Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Sleep Trouble: Is Your Pillow To Blame?

Most people know what they like in a pillow. But do pillows have anything to do with allergies, neck pain, insomnia and health in general? If you're comfy with your old favorite, should you switch? Here's a roundup of what we know.

Mites and molds
Dust mites and a wide variety of fungi and pet allergens (which provoke allergies in some people) are likely to infest pillows--all kinds of pillows, new and old, feathers, polyester, foam, and other synthetics. The conventional wisdom about the non-allergenic qualities of synthetics, as opposed to feathers and down, has been overthrown. According to Dr. Ashley Woodcock, who led a study recently at the University of Manchester in England, synthetic pillows usually have more dust mites and fungi than feather pillows (there's a "miniature ecosystem" in all of them, he said). It could be that more allergens accumulate in synthetic pillows because their covers are usually more porous. More tightly woven covers may be protective, he suggested, though that remains to be investigated. Other recent studies have had similar findings.

Forecast For Spending On Furniture & Bedding

According to AKTRIN, a reporting and consulting firm that specializes in the furniture industry, real GDP grew at a seasonally adjusted, annualized rate of 1.7% in the 4th quarter of 2005. This is the lowest rate recorded since early 2003. This – however – does not signify a fundamental weakness in the American economy. It was due to Katrina and an unusually cold December that took a toll on hiring and consumer spending. For the full year of 2005 GDP grew 3.5%.

Growth during the first half of this year stood at an annualized rate of 3.9%. It may slow a bit in the second half, averaging about 3.3% for the year as a whole.

Helped by an increase in job creation last year, personal income may hold up better than the economy as a whole. The growth rate stood at 5.5% in 2005. It will probably accelerate to 5.8% this year but – in conjunction with less robust employment growth in 2006 – it may slow down a bit in next year. Nevertheless, we believe personal income growth will remain above the 5% mark. If we take inflation and taxes into account, the anticipated growth rate of real disposable income will be much less, that is only about 3.1% this year and 2.8% next year. This is still a respectable rate if compared to the 1.5% in 2005.

Growth of American consumer spending stood at 3.6% last year. Due to higher interest rates, growth of consumer spending will lag behind the growth of personal income. It may remain above 3% this year but almost certainly fall below that mark in 2007.

The durable consumer good market is subject to erratic fluctuations as such goods are quite sensitive to interest rates. After growing at 9.3% in the third quarter of 2005, it fell by a staggering 16.6% in the last quarter only to rise again to 9.5% in the first quarter of this year (all rates are annualized). The average annual growth last year amounted to 4.4%. Durable good consumption will grow only at an estimated 1% in 2006 but recover a bit in 2007 if interest rates stabilize. The relatively low growth rate of durable consumer good spending is largely due to disappointing automobile sales. Excluding this factor, durable consumer spending would be noticeably higher.

Thanks to low mortgage rates, residential construction was a very strong sector of the American economy during the past two years. The performance in 2005 slowed down a bit, but at a growth rate of 7.2% (in value terms) it remained robust. The housing market is now oversupplied, and growth may drop to as low as 1.3% this year and probably suffer a decline in 2007. In volume terms, this translates to 2.07 million new housing units in 2005 but only an expected 1.89 million in 2006.

Furniture consumption in the USA was weak during the first three years of this century. After only one year with a strong growth performance of 7.9% in 2004, the market slowed down again to a meager 0.7% last year. In line with the advances of disposable income, we foresee a slightly better rate of 4.0% in 2006. This would bring the market value to about $ 82 billion this year.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Bringing Hotel Luxury Home

Jennifer Candotti's husband recently gave her a gift: a quiet night away from him and their baby in a nearby hotel. "It was such a great night," she said. "I was by myself. I was so, so comfortable."

The next morning, she reflected on what made her feel so cozy - the featherbed mattress pad, the down comforter, the feather and down pillow, the 300-thread-count sheets and even the bed skirt, because it matched so nicely. Ultimately, her stay produced sensations associated with royalty.

"I just didn't want it to end," she said. It didn't have to.

Candotti went back to her home in Brookeville, Md., and did something thousands of hotel guests now do every day: She logged on to the hotel's website and went shopping. She ordered, for $1,500, just about everything her body touched. By the end of the week she had the goods, which she used to turn her guest room into a hotel at home.

