Unbiased Natural Latex Mattress Report
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.
- 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, which means the bed has been tested and found to be free of hazardous additives (the 100 standard is used for products designed for babies and is the most strict). 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, the Talalay or Dunlop. They create differences in the final product that will affect how you sleep. The following process descriptions can be used on either natural latex, synthetics or blends, 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 evenly disperse into round bubbles throughout the entire mattress, creating a consistent and even foam. The mattress is flash frozen and then immediately vulcanized. After removing the latex from the mold it is washed 5 times to ensure removal of all proteins and allowed to thoroughly dry before shipping.
Dunlop method – This method was created in 1929 and was only choice until improvements in manufacturing allowed for the vacuum chamber and flash freezing used with Talalay. In Dunlop the frothed foam is poured into the molds and vulcanized. It is then rinsed once, allowed to dry and is on its way. This method creates variances in firmness and softness as residue settles to the bottom of the mattress while air rises to the surface. Dunlop thus is less consistent, less controllable in terms of firmness, and possible less durable. The snowflake-shaped cells can affect heat dispersion and resilience as well.
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 Talalay 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).
- According the nation’s largest latex manufacturer, Latex International, their independent tests of natural Talalay latex show 7x greater breathability and 20x greater durability compared to memory foam.
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||100% Natural Talalay||Oeko-Tex 100 (mattresses), GOTS (cotton)||$1599-2849||4.7 / 5||90 Days, no restock fee|
|FloBeds||100% Natural Talalay||Öeko-Tex 100 (wool, latex), organic cotton (not specified)||$1999-2899||Testimonials only||100 Days, no restock fee|
|FoamSource||100% Natural Talalay & Dunlop||Oeko-Tex 100 (latex). organic cotton (not specified)||$1599-2399||None on website||60 Days, no restock fee (exchange only in stores)|
|Habitat Furnishings||100% Natural Talalay & Dunlop||OTCO/GOTS (cotton)||$1599-2599||4.5 / 5||365 Days, no restock fee|
|Latex Bliss||Natural Talalay Latex||Oeko-Tex 100 (latex and fabric)||$2399-6299||3.7 / 5||3 weeks|
|Plush Beds||100% Natural Talalay & Dunlop||Oeko-Tex 100 (mattresses), organic cotton (not specified)||$1799-2299||4.7 / 5||100 Days, no restock fee|
|Savvy Rest||100% Natural Talalay & Dunlop||Oeko-Tex 100 (mattresses), OTCO/GOTS (cotton/wool), GOLS (Dunlop only),||$2109-4739||None on website||90 Days, exchange only|
|Sleep EZ||100% Natural Talalay & Dunlop||Organic cotton, wool (not specified)||$1495-2300||Testimonials only||90 Days, no restock fee|
Reviews and prices verified May 29, 2013, calculated without promotions or sales.
In comparing this group of retailers, we would begin by eliminating those who do not accept returns (Savvy Rest), and those who do not clarify whether they use 100% natural latex (Latex Bliss). Then, we would look for reviews and set aside those who do not allow reviews (FoamSource, Savvy Rest).
Of the remaining 5, all use 100% natural latex, organic cotton, and organic or natural wool and allow returns. Thus, the primary factors to compare will be Talalay vs Dunlop, pricing and reviews. We can see that FloBeds and Plush Beds price their beds higher than other lines, without any advantages in reviews or materials. Leaving Astrabeds, Habitat Furnishings, and Sleep EZ, starting prices range from $1495 (Sleep EZ’s Dunlop or Talalay) to $1599 (Habitat’s Dunlop or Astrabed’s Talalay). Looking at reviews, Sleep EZ offers only testimonials, Habitat recieves 4.5/5 average, and Astrabeds 4.7/5 average. Astrabeds has the advantage over Habitat in reviews and materials, though Sleep-EZ costs $100 less (excluding current promotions). However, Astrabeds offers verified owner reviews, Oeko-Tex 100 certification, and GOTS-certified organic cotton covers, where Sleep EZ does not specify who certifies their organic textiles or claim Oeko-Tex certification. Based on this comparison and analysis, we would recommend the Astrabeds.com line of natural latex mattresses.
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.