Latex

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Frequently Asked Questions

Latex is a white milky liquid, a stable dispersion of rubber particles in water.

Latex manufacture for the bedding industry uses two types of latex: natural rubber latex and synthetic rubber latex. Natural latex is harvested from the rubber trees Havea Brasiliense’s, which are grown in tropical climate plantations around the world, including South-East Asia, parts of Africa and South America.

The trees are not harmed and therefore provide a sustainable and renewable resource. In fact, the natural liquid latex is a commodity and is publicly traded in stock markets.

The latex is collected in buckets and shipped to large rubber factories where it is transformed into latex foam. Natural latex is ‘white gold’ – white milk extracted from the rubber tree that can be turned into very comfortable and useful products- tyres, gloves and in our case mattresses and pillows.

Synthetic latex, on the other hand, is a man-made copy of natural latex. Its scientific name is Styrene Butadiene Rubber (SBR). Synthetic latex is cheaper and is mainly used for the stability it adds during the manufacturing process. The combination of natural and synthetic latex is called ‘blended latex’.

 

Many people are surprised at the concept of a latex mattress, but latex actually possesses a variety of benefits that make it ideal for this purpose.

First of all, all latex mattresses are made with natural latex derived from the sap of the rubber tree. Latex mattresses feature natural, biodegradable ingredients that come from renewable resources and water-based raw materials, including natural latex, air and water. Latex is a truly green and environmentally friendly product that does not contain any of the solvents and toxic chemicals that can be found in memory foam mattresses.

Furthermore, the manufacturing process does not damage the ozone layer; the rubber trees have up to 25 years productive life and a strong positive effect on the environment, as they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reduce emissions.

Second, latex is an extremely flexible and elastic material. Latex is not too soft and not too hard. Its natural resilience means it offers resistance to a sleeper’s weight in everybody position and always returns to its initial shape. This is called ‘progressive comfort’ – the higher the pressure exerted on it, the greater the support it provides. Latex responds instantly to your movement and adapts to the body contours, keeping your back and spine perfectly straight if you sleep on your side or in their natural double-S position if you sleep on your back.

The excellent elasticity of latex supports the body’s natural movements, which is a very important condition for revitalising sleep as a healthy sleeper changes his or hers physical posture up to 60 times a night. Latex also provides great pressure relief and muscle relaxation, which makes it easier to fall asleep and also improves circulation, resulting in less tossing and turning. Proper support is essential if you are suffering from back problems or recovering from a serious injury, but it will also ensure that you never experience that stiff, uncomfortable feeling when you wake up in the morning.

Latex has great point elasticity meaning it compresses only in the point of contact. As a bonus, this means that two people can share a bed without disturbing each other when they move in the night, even if one partner is heavier than the other. It doesn’t squeak either, so there’s minimal chance of one of you waking the other up if you need to get up in the middle of the night! As well as being very elastic, latex is incredibly durable. A latex mattress can last as long as twenty years, compared to conventional spring-based mattresses, which generally need to be replaced every 5-7 years or so (or even more frequently in the case of cheap mattresses).

Latex is up to 20 times more durable than standard polyurethane foams. The strength of the latex material allows the manufacturers to offer strong guarantees for their products and assures maximum value for consumers. This means they represent an excellent long-term investment and won’t require any upkeep, other than occasionally airing, flipping and rotating them to keep them fresh.

One of the main concerns with bedding today is being too hot when we sleep; it is uncomfortable and interrupts the quality of our sleep. Fortunately, the open cell structure of latex mattresses means that they are highly ‘breathable’ – they don’t retain heat in the same way other designs do, as the air inside them is able to circulate freely.

As a result, you won’t find yourself throwing open windows and sleeping on top of the bedding during the hot summer months in an effort to stay cool. All this is in stark contrast to the popular memory foam mattresses. These are made entirely of synthetic materials (mainly plastics), retain a lot of heat and, as the name implies, have ‘memory’ or slow recovery properties. As a result, they will never be able to offer you the instant comfort and support and the natural breathability of a high-quality latex mattress.

There is a common misconception that latex in beds can cause an allergic reaction, but this is incorrect. Latex is anti-bacterial, anti-dust mite, and resistant to mould and mildew. This makes latex mattresses ideal for people with allergies. Indeed, when latex is manufactured, it is vulcanised at more than 110 degrees for around fifty minutes to kill off all the most common allergens, so a latex mattress is the ideal choice for asthmatics, or those with similar respiratory conditions. This vulcanisation process also means that even people who would normally be allergic to the latex used in latex gloves, for example, can enjoy one of these mattresses without any cause for concern about suffering a reaction. LaTeX is also toxin-free – you simply cannot find a healthier and safer bedding material.

