For newbies who want to understand latex mattresses and the composition, types, and manufacturing process, the information can be a lot to digest. The process is understandably esoteric, as many veterans in the field often struggle with some concepts. However, this article was written with you in mind and the otherwise recondite terms and explanations have been broken down into simpler forms.
Natural Latex Mattresses: The Essential Guide
Latex mattresses have been rated as the best mattresses on the market in 2017 and we predict it will remain the same in 2018 when it comes to overall satisfaction. Follow closely and you will glean a lot on the definitions, types, production, durability etc. The knowledge you’ll acquire will help you in understanding what latex mattresses are, and if utilized, will inform your decision to purchase a mattress which will best suit your needs.
What is a Latex Mattress?
Latex foam mattress is a mattress with its internals manufactured from processed sap or serum of rubber tree known botanically as Hevea Brasiliensis. This material is very elastic, unlike conventional mattresses which utilize some kind of bedding technology like springs and air in order to make it bouncy.
The elasticity of these latex mattresses helps alleviate back pain as the bed is able to conform to your body shape. The latex mattress is also very soft at first touch, however, it gives a harder feel as your body settles on it.
They are also natural and are touted to be durable and healthy. They contain hypoallergenic organic materials such as GOTS Organic Cotton for the mattress cover, which make them suitable for those with allergies. Since the sap extracted from rubber in their production does not destroy the rubber, latex rubbers are eco- friendly and their cultivation conserves rubber trees.
Types of latex.
In general, we have three different types of latex which are used in filling up mattresses. Even though their physical properties are similar, features such as quality, price, and lifespan differentiate them.
Natural (Organic) Latex
The natural latex mattress contains processed serum from a rubber tree. Serum or sap is a milky-like fluid commonly seen in rubber. To collect this serum, incisions are made on the bark of the rubber tree. When this is done, the fluid then begins to flow.
This process of collecting the serum is referred to as “tapping”. As the name implies, natural latex mattresses are composed of near 100% natural latex and the crude method of tapping makes it an expensive solution.
Synthetic (Man Made) Latex
Synthetic latex mattresses are derived from petrochemicals and other chemical substances. The features of the product obtained using this artificial method is quite similar to that of natural latex, however, there are subtle discrepancies.
Since synthetic mattresses are artificially made, they are very common and less expensive, however, they are not as durable or as firm when compared to natural mattresses.
Blended (Mixed) Latex
As the name implies, it utilizes both types of latex processes. It is a combination of both natural and synthetic latex in a well-defined proportion; usually 20% natural and 80% artificial, however, they could be an equal fusion of organic and synthetic latex.
It is important to note that if the blended latex contains a higher percentage of organic material, the price will inadvertently become higher. Hence, many people who aim to get cheaper mattresses made of blended latex opt for materials with lesser organic content.
Blended mattresses tend to not as durable compared to near 100% natural latex. In addition, consumers become concerned with the off-gassing and health affects from the petroleum based portion of the blended latex. When purchasing mattresses, make sure you take note of the percentage of the organic content as many manufacturers fail to specify.
Types of Latex Mattresses
According to the design and structure, there are three main types of latex mattresses. The features and important properties of each latex mattress are detailed below.
All Latex Mattress
As the name implies, it is made entirely from latex. The latex, however, could be natural, synthetic, or blended. The only extra layers available on this kind of mattress aside is the flame retardant cover.
Based on the feature, they only appeal to the bourgeoisie market. All latex mattresses are usually very expensive and less common in the market. The superior quality eliminates any form of off-gassing problems. They also provide good motion isolation and they provide relief for people who experience pains in their lower back.
Latex over Foam Mattress
This employs a multi-layered mattress design structure whereby a thinner layer of latex rests on top of a thicker foam layer at the base. This foam is usually a cooling gel or visco-memory foam.
The price depends on the thickness of each layer. As a general rule, the thicker the latex layer, the greater the price of the mattress. Even though they are generally cheaper than latex mattresses, this type of mattress also provides good motion isolation and relief for people suffering from pains in their lower region.
Foam Over Latex Mattress
Similarly, it is a multi-layered mattress design with a thinner layer of gel or visco-memory foam on top of a thicker latex base. Other multiple layered designs can also be created by inserting the latex layer in between one foam at the top and the other under it, in such cases, the latex layer is usually about 2 inches thick.
Methods of Processing Latex
Dunlop and Talalay are two methods employed in processing latex. Often, they are wrongly referred to as types of latex even though they are methods of processing latex.
For almost a century, the Dunlop manufacturing process has been adopted in the production of latex. It involves pouring a rubber sap of appropriate thickness into a froth in a centrifuge. The sap is then poured into a mold of appropriate volume & shape. After this, the mold is covered.
The process of steam-baking then occurs. Here, sediments which are naturally occurring in the mixture settles to the bottom and this gives the lower layers a more firm structure. The density of Dunlop is high compared to Talalay, hence, features like firmness, heaviness, and durability are more pronounced.
Talalay process is a relatively newer process that builds on the Dunlop process with two additional steps. After whipping rubber sap of appropriate thickness into a froth in a centrifuge, the sap is poured into a mold and sealed. The process then continues in a vacuum chamber where there is extraction of air.
After this, the mold is frozen which stabilize the sap materials. After this, the sap is baked into solid form. The cooled lump is thereafter removed from the mold and you have your Talalay latex ready for use. These additional steps give Talalay a more consistent structure, making it softer and pillow- like. Talalay processed latex is usually used as the top cushion layer of the mattress.
Dunlop vs Talalay
As mentioned earlier, the added steps in the process of making Talalay creates an uneven comparison. There is an appreciable difference in the observed characteristics of both products. One of the most common questions we’re asked is, “What’s the difference between Dunlop and Talalay Latex as far as feel?”. In this blog we’ve described the differences in feel here.
To start with, the production time of Talalay is twice as long as that of Dunlop. Talalay is also more expensive to produce since the production is more resource intensive. It is safe to say that Dunlop is generally denser and Talalay is more resilient because of the proportionate structure. While it can’t be concluded that one is better than the other, it all depends on personal preference and the amount you’re willing to part with.
As explained in this article, latex mattresses are made of pure natural and organic material. They can either be utilized at the base or top-level layer. Normally, they are used with gels or visco-elastic foam, which are synthetic materials, but most folks that appreciate the healthy lifestyle will choose an all near 100% natural latex mattress without any blends of other foams.
When you exploit the advantages of these materials and merge them, you get a hybrid mattress. To benefit from latex mattress when using a hybrid mattress, you should have the latex layer on top of the visco-elastic foam.
The pros and cons of synthetic and organic materials have been laid out. The pertinent characteristics are also available for your reading pleasure. With the information available at your disposal, you can make well-informed decisions the next time you go mattress shopping.