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Latex is a material derived from the sap of rubber trees. Due to its natural durability and flexibility, it has a wide range of industrial uses. In recent years, latex mattresses have become very popular among sleepers. Latex beds offer the same body-contouring comfort and pain/pressure relief as most memory foam mattresses. Additionally, latex typically sleeps cooler than foam and mattresses made from latex tend to have much longer lifespans.
The latex used in mattresses is processed using one of two methods, Dunlop or Talalay. In some cases, mattresses contain latex produced using both methods. Read on to learn the distinguishing characteristics between Dunlop and Talalay latex, as well as an overview of the top latex mattresses sold today.
The Dunlop processing method was first developed in 1929. The process follows these steps:
1. The liquid latex extract is whipped into a froth
2. The froth is injected into a mold for shaping and baked in a vulcanization oven
3. After baking, the shaped latex is removed from the mold and washed
4. The latex is baked for a second time to remove excess moisture
The resulting Dunlop latex is fairly dense. Its heterogeneous composition results in sediment gathering below the frothier, foamier material, which can make it rather bottom-heavy; one side is usually firmer than the other. As a result, Dunlop latex is commonly used as a support layer in latex mattresses – though some models have Dunlop latex comfort layers, as well.
Used since WWII, the Talalay processing is a newer and more intensive method than Dunlop. The Talalay process follows these steps:
1. The liquid latex extract is whipped into a froth and injected into a mold (similar to the Dunlop method); however, the mold is partially filled
2. The mold is vacuum-sealed, causing the latex to expand and eventually fill the mold
3. The molded latex is flash-frozen, which pushes carbon dioxide through the latex; this makes the latex foam lighter and more breathable as it solidifies
4. The frozen latex is baked
5. Once baking is finished, the latex is removed from the mold, washed, and dried
These additional steps result in latex with a more homogenous consistency; Talalay latex is light and fluffy throughout, and typically softer and less dense than Dunlop latex. As a result, Talalay latex is almost exclusively used as a comfort layer material; it lacks the firmness and density to serve as a support core component.
Aside from the specifics of each processing method, Dunlop and Talalay latex differ in the following ways:
Although the firmness of Dunlop or Talalay latex layers varies by mattress model, most beds with Dunlop comfort layers feel firmer and conform to the sleeper’s body less than models with Talalay latex comfort layers. Because it is softer and less dense than Dunlop latex, Talalay latex is almost never used as a support core material; most all-latex mattresses with Talalay latex comfort layers have a Dunlop-based support core.
That being said, both Dunlop and Talalay latex can be engineered for different firmness settings and some Dunlop latex layers – while naturally denser – may not feel as firm as some Talalay latex layers. Both materials provide consistent conforming that can alleviate aches and pains in the sleeper’s back, hips, and other sensitive areas.
Most Dunlop latex layers are fairly springy, meaning they return to their original shape once weight is removed. Talalay latex, on the other hand, tends to feel bouncier when bearing weight.
Both types of latex are more responsive than memory foam; this generally makes latex mattresses better for sex than foam models, but also means that latex beds do not isolate as much motion transfer (though most do to a noticeable extent).
Many sleepers claim latex mattresses feel excessively hot or warm during the night. Talalay latex tends to retain less body heat due in part to its processing method; the flash-freezing pushes carbon dioxide through the latex, resulting in a more breathable material.
However, many mattress manufacturers choose to aerate their Talalay and/or Dunlop latex layers in order to improve air circulation. Additionally, organic and natural latex tends to sleep cooler than blended or synthetic latex.
Most latex mattresses emit a rubbery off-gassing odor when new; this is true of beds with Dunlop or Talalay layers. However, blended and synthetic latex is processed with petrochemicals that cause the material to emit more volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which are responsible for off-gassing smells.
As a result, organic and natural Dunlop/Talalay latex carries much less odor potential – but some off-gassing should be expected from any new mattress.
Because it is denser than Talalay latex, Dunlop latex is usually more resilient and less susceptible to deterioration. However, both latex types are considered exceptionally durable compared to other mattress materials. The average all-latex or latex hybrid mattress has an expected lifespan of at least seven to eight years.
The Dunlop processing method is less intensive and involves fewer steps. As a result, Dunlop latex has a lower environmental footprint than Talalay latex. However, any mattress with exclusively organic or natural Dunlop/Talalay latex is considered a suitable option for eco-friendly sleepers.
