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Latex is considered one of the best materials for mattress construction, due to its natural softness, breathability and resiliency. Latex is most commonly found in luxury mattresses with high price points, and may be used in both the comfort layer and support core. Natural latex may be rendered using either the Dunlop or Talalay manufacturing processes; latex mattresses may also contain plasticizers, petrochemicals and other synthetic materials.
Latex mattresses can be beneficial for a wide range of users. Like memory foam, latex is a great choice for side sleepers because it will conform to your figure and support your body’s natural curves and contours. It also reduces motion transfer, which cuts down on nighttime disruptions for couples who share a bed. The uniformity of Talalay latex provides pain and pressure relief for sleepers with chronic back and shoulder pain, while the density and stability Dunlop latex make it ideal for sleepers who weigh more than 230 pounds. The bounciness and breathability of latex means that the material is well-suited for sex, as well.
Read on to learn more about latex mattresses. Please visit our mattress reviews and comparison tool and learn about the latex mattresses with the highest customer satisfaction rates, or scroll down to check out our detailed consumer guide.
Natural latex (or NR latex) is produced from the sap of the rubber tree. Two distinct processes are used to manufacture natural latex. Used since the 1930s, the Dunlop process involves stirring, molding and stem-baking the rubber tree sap; this causes natural sediment to accumulate at the bottom, leaving a denser, heavier foam at the top. Alternatively, the newer Talalay process requires the sap to be placed in a vacuum-sealed chamber. The sap is then deprived of oxygen, frozen and baked. Talalay latex is softer, lighter and more homogenous than Dunlop latex. There is no such thing as 100% organic or natural latex in mattresses despite claims made by sellers as the absolute most natural latex you can have in foam is 95%.
Synthetic latex (or SBR latex), on the other hand, is derived from various petrochemicals. The latex found in most mattresses today is a blend of NR and SBR latex types. SBR latex is produced using either Talalay or Dunlop processes as well. Typically, natural latex mattresses are considerably more expensive than blended and synthetic latex mattresses.
The table below features a detailed breakdown of the four primary latex types.
|Type of Latex||Other Names||Percentage of Natural Latex||Components|
|Natural latex||All-latex, pure latex, organic||At least 95%||Natural latex with cure package (required to create latex foam)|
|Blended latex||Latex hybrid||At least 30%||Synthetic latex with some natural latex|
|Synthetic latex||Latex polyfoam, man-made latex||0%||All-synthetic latex|
The distinct feel of a latex mattress is one of the reasons why this material is so popular with consumers. Let’s look at a few key attributes of all-latex and latex-hybrid mattresses.
Latex mattresses are tested for impression load deflection (or ILD), a rating that measures the softness or firmness of a mattress — or, more specifically, how much pressure is required to indent the mattress by 25%. To measure an ILD rating, simply place a metal disk with a 1-foot diameter onto a section of latex that is roughly four inches thick. ILD is not the same as density, which measures durability and support, and is used to evaluate mattresses made from other materials (such as polyfoam and memory foam).
The ILD rating of a latex mattress will vary by latex type. Talalay latex, for instance, usually has a lower ILD rating than Dunlop latex; additionally, natural and organic latex will almost always carry a lower ILD rating than blended and synthetic latex. The table below looks at the characteristics of ILD ranges found in most latex mattresses sold today.
|Category||ILD||Latex Characteristics||Best for…|
|Very Soft||16 and below||Mattress will sink extremely low, causing discomfort for some sleepers||Back or side sleepers|
|Soft||19-21||Mattress sinks considerably beneath most sleepers||Back or side sleepers|
|Medium||24-26||Balances softness and firmness, and will be comfortable for most sleepers||Side sleepers|
|Medium-Firm||29-31||Firm support with minimal sinking||Back or stomach sleepers|
|Firm||34-36||Very firm with little to no sinking||Back sleepers|
|Very Firm||39 and up||Extremely firm with no sinking whatsoever, causing discomfort for some sleepers||Back sleepers|
Some ILD numbers are not listed on the table because they bridge the gap between categories. A rating of 22, for example, should be considered ‘Medium-Soft’.
In addition to the mattress type and ILD rating, here are a few more considerations to make when selecting a latex mattress:
|Latex contours to the sleeper’s body for excellent spinal support and pressure relief, and the bouncier, more responsive surface makes it suitable for sex.||Off-gassing smells are common with both organic/natural and synthetic/blended latex mattresses.|
|Latex absorbs movement more easily, which reduces motion isolation.||Latex mattresses are not widely available in stores, forcing many consumers to order them online without trying them out in-person.|
|Latex is highly breathable, allowing sleepers to remain cool and comfortable throughout the night.||Latex mattresses are among the most expensive models available today.|
|Latex is naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to dust, mold and mildew. Natural and organic latex is also more environmentally friendly.||Less expensive synthetic or blended latex are not considered as environmentally friendly as natural or organic latex.|
There are many benefits associated with sleeping on a latex mattress compared to innerspring and polyfoam/memory foam mattresses. Pressure relief is often cited as the biggest perk for these mattresses, since latex will contour to your body and alleviate pressure points without sinking too far. The result is effective pain relief without spinal misalignment — especially with softer Talalay latex, which pinpoints pressure areas more precisely for more advanced relief.
