If you’re wondering what natural latex is or why there’s such a large price differential between natural and synthetic latex, read on!
What is a Latex Mattress?
Latex is a type of rubber that can be used to make bouncy mattresses that compress to form the general impressions of your body. If you press your hand into a latex mattress and then lift your hand back up, a latex mattress will almost immediately return to its original shape.
Latex is often compared to memory foam in the mattress industry because both materials can adjust to your body and help with back or joint pain. However, latex does not conform to your body’s exact shape the way memory foam does, and it can be made to various firmness levels to support individuals’ specific sleep needs. Natural latex mattresses in particular have some significant benefits over foam, such as hypoallergenic properties and a relatively cool sleeping surface.
Natural Latex Mattresses
Natural latex is made from rubber tree sap. It is a relatively long-lasting, sustainable mattress material that can mold to your body and provide relief from back or joint pain. Many people who are serious about sustainability or want a healthier sleep surface prefer natural latex mattresses.
How Natural Latex Mattresses Are Manufactured
Natural latex is made by processing rubber tree sap using one of two manufacturing processes: the Talalay method and the Dunlop method. The sap is mostly harvested from rubber trees in southeast Asia using a similar process to harvesting maple tree sap for maple syrup.
The Talalay latex manufacturing method is known for creating lighter mattresses. It is a newer process that involves whipping rubber sap into a froth in a centrifuge, pouring it into a mold, extracting air in a vacuum chamber, flash freezing, and then baking the mold. The final material will hold more air, making it softer, more breathable, and easier to transport. Many people who dislike sleeping in overly warm beds prefer Talalay latex mattresses because they can stay cooler throughout the night.
The Dunlop latex manufacturing method creates denser, heavier mattresses. The process involves whipping rubber sap into a froth, pouring the sap into a mold, and steam baking the sap. The final product does not contain as much air and tends to keep its shape. However, the extra density means that Dunlop mattresses are often very durable and can avoid sagging over time.
Many custom mattresses are made with a combination of Dunlop and Talalay latex. The firmer Dunlop latex is typically used as a base component, with Talalay as the top cushion layer.
Keep in mind that not all products marketed as “natural latex” are 100% natural. Manufacturers can call a synthetic product “natural” as long as there is a certain percentage of natural latex in the blend. If you are looking for a truly natural mattress, make sure you are buying 100% natural latex.
Advantages of Natural Latex Mattresses
Natural latex provides both pressure relief and postural support because the rubber material stretches and simultaneously pushes back. Other foam materials can stretch or push back, but usually not both at the same time. There are different firmness levels available, so you can choose the right surface for your body and your preferred sleep position.
100% natural latex is also hypoallergenic (as long as you aren’t allergic to latex itself). The material is resistant to common allergens such as dust mites, mold, and mildew.
Synthetic Latex Mattresses
Synthetic latex is constructed from many different synthetic materials. Compared to natural latex, it usually has less bounce and feels a bit more like a memory foam mattress. It lacks the elasticity of natural latex and will not stretch as much to support your posture, although the material can be stronger.
Some synthetic latex blends are made with a combination of natural latex and synthetic chemicals. While these blends can have a little more elasticity, most blends touted as containing “natural latex” do not have enough to provide the benefits of 100% natural latex. You are likely to see some mild off-gassing and less support for pressure points.
How Synthetic Latex Mattresses Are Manufactured
Synthetic latex is a human-made version of latex. Manufacturers use polyurethane, styrene, butadiene, and other chemicals to cut down the cost.
Some brands mix natural latex into their synthetic blends so they can claim their product has “natural latex,” but these do not have the same benefits you would find in a 100% natural latex mattress. Synthetic mattresses with 15-25% natural latex are often called “blended” latex mattresses.
Advantages of Synthetic Latex Mattresses
Synthetic latex is less expensive than natural latex, although the price is dependent on crude oil commodity pricing. Mattress buyers on a strict budget often prefer synthetic or blended latex mattresses that provide some of the benefits of natural latex without the higher cost.
While synthetic latex does not provide the same degree of posture support and elasticity as natural latex, it does have the advantage of durability. Synthetic latex requires more force to tear. The material is stronger and can last quite a while, even longer than natural latex in some cases.
The Best Mattress Material for You
Both natural latex and synthetic latex mattresses can be an excellent choice for many people. It all depends on whether you prioritize the extensive pressure relief, posture support, and hypoallergenic qualities of natural latex over the budget-friendliness and durability of synthetic.
If you are looking to improve your sleep with a better mattress, Slumber Ease can help. We specialize in high-quality custom mattress materials and manufacturing techniques. Whether you are concerned about lower back relief or just want a better quality mattress, we can help you find the perfect material or combination to meet your needs.
Get started on your journey to better sleep today!