or material. These springs are in separate sleeves or cases and don’t move as one piece compared to cage sprung beds. These springs are independent of each other.

These individual pocket springs are ideally stitched together or, in cheaper models, glued together to create a length of pocket springs that are connected only by their covering.

This enables a sleeper to be supported independently by each pocket spring. Calico pocket springs are usually only found on high-end mattress construction models.

Let’s also clear up what isn’t a pocket spring or pocket sprung mattress.

Common names such as Orthopaedic, Continuous Coil, Bonnel coil, Bonnel sprung, Miracoil and Opencoil are all cheap cage sprung systems. If a manufacturer is using premium pocket springs in their mattresses, trust us, they will want to tell you all about it!

What are the benefits of a pocket sprung mattress?

  • Pocket springs help prevent movement/transference between sleepers.
  • Pocket spring beds are breathable and don’t allow heat to build-up.
  • Pocket sprung mattresses enable you to have far greater support than a cage sprung or open coil mattress.
  • The highest quality pocket springs will be calico encased and the spring wire will be vanadium plated, ensuring the wire stays rust-free.
  • Pocket sprung mattresses enable you to choose tailored tensions to suit your exact bodyweight.
Details of a craftsman working on pocket springs, tape and stitch
View our range of Pocket Spring Mattresses

What are the tensions of a pocket spring?

Pocket springs come in 3 main spring tensions.

  1. Soft (1.2 gauge)
  2. Medium (1.4 gauge)
  3. Firm (1.6 gauge)

The tension you need depends on your body weight and not how soft, medium or firm you want the upholstery to feel.

BodyweightSpring tension
Upto 16 Stone / 50-101kgMedium (1.4mm)
16 Stone / 101kg UpwardsFirm (1.6mm)
Available in Bespoke Products (Please Call)Soft (1.2mm)

How many pocket springs should I get in my new mattress?

The minimum number of pocket springs you should be looking for in a kingsize mattress is 1000.

  • 1000-1500 pocket springs in a kingsize is the optimal amount for most mattresses.
  • The maximum in a single layer of pocket springs is 2000.
  • 600 is the minimum number of pocket springs in a mattress.
  • Spring counts 2000+ mean multiple layers of pocket springs.

Although 600 is the minimum amount, these springs will need to be significantly larger and less adaptive than the standard sized pocket springs to fit the same size bed. These larger springs offer a cruder level of support compared to regular pocket spring sizes found in 1000-2000 pocket sprung mattresses.

You may see spring counts in the thousands and these should be taken with a pinch of salt. Usually, the more springs you find in a mattress the smaller these spring are. At a certain point, this becomes useless as they are too small to function properly! Above this and you’re looking at dual layers of springs or the dreaded micro springs.

When looking for a mattress, the number of springs you should expect for each price point are:

Pocket Spring Counts Explained

It has become a trend in recent years for mattress manufacturers to increase the number of springs listed in their mattresses. They are tapping into the consumer’s belief that the higher the spring count the more value they are getting for their bed purchase. It’s worth understanding that there is only so much space in a mattress, and to achieve these ridiculously high spring counts (i.e. 6,000 plus) the manufacturers are simply using sheets of miniature springs layered on top of each other and reducing upholstery. They are also placing springs within springs to artificially inflate the number of springs on the label.

Thankfully, this approach has not been adopted by the most respected mattress manufacturers here in the UK. However, we continue to see more and more mattress models adopting this farcical approach to bed making.

Pocket spring counts are always based on the number of springs in a king size mattress: 150 x 200 / 5’0 x 6’6. Even when a single mattress is described as having 1000 pocket springs, for example, it won’t. It will have proportionately less based on its size. A super king size mattress will have proportionately more.

Some retailers have started to give the exact count of a particular size which throws a fly into the ointment when you are doing like-for-like comparisons. Always be aware of the count in a king sized mattress and you just can’t go wrong. The least number of pocket springs you can get in a mattress is 600.

This level of spring count will be in starter or budget ranges of pocket sprung mattresses. This is a good example of the value of a pocket sprung unit. Obviously, the retail price will be low, but the quality level of mattress will be significantly better than any mattress utilising an open coil or continuous coil retailing for a similar price.

Origins Pocket spring 1500 mattress
Our Origins 1500 is our best selling starter model click here to view

Our Mattress collection only uses Premium Pocket Springs, if you want to see more please visit our shop to start browsing. We have never sold (and will never sell) a cage sprung contraption, and would highly recommend that you do not buy one.

