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Guides What's The Difference Between Natural Latex Mattress Choices?

Published on May 3rd, 2013 | by Mattress Journal

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What’s The Difference Between Natural Latex Mattress Choices?

As the popularity of latex grows, a plethora of natural latex mattress options are marketed to consumers. Knowing which one to choose, or what makes one better than another, can be difficult.

This particularly holds true when comparing beds all made of 100% natural latex. They are often designed the same, made of the same materials, using the same process. The mattresses are often equally healthy and should last for approximately the same length of time.  Now at this point you may be ready to scream “uncle” and run, but we have the answers to help solve the dilemma.

First, why choose a natural latex mattress?

A natural latex mattress can be the most difficult type of bed to research, but there are plenty of reasons to take the time. Here are a few of the benefits that set latex apart from most other types of mattresses.

For Your Comfort

  • All-latex mattresses rank highest in owner satisfaction, averaging ratings 82-86% versus 79-82% for memory foam 65-70% for innerspring beds.
  • Latex provides superior breathability due to its construction, and the material does not hold on to or react to body heat.
  • Resilient buoyancy reduces pressure on heavier areas of your body, by up to 33% more than even memory foam.
  • Latex not only responds to your body instantly, it also maintains the proper spinal posture during sleep.

For Your Health

  • It is mildew proof and mold proof, and naturally anti-fungal and antibacterial.
  • Natural latex is resistant to dust mites. Dust mite infestations are a leading cause of allergies and can significantly contribute to asthma. Spring mattresses contain open spaces and materials hospitable to dust mite populations.
  • An all natural latex mattress does not emit VOCs. This quality is a very important feature of natural latex, especially when compared to synthetics and other mattresses, as many VOCs have been linked with serious health concerns.

For the Environment

  • The durability of latex is 3X that of memory foam, offering unparalleled resilience and support throughout the duration. This also means you need to replace your mattress less often and thus consuming less materials over time.
  • Natural latex is made from a liquid harvested from living rubber trees, in a process similar to syrup harvesting. It is a natural and renewable resource, as the trees are plantation-harvested for sustainability.
  • The manufacture of this material does not require the use of hazardous solvents and petrochemicals that pollute the air and soil.

Deciphering the Natural Latex Mattress

The term “natural latex mattress” can seem straightforward, but in fact can have a variety of meanings. Labeling standards allow manufacturers to label a mattress as natural when it contains at least 70% natural latex (but this means up to 30% can still be synthetic). If you want the benefits of a truly natural bed, than look for a 100% natural latex mattress, and keep in mind that the 100% factor is important.

Now, this does not mean that the mattress is made only of latex (a small percentage of additives are required to produce the foam), but rather that the latex component is pure. The ideal natural latex mattress would have the following characteristics:

  • 100% natural latex composition
  • No glues or adhesives
  • No fiber or foam toppers
  • No chemical flame retardants
  • No filler foams or non-latex support systems

Latex Type

How the latex is made will affect the mattress somewhat. There are two primary types used in the industry today: Dunlop and Talalay. Dunlop latex is whipped, poured, heated, and washed. Talalay latex is whipped, poured into a vacuum sealed mold, flash frozen, heated, and washed. The extra steps in the Talalay process are intended to give more control over the quality of the finished foam.

Among higher quality manufacturers, there are few actual differences. Both enjoy similar owner ratings, both excel at support and comfort and both are relatively durable compared to springs and poly foams. Two points of difference are that Talalay tends to be more expensive, and those seeking organic latex will only find it Dunlop currently.

What makes a greater difference to satisfaction, comfort and durability is whether natural or synthetic latex is used (natural generally performs better).

The Layers

When comparing beds, shoppers are often faced with a variety of satiny looking pillow-tops or quilted toppers that are designed to add comfort, so it may seem confusing to consider a bed that doesn’t have these lofty pillow-tops and upholstery.

However with a latex mattress, the inherent qualities of the material are diminished when it is covered by a topper, fiber, quilting, or thick upholstery of any type. Likewise, placing latex over springs or other types of foam also reduces the benefits enjoyed by the sleeper. In an ideal bed, you will only see layers of natural latex with a minimal cover.

