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What is in a Latex Mattress?

  • 23 November 2017
  • By Aditya venkat
What is in a Latex Mattress?

Ever wondered what is in a latex mattress? You’re in luck – our guide offers a complete explanation of everything you need to know about latex mattresses. It might surprise you to learn that the key component of latex is a natural product and one which has served to provide comfort at nighttime for years. But what is in a latex mattress?

In short, latex is a type of milk which comes from the rubber tree. When this is converted into foam, it creates the spongey, durable and comforting substance that goes into mattresses. In this guide, we’ll explain in simple terms everything you need to know about the product, including:

With that in mind, let’s begin to truly understand what is in a latex mattress, by looking in detail at the nature of the product and how it’s used in various different ways. 

What is latex made of and how is it produced?

Latex is effectively the sap which is taken from rubber trees. These are grown for five years before their bark is slowly removed. This disrupts the ducts which carry their sap, causing the latex (a white, milky substance at this point) to escape.

Collection cups are placed below the trees, with the latex pouring into them. These are then deposited into larger tanks, which are processed (usually coagulated using formic acid) to create the elastic material we are more familiar with.

Asia is the main source of latex at this point, despite the material originating in South America. Numbers of the plant have decreased in this area as a result of leaf blight, which primarily affects rubber trees. 

Discovery and future of latex

 Interestingly, Christopher Columbus is credited with the initial discovery of latex – when he saw Haitian children playing with a bouncy rubber ball. This was named “Caw-Uchu”, or “weeping wood” – owing to the manner in which the raw substance is attained from a tree.

From here the world would continue to dabble in the use of this form of rubber, with Joseph Priestly creating the first eraser in 1770, and an unnamed Scotsman patenting the waterproof raincoat late into the nineteenth century.

Charles Goodyear arguably made the biggest step forward, when he used Sulphur “dust” to vulcanize the material. This meant that it was able to withstand the pressures of immense heat – meaning it could be used to create tires. Goodyear is still a world-renowned brand today.

As is the case with any natural resource, limited supplies are a factor. As such, efforts have been made to try and protect rubber trees going forwards. This has seen scientists collecting seedlings and cultivating them in an artificial environment. These have also been produced with the intention of making the stumps “fatter” – as a means of trying to produce more latex.

By growing these trees in an (initially) artificial environment, it should ensure rubber trees remain un-endangered heading forwards. 

What are the benefits of latex over memory foam?

As you may have already realised, owing to the way in which it’s produced, latex is very different in composition to memory foam. We’ve already looked at what latex is and how it’s produced – but what about memory foam?

Whereas latex is a natural product, memory foam is technologically produced. Polyurethane is mixed with a series of other chemicals to create the substance used in mattresses. “Other chemicals” sounds like a vague description, but this is because the exact substances used in a mattress are considered a trade secret and unavailable for public use.

The debate over whether a latex or memory foam mattress is better has raged for years. While a conclusive answer will never be found, there are without question a number of benefits which latex mattresses offer.

Just some of these include:  

  • Comfort – Pain reduction and prevention is a key aspect of latex mattresses. They’re specifically targeted at relieving pressure points, with the nature of the material meaning they do a much better job than memory foam in this regard. Latex is more resilient, which means less pressure is put on hips and shoulders. That said, the body still contours enough for a proper alliance.
  • Longevity – On that note, this very same resiliency means latex mattresses generally tend to outlive any other type of material. This will vary depending on the brand, but it’s generally agreed they’ll on average last at least a year longer than memory foam options.
  • Motion isolation – Whereas foam mattresses will contort if two people are sleeping on them, the same is not true of latex. In this instance, only the section which will move is the area where the motion is being carried out. This serves to guarantee there is no disruption to someone else’s sleep.
  • No chemical smells – There are a number of chemicals put into memory foam which may cause them to give off a somewhat toxic odour. While these are largely safe, it’s still far from a pleasant experience. In the case of latex, this is completely absent due to the natural substances involved in the production.
  • Customisation – You can customize your bed to create a specific feel by asking for differing layers of thickness throughout each section of the mattress. This isn’t true of memory foam, where you’re provided with a one-level layer no matter what.