The days of hotel guests stealing Ritz-Carlton towels are gone. Now they just buy the room, or even the lobby - the shower curtains, the lamps, the carpet, the chairs, the chaises, the desks, the beds, the bedding, the soap, the dishes, the flatware and pricey artwork on the wall. The hotels sell all this in an effort to tap into the dreams of the American consumer, who has already been rapidly trading up to other high-end products, such as $60 bottles of vodka, $200 designer jeans and pricey chocolate.

Click Here for the Full Article

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Cleaning, storing winter bedding

The Coin Laundry Association and offers tips on storing winter bedding:

-Read care labels. Laundering can save money over dry cleaning but certain fabrics, such as satin, can't be washed. Make sure you follow the directions on the label.

-Some wool blankets can be washed and dried. Use cold water on a gentle cycle and fluff dry. Add some towels to help absorb moisture and cut down on drying time.

-Wash and dry flannel sheets separately because of the lint factor. Be sure not to over-dry. Over-drying can cause wrinkles to set and colors to fade.

-- When drying your bedding, use a fabric-softening sheet as opposed to a liquid softener. Fabrics, such as down, have a tendency to absorb the liquid unevenly.

-Wash colored bedding in a mild detergent. Whites should be followed up with an oxygenated bleach. Avoid chlorine bleaches, which leave a residue that is hard to clean and can cause discoloration over time.

-Be kind to your bedding. Wash and dry in large-capacity machines. Most household washers can hold 10 to 12 pounds of laundry. This is not large enough for a queen-size comforter. Commercial-grade washers, found at most coin laundries, can handle as much as 75 pounds of wash.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Hotels Donate Linens to Homeless Shelter

The Road Home Shelter is getting thousands of sheets and towels to help the homeless feel a little more comfortable at the shelter. The donation is a team effort from several companies.

In a room at Orem's Hampton Inn and Suites, bags and bags of sheets, pillow cases and towels are stacked and waiting to be laundered. Five different hotels donated the linens and then staff at the Hampton Inn and Suites agreed to launder and fold it. Tina Phillips, Exec. Housekeeping, Hampton Inn and Suites Orem: "They are doing their full eight hours of work during the day, then they punch out at 4:30 and stay until 8:00 or 9:00 at night to launder the linens, wash, fold and bag them up."

The donation is a team effort. The University Inn, two Hilton Hotels and Crystal Inns donated the linens. Proctor and Gamble Professional sponsors the program called "Linens from Lodging", and along with its distributor, Hyko, donated the Tide, Downy and Clorox to clean them.

Click Here for the Full Article

Thursday, March 30, 2006

WestPoint Home Announces Joint Venture With Indus Dyeing for Towel Production in Pakistan

WestPoint Home today announced a joint venture with Indus Dyeing & Manufacturing Co., Limited for production of towels in Pakistan. The joint venture, to be known as Indus Home Limited, will acquire and expand an existing modern Indus facility outside Lahore, Pakistan.

The resulting Indus Home complex in Pakistan will be a vertical towel production facility, including yarn preparation, weaving, finishing and fabrication. The facility is already supplying product to WestPoint Home and will ramp up production over the next several months.

"This joint venture is a vital step in restoring WestPoint Home as the
industry's low-cost vendor and advancing the Company in the global market," said WPH Chief Executive Officer Joseph Pennacchio. "We have made this commitment after an extensive analysis of a wide range of opportunities. This joint venture will further strengthen our ability to compete with all domestic and international producers, while enhancing our long-established leadership in customer service and product quality.

Click Here for the Full Release

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Wash Bedding properly

As winter melts into spring, lighter linens and cotton sheets will replace down-filled comforters and fuzzy flannels. But bedding can be an expensive investment. Before packing up the warm winter bedding, make sure to launder properly. The following guidelines from the Coin Laundry Association will help extend their life:

# Be kind to your bedding. Wash and dry in large-capacity machines. Most household washers can hold between 10- to 12-pounds of laundry. This is not large enough for a queen-size comforter. Commercial-grade washers can handle up to 75 pounds of wash and are best for cleaning bedding. Using larger machines will extend the life of your comforter and your home washer and dryer.

# Wash colored bedding in a mild detergent. Whites should be followed up with an oxygenated-bleach. Avoid chlorine bleaches, which leave a residue that is hard to clean and can cause discoloration over time.

