How To Sort Through All The Different Latex Options —
And Get The Best Possible Deal
The latest hot product you see at mattress industry trade shows is the latex mattress. You see latex being used as topper layers in traditional innerspring mattresses, and more and more you see it being used to replace innersprings as the mattress “core” in manufacturer’s upscale mattress lines. Why has there been such a surge in interest for latex mattresses recently?
From what we hear from customers, there are a few different reasons behind the rising interest in latex mattresses. One theme we hear is from people interested in a “green” mattress option. This can include those that want a mattress made of all natural ingredients, those wanting to buy a mattress made from sustainable materials, or those that want to assure that their bed isn’t off gassing any unnatural materials into their bedroom.
And while there are other materials that offer some of these “green” qualities, such as organic cotton or wool, none of them have the same buoyant and elastic characteristics that a latex mattress offers. Cotton mattresses, much like futon mattresses, pack down over time and get much firmer, and while wool makes a very nice comfort layer, you still need a good mattress “core” or base, to layer the wool on top of.
Another group of folks find Natural Latex interesting because of its hypo-allergenic, anti-bacterial, and anti-dust mite qualities. These organisms do not thrive in natural latex.
And finally, there are a fair amount of people that just haven’t been able to find a comfortable mattress. Often they have specific pain issues they are trying to address, but others have tried all sorts of other mattress options and just can’t get a good night’s sleep.
And the truth is, that despite all the hype in the industry about latex, it really is a great option for these different kind of customers. There is no “greener” mattress than an all natural latex mattress, and it can be a very effective choice for those that have chemical sensitivities or other allergy concerns.
The most important reason latex has become the current “hot” product, though, is that it is a uniquely comfortable sleep surface. Latex is both a very dense surface, but also because of its elastic properties, still has a yielding, giving, and conforming quality. So for those that just haven’t been able to get a good night’s sleep or have unrelieved pain issues, a latex mattress is a top of the line alternative that has a very different feel, offers unparalleled comfort and support, that may well do the trick.
After looking at a variety of natural and synthetic latex mattress offerings, based on pure comfort I strongly prefer natural latex. I’ll be honest with you though, when you start to look critically at latex you step into very deep water. While I’ve mentioned the basic difference in latex, natural vs synthetic, you also get into how the latex was actually manufactured.
There are two methods, the original Dunlop method, which is the longstanding, traditional method and primarily used for making natural latex, and the newer Talalay method, which is primarily used for making synthetic latex .
Without trying to put you to sleep, here is a very short description of how latex is made — understanding this a bit will make you much more informed consumer and give you a much better understanding of just what to look for when buying a latex mattress:
Natural latex is collected in liquid form by hand, then poured into large vats where it is filtered carefully to remove particulate matter. It is then poured into large molds, emulsified with water and air bubbles, then it is slowly heated and vulcanized, a process where the liquid latex rubber converts to a flexible, solid state.
As I mentioned above, there are two methods of vulcanization used to produce solid latex. The oldest technique, and the most time tested, is the Dunlop method, which yields a more supportive and slightly firmer natural latex. The newest technique, called the Talalay process, is essentially the same general method, except that it includes a flash freeze step which suspends smaller air bubbles in the mold immediately before it is rapidly heated to solidify the latex, resulting in a slightly softer, less supportive feel.
Here’s my bottom line: natural latex made using the Dunlop method has a somewhat firmer and more buoyant feeling that Talalay latex. And since Dunlop latex is less expensive than Talalay, you get a cost savings as well.
I prefer 100% natural latex over synthetic or blended beds — natural latex just has a livelier, more responsive, and has more elastic qualities than the synthetic or blended mattresses. Natural latex just has a more comfortable feel. In addition, natural latex, is durable, resists packing down and forming body impressions. It offers other advantages that the synthetic Latex doesn’t have, such as the naturally anti-dust mite, anti-mold and anti-mildew qualities, the hypo-allergenic qualities, and it is a chemical free bed that will does not off gas.
Look for simplistically designed, uncomplicated natural latex mattresses. This will minimize problems with shifting layers and migration of contents. Avoid mattresses with excessive zones or “cut up” designs.
Dunlop natural latex on the bottom, Dunlop natural latex on the top, if you are going to go for a mattress with multiple layers. The Dunlop layer provides a good foundation or substrate layer, offering support, while a Dunlop latex top layer offers a luxurious feel to the mattress.
Look for a breathable outer covering, preferably a wool blend that contains no chemical fire retardants. Also, the covering should not be excessively thick or quilted, so that you remain in close contact with what you are paying for…latex.
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