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What is Closed Cell Foam?

By Dakota Davis
Updated: May 17, 2024

Closed cell foam is a strong, flexible material that's made up of internal pores, or cells, that sit closely together but are not connected. Its structure can be compared to a net filled with balloons, where the balloons are trapped tightly against each other, but they are not interconnected. It's a versatile material that can be used in everything from crafts to construction. The six basic types of closed cell foam are polyethylene, Styrofoam™, Volara®, Minicel®, neoprene, and gymnastic rubber.

All types of closed cell foam are known for their high structural integrity, high compressive strength, and low moisture absorption. It is lightweight, flexible, and firm, and resists most solvents and chemicals as well as fungi and mold. Durable enough to withstand a large amount of pressure without major distortion, it's stronger than open cell foam, but also requires more material, which makes it more expensive. The ways in which the foam is used varies depending upon the type.

Strong and resilient, polyethylene foam is often sold as closed cell foam sheets. It is used as thermal insulation, as shock absorption, to dampen sound, and as cushioning. It is very buoyant and is frequently found in flotation devices and other nautical equipment.

Polystyrene, also called Styrofoam™, is a lightweight foam that is easy to work with. It is used in construction as insulation because of its almost complete resistance to moisture, water vapor, and mold. It is also a popular choice for arts and crafts and packing material.

Volara® is a thin foam with has a smooth consistency, gauge control, and low water absorption and vapor transmission. It is generally found in refrigerators and freezers or used as poker table padding. It has also been used a good deal in the auto industry.

Minicel® is a thick closed cell foam that has a smooth feeling. It is commonly used for shock absorption and padding and may be used to cushion sporting equipment like football helmets. It is also used in flotation equipment and airplane seating.

Neoprene is a flexible and durable sponge rubber. It is form-fitting and offers insulation from heat, cold, and moisture. Neoprene can also resist breakdown by water, along with ozone, sunlight, oxidation, and oils. Some of the many uses of neoprene include orthopedic braces, wetsuits, waders, and gloves.

Gymnastic rubber is durable, flexible, resilient, and resistant to most liquids. As its name suggests, this type of closed cell foam is often used in exercise mats, camping pads, boat cushions, and floor padding. Its squishy consistency makes it a good choice as padding.

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Discussion Comments
By Mykol — On May 04, 2012

The memory foam mattress we have on our bed is made with closed cell polyurethane foam.

This is a thick type of foam that is different than a regular foam mattresses. With this type of foam, it will form to the shape of your body, and then return to its smooth shape when there is no pressure on it.

This is supposed to help you sleep better because of the way it conforms to your body. Our mattress is 2 inches thick, and we have really noticed a big difference.

At first I thought it was too thick and too hard to turn over when sleeping on it. Now I am used to it, and if I sleep on a different bed, it feels really strange and I don't sleep as well.

By bagley79 — On May 04, 2012

I used to sleep on a closed cell foam mattress when we went camping. This is way more comfortable than sleeping on the ground. Not only is is softer, but you stay warmer because your body is not against the cold ground.

Now when we go camping, I will usually sleep on an air mattress. If I have enough room, I will still take a foam mattress along. Placing the air mattress on top of the foam helps me stay even warmer.

These foam mattresses last a long time and can be used over and over again. They are probably made from the same thing that my closed cell foam cushions for my dining room chairs are made of.

It is always nicer to sit down on something soft than not having any kind of cushion at all.

By myharley — On May 03, 2012

I think neoprene has such an interesting feel to it. It has a heavy, spongy feel, but does a great job of keeping your body warm.

My husband likes to scuba dive, and his wetsuit is made of neoprene. This makes all the difference when he is diving in cold water at keeping his body temperature balanced.

Once year we all went swimming in the Pacific ocean. The water was too cold to swim without a wetsuit. Sometimes it can take quite a bit of effort to get them on, but once they are on they are not too uncomfortable.

You can still easily move around like you need to. It is much better than freezing when swimming in water that is too cold.

By honeybees — On May 02, 2012

We used Styrofoam insulation in our basement when we were building our house. This was economical and was the best insulator we have ever used..

I don't remember how thick the insulated sheets were, but the basement stayed at a pretty constant temperature year round.

We didn't finish the basement for several years, but it was not an unpleasant place to be because of how warm it stayed in the winter, and it stayed cool in the summer.

I have lived in other houses where the basement was too cold and damp to spend much time down there. This wasn't the case with the Styrofoam insulation.

We went to a lot of home and garden shows before we built our house, and this was one of the ideas we used. Before seeing this, I would have never guessed that Styrofoam would make such a good insulator.

By Oceana — On May 02, 2012

@OeKc05 - Closed cell foam is so good at cushioning that you can substitute one type for the other. In college, I couldn’t afford an actual exercise mat, so I used some polystyrene sheets that I had bought for art class as a mat. They were maybe an eighth of an inch thick, but they did the trick.

I would mount my drawings by using polystyrene sheets as backing. They were easy to cut, and I could find them in black, which was the color of the mat frames I always used on the front.

I did find that it was better to cut them with a big cutting board that had a giant razor blade with a handle than with a box cutter. The box cutter tended to leave jagged edges behind, but the professional cutter sliced through the polystyrene so quickly that I could avoid this.

By seag47 — On May 01, 2012

I have some pool noodles that are made of closed cell foam. It is amazing that something so small can hold up hundreds of pounds of human weight.

The noodles float on top of the water when I’m not using them, and when I do put part of my body on one, only the portion of the noodle that I am pressing on goes underwater. I can sit on a noodle like a chair or I can put my arms over it and lean on it that way.

It pushes against me, because its natural tendency is to float. This makes it a great exercise tool. I use its resistance when doing arm presses, and I fold my arms across it while doing leg lifts.

By OeKc05 — On Apr 30, 2012

I use an exercise mat made of closed cell foam. When I lived in a house with carpet, I never needed a mat, but since I moved to a place with hardwood floors, it is a necessity.

I was a bit skeptical at first about whether or not the mat would be cushioning enough on top of such a hard floor. It was only about a quarter inch thick, after all.

I was pleasantly surprised by how soft the mat was. I could do crunches and pushups on it without any discomfort. I also use it for doing stretches and to stand on while lifting weights.

By cloudel — On Apr 30, 2012

Neoprene is a wonderful insulator. If it can protect divers from cold ocean temperatures, you know it has to be effective.

I have heard of some people abusing it, though. People desperate to lose weight will wear neoprene suits while working out, and this makes them sweat off pounds of water weight. They stay so warm because of the insulation, and they can easily become dehydrated.

If they get dehydrated, they get bad muscle cramps and even worse things. Since you are only losing water weight, this sounds like a terrible exercise plan to me. You will put the weight back on as soon as you drink something.

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