Sifting through claims made by mattress companies can be difficult especially when it comes to natural latex mattresses, one of the most difficult types to research. Differences in labeling, manufacturing and a wealth of inaccurate information persist, further complicating the process. If you have been confused by the differences between types latex foam, the actual benefits of latex, or how latex compares to other foams, you aren’t alone, but you also needn’t be discouraged. We put our research hats and developed an unbiased, in-depth look at latex beds to help explain the basics you should know when comparing and shopping for natural latex.
Our Unbiased Report on Natural Latex
The most important things to understand when looking at this type of bed are what goes into it, how it is made, and how these to factors affect the benefits consumers can expect to see. We searched for unbiased resources and collected the facts about latex variations, presented in the following report. Also included are benefits reported by other consumers, analysis of how this differs from memory foam, and a comparison of leading brands.
Materials in Latex Mattresses
Primary differences in the latex marketplace result from what is used to make the product. In order to ensure you get your money’s worth, it is important to understand the terminology.
- 100% Natural Latex – Natural latex is derived from sap that is collected from rubber trees, typically which have been planted specifically for latex and rubber production. The trees are tapped (similar to maple syrup harvesting), creating a sustainable resource. This type of bed will have a handful of other additives required to produce the end product, but ideally these do not include any dangerous or toxic chemicals. Brands that claim 100% Natural Latex will be more expensive, as purely natural materials cost more.
- Certified Organic Latex – In addition to being 100% natural, certified organic latex comes from organically-grown trees and must be manufactured under stricter standards regarding additives and environmental impact. Organic latex costs the most to produce. Any brand selling organic latex should be able to produce certification information from a legitimate certifying body.
- Natural Latex/Botanical Latex – Brands that mention natural or botanical latex without the qualifiers “100% or “all” likely contain a portion of synthetic latex (see blended below).
- Blended Latex – Blended latex is made of a combination of natural and synthetics in various proportions, although a 70/30 blend is quite common. It is generally cheaper than the all-natural variety, but does not provide the same benefits.
- Synthetic Latex – Synthetic latex is made using styrene which is derived from tree resin, although a different variety. It is combined with the petroleum-derived butadiene which comes from dehydrated butane to make latex which is similar to natural, although with slightly different properties. This is NOT a natural or eco-friendly product. It may release some gasses (“new” smell) and can contain potentially harmful materials.
|Safe Ingredients||Latex Milk, Water, Fats, Waxes, Resins||Styrene, Resins|
|Possibly-Harmful Ingredients||Ammonia (removed in processing), Sulfur (eliminated in washing)||Metal Oxides, Sulfur (eliminated in washing)|
|Toxic Ingredients||Adhesives (some brands)||Butadiene & other Petroleum By-Products, Adhesives (some brands),|
When most people think of latex beds, they think of a natural, healthy, earth-friendly product. However, the vast majority of latex on the market is blended with synthetic materials that corrupt these properties in the name of saving money.
There is some debate regarding durability, and whether natural or blended lasts longest, though it is fairly widely regarded that blends and synthetics compromise comfort and other benefits. Look for options with Oeko-Tex 100 certification or Eco-Institut certification, which means the bed has been tested and found to be free of hazardous additives and VOCs.
For those seeking healthy mattress alternatives, an all-natural latex mattress is the ideal option, and that is what the rest of the article will focus on.
How Natural Latex Becomes a Mattress
Latex mattresses are formed using one of two methods, Talalay or Dunlop. The following process descriptions can be used on either natural latex, synthetics or blends – they just refer to how the liquid latex is turned into foam. It is important to know which you are getting prior to purchasing a new bed.
1) Foam Production
Talalay method – In this method the latex is whipped into a frothy foam and injected into molds. They are left slightly under filled and then placed in a vacuum chamber to create a negative air pressure. This action causes the air to disperse into round bubbles throughout the entire mattress, creating a consistent foam. The mattress is flash frozen and then immediately vulcanized. After removing the latex from the mold it is washed to ensure remove additives and allowed to thoroughly dry before use.
Dunlop method – This method is the original process for creating latex foam, developed in 1929. In the Dunlop process, the frothed foam is poured into the molds and vulcanized. It is then rinsed, allowed to dry and is on its way. There can be less variation on the softer end of the firmness scale, though overall, the two types rate similarly on owner satisfaction. Dunlop is also the only process used for organic latex currently.
After the latex foams are created and cured, the beds are then assembled. Keep in mind that for a latex bed, there should be no other materials – no springs, polyurethane foams, or other fillers.
- “Core” models feature only a mattress core, which usually 6 inches high. More advanced models will feature varying heights of latex foam on top of the core, from 1 to 6 or more additional inches.
- Many brands glue latex layers together for presentation, however this adds chemicals to the end product and prevents the consumer from swapping out layers down the road.
- Some brands add layers of padding or wool on top the bed. To experience the benefits of latex, this should ideally not exceed 1″.
- The mattress will then be covered with a fire sock and/or cover. All beds will have some type of flammability protection to pass laws; this may come in the form of a rayon barrier, wool barrier or other chemicals.
- A mattress cover will encase the end product. This should be a breathable material, preferably removable and washable. Organic cotton and natural wool complement the natural properties of latex best.
The Pros and Cons
Natural latex offers a healthy, durable alternative to other foam mattresses. When determining whether this type of bed is right for you, understanding what it offers proves important.
