When you’re researching different types of mattresses and trying to understand the options and features they offer, latex mattresses are among the most complicated and difficult to get a handle on. Owners tend to be highly satisfied with them if they’ve managed to buy an appropriate one, and latex mattresses are generally popular with consumers. In fact, according to our own research into mattress surveys and reviews, latex mattresses rate second overall when it comes to customer satisfaction.
Before going ahead and making a major purchase of this kind, you would do well to familiarize yourself with all of your options, to understand how they are manufactured, and to know what warranties are available, which mattresses last longest, etc. This buyer’s guide to finding the right latex mattress for you will give you the information you need to ask sales reps the right questions, or to shop confidently online. After you read this guide, you will have a grasp of the essential points without being overwhelmed by jargon and irrelevant information.
Latex Mattresses Defined
In their most basic form, latex mattresses consist of foam made from the sap of the rubber tree, rather than using springs or air. Many people feel that they are the best beds for sufferers of back pain, as well as being healthy, natural and highly durable. The organic material used is hypoallergenic, making latex a popular choice for people with allergies. Latex mattresses are also the most environmentally friendly option available.
Different Latex Types
The inside core of a latex mattress is made from one of three types of latex. Each type has certain things in common, like firmness and springiness, but there is a big difference in quality, durability and price between the three types.
Organic or Natural
This type is made from the processed serum or sap of the rubber tree, a milky sticky liquid. The trees are “tapped” by cutting incisions into the bark and collecting the liquid that runs out, which is later processed and refined. You won’t usually find 100-percent natural latex mattresses in showrooms because the manufacturing and extraction process makes them comparatively expensive. If you are really interested in getting a completely natural latex mattress, you are more likely to find what you’re looking for online, where you’ll see better selection and better prices.
Man-Made or Synthetic
To produce synthetic latex, manufacturers polymerize a monomer like styrene after emulsifying it with surfactants. The end result is a synthetic material that looks and feels much like natural or organic latex. Synthetic latex is much cheaper and more widely available than the natural kind, but it is also less firm and it won’t last as long.
Blended or Combined
Some latex mattresses use a blend of natural and synthetic materials; generally in a proportion of 20 percent natural and 80 percent man made. You may be able to find a 50 percent blend (half natural and half synthetic), but most companies cut their costs by using a higher percentage of synthetic materials. Don’t buy a blended mattress if the percentage of organic latex isn’t quoted in the specifications; there’s probably very little natural latex in there. Blended latex mattresses are widely available, reasonably priced, and offer a good compromise between durability, quality and affordability.
Different Mattress Types
Mattresses come in three main types or categories, each with its own structure and design and each one performing a little differently than the others. Here are some details about each type:
These mattresses are completely made of latex from bottom to top and from one edge to the other. The latex used may be completely natural, synthetic or blended, talalay or dunlop. This latex may come in different layers but what distinguishes this type is that there are no non-latex layers except a cover that is flame retardant. This type of mattress can be harder to find, and it often costs more too. The advantage of this type is that it doesn’t transfer motion and there are no issues with off-gassing such as you often find with memory foam. These are also exceptional when it comes to orthopedic support, making them the hands-down best choice for relieving back pain.
Latex Over Foam
This is just like it sounds: a mulit-layered mattress features a thick foam base (most often visco memory foam) covered with a top thinner layer of latex. This type of mattress is easier to find than the all latex type, but the price varies according to the relative thicknesses of the different layers. They cost less than all-latex, but still perform well when it comes to isolating motion and relieving back and joint pain.
Foam Over Latex
Not surprisingly, this is like the reverse of the above type, with a thick latex base layer overlayed with a thinner top layer of visco memory foam. In a design with more layers, you’ll often find a thin layer between a base platform and top foam layer as well. This layer may be as thin as 2 inches.
Methods of Processing
Recently you might have read the words talalay or dunlop. These terms refer to different processing methods used to form the inner core out of extracted latex, and not to different types of latex as many people think. Here are how these different methods work:
This process is the most traditional one, and has been in use since the 20s. The extracted rubber tree sap is heated inside a mold until it “bakes” into a solid shape. The mass is cooled gradually and unmolded to become the dunlop latex core of the mattress. These cores can often be inconsistent with an accumulation of sediments in the bottom, creating an overall softer top and a bottom side that gradually hardens over time.
This process adds a couple of steps to the dunlop process. The mold is sealed once the sap is inside it, and manufacturers create a vacuum , dispersing the serum evenly within the mold. They flash-freeze the serum before baking it into a solid shape. The mass is cooled and unmolded leaving you with a talalay latex mattress that is then used as the base for a finished mattress.
