Latex Mattress Buying Guide

October 09, 2023 5 min read

It's complicated, trying to figure out which memory foam latex mattress is best for a good night sleep. If you intend to go and shop for one, then you need to know particular facts first so that you make an educated choice. Only when you have the power of knowledge can you avoid falling prey to the disinformation and high pressure sales techniques that you invariably encounter in shopping for a mattress. There are facts and qualities you should be looking for before buying one.

What are the Factors to Consider When Buying a Latex Mattress?

The first thing that you need to be aware of is the fact that latex comes in more than one type, so being familiar with each is essential to knowing what you’re always looking at when shopping. Here’s a short primer:

100-percent natural latex is the same as all-natural latex; both are made from liquid saps that get harvested from rubber trees. This is a ‘green’ method of production, as the latex get ‘tapped’ off the tree bark at harvest time. The tree remains unharmed and gets to produce more sap in the future, making 100-percent natural latex a renewable resource. If you have environmentally-friendly ideas in mind when shopping, this is a great choice.

Synthetic latex, on the other hand, does not get harvested from trees, but instead produced in chemical laboratories. This product is petroleum-based. The technical name is SBR, or styrene-butadiene rubber. Chemists do a remarkable job of simulating the molecules of natural latex, as synthetic latex looks and feels the same as or very close to all-natural latex.

In between all-natural latex and synthetic latex lies blended latex, a combination of rubber and SBR. Commercial mattresses have this more often than not. This kind of material has many fans who argue it offers the best of both worlds, namely that the synthetic components bring resilience, durability, and firmness, while the natural portion of the blend counters this with softness, cool feel, and air-ability.

There are those that don’t concur with that line of thinking. It’s true that rubber tree latex once didn’t offer the long-lasting strength or the flexing agility that synthetic latex did. It also shrunk with age and even started deteriorating. Modern manufacturing has addressed these issues though, and it’s more an issue of price. Blended and synthetic latexes just cost less to produce that all-natural latex.

The usual ratio of blended latex is 60 percent natural for 40 percent synthetic. Since this ratio uses more natural latex from rubber trees than synthetic, a lot of mattress makers will just label the whole mattress as ‘natural.’ Be mindful of this when shopping, as it’s not all natural, but instead a mostly natural blend.

Do you wonder why they don’t just tell the exact truth? Well, it’s because calling something ‘natural’ right now does wonders with consumers. Shoppers are more than happy to pay a premium for something they think is kind to the Earth and brings natural, healthy materials and ingredients into their home. By glossing over the petroleum-based parts of their blend, they can reap the rewards of something all natural without it actually being authentic.

So the question then becomes, is a mattress made from all-natural latex and not a blend the best possible mattress? As with anything in life, some folks say yes, and others disagree.

Blends or mattresses with synthetic latex can prove rather comfortable, while still giving you the great qualities of real latex, so you get something long-lasting, airable, and a mattress that is both somehow firm yet bouncy. This unique combination of aspects is what makes latex such a great material for a mattress, and why so many people love sleeping on it. The right synthetic blend makes for a solid mattress and a good price point.

Of course if you prefer something that is all natural instead of just partially or mostly, don’t convince yourself to settle for less than what you really want. If you want 100-percent, all-natural latex from rubber trees, there are options that suit that need.

In addition to where the latex comes from, there is also an issue of manufacturing, and it is distinct from the debate of natural versus blend versus synthetic. The other issue is if a mattress is made with Talalay or Dunlop. These are both forms of manufacturing methods and both apply to all the previously discussed forms of latex.

How is a Latex Mattress Made?

Manufacturing a memory foam latex mattress is a complicated process that incorporates a number of steps, including but not limited to baking, molding, filtering, mixing, heating, washing, and more. Long story short, the Talalay manufacturing methods brings a freezing element into the mix of steps, whereas the Dunlop method does not do this.

During the freezing step, the latex structure is affected in such a way that the final product is of increased resilience, lightness, and softness. Some sleepers like the firm and dense feel that a Dunlop mattress gives them, whereas others like the light and bouncy feel that a Talalay gives them. As such, some proclaim Talalay latex mattresses the best and others say that Dunlops rule the marketplace.

In the end, it’s a subjective call and one that is yours to make as to what is right for you. Everyone’s needs and conditions for comfort are different and distinct, so only you can find out for yourself as you try various models in mattress showrooms what is the best latex mattress for you personally. The best thing to do is to learn all you can through research before trying things out so you can ask direct and informed questions of sales representatives.

You need to strike a balance between your budget and your environmental concerns, as blends and synthetics can still prove very comfortable and durable while easier on your budget, but of course not all natural.

Just remember that while some models are friendlier to your budget than others, you’re not going to find a truly cheap mattress involving latex. Coil spring models as well as polyurethane foam rubber units will be lower in cost. Also be wary of really cheap latex mattresses, because there might be non-latex materials in the composition that you don’t want to sleep on or even have in your home.

Some manufacturers assume you’ll never go deep inside the mattress and use polyurethane foam rubber in there instead of all-natural or synthetic forms.

There is a straightforward guideline here though: if a mattress has polyurethane foam, it simply isn’t latex. At all. If the advertising says it is, someone’s lying to you. If you want comfortable sleep on a durable mattress that real latex gives you, don’t go for mattresses like these.