Natural vs. Synthetic
Latex in mattresses can be 100% natural, synthetic, or a blend of the two.
One-hundred percent of natural latex is harvested from rubber trees. This is the most expensive type and is rated marginally higher in overall satisfaction by consumers. Consumers who want to live an organic lifestyle and be sure they’ve removed synthetic materials from their homes gravitate toward this option.
Synthetic latex is made when latex that is not 100% organic is combined with a petroleum-based plasticizer. Many companies choose to blend natural latex with synthetic latex, such as 85% natural and 15% synthetic because it provides extended stability and reduces cost. But buyer beware! As long as there is a certain percentage of all-natural latex used in a mattress it can be marketed as “Natural Latex.” To be sure you are buying a 100% natural latex mattress, make sure it is labeled as such. Although the cost will be higher, natural latex is more durable and has greater health benefits.
Dunlop vs. Talalay
Dunlop and Talalay refer to the two most common types of latex processing. Both blended and 100 percent natural latex mattresses can be made using either of these processes.
Dunlop latex is typically more suitable for those seeking a firmer, more supportive mattress. The Dunlop process fills the mattress mold completely, resulting in a heavier, denser bottom that makes it ideal as a base core component.
The Talalay process is newer and slightly different. To make Talalay latex, the mattress mold is partially filled and the remainder is filled with air, creating a uniform density throughout the mattress. It is softer and more pillow-like, making it preferable as a top cushion layer.
Benefits of Latex Mattresses
High-quality latex mattresses offer sleepers a nice, neutral sleeping surface. Depending on how the mattress is made, the open-cell structure of latex or a pinhole pattern added during manufacturing will allow for excellent breathability. Compared to memory foam, which has a closed-cell structure, latex mattresses sleep cool, especially when coupled with a breathable outer cover.
Latex is naturally resistant to moisture which prevents mold and mildew buildup. This is due in part to the open cell structure and added airflow we mentioned above. Additionally, allergens, such as dust mites, don’t adhere to latex material. These hypoallergenic properties are best experienced in a mattress that is 100% natural latex.
Cons of Latex Mattresses
More Bounce Than Memory Foam
This isn’t necessarily a con of latex, but more of a preference. Latex generally has more elasticity than memory foam because of the open-cell structure. If you were to press your hand into a latex mattress, it would snap back almost immediately, whereas memory foam would slowly return to its original shape. If you’re interested in a latex mattress, but sure you’re comfortable with the bounce.
Higher Price Point
Latex is among the most expensive materials to use in a mattress, meaning latex mattresses tend to be pricier. In fact, an inexpensive latex mattress can be an indicator of poor quality, as the latex may be diluted. As you’re shopping, be sure to ask questions about how the mattress is made, the type of latex, and the percentage of synthetic material used.
Who is a Latex Mattress Best For?
Latex adds longevity, support, and temperature neutrality to any mattress. But, as we’ve mentioned, latex mattresses are expensive. If you fall into the following categories, it may be a worthwhile long-term investment for you.
We highly recommend that hot sleepers consider a mattress with, at minimum, a layer of latex. As mentioned, the material’s structure allows for breathability, meaning you’ll have a cool nights sleep or, at worst, a temperature neutral mattress. Keep in mind that blended and synthetic latex may be warmer than 100% natural latex.
People with Low Back Pain
If you have acute or chronic low back pain, latex tends to have the body-cradling properties of memory foam while also providing cushioned support without the harmful chemicals. Be sure to purchase your latex mattress from a company that’s designed the bed with layers that provide support in areas you need them most.
Certain Sleep Positions
Stomach sleepers, who also tend to be people with low back pain, will enjoy the firmness levels and hip support that a latex mattress can offer. However, there are also latex options on the market for back and side sleepers, as well as people who don’t subscribe to a single sleeping position. We recommend taking a look through our recommendations above to find the best latex mattress for your sleeping habits.