Types of Pocket Spring Mattress

We have always advocated for high-quality handmade pocket sprung mattresses over mass-produced bags of springs such as open coil mattresses, but there’s still a minefield of information about pocket springs which we aim to summarise for you. We like to keep things simple, so we have summarised two types of pocket springs below.

1. Synthetic Spun Bond Pocket Springs

Synthetic spun bond springs – the entry-level spring unit. Glued together with a polyester style material. The least breathable and responsive, but still a million times better than any cage sprung or open coil nightmare.

Spunbond XR pocket springs
Click here to view Pocket Spring Mattresses

2. Calico Pocket Springs

Calico encased pocket springs are encased in a breathable natural calico cover which is then stitched together. Highly responsive and much more breathable.

Calico soft mattress pocket springs
Calico Pocket Springs are the highest quality view our Artisan Mattress Range Here
Calico pocket springs are quite simply the highest quality spring you can get in a mattress. All the high-end manufacturers, such as Savoir beds and Vi-spring, will use calico pocket springs in their top end ranges. Each spring is housed in a calico cover; this provides more flexibility than the synthetic spun bond counterparts, meaning the springs can flex easily and breath more than cheaper pocket sprung units. The calico pocket springs are sewn together and are only attached to adjacent springs with lengths of twine stringing them together. This is always done by hand by a skilled craftsman.
All the high-end manufacturers, such as Savoir beds and Vi-spring, will use calico pocket springs

Pocket springs must be matched with suitable upholstery

For instance, there is no use having a super-duper all singing all dancing pocket spring unit when it is not backed up by an element of substantial upholstery.

As you browse through the internet looking for your perfect mattress you will soon see that, in most cases, great swathes of text is focused on how good the pocket springs are in any particular model, the science behind the design and how you will sleep like a baby. All of this will be relatively pointless if equal space is not designated to the rest of the mattress, the upholstery, the detailing and so forth.

A John Ryan By Design pocket sprung mattress
We detail the GSM alongside the Pocket Spring count in each of our Hand Made mattresses – Visit our Shop by Clicking Here.

The fact of the matter is that a standard pocket sprung unit, which forms the basis of many mattresses, will be suitable for practically everyone. This is especially true when compared to a cage sprung or open coil mattresses, which should be avoided at all costs. Standard spun-bond pocket springs are not overly expensive and will offer you all the support you will require.

You need to be careful when just viewing spring counts; they can be misleading
You need to be careful when just viewing spring counts; they can be misleading
The most springs you can fit in a single layer king size mattress is 2000
The most springs you can fit in a single layer king size mattress is 2000

The most pocket spring units you can get into a king-sized mattress on one layer is 2000. Mattresses described as having more than this are utilising double-layer construction techniques, or they are utilising a suspension pocket sprung unit, or they are using mini springs to increase the count. When looking at descriptions, if you see a specification with more than 2000 pocket springs you really do have to examine how this was achieved.

As I have said in previous posts, the only differentiating factor between many mattress manufacturers is the nature of the springs used. Fundamentally, the springs will more often than not be similar, but how they are constructed will provide enough difference to achieve the elusive brownie points that will sway you into thinking that their product is somehow better than the competition.

Cage sprung or miracoil mattresses should be avoided at all costs
Cage sprung or miracoil mattresses should be avoided at all costs
Pocket Sprung mattresses should be your minimum requirement
Pocket Sprung mattresses should be your minimum requirement

Generally, and this certainly does not apply in all cases, manufacturers tend to go down the soft / medium/ firm route and use the firmer springs on the 1000 counts to softer springs on the 2000 counts. The theory is that 2000 pocket springs do not have to be as supportive as 1000. The support will be there, but spread out over a greater number of springs.

You’re probably now thinking that if a 1000 spring unit is firm, then why would that suit our ten stone friend? Good point. The Firm spring unit only has 1000 springs and at a gauge of, say, 1.5mm. The 2000 spring unit at Soft will have a gauge of 1.2. This difference in spring gauge is fractional and nominal between two individual pockets. They will both compress easily under the pressure of your hands. As the number of springs increases, as in a complete unit, it takes more pressure to compress them.

Guide to pocket spring mattresses

A good thing to bear in mind that a 1000 / 1500 / 2000 pocket sprung unit will be broadly similar from about 90% of all manufacturers. It is what is placed on top of the units (upholstery) that makes the difference in Price and in quality.

Total spring counts usually come in at 600 / 800 / 1000 / 1200 / 1400 / 1500 / 2000 pockets per unit.

