Buying a Latex Mattress: Pros and Cons

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Buying a Latex Mattress: Pros and Cons
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Are you thinking of buying a latex mattress? There are more choices than ever before for people looking to purchase new mattresses, and latex is one that has people talking. Noted for their hygienic and potentially Earth-friendly materials, latex mattresses have a lot going for them.

Latex foam can be either natural or synthetic. Natural latex is derived from the sap of the rubber tree while synthetic latex is produced from petroleum. Latex mattresses can be completely natural or a combination of natural and synthetic latex. Organic latex is also available and is becoming highly sought-after.

While latex mattresses may seem new, they’ve actually been in use since the mid-1900s. It’s only recently that materials and manufacturing processes have made them practical for the average buyer, and a desire for greener products has also spurred growth.

While springs and memory foam may be more well known, latex beds receive great owner satisfaction ratings in general, typically matching or even outperforming memory foam. Latex mattress retailers also tend to have solid reputations and be transparent, something that can be hard to find in other sectors.

We’ll review some of the pros and cons of latex mattresses in this article. By the end you’ll know if a latex mattress if right for you and maybe even have a few potential candidates to occupy your bedroom.

Should You Choose a Latex Mattress?

For a purchase as significant as a mattress, some deliberation is required. After all, we spend quite a lot of time resting on them. Rivaled only by memory foam mattresses, latex mattresses receive some of the best reviews of any mattress type.

There are three types of latex mattress constructions you will come across when shopping for one.They are:

  1. All-latex mattresses, which are made entirely of latex foam layers.
  2. Latex-over-foam mattresses consist of a latex top and polyurethane foam base.
  3. Foam-over-latex mattresses have a polyurethane foam top and a latex base.

These three types obviously possess different characteristics. Based on owner experience from an independent reviewer, we created a table below to highlight the differences. All ratings use a 1-5 scale with one being the lowest.

Mattress TypeAll-LatexLatex-Over-FoamFoam-Over-Latex
Owner Satisfaction3.63.62.3
Price2.63.62.3
Durability3.632.3
Off-Gassing3.62.32
Pressure Relief3.644
Less Back Pain3.63.64
Heat Dissapation2.32.32
Totals3.33.22.5

Mattresses with 100% latex construction tend to receive better reviews overall, with latex over foam models following closely behind.

Talalay vs. Dunlop

Latex is made predominantly through two processes, either the dunlop or talalay process. The dunlop process has been used to make latex since 1929. Both processes are nearly the same, with a small difference.

In both manufacturing processes, sap from rubber trees (serum) is whipped into a foam and poured into a mold. With dunlop latex, the mold is then steam baked. The talalay process adds one more step.

After being poured into a mold, talalay latex is quickly frozen. Latex can settle near the bottom during the dunlop process, making the lower portion more firm. By freezing the froth prior to baking, the talalay process attempts keeping the bubbles in the latex consistent.

Mattresses made with talalay require glue to hold the layers together. Sometimes glues used in for this can give off noxious odors.

In terms of reviews, the two types rate fairly similarly on most factors. Dunlop can feel a little more supportive, while Talalay can exhibit a bit more conformity but both provide durable and comfortable sleep surfaces. Dunlop typically costs a little less to produce than Talalay due to the simpler process.

Benefits of Latex Mattresses

The benefits of latex mattresses depend largely on the type of latex mattress you are looking at, but the various types do share some qualities. Some of the benefits we found to latex mattresses are listed below.

  1. Solid Durability and Longevity

One of the biggest measures of quality with any product is the length of time the product lasts. If you spend a lot of time and money making a decision on a mattress, the last thing you want is to have to do the whole process over again or wrestle with a company over their return policy.

The average mattress lasts around 7.5 years. All-latex mattresses have better than average durability and longevity, with a lifespan of 8-12 years. Latex-over-foam mattresses typically last between 6-10 years and foam-over-latex mattresses finish last with 4-7 years. The average mattress has a lifespan of about 7.5 years.

  1. Relief of Pressure Points

Good mattresses will support you without creating much pressure on the body. This pressure can cause a significant amount of discomfort. On an innerspring mattress, points of pressure are created at the top of each spring coil where the body’s weight presses down and the spring pushes up. Latex mattresses do a good job of evenly conforming to the body without creating pressure points.

Known as “responsiveness,” the speed at which a mattress springs back from being compressed is an important property for the mitigation of pressure. Latex mattresses are more responsive than innersprings and most memory foam mattresses. They quickly conform to the body’s contours.

  1. Back and Joint Support

Conformability, responsiveness and firmness are key components for back and joint support. Latex mattresses rate well in each of these categories as they tend to support weight evenly over their surface — preventing heavier areas from sinking too deeply and maintaining natural spinal alignment for both side and back sleepers.

Mattresses made from 100% latex and those with latex over foam receive higher than average ratings for preventing back, hip and shoulder pain. Foam-over-latex mattresses perform slightly better than average in pain reduction.

  1. Motion Isolation

The ability of a mattress to absorb the motion from a user’s movements is important, especially for couples or people who sleep with pets. The tossing and turning of one person on a mattress can be disruptive to others on it if the mattress has poor motion isolation. Most latex mattresses perform better than other mattresses in general, especially compared to spring mattresses.

  1. Off-Gassing

Mattresses containing petroleum, glues, and treated fabrics tend to off-gas, or emit, a chemical odor that can be toxic or irritating to humans. The amount of odor emitted from latex mattresses is typically directly related to the amount of petroleum-based material in them. Latex beds made with 100% natural latex and without glues, adhesives, chemical flame retardants, and dyed fabrics will have the lowest potential to offgas.

Owners of all-natural latex mattresses report little to no off-gassing. Latex may give off a rubbery smell when new, but this different from off-gassing. Around 10% of latex-over-foam mattress and foam-over latex mattress owners report significant off-gassing. Fifteen percent of memory foam mattress owners report off-gassing at significant levels, to give you some perspective.

  1. Health and Environmental Aspects

Both natural and synthetic latexes are inherently flame resistant. What does this mean for consumers? Most other types of mattresses require the addition of, often toxic, flame retardant chemicals. Latex mattresses generally forego the harsh flame retardants, leading to fewer chemicals in the composition of the mattress.

Latex is also naturally bacteria, dust mite, bed bug, mold and mildew resistant. Manufacturers don’t need to take egregious chemical precautions to guard against infestations. That in turn leads to less chemical exposure for users and helps to make many latex mattresses hypoallergenic.

Natural latex is derived entirely from the sap of the rubber tree. They don’t contribute to environmental damage associated with the drilling, refining, manufacturing, using and disposing of petroleum products. This allows them to have a smaller carbon footprint.

Organic latex is also made completely from rubber tree sap, but it has an added benefit for the environment. Grown using organic methods, these trees are only treated with organic pesticides and fertilizers. Non-organic pesticides and fertilizers have been linked to numerous adverse environmental effects.

Potential Drawbacks

  1. Difficult to Move

Dense latex can be heavy. Owners of latex mattresses sometimes report difficulty when moving or lifting the bed. Some latex mattresses have to be flipped or rotated regularly to avoid sagging. Others do not need to be flipped ever, so this isn’t much of an issue for them.

  1. Availability

With all newer or specialty products, availability can be a problem. This is also true of latex mattresses. Foam-over-latex and latex-over-foam are fairly widely available in retail stores and online, but if you are seeking an all-latex mattress, you may need to do your shopping online.

Online mattress shopping has become easier over the years. Many retailers have created easily navigable sites with all the information you need to make a good decision. Online stores can provide quite a value, as they don’t usually have the overhead expenses or commission-driven salespeople traditional retailers do. There are quite a few fairly established online latex mattress retailers that ship nationwide with fair return policies.

  1. Heat Retention

Although they generally perform better than their memory foam counterparts, latex mattresses do receive some complaints about heat retention. About 8-10% of latex mattress owners report sleeping hot on them, with foam-over-latex models receiving the fewest complaints. Latex beds with natural fiber covers (like cotton and wool) and latex with pinholes can feel more breathable.

  1. Maintenance

Consumers have reported some issues with maintenance associated with latex mattresses. Some, but not all, latex mattresses have to be turned over or rotated from time to time to help keep the foam even across the whole surface. As mentioned previously, dense foam mattresses can be heavy and difficult to move.

Latex will dry out from direct heat or sunlight. Though very durable under normal bedroom conditions, owners should not leave mattresses in the sun or subject the mattress to excessive heat or moisture of any type. Do not iron clothes on the mattress. Also, use electric blankets either on low settings or keep a cloth layer between the electric blanket and the latex.

  1. Disclosures and Certifications

Organic labels and other claims made by manufacturers and desired by consumers can carry a premium price tag. As such, retailers and marketers strive to make their products seem as organic or special as possible. Oftentimes, you will find retailers and manufacturers touting a natural latex mattress as organic, simply because it has an organic cover.

Thankfully there are certifications from reputable companies that help consumers determine the legitimacy of a retailer’s claims. The following are trusted certifications in the mattress and other industries:

  • Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) –  In organic and sustainable latex production, processing, manufacturing, packaging, labeling, trading and transportation, GOLS is the new global standard. More than simply organic, GOLS focuses on safety and welfare, human health, and environmental concerns involved with the manufacturing of latex. Latex certified to GOLS standards is grown and processed organically.
  • Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) –  Recognized as one of the leading processing standards for textiles made from organic materials. GOTS requires manufacturers meet specific, rigorous environmental and social criteria along the entire supply chain.
  • United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic – The U.S. government has stringent standards for the production and manufacturing of organic raw materials. USDA labeling is trusted the world around and can apply to textiles like cotton and wool.
  • Eco Institut – An independent institute which provides testing for emissions and pollutants in a wide number of products. Mattress manufacturers seek Eco Institut label to demonstrate their products’ limited off-gassing and VOC emissions.
  • Control Union – A worldwide organization of exclusive laboratories and inspection operations dedicated to reliable and consistent labeling of myriad products. Control Union is globally recognized as an industry leader in certification testing.
  • TÜV Rheinland – A global provider of safety and technical certifications founded in 1872. TÜV Rheinland’s guiding principle is to “achieve sustained development of safety and quality in order to meet the challenges arising from the interaction between man, technology and the environment.”
  • Oregon Tilth Certified Organic (OTCO) – More than an organic certification institution, OTCO is a non-profit in Oregon dedicated to advocating and sustaining organic food and farming practices.
  • OEKO-TEX Standard 100 – A global independent testing and certification company, OEKO-TEX tests materials in all stages of prodution for harmful substances. Their process considers the use of the products. Products consumers come in close proximity to for significant periods of time are tested more strictly.

These are very reliable certifications involved in all aspects of the responsible and safe production, manufacturing and distribution of quality latex mattresses. If you see these, you can feel pretty good about the caliber of your mattress. For any certification or claim, the manufacturer or retailer should be able to supply you with documentation and details.

To summarize, a latex mattress is best for:

  • People who sleep with spouses or pets that toss and turn.
  • People seeking hypoallergenic and more healthy mattresses
  • People who have environmental concerns
  • People with back, hip or shoulder pain
  • People who experience discomfort when sleeping on innersprings
  • People who want a long-lasting mattress

Picking the Right Latex Bed

If you are considering purchasing a latex mattress, there are some other things you need to look at as well. Not all mattresses are created equally, nor do they cost the same. Also, the most expensive mattresses are not always the best. If you shop wisely, you can find a great bed at a good price.

Are you a side-sleeper, back-sleeper or a stomach-sleeper? While you may not encounter this type of question on a normal shopping trip, the answer can help you choose the right mattress for you.

People who sleep on their sides should look for a mattress that gives a little more. You should be able to sink in enough for the mattress to conform to the contours of your body while your spine stays straight and parallel to the ground. Back-sleepers should try to find a firmer mattress that provides lumbar support and maintains a neutral back position. Those who sleep on their stomachs also need a firmer mattress so they don’t sink to the point of putting pressure on their lower backs.

When trying to buy a mattress, you will need to look at more than just the bed. The warranty of the mattress can be somewhat indicative of its quality, particularly the length of full replacement coverage and the depth of sagging covered. A quality latex mattress should have around 10 years of full replacement warranty on sagging of at least one inch. Checking return policies is also an important part of the buying process. If a manufacturer or retailer isn’t willing to stand behind their product, you should think carefully about buying it. Also see how long the company has been in business. A newer company may not have worked all the bugs out of their products or services, and reviews on durability may be hard to come by.

How much can you spend? Budget constraints are the most common limiting factor with mattress purchases. Don’t break the bank when buying a mattress, but you should consider a quality mattress as a solid investment that will last years. What is good sleep worth to you?

We’ve compiled information on popular latex mattresses in the following two tables to help you in your search.

All-Latex Mattress Brands

BrandPrice (Queen)Latex TypeFirmnessCover MaterialReview ScoreWarranty
SleepEZ
$1,135 - $2,185
Natural Talalay or Natural Dunlop
Soft, Medium, Firm, Ultra Firm
Organic Cotton/Wool
81%20 Years
Astrabeds$1,799 - $2,999Certified Organic DunlopSoft, Medium, Medium Firm, FirmOrganic Cotton/Wool
96%25 Years
Foam Sweet Foam$1,899 - $2,699Natural Dunlop and/or Natural TalalaySoft, Medium, Firm, X-Firm, XX-FirmOrganic Cotton/Wool
80%30 Years
Habitat Furnishings$2,049 - $2,299Natural Dunlop and Natural TalalayMedium to FirmAloe Vera81%20 Years
Savvy Rest$2,099 -
$4,249
Natural Dunlop and/or Natural TalalaySoft, Medium, FirmOrganic Cotton/Wool
78%20 Years

Data and review scores come from Sleep Like The Dead and/or retailer websites.

Latex-Over-Foam Mattress Brands

BrandPrice (Queen)Latex TypeFirmnessCover MaterialReview ScoreWarranty
Dream Foam$399 - $699Dunlop or TalalaySoft to Firm and CustomBamboo Fabric84%10 Years
Select Luxury E.C.O.$460 - $610Blended DunlopMedium FirmPoly/Cotton Blend82%0-5 Years
Lucid$1,000 - $1,599Blended DunlopFirmPoly/Cotton Blend84%20 Years
Eco Bliss$1,099 - $1,599Natural TalalayMedium to Medium-FirmOrganic Cotton85%20 Years
Sealy Optimum$1,400 - $2,700Blended DunlopSoft to FirmPoly/Cotton Blend82%10 Years

Data and review scores come from Sleep Like The Dead and/or retailer websites.

As you can see, there is a lot of information to sift through while shopping for a latex mattress. We recommend going to showrooms and trying some of these mattresses out.

Keep in mind that brick-and-mortar retailers often have commission-based compensatory agreements with their salespeople. This can drive up the prices of their mattresses or lead them to steer people towards specific brands or models. Shopping experts have found these types of retailers can generally come down significantly in price, and many stores frequently off sales near holidays. It’s always best to start with a broad search, research your options thoroughly, and compare to see who and where has the best values.

You can find a staggering amount of information and even shop for latex mattresses online, and in many areas, good quality latex mattresses may only be available through internet retailers.

Return policies are paramount when trying to find a mattress retailer, no matter where you buy. Online retailers typically have fairly liberal return policies — you can find some that allow you to try a mattress for three months or more before committing, which can be helpful if you’ve never slept on latex or foam mattresses.

Buying a mattress doesn’t have to be difficult, but it isn’t something most people get much practice at. You have to rely on reviews, become an informed shopper, and trust your gut.

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