Cover Materials

The most important item to remember when shopping for a natural latex mattress is to make certain it does not contain any thick covering, quilting or fiber. Some brands of mattresses feature lofty covers to resemble traditional mattresses, and in the process their benefits are greatly reduced.

All of the above mentioned benefits like eliminating VOCs, reducing allergens, and providing superior breathability can all be hampered by the addition of quilting foams and synthetic fibers. Optimal coverings for a latex bed include organic cotton and/or natural wool. The cover should not be thicker than 1/2 inch on the top.

Support Level

 This rubber composition provides the uplifting support that is important for comfort and preventing pressure points. It also prevents the feeling of bottoming out that occurs when sleeping on a thinner mattress. When choosing between different models, the difference is usually the amount of latex in the bed’s layers.

Core-style mattresses are about 6-7 inches thick and will typically be firmer. This would be suitable for lighter individuals and those prefer a firm bed. People of average size or seeking a plusher feel may prefer mattresses around 8-10 inches thick, while larger framed individuals would be most comfortable on beds of at least 11 inches.

You will also have to decide whether you prefer firm, medium firm , or plush when determining which is the best mattress for your needs. Medium-firm is most likely to prove comfortable for the majority of people. Stomach and back sleepers may do better with firmer beds, will larger individuals and side sleepers may prefer softer beds.

Certifications

The other factor you should consider in your decision includes certifications held by the mattress or brand. Ideally, a mattress that has some third party testing such as by Oeko Tex 100, GreenGuard, or Eco-Institut is the best option, as this means it is tested for toxic and harmful substances and deemed safe or devoid of VOCs.

As far as textiles, certified organic cotton and wool are among the best options as being organically grown eliminates pesticides and means the material is produced in an environmentally friendly fashion. Latex can also be grown and processed organically and certified organic to GOLS (the Global Organic Latex Standard). Ensure that any materials stated to be organic are certified by a legitimate agency (look for certificates or ask).

Comparison of Natural Latex Mattress Options

To wrap up this guide on comparing natural latex mattress options, let’s take a look at how a few retailers of these beds compare.

We considered three brands that offer 100% natural latex options: Astrabeds, SavvyRest and SleepEz. Each uses all-latex constructions, 100% natural materials, organic cotton and natural wool in the covers, and latex amounts ranging from 6 to 12 inches. All three  listed their certifications on their websites: GOTS or OCS for the cotton, and Oeko-Tex 100 or Eco-Institut for their latex. Savvy Rest and Astrabeds both use (or have options) for certified organic latex.

Comparing a similar 10″ model between all three, we see that Sleep EZ Organic 10″ bed (natural latex + organic cotton) is $1995 in queen. The Astrabeds Harmony 10″ bed (organic latex + organic cotton/wool) is $2399. Savvy Rest’s Serenity 10″ bed (organic latex + organic cotton/wool) is $2899. The Astrabeds line of natural latex mattresses appears to offer the best mix of value and quality natural materials, offering all-organic layers and longer warranty than Sleep EZ at a better price point than Savvy Rest.

 AstrabedsSavvyRestSleepEZ
Latex Type100% Natural Organic Dunlop100% Natural Talalay or Organic Dunlop100% Natural Talalay
LayersAll LatexAll LatexAll Latex
CoverOrganic Cotton + Organic WoolOrganic Cotton + Organic WoolOrganic Cotton + Wool
Inches of Latex7-13″6-12″6-12″
CertificationsOCS, GOLS, Eco InstitutGOTS, Green Guard, GOLS, Eco InstitutOeko Tex 100, GOTS
Price$1299-2999$1699-5829$995-2695

 *Pricing includes promotions, valid as of 5/3/2013.

As you can see, there are numerous benefits to purchasing a natural latex mattress, from your health to the planet. Determining the differences between the different types and which one is best for you is perhaps the most difficult part. We’ve presented you with the reasons natural latex excels, and how features vary amongst different types of latex beds. Overall, these types of mattresses receive excellent ratings and will likely yield several years of good nights. When considering the difference between natural latex mattress types and brands, the main features to compare are the type of latex, mattress composition, cover materials, certifications, guarantees, and ultimately, price.

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