- No chemical off-gassing. No VOCs or hazardous additives mean no noxious smells (many describe the smell of natural latex as mild, unnoticeable, or slightly sweet).
- Can be made without toxic chemicals and adhesives.
- Environmentally-friendly. The process of harvesting and manufacturing latex is much greener than alternative mattress materials and processes.
- Hypoallergenic, resistant to mold, mildew and dust mites. The structure and material properties resist common allergens better than spring beds.
- Resilient, springy feel. Latex offers an instant response that many find to be easier to move around on compared to memory foam, without the issues of innerspring beds.
- Highly durable. Natural latex is the longest lasting mattress according to owner surveys, lasting over 10 years on average ( 2-7 years longer than averages for other types).
- Unglued mattresses can be replaced layer by layer for customization and increased lifespan.
- Expensive. Natural latex is expensive to harvest and produce, and many retailers extensively mark up latex beds.
- Harder to find. Truly natural products can be difficult to find, especially in big box showrooms.
- May not be able to try before buying. Those shopping for latex often end up buying a mattress online, which often means buying sight unseen. Ensuring you can return/exchange with minimal costs is important.
Natural Latex Versus Memory Foam
Comparing natural latex mattresses with memory foam can easily cause confusion for the consumer. Both are foam mattresses, however how the feel and respond to sleepers differs, as do other traits.
- Memory foam and latex both contour to sleepers. Memory foam perhaps excels at this, however it also lacks the supportive traits of latex, requiring a core to keep sleepers from sinking through. A single piece of latex can both contour to and support a person.
- Both products excel and relieving/preventing back pain and pressure points compared with other types.
- The slow-response of memory foam can leave sleepers feeling stuck our trapped, making changing positions of getting out of bed more difficult. Latex instantly responds to change and offers a buoyant feel, making it easier to move (and consumers also rate natural latex as better for sex).
- Latex manufacturers tout greater breathability and durability for latex foam compared to polyurethane foams.
Comparison of Leading Natural Latex Brands
Here is an overview of leading brands that advertise natural latex. We looked at the type of latex used, certifications obtained, average reviews (if available) and pricing.
|Brand (alpha.)||Type of Latex||Certifications||Price Range, Queen||Average Review Score||Returns?|
|Astrabeds||Organic Dunlop||Organic cotton, latex & wool; Eco-Institut; TUV Rhineland||$1799-2999||4.7 / 5||90 Days, no restock fee|
|FloBeds||Natural Talalay||Oeko-Tex 100 (wool, latex), organic cotton||$1999-2899||Testimonials only||100 Days, no restock fee|
|FoamSource||Natural Talalay & Dunlop||Oeko-Tex 100 (latex), organic cotton||$1599-2399||None on website||60 Days, no restock fee (exchange only in stores)|
|Habitat Furnishings||Natural Talalay & Dunlop||Organic cotton option||$1599-2599||4.5 / 5||365 Days, no restock fee|
|Latex Bliss Organic Collection||Natural Talalay||Oeko-Tex 100 (latex and fabric)||$2999-4999||None on website||3 weeks|
|Plush Beds||Natural Talalay and Organic Dunlop||Oeko-Tex 100 (mattresses), Organic cotton, Organic latex core option||$1399-2599||4.7 / 5||100 Days, no restock fee|
|Savvy Rest||Natural Talalay or Organic Dunlop||Oeko-Tex 100 (mattresses), Organic cotton, wool, Dunlop latex||$2109-4739||None on website||90 Days, exchange only|
|Sleep EZ||Natural Talalay & Dunlop||Organic cotton, wool||$1495-2300||Testimonials only||90 Days, no restock fee|
Reviews and prices verified May 29, 2013, calculated without promotions or sales.
The primary factors to compare will be latex type, pricing and reviews.
In comparing this group of retailers, some offer very little information on their beds for consumers, making accurate research comparisons difficult (such as Latex Bliss). Others also do not allow customers or owners to leave reviews on their websites, or only post cherrypicked testimonials which can make it harder to learn about pros and cons of the beds.
We can also see that some (FloBeds, Latex Bliss and Savvy Rest) price their beds higher than other lines, without any apparent advantages in reviews or materials.
Of this group, Astrabeds, Flobeds, Foamsource, Habitat, Plushbeds, and Sleep EZ have options with 100% natural latex, organic cotton, organic or natural wool and allow returns. For those who prefer organic latex, only Astrabeds, Plushbeds, and Savvyrest offer the option.
Among the natural latex lines, the beds from Habitat and Sleep EZ offer good relative value and both allow returns. Sleep EZ offers more customizability and options though Habitat earns better reviews.
Among the organic options, Astrabeds appears to offer the better overall value when comparing similar options, and they also earn among the highest reviews (and use a third-party verified review system). Plush Beds offers organic options, but appears to include natural non-organic latex as well. Both Astrabeds and Savvy Rest offer fully organic latex beds with customizability, though Savvy Rest is exchange-only and higher in price.
So, if you made it this far, you should now have a good understanding of latex beds and what they have to offer. As you can see, they can be a little complicated to research and compare, but in the end, an all natural latex bed is one of the most likely to earn satisfactory reviews and good choice for those concerned about health, environment, durability and comfort. When comparing latex beds, it is best to stick to the facts like what type of latex is used, what goes into the cover, and policies of the retailer, rather than subjective claims. If you have any other questions about natural latex or think of something we missed, let us know.