With these points in mind, it’s fairly easy to see why so many people opt for latex over memory foam.

What other uses does latex have?

Aside from being used in mattresses, latex has a number of other purposes. As a considerably durable product, you’ll find latex comes in handy in a series of different products. Just some of these include:

  • Gloves – The stretchy nature of plastic latex makes it easy to stretch over a hand, but strong enough to not be breached when carrying it out.
  • Condoms – For the exact same reason, condoms are also made out of latex.
  • Koosh balls – As they contain natural materials, these aren’t harmful to children.
  • Blood pressure cuffs – With the need to stretch and expand, it’s important these are made from a material of the consistency of latex.
  • Tourniquets – Similarly, these need to be used for the same reason.

These are just a handful of the many different uses latex has. The material’s versatility when it comes to size, shape and texture lends it to being used in a variety of areas. 

What is the difference between Dunlop and Talalay?

When latex is produced, you’ll find there are two different types that can be manufactured. These are known as either Talalay or Dunlop (sometimes extended to Dunlopillo to avoid confusion with the brand of tyres).

There are subtle differences between the two in the way they’re produced:

Naturally, owing to the varying methods of creation, there are noticeable differences between how the finished product looks and feels. While they’re ultimately both mattresses, serving the same purpose, seasoned pros will be able to notice the difference.

Some of these variations include:

  • Talalay being the softer of the two options, but Dunlop providing greater firmness for posture
  • Talalay is the more expensive of the two products. This leads to it only being used by a select number of manufacturers. As this makes the substance rarer, it’s sometimes believed it is of a higher quality – when this is not strictly the case
  • Dunlop is more versatile when it comes to size. You can manufacture it to almost any size or dimension
  • Energy usage is also four times lower when producing Dunlop. As such, it’s seen as the more environmentally friendly option
  • Talalay offers better breathability – although the benefits of this are minimal, given how incredibly breathable latex is already
  • It’s argued Dunlop is the more durable option, owing to the fact it is made of a harder substance than Talalay.

If you’re interested in ensuring you get a certain type of latex mattress for your bed, it’s worth asking which type of material it’s made out of.

How long does a latex mattress last?

There is naturally no definitive answer to this question. Lots of factors will impact the lifespan of a mattress, including:

  • The “purity” of it (how much of the mattress is or isn’t natural latex)
  • How much usage the mattress receives (if it’s in a spare bedroom, it might not be used as often as a regular bed)
  • Whether it’s a Dunlop or Talalay latex mattress

That said, an all-natural latex mattress is capable of lasting up to 20 years if it’s properly taken care of.

It might also be worth checking out your body mass index prior to buying a mattress. This will let you know what kind of size and level of comfort will be best for you. If you are of a stockier build, it might be worth investing in Dunlop, owing to the durability factor.

Density and hardness of a latex mattress

It’s not as easy as picking a basic level of thickness when it comes to selecting your mattress. Density and hardness are important factors that need to be taken into account when choosing your bedding.

Density – Means the amount of material used in certain areas, and contributes to firmness. The more material used, the firmer the mattress will be.

Hardness – Is the name that is given to the ability a mattress has to provide resistance when you put pressure on it. The more you feel the latex core pushing back against you, the harder the mattress is.

These combine together to create an overall firmness level. There are several different formulas which can be used to determine this. Once they’ve been worked out, they’ll be assigned an overall “score”. Generally speaking, this will be represented as:

  • Soft mattress: +/- 3.5 kPa
  • Medium mattress: +/- 4kPa
  • Firm mattress: +/- 4.5 kPa

If you’re unsure of these kinds of specifications, it might be a wise idea to just ask for the basic “soft”, “medium” and “firm” sizes. If you feel more confident, bring up the kPas.

We hope you now have a much better understanding of what is in a latex mattress. If you’re interested in using one for your bed, make sure to get in contact with a member of the Sunday Rest team. We have high-quality latex mattresses, ready to be enjoyed and relaxed on in the near future.


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