All Latex Mattresses: I’ve Got The Facts For You
Image: what latex foam looks like Are you stuck trying to decide which material your new mattress should be? Lost in a sea of memory foam, gel memory foam, inner springs, hybrid, and latex? I’m here to help!
This post is all about, all latex mattresses! They are the least common of the bunch, and are outsold by thousands of units by other mattress types. Sure, latex is used a lot in hybrid mattresses, or as a mattress topper. But actual mattresses made just of the stuff? Not so much. Does that mean you should write them off as being no good? Absolutely not. In fact, after researching different mattress materials and how they perform, I think latex mattresses are highly underrated.
Let me educate you about what latex is, how it’s made, what it feels like to sleep on, and how it performs versus a memory foam mattress.
What is latex?
Natural latex is a milky white sap that comes from a rubber tree. Sap is collected by cutting incisions in the side of the trees and letting the sap run down into collecting bowls to be taken for processing. So basically, natural latex comes from trees. Here is a short video showing how latex is collected from a rubber tree.
Synthetic latex is made out of petroleum byproducts. So basically, synthetic latex comes from man made chemicals.
Mattresses may contain all natural latex, all synthetic latex, or a mixture of the two.
How are latex mattresses made?
I will keep this section brief and simple as the answer is extremely technical and well explained elsewhere.
There are two ways to process latex into a mattress, known as Dunlop and Talalay. These are also the names of the types of latex you will find in the mattresses on the market. Both Dunlop and Talalay convert the liquid latex to a foam by a process called vulcanizing. How do they differ?
- The traditional way to manufacture latex
- The more energy efficient process out of the two
- Liquid latex is converted to a foam inside a centrifuge
- The foam is poured into a mould, covered and baked
The process is similar to Dunlop but two extra steps are added, which makes it more costly and time consuming:
- The foam is poured into the mould but does not fill it. It is vacuum sealed to allow the foam to expand and fill the mould
- It is then frozen and injected with carbon dioxide
These processing methods are used for both natural and synthetic latex.
So which is better, Dunlop latex or Talalay latex?
Mattresses made by the two different methods will probably look and feel quite similar to the average person, despite lots of claims from mattress sellers about one being better than the other. Some differences you might notice are:
- Dunlop foam is slightly denser (due to natural sediments settling in the bottom of the mould during production)
- Dunlop foam feels “springy” while Talalay feels more “bouncy”
- Dunlop is a more efficient process, Talalay is more expensive
It is commonly thought that Talalay latex is “softer” than Dunlop latex. This is not necessarily true, as any latex can be configured to different levels of firmness.
Consumer research shows that Dunlop latex may be better for general support during sleep, and Talalay may be better for specific pressure points.
Since natural latex is more expensive than synthetic latex, and Talalay is more expensive than Dunlop, you will probably find the following when researching latex mattresses:
- A synthetic or mixed latex mattress with Dunlop latex will probably be the cheapest
- A natural latex mattress with Talalay latex will probably be the most expensive
For me personally, if price was dictating how I chose my latex mattress, I would choose one made of 100% natural latex if it was more economical to find one that had used the Dunlop process. Rather than a Talalay mattress containing synthetic latex.
What does a latex mattress feel like to sleep on?
Latex is a naturally springy material. You will feel like you sink down initially then you will bounce back up. This is the latex taking your weight to support you. So rather than the mattress staying sunk beneath you as with memory foam, the latex adjusts to the curves of your body.
Latex mattresses are known for their ability to support your spine in a natural alignment and also relieve pressure points (memory foam also does this, but with more of a sinking in and moulding to your body kind of support). It provides support at exactly the spots you need it and responds instantly to changes in your body’s position
Like many modern mattresses, they come in a variety of firmness options, so you can select whether you prefer a soft, medium, or firm feeling mattress. If you’re not sure which you’re looking for, I recommend choosing medium firm as this tends to suit the widest range of people.
What are the benefits of all latex mattresses?
- All latex mattresses are the only mattresses where you have the option to select an all natural mattress. There are latex mattresses available made from 100% natural latex that also have 100% natural fibers used as the cover
- You won’t have to rotate or flip your latex mattress unlike other mattress types (but please do check individual manufacturer recommendations)
- Latex is very durable: warranty periods on latex mattresses range from 10-25 years and many people report getting at least 20 years from theirs. Synthetic latex will need to be replaced sooner than natural latex
- They are very supportive and suitable for a wide range of sleep requirements
- They are designed to be very breathable, with holes for air circulation
- Latex mattresses are a great choice for people with allergies, due to their antimicrobial and antifungal properties.
What might be some issues with with a latex mattress?
People who suffer from an allergy to the protein in latex could have an allergic reaction to a latex mattress. Please consult with your doctor and seek medical advice if this is a concern for you. It may still be okay for you to use the mattress if your allergy is a skin contact allergy, as your skin will never come into contact with the latex. Your doctor will best be able to advise you on this.
Latex mattresses are extremely heavy! You will need two people to maneuver one in a room, and they can be quite cumbersome and floppy as well. This won’t be an issue once it’s on a bed, of course.
A quality latex mattress may be expensive (but it will last a very long time).
Latex mattress vs memory foam mattress
Latex responds faster when you lie on it. You sink in, then bounce back up pretty much straight away but still supports you. With memory foam, you sink in more slowly and the foam molds around you more.
Latex can be all natural. However, memory foam mattresses are usually made from petrochemical products, which is the same product synthetic latex is made from.
As mentioned above, you will not need to rotate a latex mattress, but you will need to rotate a memory foam mattress to allow it to “wear” evenly. Depending on manufacturer instructions, memory foam mattresses will need to be rotated every 3 months to one year.
Latex mattresses are more durable than memory foam and could even last twice as long.
Memory foam mattresses are lighter than latex and are therefore easier to maneuver.
Both use similar open cell structures to allow the mattress to breathe (the exact configuration of this within a memory foam mattress with vary with the manufacturer but with latex it’s always vertical holes).
There is more choice with memory foam mattresses, across wider price points.
Overall, I think latex mattresses offer an excellent range of benefits and very few negatives. They are comfortable, can be all natural, and breathe well. I think they are a very underrated type of mattress and are a great buy.