What is a Latex Mattress?
Learn the distinction between Talalay and Dunlop latex, and the differences in their production processes. Find out the meanings of 100% latex and 100% natural latex in mattress labeling.
Other topics include an overview of the materials that are used to create the different types of latex mattresses, the use and misuse of "organic" labeling, and more.
Find out some fascinating facts - like what is latex, and how does it get from a tree to your bed? Should you be concerned about sleeping on this mattress if you are allergic to latex?
Also, delve into the Latex vs. Memory Foam match-up, learn about complaints among owners (are there any?), and more.
Find out if sleeping on a latex mattress may reduce (or help indirectly) some of the symptoms associated with the likes of Sleep Apnea, Narcolepsy, or Insomnia.
Learn whether this mattress can help you if you are among the nearly 50% of the population that are sleep deprived.
If you are looking for a mattress that can offer comfort and durability with eco-friendly features, you cannot go wrong with a latex mattress. Latex mattresses have become popular in the last decade because of their natural construction, durability, and breathable factors.
Sleeping on a natural latex mattress can prevent aches and pains, and be an excellent option for sensitive people like the elderly and children.
While people are increasingly becoming aware of the benefits of sleeping on a natural latex mattress, the curiosity regarding the origin of latex, and how latex foam is made, has increased manifold.
What is Latex Foam?
Latex foam is made from latex sap derived from rubber trees. Rubber trees are grown in tropical climates, and are tapped for sap, which is later converted into latex foam. The latex foam is further processed to manufacture durable products like natural latex mattresses.
Unlike other forms of latex, latex foam contains small bubbles of latex, called cells. These cells make up the foundation of the latex mattress, and allow latex foam mattresses to be simultaneously lightweight, durable, supportive, and comfortable. The construction of latex foam allows most latex mattresses to contour to your body, while also feeling bouncy.
In other words, whenever you hear someone describe the latex foam when referring to the mattress, they are referring to the construction of the mattress, which determines how it feels, and how durable it is, along with other factors.
While there are several different types of latex foam, they are all made from the same source. What makes them different is how they are processed and made into the mattress itself. The main two types of latex foam that we will discuss below are dunlop and talalay latex.
How are Natural Latex Mattresses Made
Natural latex mattresses are manufactured using either of the following two processes.
Dunlop Latex Foam
The Dunlop method is the traditional way of manufacturing natural latex. It has been around since 1929, and uses liquid sap extracted from rubber trees to manufacture Dunlop latex. The process involves converting liquid sap into frothy latex foam that is poured into a mold in one complete pour, filling up the mold in the process.
The process causes Dunlop latex to have two distinct layers - a dense heavier bottom layer as the mattress core, and a lighter layer on the top forming the mattress comfort layer.
Because of the high density, Dunlop latex can be excellent for making a mattress core.
Dunlop Latex Process
The processing of Dunlop latex can be summarized as under:
- The liquid sap from the rubber tree is converted into frothy latex foam.
- The latex foam is poured in one complete pour to fill up the mold.
- Latex foam in the mold is then baked, following a vulcanization process.
- The latex mattress is finally washed and baked for the second time to remove excess moisture.
Pros and Cons of Dunlop Latex
Because of its firm texture, Dunlop latex can be the best latex mattress material for building the mattress core.
- Dunlop latex uses a simple manufacturing process, making it a less expensive mattress.
- Dunlop latex is manufactured using less energy, and is an environmentally-friendly option as opposed to synthetic latex and memory foam.
- Thanks to its firm and dense construction, Dunlop latex is popular for its durability and resilience in comparison to other mattress materials.
- Because of its firmness, Dunlop latex can be excellent for making high-quality mattress cores.
- Dunlop latex, because of its dense texture, does not provide temperature regulation like Talalay latex.
- Dunlop latex can be more expensive than synthetic and blended latex or memory foam mattresses.
Talalay Latex Foam
Talalay latex uses a newer and advanced manufacturing process that involves partial pouring of latex foam into a mold.
The liquid latex foam is then vacuum-sealed, where it expands to fill the mold. The latex foam is then flash-frozen by letting the flow of carbon dioxide through its layers, causing the Talalay latex to develop small pin holes.
The pinholes formed in Talalay latex make it porous, with a lighter texture. Later, the Talalay latex is baked, using a vulcanization process, and washed to remove the impurities.