The lower spring counts will have a larger diameter spring. The higher spring counts will have a smaller diameter spring. One of the most prolific questions we get asked, and one that’s abundant on internet forums, is “how many springs are best?”. Now although this is such a simple question the answer is not! The response to this question should always be followed up with “best for what?”

Which is best: a pocket sprung or open coil Mattress?

If you are torn between two similar mattresses, one open coil and one pocket sprung, the pocket sprung mattress will win hands down! Like I said above, the minimum 600 pocket count is far superior to any open coil or continuous coil mattress you can get. It is so unlikely an open coil/continuous coil mattress will have a quality level of upholstery attached, and all these fall within the low-end range of mattresses.

How many pocket springs do I need in my mattress?

If you look at the complete range from Rest Assured, for example, you will see that the bulk of their mattresses utilise a 1400 pocket spring unit. This count will suit the majority of users: not too firm and not too soft. A bigger person (such as my 20st Rugby Player friend) will gain more benefit from a 2000 unit. His weight will be equalised over a greater number of springs. The springs will not be fully compressed, but allowed to ‘move’ with him. If he was on a 1000 pocket unit, for example, the weight is distributed over a lesser number of springs. Our ten stone friend will be quite happy on 1000 pockets.

You should aim for at least 1000 pocket springs in a mattress, up to 2000 in a single layer.

This is only half the story, though! The other difference between 1000 springs and 2000 springs is the tension of the spring itself. There is no hard or fast rule on what gauge wire is used on a particular spring count: A 2000 unit can utilise a firm spring (e.g. 1.5mm)  or it can utilise a soft spring (e.g. 1.2mm).  And it is this reason alone why the question above cannot be answered with any degree of precision. It is so unlikely a retailer will know what gauge wire is used on any particular unit contained in a particular mattress.

Calico pocket springs with hand stitching tools
The number of springs is now used as a sales tactic for retailers. Understanding that 2000 is the maximum in a single row will help you cut through the spin.

Tailored Pocket Spring Gauges – Soft, Medium or Firm?

Once you move away from cheaper mass-produced springs, you then have the option of tailored spring gauges. This means that (dependant on your weight) you can choose a soft, medium or firm spring. This means that you have the potential for split tension mattresses and zip and links. So if you and your partner are different weights, then you can have different tensions to suit each of you.

Artisan Bespoke 004 zip and link pocket sprung mattress
View our Zip & Link Mattresses

Creating the perfect sleeping experience for both of you! Our Handmade mattress range are all available in both zip and link and split tensions if required.

A split tension mattress is a one-piece mattress where one side has one spring tension and the other side has a different spring tension.

Zip & link mattresses are two separate mattresses than can have completely different spring tensions. They zip together as a one-piece mattress.

Pocket Spring wire diameter explained

Spring wire diameter is sometimes shown on product descriptions (not to be confused with spring gauges). It shows you how thick the wire is for that spring unit. The thicker the spring wire, the firmer the support you will get from it, as it’s harder to compress. The gauge refers to the torsion, push-pull measurement which tells you how resilient/firm a mattress spring is. An example of this is an orthopaedic mattress, which has a gauge of 12 and is very firm.

We have a handy table that allows you to see the spring wire diameter we use in our range and the tension that the spring is set at. We also, unlike many competitors, allow you to see what the weight tolerance is for these springs. This is crucial when working out the support you need and we detail this more in the article on soft, medium & firm.

Spring TensionWire diameter (Gauge)Weight Range
Soft1.2mmBespoke Tension (Please Call)
Medium1.4mmUpto 16 stone
Firm1.6mm16 stone plus
Extra Firm / Orthopaedic1.9mm20 stone plus

How are pocket spring mattresses made?

In most mattresses, you will come up against the pocket sprung unit itself, which will be relatively similar. They are produced in this country in large factories, such as Leggett and Platt, Charles Blythe and the like. There are also imports, with the most regarded being Agro gmbh (Germany). Currently, the most prolific imports of pocket sprung units come from Turkey and South Africa.

Some manufacturers have the equipment and facility to produce their own pocket springs. such as Vi-Spring/Harrisons and, of course, the manufacturer we use who makes our Artisan range:all completely made in Britain.

mattress pocket spring machine
Calico Pocket Springs are meticulously made by specialist equipment and craftsmen

Each one of our Artisan Calico Encased Pocket Springs is made by a specialist piece of machinery. Each individual pocket spring is formed and then inserted into a calico sleeve which is then machine stitched shut. Once each length of pocket springs have been formed, they are then hand-cut so each strip is one piece. Cheaper synthetic pocket springs may be glued together (instead of stitching) to reduce the time required to make them.