Dunlop latex is slightly less expensive to produce (due in part to its less intensive methods), and this is often reflected in the bed’s price-point. Another important distinction is organic/natural vs. blended/synthetic; beds containing the latter are usually priced much lower than those constructed with the former.
In addition to the processing method, latex mattress shoppers should also consider the components used to produce the latex layers.
As noted earlier, natural latex is derived from the sap of rubber trees. Synthetic latex, on the other hand, is generated from petrochemicals (such as styrene and butadiene) treated with emulsifying agents that reduce their surface tension. The result is a material that mimics the density and shape retention of natural latex, even though it contains purely man-made components.
Some mattress brands claim their mattresses contain ‘100% organic latex,’ citing certifications from the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS). These claims are somewhat misleading, since all latex materials are treated with a chemical-based cure package that helps generate the foam. According to the GOLS, certification is awarded to products with latex materials that contain at least 95% latex. Therefore, ‘organic latex’ and ‘100% natural latex’ are not synonymous.
Blended latex refers to a material with a combination of natural and synthetic latex. According to industry standards, blended latex should contain at least 30% natural latex. This is another important factor for buyers; some brands advertise their mattresses as containing ‘natural latex,’ even though the latex components may be primarily synthetic.
The table below breaks down more key differences between natural, blended, and synthetic latex.
|Other names||Organic latex Pure latex All-latex||Latex blend||Latex foam Latex polyfoam|
|Composition||95% natural latex or more||At least 30% natural latex||0% to 30% natural latex|
|Durability||Very good Average lifespan of 7 to 8 years||Good Average lifespan of 6.5 to 7.5 years||Fair to Good Average lifespan of 6 to 7 years (comparable to the average mattress of any type)|
|Conforming ability||Good The material hugs the sleeper closely without conforming too tightly or sagging excessively||Fair The material does not conform as much and sagging is more likely to occur||Fair Like blended latex, synthetic latex offers minimal conforming and higher sagging potential|
|Temperature neutrality||Good to Very Good Natural latex is more breathable than synthetic latex, allowing it to sleep cooler in most cases; aerated latex layers can further improve the bed’s temperature neutrality||Fair to Good Blended latex does not sleep as cool as natural latex, but it does offer some temperature neutrality due to its natural components||Poor to Fair Excessive warmth is one of the chief complaints associated with synthetic latex|
|Odor potential||Good Some off-gassing is expected, but the lack of chemical components leads to fewer VOCs and slighter, less persistent odors||Fair to Good Though it depends on the natural-to-synthetic latex ratio, most beds with blended latex emit a pungent rubbery smell when new||Poor Strong, rubbery smells often occur in mattresses constructed with synthetic latex layers; the presence of memory foam or polyfoam may exacerbate this issue|
|Allergy potential||High Those with latex allergies are likely to find that natural latex mattresses trigger their symptoms||Moderate Blended latex is less likely to affect allergies, but natural latex components may trigger some symptoms||Low Because it contains very little (if any) natural latex, synthetic latex is the most suitable option for those with latex allergies|
|Environmental impact||Very Good Although the Dunlop method is slightly more eco-friendly than the Talalay method, most mattresses with natural latex layers carry a relatively small footprint – especially if they also feature organic cover fabrics and comfort layer materials||Fair to Good Again, the natural-to-synthetic latex ratio is key. Some blended latex materials carry a much smaller footprint due to the higher concentration of natural latex||Poor As is the case with most synthetic alternatives, synthetic latex is not nearly as environmentally friendly as natural or blended latex|
|Average price range||High Natural latex mattresses typically have higher-than-average price-points; expect to pay at least $1,300 for a Queen-size bed – and some models cost more than $2,000||Moderate Mattresses with blended latex components normally carry price-points that are comparable to the average bed: about $900 to $1,300 for a Queen-size||Low The inclusion of synthetic latex can drive down a bed’s price-point to a significant extent; the average cost usually falls between $700 and $1,100 for a Queen-size|
|Average warranty length||15+ years Due in part to their longer expected lifespans, many mattresses with natural latex components have warranties that extend 15-25 years – or for the product’s entire lifespan, in some cases||10-15 years 10 years is the standard warranty length for a mattress, but models with blended latex may come with slightly longer warranties||10 years Synthetic latex is neither as durable nor as expensive as natural or blended latex; as a result, most beds with synthetic latex come with a standard 10-year mattress warranty|
Generally, three types of mattresses contain latex layers:
The following table compares some of the leading all-latex, latex hybrid, and blended latex/foam mattress models sold today. To read our reviews of these brands, please click the links in the left-hand column. You can also visit each bed’s product page by visiting the links in the second column to the left.
