Natural Latex Mattresses: What Kind of Latex is in this Matttress?

That’s a good question and one you should ask early on when shopping for a natural latex mattress.  It’s not always easy to get a straight answer about the type of latex in a specific mattress.  Here is what you need to know to ask the appropriate questions to get the answers you need. 

In general there are 3 categories of latex:

  1. Natural Latex –natural latex with no synthetics added
  2. Synthetic Latex – man-made (made from chemicals)
  3. Blended Latex – a blend of natural and synthetic latex

For the most part, a sales person selling a natural latex mattress is going to be knowledgeable about the product.  If not, move on and find someone who can answer your questions to your satisfaction.  Once you have narrowed it down you are ready to dig in to the details.  First of all, don’t be surprised to learn that the natural latex mattresses you are looking at contain only 96-98% natural latex.  Here’s why.

Vulcanizing Process: Turning Liquid Rubber into Solid Natural Latex

All natural latex rubber goes through a process called vulcanization which turns the liquid rubber into a solid, stable form.  The vulcanizing process combines liquid rubber (90-95%) with small amounts (5-10%) of natural materials (zinc oxide, sulfur, fatty acids) to form a mixture referred to as the “cure package”.  This mixture is whipped into froth, poured in a mold and baked.   

The final product is a solid latex core that contains approximately 96% -98% of natural latex. The other 2%-4% is residual material remaining from the vulcanizing process.  The solid latex core is made of all natural materials but only 96-98% of it is natural latex.  The key is – there are no synthetics.  That’s as good as it gets.

Dunlop Latex versus Talalay Latex

To add another twist, natural latex is available in two types - Dunlop and Talalay.  The difference is in the processing.  Both go through a vulcanizing process but with a little variation.

Dunlop Latex: The Dunlop process is straight forward, the liquid “cure package” is whipped and poured into the mold and baked.  

Talalay Latex: The Talalay process differs in that the liquid “cure package” is whipped, poured into the mold, flash frozen, vacuum sealed and then baked.   

Dunlop latex is a bit firmer at the bottom because sediment from the liquid latex settles into the bottom of the mold as it bakes. With Talalay latex, the vacuum and freezing steps produce a latex that is softer, more consist and more springy than Dunlop latex.

The question always comes up, “Is one better than the other?”  We don’t think so.  In our experience, it is a matter of choice.  Both Dunlop and Talalay are available in different levels of firmness and with today’s mattress options you can mix different firmness levels and types to get the feel that is just right for you.  Laura from Savvy Rest explains it well in her blog post “Different Latex, Different “Feel”.

Which Natural Latex Mattress is Best for You?

So, now you have to decide which mattress is best for you.  It’s all about you and how you feel on a particular mattress.  Try the mattress in the position(s) you usually sleep in.  Make sure you have a comfortable pillow. If the mattress has adjustable firmness levels, ask the sales person to reconfigure the mattress until you find the firmness that works best for you.  Spend some time on the mattress. It will be time well spent.