# When drying your bedding, use a fabric-softening sheet as opposed to a liquid softener. Fabrics, such as down, have a tendency to absorb the liquid unevenly.

# Contrary to popular opinion, you can wash down-filled bedding. Be sure to read the care instructions, but most down comforters and pillows can be laundered. Use a mild detergent to wash and when drying put some clean tennis balls in the dryer to help fluff and distribute the down.

# Wash and dry flannel sheets separately. Flannel has a tendency to deposit lint in the dryer. Perhaps the most important care instruction for flannel is not to over-dry. Over-drying can cause wrinkles to set and colors to fade.

# Wool blankets can be washed and dried! Use cold water on a gentle cycle and fluff dry. Add some towels to help absorb moisture and cut down on drying time.

# Save time and use a drop-off service.

# Always read the care labels. Laundering comforters and bedspreads at the laundry saves money over dry cleaning, but certain fabrics, such as satin, cannot be washed and should be taken to a professional dry cleaner.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Care tips for Bed Linens

If you wash your sheets, you're doing only part of the job.

All bed linens need to be cleaned from time to time. Here are some pointers from the Soap and Detergent Association:

All linens:
Check the care label to determine whether the item can be laundered at home or needs to be dry cleaned. If the item is washable, follow the recommendations on the label.

Comforters, quilts and mattress pads: Queen- or king-size comforters may not fit in regular-size washers and dryers. If they don't, take them to a coin-operated laundry with large-capacity machines.

Pretreat heavily soiled areas with a prewash product.

Toss a few dry, clean towels into the dryer with the comforter or mattress pad to keep the filling from clumping. If you can find clean, white tennis balls, those work well, too.

Pillows: Wash two pillows at a time, agitating only one or two minutes on a gentle cycle.

Machine dry. During the drying cycle, periodically take the pillows out and fluff them to prevent clumping and promote even drying.

-- Mary Beth Breckenridge

Friday, March 17, 2006

If body aches, consider buying a better pillow

Odds are, you're not paying too much attention to the pillow you cradle your head on night after night. But maybe you should. Using the wrong kind of pillow or one that is just worn out not only can lead to a poor night's sleep, but also can contribute to body aches, allergies and asthma.

"When people come in and say they have neck and shoulder pain, the first thing I ask is what (pillow) are they sleeping on," says Sandy Colley, director of sales at Joanne's Bed and Back, a Washington-area chain. (Often, she says, it's a down pillow bunched up for support, which can result in tension to neck muscles).

Colley says factors to consider when pillow shopping include: sleep habits (whether you lie on your back or side), length of neck and width of shoulders, personal preferences and budget. While the idea of spending more than $20 on a pillow may seem extravagant to some, the health benefits may be worth it.

Having a soft spot to rest one's head while sleeping is important, but "the goal of a good pillow," she says, "is to keep your neck in better postural alignment."

Hollander Home Fashions, manufacturer of one of every three pillows sold in the United States, offers more tips:

Determine your pillow style: Stomach sleepers need a soft pillow with little elevation; back sleepers need a medium pillow with moderate elevation; side sleepers need a firmer pillow with higher elevation.

Keep it fresh: Pillows should be replaced every one to two years. A pillow past its prime could contain a high level of dust mites, which can increase breathing disorders, asthma or allergies.

The telltale signs: Pillows that have reached the end of the road will often feel lumpy or flat and will not re-fluff very well.

Take the test: To determine whether your pillow needs replacing, Fold your pillow in half. Place a tennis shoe on top of the folded half. If the pillow throws the shoe off, it still has some life. If the pillow remains folded with the shoe on top, it needs to be replaced.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Down comforters can reduce home energy costs

Consumers can see significant savings by lowering nighttime thermostat

With energy costs now at record levels, an investment in a down comforter can have significant returns. A local manufacturer of down comforters and accessories, reports that turning the thermostat down at night can save the typical household an average of up to $300 for the 2005-2006 winter heating season.

Sleeping under a down comforter is a very effective way to stay comfortable in a cool bedroom. Down is the best natural insulator, and because it keeps sleepers warm with minimal weight on the body, it's a good choice for children or frail elderly, who may be particularly sensitive to the cold. (Note that down bedding is NOT recommended for cribs.)

Click here for the Full Article