Talalay latex has a lighter, more porous texture, with a uniform density, and is known for its responsiveness and comfort. It provides temperature neutrality, and can be excellent when made into a mattress comfort layer.
Talalay Latex Process
The processing of Talalay latex can be summarized as under:
- Talalay latex is manufactured using a more advanced method, making the mattress more expensive than Dunlop latex.
- Similar to Dunlop latex, the process involves extracting liquid latex from rubber trees, and converting it into frothy latex foam.
- Latex foam is then poured into a mold, but is only half-filled.
- The latex foam is then vacuum-sealed to allow it to expand the entire mold.
- Later, the latex foam is frozen and baked using a vulcanization process to make Talalay latex.
Pros and Cons of Talalay Latex
The processing of latex foam into Talalay latex involves vacuum-sealing and flash-freezing liquid latex foam that creates small pin holes, making the latex more porous, lighter, and breathable than Dunlop latex.
- The advanced processing method of Talalay latex gives it a softer, more porous texture that makes it an excellent option for making a mattress comfort layer.
- Talalay latex layers are softer, more breathable, and offer better temperature regulation features that can be excellent for hot sleepers.
- Even though not as durable as Dunlop latex, Talalay latex offers better durability than other mattress materials, like memory foam and synthetic latex.
- Talalay latex, because of its advanced processing, can be more expensive than Dunlop latex.
- Because of its energy-intensive processing, Talalay latex is less eco-friendly than Dunlop latex.
Benefits of Natural Latex Mattresses
Natural latex, derived from natural sources, can be the best latex mattress material for sensitive sleepers, like the elderly and small children. It can also be beneficial for people who are suffering from pain, and certain health issues.
Here are some of the benefits of sleeping on a natural latex mattress:
Latex Medical Benefits
No other mattress can provide the same responsiveness and contouring support as a natural latex mattress. Sleeping on a latex bed can help prevent and relieve medical concerns as follows:
- Lower back pain: If you suffer from lower back pain, the supportive feature of a natural latex bed can keep your spine in alignment with your body throughout the night, minimizing lower back pain.
- Fibromyalgia: If the chronic pain of fibromyalgia keeps you awake at night, investing in a latex bed can help you. The soft Talalay latex comfort layer can cushion your body, relieving painful pressure points, while the denser Dunlop latex mattress core would support your body, helping with proper spine alignment.
- Arthritis: People with arthritis can get instant relief from sleeping in a latex bed. A firm latex mattress can comfort and cradle your body, while providing the required support to keep the pain and discomfort at bay, improving your sleep routine.
- Degenerative disc disease: If you are having trouble sleeping at night because of degenerative disc disease, getting a latex bed can help support your body, aligning your spine, and letting you heal as you sleep comfortably.
- Spinal injury: People with spinal injury can heal faster when sleeping on a mattress made with latex materials. A firm latex mattress can provide support and comfort that improves circulation in the limbs, allowing your spine to heal faster.
Latex beds are made from liquid sap, derived from rubber trees, using a natural processing method. An organic latex mattress, because of its natural source, can be the best latex mattress for:
- Sensitive sleepers: People sensitive to chemicals, like the elderly and small children, can find themselves comfortable sleeping on natural latex beds. An organic latex mattress is free from harmful chemicals, and is beneficial for people as well as the environment.
- People with breathing disorders: People with asthma, sleep apnea, and other sleep disorders can benefit from sleeping on an environmentally-friendly latex mattress. An organic latex mattress is hypoallergenic, which allows people with asthma or other breathing problems to breathe easily, while getting deep, uninterrupted sleep.
- Insomnia: People with insomnia or are chronically sleep-deprived can benefit by having the most comfortable mattress possible, like a latex mattress.
Natural latex mattresses have tiny pin holes on the surface that allow air passage, providing better ventilation than other mattress materials. Latex beds can be an excellent mattress for hot sleepers, as unlike synthetic or memory foam, they tend to release trapped body heat, cooling down the body as you sleep.
Natural latex mattresses are highly durable, and can last up to 20 years if maintained properly. A 100% certified all-natural latex mattress is a durable and highly responsive material that can last a long time, without losing shape or sagging.
Latex mattresses are known for their superior support, which provides natural spine alignment. The supportive features of Dunlop latex can provide excellent pressure relief, and heal back pain issues.