What’s the length of a pocket spring?

This is another very good question. The expectation that a quality pocket spring will be 16cm is usually standard in high-end mattresses. Usually between 6 and 9 turns. Again, anything above 6 turns is almost superfluous. Retailers have made springs longer for marketing. 9 turn 20cm spring are actually really unstable.

We use the same spring type as Vispring. 6 Turns, 16cm long and in 3 different wire gauges. All our Artisan springs are Calico encased and vanadium coated. We avoid shorter micro springs as they compress far too quickly and offer far less support (other than inflating the spring count for manufacturers).

What’s a Vanadium pocket spring?

Vanadium is used in the steel forging process and provides strength to the metal, which assists when it is then formed into a pocket spring. It also has a low oxidisation value, meaning it doesn’t corrode as quickly as other metals. So these pocket springs don’t rust.

We use Vanadium on our calico pocket springs that are found in the higher end Artisan models. Vanadium is often found in metal alloys and top-end tools to give strength and durability against corrosion. It is used within our springs to ensure they are of the highest quality, giving an enhanced lifespan and longevity. Most manufacturers couldn’t tell you what is in their spring wire; you will probably just get shrugged shoulders. However, here at John Ryan we can share with you the exact composition of our calico vanadium pocket springs.

Chemical Composition of Steel WireCMnSiPSCuV (Vanadium)
Percentage Contained0.710.54180.120.0140.1900.5/0.9

Other types of Pocket springs – Cortec, Revolution & Micro Springs

Update 2020: Recently, the mattress market has seen a flood of new ‘spring innovations’ which are all there to tempt you to certain brands’ mattresses. Spring technology has pretty much remained the same for over a hundred years. The simple spring mechanism works by compressing and extending based on a load applied to it (i.e. a sleeper loading the spring when they lie on a mattress). There’s only so much innovation you can do with a spring, such as changing its shape or size. It will have some influence, but is it enough to spend hundreds of pounds more on a new mattress? We take a look at a few of the newer spring types so you can make your own mind up.

Cortec Pocket Springs: Cortec springs by Harrison Spinks are an elongated pocket spring. That means they are thinner and taller than regular pocket springs. Cortec springs are not glued together but heat-sealed into rows, meaning they are glue-free. You don’t need glue to bond them together as they can concertina together by being folded in their rows. Imagine a roll of paper labels and how each one can be folded back on each other or torn off. This is the same layout as the Cortec spring. They are still synthetic coated pocket springs and, unlike our Calico ones, they are not vanadium coated, so won’t be as impervious to rusting over time.

Revolution Pocket Springs: This is again another innovation from Harrisons which involves placing a smaller spring within a regular-sized pocket spring. So you have two springs in one. We’ve trialled these and not found a huge amount of comfort difference between the two. We also do have reservations about how sure they are that the smaller internal spring won’t get stuck or trapped in the larger spring.

Micro Mattress Springs: These are the latest in spring count hype. Micro springs are tiny synthetic pocket springs that come in rows of 1000. This means you can add a few layers to suddenly boost the overall spring count of a mattress. We really don’t rate micro springs as they compress almost instantaneously, making them redundant in our tests. We can only imagine that retailers are now using HD or micro springs simply to up the spring count in the competition battle to have the higher figure. However, this simply means less upholstery for you. The more layers of springs you place in a mattress, the less room there is for the upholstery comfort layers. Bear this in mind!

Spun bonded and HD pocket springs on the John Ryan By Design Website
Here is an example – not from Harrisons – of multiple synthetic spring layers and micro springs. Click to view true Vanadium coated Pocket Spring models.



If you’re wanting the best of the best you need to be looking for calico pocket springs. If your budget constrains you, a spun-bond pocket spring unit with at least 1000 pocket springs per kingsize will get you a mid-range mattress. There is also a post on this site about the anomalies of soft medium or firm mattresses. It’s worth a read, particularly if you are struggling with how on earth a mattress can be described as such. If you have different body weights, we can create split tension mattresses or zip and link beds which can be tailored specifically to your weight.

Lastly – if you want to get really informed about the details of pocket springs and the different tiers, gauges and latest developments – read our detailed arguments here. To start you off, begin by viewing some of the best handmade mattresses in our shop, where we only use the highest quality pocket springs and coverings. Still struggling? Then why not call our small expert team based here in Manchester on 0161 437 4419 to see if we can help?

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