Dunlop vs Talalay
The extra steps used in making the talalay mattress make a big difference to the final product, which costs more accordingly. Talalay mattresses take twice as much time to manufacture versus dunlop, making it a more expensive process and increasing the price of the finished product. Dunlop produces a firmer, denser latex, so it is often used as a base layer (see the review of the LUCID 16″ below), while talalay latex is better for making plush or soft top layers (as in the DreamFoam Ultimate Dreams 10″). Both processes have their pros and cons; as in so many other cases it comes down to individual needs, budget and preference.
Top 5 Comparison Table
|Brand & Model||Thickness||Category||Latex Type||Processing Type||Rating|
|DreamFoam – Ultimate Dreams Total||10″||All Latex||Natural||Talalay||5.0 / 5|
|Sleep EZ – Roma||9″||All Latex||Natural||Dunlop||5.0 / 5|
|LUCID 16″||16″||Foam Over Latex||Natural||Dunlop||4.9 / 5|
|DreamFoam – Ultimate Dreams 10″||10″||Latex Over Foam||Blended||Talalay||4.9 / 5|
|LUCID 10″||10″||Latex Over Foam||Natural||Dunlop||4.9 / 5|
Reviews of Latex Mattresses
Based in Brooklyn, DreamFoam Bedding has been around for many years – long enough to be experts in producing top-quality beds as well as knowing the importance of prioritizing customers’ needs above all else. Their 10-inch talalay latex mattress resists dust mites, is naturally free of allergens and can be customized to your desired level of firmness. Once you’ve made your purchase, they will contact you to determine the exact level of firmness you want. If you’re not satisfied with the result, you can trade the comfort layer for one better suited to you just by contacting customer service. A 100 percent organic mattress and great customer service is a winning combination!
This mattress offers great value for money, and comes from an all-American well established family business. This double-sided mattress is a 100-percent bottom-to-top and edge to edge dunlop mattress. The two sides have two different firmness ratings, so by flipping it you can switch it from firm to plush-firm. You’re not likely to find a completely natural latex mattress at this price from other manufacturers; so this is a great product that earns five stars for support, quality, comfort, and value overall. Verified customers recommend it highly, and we couldn’t agree more.
This huge mattress is packed full of luxurious layers that cooperate to give you the best possible support for your spine and a comfortable night’s sleep. This mattresses contains four layers in all: a one-inch bamboo charcoal quilted foam topper, a three-inch plush layer of visco foam, a two-inch comfort layer of dunlop latex, and ten inches of high-density foam for a base. By combining traditional memory foam with latex, this mattress is able to provide the best pressure relief and orthopedic support to cut down on back, shoulder and neck pain. That’s great value for money!
DreamFoam has succeeded again with this best selling and very popular mattress. Just as with the Ultimate Dreams Total discussed above, this 10-inch mattress offers customization options before and after purchase, but the construction of this one (a 3-inch comfort layer of talalay latex over foam) makes it a little more affordable. This layering construction means that the hypoallergenic material is in closest contact with the sleeper, but the high-density lower layer also offers the best possible back support. Excellent value at an affordable price has made this model an increasingly popular choice with consumers. We recommend it highly.
It’s unusual for us to review two models from the same company, but we could not resist including this model. It’s one of the most highly rated mattresses available. LUCID is known for its expertise in combining different materials, and you can see that expertise in this model. This 10-inch mattress consists of a high density 7-inch base layer of visco memory foam for support, topped with a 3-inch comfort layer of natural latex. The response time of the surface is instantaneous when you move, providing immediate relief of pressure points and pain-free sleeping, so you can wake up feeling refreshed every morning. We have found that LUCID always gets high ratings on our customer satisfaction surveys and mattress reviews, and this mattress is no exception.
As you can see, latex sounds like a simple material but it can be used in a wide variety of ways to make mattresses. It can be used as a platform or base layer, or as a top layer, usually combined with man-made materials like gel foam or viscoelastic foam. When different materials are combined in this way, the resulting mattress is a hybrid rather than the all-natural product which is one of the main selling points of latex. Hybrids are fine if they meet your needs, but natural latex mattresses have several advantages over hybrids. That’s why we concluded that the Ultimate Dreams Total was the best of the top five latex mattresses we reviewed. This is why:
Brooklyn Bedding, the company that manufactures and supplies these mattresses, allows customers to choose their preferred comfort level when they place their order. Even after you get the mattress home, you can contact customer service if you have any reason to be unhappy with the mattress. They will be happy to change the comfort layer and customize a new density to make the mattress softer or firmer as needed.
Great customer service and customization options before and after purchase are not the only reasons for choosing this as the best out of the 5 top mattresses. The bed contains a core of all natural 100 percent talalay latex, which you can swap for dunlop latex if you prefer when you order the bed. It also contains organic wool, a great option for allergy sufferers. This American-made mattress complies with stringent regulations, so you can feel confident about its safety. All of these factors, plus the high rate of satisfaction on surveys of verified owners, combine to make this our top pick of latex mattresses for 2015.