No Motion Transfer
A firm latex mattress, though highly responsive, can limit motion transfer from one side to the other. It can help you enjoy uninterrupted sleep, even when your partner tends to toss and turn at night.
A natural, and especially organic latex mattress, is made from natural ingredients, free from any chemicals, additives, or glues, preserving the environment in the process. It can be a great sleeping option for sensitive people, as it is free from off-gassing.
Latex beds often come in multiple layers of different densities. Mattress manufacturers often offer ways to customize your latex beds by choosing the latex layers based on your sleeping positions.
Drawbacks of Natural Latex
While latex mattress drawbacks are few and far between, most complaints or drawbacks are concerning hybrids and blended latex mattresses. Latex beds can come with the following disadvantages:
Because of their natural sources and eco-friendly processing, an organic latex mattress can be much more expensive than an innerspring or memory foam mattress. However, you will be receiving a higher quality, safer, and longer-lasting product.
Because of their construction, latex beds can be heavier than memory foam or innerspring mattresses, making them difficult to maneuver.
Latex Allergy Concerns
Although known for their natural and eco-friendly construction, to prevent health issues, people with allergies to latex should avoid latex beds.
Latex vs. Memory Foam
Both latex and memory foam are types of foam mattresses that are popular with mattress shoppers for various reasons. While memory foam mattresses are made from polyurethane foam, and have a softer texture with superior pressure relief, latex foam is durable with a natural construction that is excellent for eco-conscious customers.
Latex and memory foam mattresses can have the following differences:
While traditional memory foam mattresses are made of viscoelastic foam - a variety of polyurethane foam, nowadays, manufacturers are making a greener version of memory foam from natural materials like soybean oil.
Most mattress types are made from synthetic materials; however, latex foam is made from natural material extracted from rubber trees, making them an eco-friendly option.
Most latex mattresses, namely natural latex mattresses, are made from rubber tree sap. This sap is extracted from the trees, and then whipped into a latex froth. Then, the latex mixture is poured into mattress molds, before being covered and finally baked. However, the process differs slightly, depending on if the latex is being made into Dunlop or Talalay latex foam.
It’s important to remember that not all latex mattresses are made this way. Synthetic latex mattresses are made from petroleum, and are therefore not made from a natural material like natural latex. Synthetic latex mattresses are cheaper to make, but considered less safe to sleep on, and generally lower quality. Furthermore, synthetic latex mattresses have a shorter mattress life, due to their lack of durability when compared to natural latex.
Also, some companies may brand their mattresses as latex, but may only have one latex layer. So, if you want to have a pure latex mattress, avoid hybrid latex mattresses.
Memory foam softens to body heat and pressure, and provides excellent body contouring. It can cradle your body, and enclose you in softness that is difficult to replicate.
Memory foam beds provide exceptional pressure relief, and can be an excellent option for people suffering from back aches and joint pain issues.
Latex mattresses tend to provide better support, and are highly responsive, providing excellent motion-control properties, however, neither memory foam nor latex foam can provide the buoyancy of an innerspring mattress.
Because of their soft texture, memory foam mattresses have a slower response time. If you press your hand down on a memory foam bed, it will not return to shape immediately after the force release.
This property makes memory foam superb for restricting motion transfer, if you sleep with a partner.
A firm latex mattress is bouncier, and has a faster response time, even when they are not as motion-isolating as memory foam mattresses.
Because of its softer, more pliable construction, memory foam mattresses offer excellent pressure relief to sleepers.
Latex foam, being more responsive, provides less pressure relief than a memory foam bed.
Traditional mattresses made of memory foam typically have a closed-cell structure that can trap body heat while sleeping. Their cushioning effect can also increase the body temperature of the sleepers. This makes the hot sleepers wary of investing in a memory foam mattress.
However, newer memory foam mattresses have cooling gels and other ventilation features to help hot sleepers cool down while sleeping.
Traditional mattresses made from natural latex have natural cooling properties that are an excellent option for hot sleepers. Latex foam naturally circulates air, rather than trapping heat, and leading to a hot bed and poor sleep.
Both back sleepers and side sleepers can have an excellent sleeping experience with memory foam mattresses.
For back sleepers, sleeping on memory foam can help in proper spine alignment, providing adequate support to the head, neck, and shoulders.
