Latex is a material derived from the sap of rubber trees. Due to its natural durability and flexibility, it has a wide range of industrial uses. In recent years, latex mattresses have become very popular among sleepers. Latex beds offer the same body-contouring comfort and pain/pressure relief as most memory foam mattresses. Additionally, latex typically sleeps cooler than foam and mattresses made from latex tend to have much longer lifespans.
The latex used in mattresses is processed using one of two methods, Dunlop or Talalay. In some cases, mattresses contain latex produced using both methods. Read on to learn the distinguishing characteristics between Dunlop and Talalay latex, as well as an overview of the top latex mattresses sold today.
How Is Dunlop Latex Made?
The Dunlop processing method was first developed in 1929. The process follows these steps:
- The liquid latex extract is whipped into a froth
- The froth is injected into a mold for shaping and baked in a vulcanization oven
- After baking, the shaped latex is removed from the mold and washed
- The latex is baked for a second time to remove excess moisture
The resulting Dunlop latex is fairly dense. Its heterogeneous composition results in sediment gathering below the frothier, foamier material, which can make it rather bottom-heavy; one side is usually firmer than the other. As a result, Dunlop latex is commonly used as a support layer in latex mattresses – though some models have Dunlop latex comfort layers, as well.
How Is Talalay Latex Made?
Used since WWII, the Talalay processing is a newer and more intensive method than Dunlop. The Talalay process follows these steps:
- The liquid latex extract is whipped into a froth and injected into a mold (similar to the Dunlop method); however, the mold is partially filled
- The mold is vacuum-sealed, causing the latex to expand and eventually fill the mold
- The molded latex is flash-frozen, which pushes carbon dioxide through the latex; this makes the latex foam lighter and more breathable as it solidifies
- The frozen latex is baked
- Once baking is finished, the latex is removed from the mold, washed, and dried
These additional steps result in latex with a more homogenous consistency; Talalay latex is light and fluffy throughout, and typically softer and less dense than Dunlop latex. As a result, Talalay latex is almost exclusively used as a comfort layer material; it lacks the firmness and density to serve as a support core component.
Key Differences and Similarities Between Dunlop and Talalay Latex
Aside from the specifics of each processing method, Dunlop and Talalay latex differ in the following ways:
Although the firmness of Dunlop or Talalay latex layers varies by mattress model, most beds with Dunlop comfort layers feel firmer and conform to the sleeper’s body less than models with Talalay latex comfort layers. Because it is softer and less dense than Dunlop latex, Talalay latex is almost never used as a support core material; most all-latex mattresses with Talalay latex comfort layers have a Dunlop-based support core.
That being said, both Dunlop and Talalay latex can be engineered for different firmness settings and some Dunlop latex layers – while naturally denser – may not feel as firm as some Talalay latex layers. Both materials provide consistent conforming that can alleviate aches and pains in the sleeper’s back, hips, and other sensitive areas.
Most Dunlop latex layers are fairly springy, meaning they return to their original shape once weight is removed. Talalay latex, on the other hand, tends to feel bouncier when bearing weight. Both types of latex are more responsive than memory foam; this generally makes latex mattresses better for sex than foam models, but also means that latex beds do not isolate as much motion transfer (though most do to a noticeable extent).
Many sleepers claim latex mattresses feel excessively hot or warm during the night. Talalay latex tends to retain less body heat due in part to its processing method; the flash-freezing pushes carbon dioxide through the latex, resulting in a more breathable material. However, many mattress manufacturers choose to aerate their Talalay and/or Dunlop latex layers in order to improve air circulation. Additionally, organic and natural latex tends to sleep cooler than blended or synthetic latex.
Most latex mattresses emit a rubbery off-gassing odor when new; this is true of beds with Dunlop or Talalay layers. However, blended and synthetic latex is processed with petrochemicals that cause the material to emit more volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which are responsible for off-gassing smells. As a result, organic and natural Dunlop/Talalay latex carries much less odor potential – but some off-gassing should be expected from any new mattress.
Because it is denser than Talalay latex, Dunlop latex is usually more resilient and less susceptible to deterioration. However, both latex types are considered exceptionally durable compared to other mattress materials. The average all-latex or latex hybrid mattress has an expected lifespan of at least seven to eight years.
The Dunlop processing method is less intensive and involves fewer steps. As a result, Dunlop latex has a lower environmental footprint than Talalay latex. However, any mattress with exclusively organic or natural Dunlop/Talalay latex is considered a suitable option for eco-friendly sleepers.
Dunlop latex is slightly less expensive to produce (due in part to its less intensive methods), and this is often reflected in the bed’s price-point. Another important distinction is organic/natural vs. blended/synthetic; beds containing the latter are usually priced much lower than those constructed with the former.
