Mattresses with latex support cores typically wear a higher price tag than other options, but they are also some of the most durable and longest-lasting ones available on the market. With an average 15- to 20-year lifespan, they will outlive even high-quality innerspring mattresses. Of course, durability is meaningless if the bed is not comfortable, right? Well, latex is resilient and known for its pressure-relieving abilities. It pretty much pushes against the body, cradling it and promoting proper spine alignment, but is this the right type of support core for everyone?
The first thing to know about latex mattress support cores is that they are either natural or synthetic. Not only are the materials different; the manufacturing methods used to create them are unique, as well.
Premium mattresses feature natural latex support cores, but there are synthetic latex ones available at a very budget-friendly price. This type of latex is made from styrene and butadiene rubber (SBR), which is an extremely versatile copolymer rubber compound. Polymer-based latex foam is created by combining SBR with specific petrochemicals.
The advantage of synthetic latex is that it is cheap to manufacture. Although it is not as comfortable as its natural relative some say that even a synthetic mattress support core is more comfortable than an innerspring mattress of the same quality.
The biggest disadvantage of synthetic latex is that the manufacturing process releases environmental toxins, and then carcinogenic gases also continue to breakdown for years. Plus, a synthetic latex support core is at risk for trapping mildew and mold in moist climates.
There are some mattresses made with a blend of natural and synthetic materials. Although not as desirable as completely natural support cores, they are a step up from synthetic ones.
Support cores made from natural latex are derived from a milky white liquid that is produced by rubber trees. It is also commonly referred to as “natural rubber” (NR). Foam is made by whipping the liquid with air. This is then heated to produce latex.
Natural latex support cores breathe and pull moisture away from the body. This keeps sleepers cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter, and more comfortable year-round. This form of latex is inherently anti-microbial, hyper-allergenic, and dust mite-resistant. However, all-natural latex support cores are not created equally. Yes, they are natural, durable, and comfortable, but there are two different processes used to create this material: Talalay and Dunlop.
The Dunlop method of manufacturing latex was developed way back in 1929. The thick liquid from the rubber tree gets added to a centrifuge and whipped into a froth consistency. Then, molds are filled to the top, covered, and steam-baked. Since natural sediments settle at the bottom during this process, Dunlop latex is slightly firmer on the bottom side. This makes for a dense, elastic, and supportive material. When it comes to softness, polyurethane foam created using the Dunlop method can be a little inconsistent.
The Talalay process is very similar to Dunlop, but it adds on a couple of extra steps. Like the Dunlop method, the liquid gets whipped and poured into a mold. When the mold is closed, rods are pushed through the foamed rubber material.
All the air pockets are vacuumed out, which helps distribute the liquid evenly through the mold. To lock in the desired consistency the foamed rubber gets frozen by running CO2 through the rods that were previously fed through the material.
The result of this process is a latex material that is consistent, versatile, and lively. It is also less dense than Dunlop. The Talalay process is very controlled and sophisticated. This latex can be created to be soft or firm by changing the formula and the shape, size, and pattern of pin core holes.
Which One is Better?
One type of latex support core is not necessarily better than the other. Dunlop is denser while Talalay tends to attract those looking for a pillow-soft surface. Dunlop is typically heavier and more durable, but Talalay has a wider variety of ILD ratings.
Understanding ILD and Load Deflection
ILD is an acronym for Impression Load Deflation, and it basically measures soft to firm levels of a latex support core. A rating of 14 would mean it is extremely soft while 44 would be super firm. However, most ratings fall between a 19 and 37 rating.
ILD describes how easily the material will conform to one’s body. So, if someone likes to sink into the bed upon contact choose a lower rating. If an individual needs a mattress core that will provide excellent support for his or her entire body, then opt for a higher Impression Load Deflation. Some mattresses also offer progressive support, so one could enjoy a 20 ILD rating on top, but also be very supported by the 40 ILD bottom layers.
Advantages of a Latex Support Core
When compared to other types of support cores, latex offers some noteworthy advantages, including:
- Durability – As mentioned, latex is extremely durable. These mattress cores are known to last two decades before they need replacing. So, although natural latex mattress cores come with a higher price tag, they do not need to be replaced as soon as other mattresses, which ultimately save money long-term. Some are even backed by 15- to 20-year warranties.
- Hypoallergenic – Latex resists mildew, mold, and dust mites, which are all allergens. Its open-cell structure allows air to flow through. This also keeps sleepers dry. As long as people opt for natural latex, they can also have peace-of-mind that it probably has not been heated with harsh chemicals.
- Elasticity – Latex can be compressed in one spot without affecting neighboring areas. This allows it to cradle the body, thereby providing support and relieving stress on pressure points.
- Resiliency – Sleepers can push their hands into a latex mattress and watch it sponge back into place. Not only does this ensure they enjoy the same comfort and sleep quality for many years; the high resiliency of these support cores lets them know they can adapt to the contours of any body shape, filling in even the smallest crevices.
- Motion Transfer – Motion transfer is not something people need to worry about with latex. These support cores isolate movement, so they will not feel every time that their partners rolls over.
- Sustainability – Latex is derived from rubber trees, which can yield as long as 30 years. The trees do not need herbicide or pesticides to thrive, and the bark heals quickly after the serum is harvested. When trees are spent the land is able to be replanted immediately, and natural latex will eventually biodegrade.
Latex is a fantastic support layer on its own, but it can also complement other high-quality materials. Support cores made with this material are durable, comfortable, supportive, and eco-friendly, and they display high levels of elasticity and resiliency. When shopping for a mattress with one of these support cores make sure to look at a natural or synthetic latex product and always take the ILD rating into consideration.
Joe Auer is the editor of Mattress Clarity. He mainly focuses on mattress reviews and oversees the content across the site.
He likes things simple and take a straightforward, objective approach to his reviews. Joe has personally tested nearly 250 mattresses and always recommends people do their research before buying a new bed. He has been testing mattresses for over 5 years now, so he knows a thing or two when it comes to mattress selection. He has been cited as an authority in the industry by a number of large publications.
Joe has an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and an MBA from Columbia University.
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