However, if you are a stomach sleeper, a memory foam mattress can cause your body to sink because of its softer texture.
Side sleepers can enjoy excellent pressure relief on the hips and shoulders while sleeping on memory foam mattresses. Memory foam cushions the body, and provides the proper comfort and support to people sleeping on their side.
Latex beds can be excellent for all sleeping positions, including back and stomach sleepers, and combination sleepers. Because of their denser construction, latex mattresses do not sink as much as memory foam, and provide excellent support and buoyancy.
It can be ideal for supporting the body weight of back and stomach sleepers, and combination sleepers who tend to shift their sleep positions during the night.
You must choose the right mattress, depending on your sleeping position, to improve your sleep quality.
Side sleepers often prefer plush or medium-firm mattresses, as they have enough padding to reduce pressure points from the hips and shoulders.
Many back sleepers prefer a blend of support and comfort, and this usually translates to a medium or medium-firm mattress.
Stomach sleepers prefer to avoid having their hips sink into the mattress too far, so a medium or medium-firm mattress does the trick.
Few types of mattresses are as environmentally-friendly as natural latex mattresses. That’s because these mattress types are made from 100% natural latex. Furthermore, many other types of mattresses are made from toxic, synthetic chemicals, like polyurethane foam, which is derived from petroleum. Therefore, if you’re considering buying a new mattress, look out for types of mattresses where the entire mattress is naturally-constructed and environmentally-friendly like natural latex mattresses.
Memory foam mattresses made from polyurethane foam release volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. VOCs are responsible for the unpleasant smell, or off-gassing, from memory foam beds.
Because of their plant-based origin, natural latex mattresses do not cause off-gassing. Latex foam also has hypoallergenic properties, and is resistant to dust mites and molds, making the mattresses made by it an excellent option for sleepers susceptible to allergies or chemicals.
A foam mattress is made from synthetic compounds, and can be a cheaper option. However, newer memory foam mattresses that use plant-based compounds tend to get expensive.
Natural latex mattresses can be expensive because of their natural origin, and the cost of harvesting and producing natural latex.
Memory foam mattresses can last between 8 to 10 years, depending on the quality and density of the foam.
Latex mattresses can typically last for 15 years and more, making them the most durable of all mattress materials.
Types of Latex Mattresses
Depending on the material used, you can get the following latex mattress types.
Natural Latex Mattresses
Natural latex mattresses are made from liquid sap extracted from rubber trees. The sap is then converted into latex foam, and made into natural latex mattress using either of the two processing methods -
The Dunlop method, which makes the best latex mattresses to form the mattress core.
The Talalay method, which makes softer, porous Talalay latex - the best latex mattress to act as a comfort layer.
Organic Latex Mattresses
Organic latex mattresses are similar to natural latex mattresses. They are manufactured from sap extracted from rubber trees that are sustainably-grown, without pesticides or chemicals.
An organic latex mattress is free from any chemicals, glues, dyes, and other toxic products, making it one of the most eco-friendly mattresses available on the market.
Synthetic Latex Mattresses
Synthetic latex mattresses are manufactured in the laboratory, and often mimic natural or organic latex foam. While synthetic latex is made using industrial-strength petrochemicals, it cannot match the comfort, support, and durability of a natural or organic latex mattress.
Moreover, because of the presence of chemicals, synthetic latex can cause toxic off-gassing, leading to health concerns.
Blended Latex Mattresses
Blended latex mattresses are made using a blend of synthetic latex and natural latex to offer the buoyancy, durability, and support of natural latex at the lowest price point. Blended latex mattresses usually contain 30% natural latex, and 70% synthetic product.
Latex Mattress Toppers
Because of the steep pricing of natural latex mattresses, some people start with getting a natural latex mattress topper to improve their sleep quality.
Mattress toppers are comfort layers designed to spread on top of a mattress to provide comfort while sleeping. Latex mattress toppers with firmness varying from firm to soft can add luxury to your bedding, improving your sleep quality.
You can choose between Dunlop toppers, Talalay toppers, or blended latex toppers to enjoy the comfort and luxury of natural latex.
What to Look for When Buying a Latex Mattress
Natural latex mattresses can provide comfort and support, and give you an excellent sleeping experience for a long time. Here are some things you can consider to get a latex mattress that is perfect for your sleeping position.