Natural, Blended, and Synthetic Latex
In addition to the processing method, latex mattress shoppers should also consider the components used to produce the latex layers.
As noted earlier, natural latex is derived from the sap of rubber trees. Synthetic latex, on the other hand, is generated from petrochemicals (such as styrene and butadiene) treated with emulsifying agents that reduce their surface tension. The result is a material that mimics the density and shape retention of natural latex, even though it contains purely man-made components.
Some mattress brands claim their mattresses contain ‘100% organic latex,’ citing certifications from the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS). These claims are somewhat misleading, since all latex materials are treated with a chemical-based cure package that helps generate the foam. According to the GOLS, certification is awarded to products with latex materials that contain at least 95% latex. Therefore, ‘organic latex’ and ‘100% natural latex’ are not synonymous.
Blended latex refers to a material with a combination of natural and synthetic latex. According to industry standards, blended latex should contain at least 30% natural latex. This is another important factor for buyers; some brands advertise their mattresses as containing ‘natural latex,’ even though the latex components may be primarily synthetic.
The table below breaks down more key differences between natural, blended, and synthetic latex.
|Criteria||Natural Latex||Blended Latex||Synthetic Latex|
|Other names||Organic latex
|Latex blend||Latex foam
|% of natural latex||95% or more||At least 30%||0% to 30%|
Average lifespan of 7 to 8 years
Average lifespan of 6.5 to 7.5 years
Average lifespan of 6 to 7 years (comparable to the average mattress of any type)
The material hugs the sleeper closely without conforming too tightly or sagging excessively
The material does not conform as much and sagging is more likely to occur
Like blended latex, synthetic latex offers minimal conforming and higher sagging potential
|Temperature neutrality||Good to Very Good
Natural latex is more breathable than synthetic latex, allowing it to sleep cooler in most cases; aerated latex layers can further improve the bed’s temperature neutrality
|Fair to Good
Blended latex does not sleep as cool as natural latex, but it does offer some temperature neutrality due to its natural components
|Poor to Fair
Excessive warmth is one of the chief complaints associated with synthetic latex
Some off-gassing is expected, but the lack of chemical components leads to fewer VOCs and slighter, less persistent odors
|Fair to Good
Though it depends on the natural-to-synthetic latex ratio, most beds with blended latex emit a pungent rubbery smell when new
Strong, rubbery smells often occur in mattresses constructed with synthetic latex layers; the presence of memory foam or polyfoam may exacerbate this issue
Those with latex allergies are likely to find that natural latex mattresses trigger their symptoms
Blended latex is less likely to affect allergies, but natural latex components may trigger some symptoms
Because it contains very little (if any) natural latex, synthetic latex is the most suitable option for those with latex allergies
|Environmental impact||Very Good
Although the Dunlop method is slightly more eco-friendly than the Talalay method, most mattresses with natural latex layers carry a relatively small footprint – especially if they also feature organic cover fabrics and comfort layer materials
|Fair to Good
Again, the natural-to-synthetic latex ratio is key. Some blended latex materials carry a much smaller footprint due to the higher concentration of natural latex
As is the case with most synthetic alternatives, synthetic latex is not nearly as environmentally friendly as natural or blended latex
Natural latex mattresses typically have higher-than-average price-points; expect to pay at least $1,300 for a Queen-size bed – and some models cost more than $2,000
Mattresses with blended latex components normally carry price-points that are comparable to the average bed: about $900 to $1,300 for a Queen-size
The inclusion of synthetic latex can drive down a bed’s price-point to a significant extent; the average cost usually falls between $700 and $1,100 for a Queen-size
|Average warranty length||15+ years
Due in part to their longer expected lifespans, many mattresses with natural latex components have warranties that extend 15-25 years – or for the product’s entire lifespan, in some cases
10 years is the standard warranty length for a mattress, but models with blended latex may come with slightly longer warranties
Synthetic latex is neither as durable nor as expensive as natural or blended latex; as a result, most beds with synthetic latex come with a standard 10-year mattress warranty
Latex Mattress Comparison
Generally, three types of mattresses contain latex layers:
- All-latex beds, as a rule, only contain latex layers in the comfort system and support core. They may also include additional cover fabrics, as well as a layer of wool to act as a fire retardant.
- Latex hybrids are built with at least one natural/blended/synthetic comfort layer and a support core containing pocketed (fabric-encased) steel coils. A latex hybrid may also contain foam transitional or base layers; some models have memory foam/polyfoam and/or minicoil comfort layers, as well.
- Some mixed-foam mattresses contain a combination of latex and polyfoam/memory foam comfort layers, along with a high-density polyfoam base. Some brands refer to these as latex mattresses while others do not.
The above article is from https://www.tuck.com/dunlop-vs-talalay-latex/