Because latex mattresses absorb movement in different areas, these models have also been praised for superior motion isolation. Because it is a denser material, Dunlop latex is considered the best material for minimizing motion transfer and reducing nighttime disruptions for couples when one person gets up or shifts positions.
Both natural and hybrid latex mattresses perform well when it comes to bounciness compared to polyfoam and memory foam. This should come as no surprise, since latex is derived from the rubber tree. Natural latex is more elastic than blended or synthetic latex, although all of these materials have been touted for their superior shape recovery. Additionally, latex mattresses are constructed in a foam grid to enhance responsiveness of the material. This technique helps ensure the mattress will provide a good night’s sleep and be suitable for sex.
Most latex mattress sleepers can attest that the material sleeps cooler than other mattress types. This is due to the fact that latex is naturally breathable and resistant to body heat — although many sleepers claim that synthetic latex is even more effective at regulating body temperature and keeping them cool at night. In any case, natural and synthetic latex are both considered the best option for maintaining comfortable levels of body heat while sleeping.
Additionally, natural and organic latex are highly biodegradable — making these mattresses a good option for eco-minded consumers who prefer natural components over harsh chemicals and synthetics. Latex mattresses are also hypoallergenic, and naturally resistant to dust, mold and mildew.
Despite the overall popularity of latex mattresses, this material is also associated with some notable drawbacks. One major issue is off-gassing. Mattress manufacturing processes lead to the formation of particles known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are released as soon as the mattress is unpackaged. VOCs are considered harmless, but the odor can be strong and unpleasant. Synthetic and blended latex emit chemical off-gassing smells; natural latex produces lower levels of off-gassing smells caused by the strong odor of natural rubber. To minimize the effects of off-gassing, opt for natural or organic latex and let the mattress air out for a few days before you place bedding materials on it.
Two other cons are associated with latex mattresses: availability and cost. Latex mattresses — especially ones made from natural or organic latex — are hard to find in mattress stores, which means most consumers must often order them online without testing them in person. This relative scarcity also drives up the price point. On average, latex mattresses are roughly 10% more expensive than memory foam mattresses; natural and organic latex mattresses cost considerably more than blended and synthetic latex mattresses (see pricing section below).
The lifespan of a latex mattress will largely depend on its material composition. Organic and natural latex mattresses typically last for eight years, which is two years longer than the average mattress lifespan. Blended and synthetic latex mattresses tend to last for up to six years. You can increase the longevity of your latex mattress by replacing individual layers, but this may be a difficult process for some mattress models (such as those with covers sewn to the top). Alternatively, some mattresses require home assembly and can be taken apart more easily.
The warranty should be a major consideration for any mattress buyer. Warranty length is key; although latex mattresses typically last six to eight years, warranties for these models may run as high as 20 to 25 years in length. However, warranties are generally divided into two periods: non-prorated and prorated coverage. The owner is often required to pay more out-of-pocket costs during the prorated phase, which also tends to be the longest. You should also understand what is covered under the warranty; pay close attention to details like the manufacturer’s process for handling warranty claims, turnaround time for repairs, additional shipping costs and mattress replacement. For more information about warranties, please visit our guide to Understanding Mattress Warranties.
Material composition is the biggest factor affecting the cost of a latex mattress. Organic and natural latex mattresses tend to be the most expensive options. These models may be priced between $750 and $1,000 on the low end, but luxury options may cost upward of $5,000. For synthetic and blended latex, the minimum mattress price usually falls within $350 and $500; some high-end models will cost as much as $6,000 to $7,500, but these are relatively rare.
According to our findings, an excellent natural or organic latex mattress with a favorable warranty will cost you roughly $2,000. Expect to pay at least $900 for a synthetic or blended latex mattress of comparable quality with an equally robust warranty.
According to our data, latex mattresses carry the a customer satisfaction rating of 76.4%, the second-highest rating for all mattress types behind airbeds at 79.2%. The rating for latex hybrids is a bit lower: 72%, which matches the satisfaction score of memory foam mattresses. Comparatively, innerspring mattresses hold a 65% rating.
Here are a few inquiries we encourage you to make when shopping for a new latex mattress online or in a store:
Although organic/natural, blended and synthetic latex are very popular mattress choices, this material may not be the best option for you. Be sure to check out our guides to memory foam mattresses, innerspring mattresses and mattress firmness for more information on choosing the right mattress for you.
For more information on memory foam and other mattress materials, please visit the following pages on our site:
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