Latex Density and Firmness
Latex mattresses can fall into low, medium, and high-density levels. Mattress density depends on the firmness and ILD (Impression Load Deflection) of the separate latex layers
Latex firmness usually determines the overall feel of the mattress, and is generally rated on a 10-point scale that ranges between 1 being the softest to 10 being the firmest.
Most mattress manufacturers use ILD, or Indentation Load Deflection to determine the firmness scale of a latex mattress. ILD is defined by the force required to compress a latex or memory foam in a mattress.
Temperature Regulating Features
A latex mattress is made from natural materials that help airflow, keeping you cool as you sleep. Hot sleepers can choose latex mattresses that provide the most cooling features.
People who prefer to sleep cool may find the best cooling latex mattress would be a hybrid latex mattress. This is because, unlike an all-natural latex bed, latex hybrid mattresses contain support cores and pocketed coils that promote airflow, maintaining a cooler temperature while sleeping.
If you are an exceptionally hot sleeper, investing in a hybrid latex mattress is best to get comfortable sleep all year round.
A reinforced perimeter helps the mattress retain its shape when you get in and out of the mattress. While firm latex mattresses typically provide better edge support than foam mattresses, some latex beds will eventually get compressed around the edges.
Generally, firm mattresses and hybrid latex beds with pocketed coils have superior edge support, as opposed to the other latex mattresses available.
A good quality mattress must provide proper body cushioning around significant pressure points to help proper alignment of your spine while sleeping.
A natural latex mattress can offer excellent pressure relief, while supporting the body through moderate cushioning and reduced sinkage.
Motion transfer happens when you can feel your partner moving around during sleep. Because of its firmness and bouncy feature, latex allows more motion transfer than most memory foam mattresses.
Even then, latex can create enough motion isolation for you not to get disturbed by your partner’s movement during the night.
Latex mattresses often come with different labels certifying their authenticity. A reputable mattress company or mattress manufacturer will provide access to their certifications. Furthermore, if their mattresses are certified Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS), then they’ll want to show that off for their customers. So, if you can’t easily find organic certifications for a mattress brand, it’s probably because they don’t have any. You can consider the following recognized certifications while choosing a latex mattress.
Certificates for Organic Latex
If you are looking for an organic latex mattress, you need to ensure its quality and purity are certified by certifications like Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS). Global Organic Textile Standard and Global Organic Latex Standard certifications provide credibility to the manufacturers, and the mattress buyers can feel reassured of their high quality. Certificates for non-toxic materials:
Certifications like GreenGuard, eco Institut, and OEKO-TEX are used to establish the eco-friendliness and non-toxic nature of materials in its mattress construction.
If the different varieties of latex mattresses are overwhelming for you, follow the latex mattress buyer’s guide to clear up the confusion.
Latex mattresses are considered the most durable mattresses based on their quality, construction, and design factors. While choosing your perfect mattress, consider its durability to ensure it lasts for a long time. A latex mattress should last around 20 years, or even 25 years.
Because of their natural construction, eco-friendly design, and versatile features, the best organic latex mattresses are way more expensive than any other available mattresses.
While you can get affordable latex mattresses made from blended latex in the price range of $600 and less, a good quality latex mattress would set you back by $1,000 and above, with the best luxury latex mattresses reaching a price range of $5,000.
The best luxury latex mattresses are known for their certified natural materials like organic latex, organic cotton, and wool fibers. They also have superior design and construction, with a wide variety of features that can make your sleep genuinely luxurious.
Even when you plan to splurge on your mattress purchase, research the mattress features to consider whether you need them before making such an expensive purchase.
Before purchasing a latex mattress, consider the latex mattress reviews from previous purchasers to make the best decision. This is a key aspect to take into consideration before making your latex mattress purchase. When reading mattress reviews, pay special attention to who is writing the review. For example, the best reviews are written by people who have similar preferences, weight, and height. This will give you a good idea of what latex mattress options will be ideal for a person of your weight and size.
Here is a list of all the terms you might find while going through the mattress reviews that will help you appreciate the reviews, and decide on the perfect latex mattress.
You can shop your dream mattress from one of the reputed mattress dealers vouched for by us based on their mattress quality, their company’s integrity, and the brand’s merit to get the mattress that lives up to your expectations.