|Mattress Brand||Models with Latex Components||Mattress Type||Composition||Price (Queen)||Warranty Length|
|Avocado||Avocado Green||Natural latex hybrid||Organic cotton cover Natural Dunlop latex comfort and transitional layers Pocketed coil support core||$1,399 to $1,799||25 years|
|Awara||Awara Mattress||Natural latex hybrid||Organic cotton/wool cover Organic Dunlop latex comfort layer Pocketed coil support core||$1,299||Lifetime|
|Brooklyn Bedding||Brooklyn Bloom Hybrid||Natural latex hybrid||Organic cotton/wool cover Natural Talalay latex comfort layer Pocketed coil support core Foam base||$1,799||10 years|
|Casper||The Casper Wave||Blended latex-foam mattress||Cotton-blend cover Blended latex, polyfoam, and memory foam comfort layers High-density foam support core||$1,850||10 years|
|GhostBed||GhostBed Original||Synthetic latex-foam mattress||Polyester cover Synthetic Dunlop latex and gel memory foam comfort layers High-density foam support core||$695||20 years|
|Latex for Less||Latex for Less Mattress||Natural all-latex mattress (flippable)||Organic cotton covers Natural Talalay latex (side 1) and natural Dunlop latex (side 2) comfort layers Natural Dunlop latex support core (shared)||$799 to $899||20 years|
|My Green Mattress||Pure Echo, Natural Escape, Hope Latex Mattress||Natural latex hybrid (Pure Echo and Natural Escape) Natural all-latex mattress (Hope Latex Mattress)||Organic cotton/natural wool covers American eco-wool and natural Dunlop latex comfort layers (all models) Natural Dunlop latex or pocketed coil support cores||$949 to $1,149 (Pure Echo) $1,299 (Natural Escape and Hope Latex Mattress)||25 years (all models)|
|PlushBeds||Botanical Bliss, Natural Bliss, Luxury Bliss||Natural all-latex (Botanical Bliss and Natural Bliss) Natural latex hybrid (Luxury Bliss)||Organic cotton covers (all models) Natural Talalay latex or natural Dunlop latex comfort layers Natural Dunlop latex or pocketed coil support cores||$1,599 to $2,299 (Botanical Bliss) $1,299 to $1,999 (Natural Bliss) $1,499 (Luxury Bliss)||25 years (all models)|
|Recore||The Recore Latex Foam Mattress||Synthetic latex-foam mattress||Polyester-blend cover Synthetic latex and gel polyfoam comfort layers High-density foam support core||$849 (Canadian dollar)||15 years|
|Sleep EZ||Select Sleep Organic, Select Sleep Lifetime Dreams, Roma Latex Mattress||Natural all-latex mattress (Select Sleep Organic) Blended all-latex mattress(Select Sleep Lifetime Dreams) Natural latex-foam mattress (Roma Latex Mattress)||Organic or natural cotton covers Natural Talalay/Dunlop latex, blended Talalay latex, or foam comfort layers Natural Dunlop latex support core (all models)||$1,160 to $2,040 (Select Sleep Organic) $1,040 to $1,720 (Select Sleep Lifetime Dreams) $695 (Roma Latex Mattress)||10 years (Roma Latex Mattress) 20 years (Select Sleep Organic and Select Sleep Lifetime Dreams)|
|Sleep on Latex||Pure Green Natural Latex Mattress||Natural all-latex mattress||Organic cotton cover Organic wool and natural Dunlop latex comfort layers Natural Dunlop latex support core||$775 to $795||10 years|
|Sweet Zzz||Natures Novel Latex Mattress||Blended all-latex mattress||Natural cotton/wool cover Natural Talalay latex comfort layer Natural Dunlop latex support core||$1,399||Lifetime|
|Zenhaven||Zenhaven Mattress||>Natural all-latex mattress (flippable)||Organic cotton covers Natural Talalay latex comfort layers (both sides) Natural Talalay latex support core (shared)||$1,899||20 years|