Choosing the Best Latex Mattress
If you think a latex mattress might be a good fit for you, read on. We share everything you need to consider when evaluating different latex mattress models, including the type of latex, ILD rating, and other factors that speak to the overall quality and longevity of a mattress.
Types of Latex Mattresses
Latex is generally divided into the following groups.
- Natural latex: Natural 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.
- Synthetic latex: Synthetic latex is derived from various petrochemicals. The latex found in most mattresses today is a blend of natural and synthetic latex types. Synthetic latex is produced using either Talalay or Dunlop processes as well. Typically, synthetic latex mattresses are considerably less expensive than natural latex mattresses.
- Blended latex: Blended latex mattresses include a mix of both natural and synthetic latex foams. To carry the blended latex label, these mattresses must contain at least 30% natural latex.
The table below features a detailed breakdown of the three primary latex types.
As you can see, even natural latex mattresses that carry an “all-latex” or “pure latex” label do not contain 100% natural latex. There is no such thing as 100% organic or 100% natural latex in mattresses, despite claims made by sellers, as a small amount of additives are required to form the latex foams. At most, the natural latex used in mattresses consists of up to 95% latex.
ILD (Impression Load Deflection) and Firmness
Latex mattresses are tested for impression load deflection (or ILD). This rating 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, manufacturers simply place a metal disk with a 1-foot diameter onto a section of latex that is roughly four inches thick.
Note: 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.
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 ILD ratings of the individual foam layers, the mattress itself will have an overall firmness rating. Typically, this ranges from ‘Very Soft’ to ‘Very Firm,’ or from a 2 to an 8 on a 1-to-10 scale.
As you saw in the chart above, the best firmness rating for you depends on your sleep position. Side sleepers generally prefer softer mattresses, as these allow their hips and shoulders to sink deeper into the mattress, ensuring healthy spinal alignment. Stomach sleepers, on the other hand, prefer firmer mattresses, precisely because these prevent them from sinking too deeply. The experience for back sleepers may vary, but they often find mattresses with firmness ratings that lie somewhere in the middle to be the most comfortable.
Your ideal mattress firmness also depends on your body weight:
- Lightweight sleepers (those who weigh less than 130 pounds) usually prefer softer mattress surfaces with more cushioning, like the ‘Soft’ (3.5) rating of the Brooklyn Bedding Bloom Hybrid.
- Average weight sleepers (those who weigh between 130 and 230 pounds) generally find ‘Medium’ or ‘Medium Firm’ (between a 5 to 6) mattresses to be optimally supportive. Both of these ratings are available with the Avocado Green Mattress.
- Heavyweight sleepers (those who weigh more than 230 pounds) will enjoy better support from firmer mattresses, with a rating of 7 or higher. The 7.5 rating of the Botanical Bliss mattress from PlushBeds is perfect.
Other Important Considerations for Sleepers Interested in a Latex Mattress
In addition to the mattress type and ILD rating, here are a few more questions to ask when evaluating the overall quality of a latex mattress: