The Savvy Sleeper’s Guide to Latex Mattresses: Pros and Cons
If you’re in the market for a new mattress, there are more choices than ever before— and latex is one that has people talking. Latex beds have a lot going for them and are noted for their hygienic and potentially environmentally-friendly materials. In this guide, we’ll weigh the pros and cons of latex beds to help you decide if you should invest in one for better sleep.
Types of Latex
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 and other harsh chemicals. Latex beds can be completely natural or a combination of natural and synthetic latex. However, the Editor’s at Savvy Sleeper recommend choosing organic latex because it’s thought to be healthier for both the sleeper and the environment. Below, we’ll discuss the two main types of organic latex: Dunlop and Talalay.
Latex is made predominantly through two processes: Dunlop or Talalay. In terms of reviews, the two types rate fairly similarly on most factors. Dunlop can feel a little more supportive while a Talalay latex bed 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 more straightforward process.
The Dunlop process has been used to make latex since 1929. Both methods are nearly the same, with a small difference.
In both manufacturing processes, the sap from rubber trees (serum) is whipped into a foam and poured into a mold. With Dunlop latex, the mold is then vulcanized, cleaned, and dried. The Talalay process is a bit more expansive.
Similar to the Dunlop process, Talalay latex starts as liquid rubber poured into a mold. During this process, the liquid rubber is only poured into the mold halfway. Then, a vacuum is used to expand the liquid rubber to fill the rest of the mold. After the liquid rubber has expanded, the mold is sealed and frozen. While freezing, carbon dioxide is pushed through the latex mold causing it to gel. After the latex has gelled, it’s sent to the vulcanization oven. After it’s been steamed, it is thoroughly washed and dried.
Should You Choose a Latex Mattress?
For a purchase as significant as a mattress, some deliberation is required. After all, we spend approximately eight hours a day on our bed. Rivaled only by the highest-rated memory foam mattresses, latex beds 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:
- All-latex mattresses, which are made entirely of latex foam layers
- Latex-over-foam mattresses, which consist of a latex mattress topper and polyurethane foam base
- Foam-over-latex mattresses, which have a polyurethane foam top and a latex base
These three types 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.
|Less Back Pain||3.6||3.6||4|
Benefits of Latex Mattresses
The benefits of latex beds depend primarily on the type of latex bed you are looking at, but the various types do share some qualities. Some of the benefits we found in latex beds are listed below:
1. Solid Durability and Longevity
One of the most significant measures of quality with any product is the length of time the product lasts. If you spend a lot of time and money deciding on a mattress, the last thing you want is to go through the whole process again a few years down the line. The average mattress lasts around 7.5 years. All-latex beds have better-than-average durability and longevity, with a lifespan of 8-12 years. Latex-over-foam mattresses typically last between 6 and 10 years, and foam-over-latex beds finish last with 4-7 years. The average mattress has a lifespan of about 7.5 years.
2. Relief of Pressure Points
A good mattress will support you without creating much pressure on the body, as this pressure can cause discomfort. On an innerspring mattress, pressure points are formed at the top of each spring coil where the body’s weight presses down and the spring pushes up. Latex beds do a great job of evenly conforming to the body’s shape without creating pressure points.
Known as “responsiveness,” the speed at which a mattress springs back from being compressed is an essential property for the mitigation of pressure and increase in comfort. Latex beds are more responsive than innersprings and most memory foam mattresses— they quickly conform to the body’s contours.
3. Back and Joint Support
Conformability, responsiveness, and
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 beds perform slightly better than average in pain reduction.
4. Motion Isolation
The ability of a mattress to absorb the motion from a user’s movements is essential. The tossing and turning of one person on a mattress can be disruptive to others if the bed has poor motion isolation. Most latex beds perform better than other mattresses in general, especially compared to innerspring mattresses.
Mattresses containing petroleum, glues, and treated fabrics tend to
Owners of all-natural latex beds report little to no off-gassing. Latex may give off a rubbery smell when new, but this is different from off-gassing. Around 10% of the latex-over-foam mattress and foam-over latex owners report significant off-gassing. Fifteen percent of memory foam mattress owners report off-gassing at significant levels, to give you some perspective.
6. 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 beds generally forgo the harsh flame retardants, leading to fewer chemicals in the composition of the bed.
Latex is also naturally resistant to bacteria, dust mites, bed bugs, molds, and mildew. Manufacturers don’t need to take extreme chemical precautions to guard against infestations. In turn, this leads to less chemical exposure for users and helps to make many latex beds less likely to cause latex allergies.
Natural latex is derived entirely from the sap of the rubber tree. Latex manufacturers don’t contribute to environmental damage associated with the drilling, refining, manufacturing, using, and disposing of petroleum products— allowing them to have a smaller carbon footprint.
Organic latex is also made entirely 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 of a Latex Foam Mattress
1. Difficult to Move
Dense latex can be cumbersome. Owners of latex beds sometimes report difficulty when moving or lifting the bed. Some latex beds 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.
With all newer or specialty products, availability can be a problem. This is also true for latex beds. Foam-over-latex and latex-over-foam are widely available in retail stores and online, but if you are seeking an all-latex bed, 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 an educated 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 retailers that ship nationwide with fair return policies.
3. Heat Retention
Although they generally perform better than their memory foam counterparts, latex beds do receive some complaints regarding heat retention. About 8-10% of latex 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.
Consumers have reported some issues with maintenance associated with latex beds. Some, but not all, latex beds have to be turned over or rotated from time to time to help keep the foam even across the whole surface. As mentioned previously, solid foam mattresses can be bulky and tough 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 bed. Also, use electric blankets either on low setting or keep a cloth layer between the electric blanket and the latex.
5. 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 as organic or sleep-promoting as possible. Often, you will find retailers and manufacturers touting a natural latex bed as “Organic” just 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 organicand 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) – It is recognized as one of the leading processing standards for textiles made from organic materials. GOTS requires manufacturers to 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 – Independent institute which provides testing for emissions and pollutants in a vast number of products. Mattress manufacturers seek Eco Institut label to demonstrate their products’ limited off-gassing and VOC emissions.
- Control Union – Worldwide organization of independent 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 – It is 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 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 production for harmful substances. Their process considers the use of the products. Products consumers are close 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 beds. 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, latex beds are best for:
- People who are shariong the bed
- People seeking hypoallergenic and more healthy mattresses
- People who have environmental concerns
- People with back, hip, or shoulder pain
- People who experience issues with comfort when sleeping on innersprings
- People who want a long-lasting mattress
Picking the Right Latex Bed
If you are considering purchasing a latex bed there are some other things you need to look at as well. Not all mattresses are created equally or 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 reasonable price.
Are you a side sleeper, back sleeper, or a stomach sleeper? While you may not encounter this type of question on a typical 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 bed 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 bed 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 latex mattress 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 substantial investment that will last for years. What is good sleep worth to you?
We’ve compiled information on popular latex brands in the following two tables to help you in your search.
|Brand||Price (Queen)||Latex Type||Firmness||Cover Material||Review Score||Warranty|
|SleepEZ||$1,135 – $2,185||Natural Talalay or Natural Dunlop||Soft, Medium, Firm, Ultra Firm||Organic Cotton/Wool||81%||20 Years|
|Foam Sweet Foam||$1,899 – $2,699||Natural Dunlop and/or Natural Talalay||Soft, Medium, Firm, X-Firm, XX-Firm||Organic Cotton/Wool||80%||30 Years|
|Habitat Furnishings||$2,049 – $2,299||Natural Dunlop and Natural Talalay||Medium to Firm||Aloe Vera||81%||20 Years|
|Savvy Rest||$2,099 – $4,249||Natural Dunlop and/or Natural Talalay||Soft, Medium, Firm||Organic Cotton/Wool||78%||20 Years|
Data and review scores come from Sleep Like The Dead and/or retailer websites.
Latex-Over-Foam Mattress Brands
|Brand||Price (Queen)||Latex Type||Firmness||Cover Material||Review Score||Warranty|
|Dream Foam||$399 – $699||Dunlop or Talalay||Soft to Firm and Custom||Bamboo Fabric||84%||10 Years|
|Select Luxury E.C.O.||$460 – $610||Blended Dunlop||Medium Firm||Poly/Cotton Blend||82%||0-5 Years|
|Lucid||$1,000 – $1,599||Blended Dunlop||Firm||Poly/Cotton Blend||84%||20 Years|
|Eco Bliss||$1,099 – $1,599||Natural Talalay||Medium to Medium-Firm||Organic Cotton||85%||20 Years|
|Sealy Optimum||$1,400 – $2,700||Blended Dunlop||Soft to Firm||Poly/Cotton Blend||82%||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 bed. 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 hold mattress sales and discounts near federal 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 beds online, and in many areas, good-quality latex beds 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 relatively 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 latex bed 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.