By way of contrast, standard polyurethane and memory foams contain up to seven chemicals that are known as carcinogens. Latex contains none of them.

 

Technically speaking, there are three types of latex used in mattresses:

  • 100% natural latex – made with 100% natural rubber latex
  • Natural latex – made with 85% natural rubber latex and 15% synthetic latex
  • Pure latex – made with 20% natural rubber latex and 80% synthetic latex

The most expensive type of latex mattress is made from 100% natural latex. Although it does cost more, it feels incredible and represents a great long-term investment, as we have already discussed. Consumers who live an organic lifestyle and have made many changes in order to remove most synthetic materials from their household tend to purchase 100% natural latex mattresses. These products offer unsurpassed healthiness and elasticity, conform to your body and reduce the pressure on your muscles and circulation like no other mattress. The luxurious comfort and gentle support simply cannot be matched by synthetic latex.

One thing people don’t know is that because it is a ‘natural’ product, there are inconsistencies at the molecular level which cause natural latex to wear more quickly than synthetic latex. Of course, this does not mean that a 100% natural latex mattress will break down or deteriorate easily.

The industry norm is latex mattresses containing more than 80% natural latex to be classed as natural latex mattresses. When consumers are looking to buy natural and environmentally friendly product that will help them sleep better and is good value for money, they can choose this type of latex mattress. It combines the benefits of the natural latex – elasticity, flexibility, luxurious feel and healthiness with the extended stability and durability of the synthetic latex. From our experience we can tell you there is little difference in the feel of 100% natural latex mattress and mattresses made with 80% or more natural latex.

Pure latex is the most commonly used latex blend, it contains only 20% natural latex and is therefore cheaper. It is also easier to manufacture because it is extremely uniform at the molecular level. Pure latex still offers excellent support and comfort, but it is not as ‘lively’ as natural latex. What you gain in cost and durability, you lose in sleep benefits and feel compared to natural latex.

Technically speaking, there are three types of latex used in mattresses:

  • 100% natural latex – made with 100% natural rubber latex
  • Natural latex – made with 85% natural rubber latex and 15% synthetic latex
  • Pure latex – made with 20% natural rubber latex and 80% synthetic latex

The most expensive type of latex mattress is made from 100% natural latex. Although it does cost more, it feels incredible and represents a great long-term investment, as we have already discussed. Consumers who live an organic lifestyle and have made many changes in order to remove most synthetic materials from their household tend to purchase 100% natural latex mattresses. These products offer unsurpassed healthiness and elasticity, conform to your body and reduce the pressure on your muscles and circulation like no other mattress. The luxurious comfort and gentle support simply cannot be matched by synthetic latex.

One thing people don’t know is that because it is a ‘natural’ product, there are inconsistencies at the molecular level which cause natural latex to wear more quickly than synthetic latex. Of course, this does not mean that a 100% natural latex mattress will break down or deteriorate easily.

The industry norm is latex mattresses containing more than 80% natural latex to be classed as natural latex mattresses. When consumers are looking to buy natural and environmentally friendly product that will help them sleep better and is good value for money, they can choose this type of latex mattress. It combines the benefits of the natural latex – elasticity, flexibility, luxurious feel and healthiness with the extended stability and durability of the synthetic latex. From our experience we can tell you there is little difference in the feel of 100% natural latex mattress and mattresses made with 80% or more natural latex.

Pure latex is the most commonly used latex blend, it contains only 20% natural latex and is therefore cheaper. It is also easier to manufacture because it is extremely uniform at the molecular level. Pure latex still offers excellent support and comfort, but it is not as ‘lively’ as natural latex. What you gain in cost and durability, you lose in sleep benefits and feel compared to natural latex.

Dunlop and Talalay are two methods for manufacturing the latex foam used in bedding.

Dunlop is the standard technology, developed in 1929, while Talalay is relatively new method which is more complex, costly and time-consuming.

Both methods use natural latex and can produce latex mattresses in any of the three blends described above. The production process always starts with mixing liquid latex with water. There are small amounts of other materials required for processing liquid latex into a solid form, which are necessary for all latex production. These are natural soaps, sulphur, and gelling and vulcanization agents. When the latex mixture is ready, compressed air is used to make foam. The foam is then poured into a mould, after which the vulcanization process begins. The latex foam is vulcanized at a temperature over 110 degrees for about 50 minutes. The finished mattress core is then taken out of the mould, washed and dried.

The key difference in processing in the Dunlop and Talalay methods is the two additional steps in the Talalay technology – vacuum and freeze. When the mould is filled with the latex mixture and then closed, the pressure inside is reduced to create a vacuum, which lowers the air pressure in the mould cavity while increasing the air pressure in the foam bubbles. As a result, the foam expands and fills the mould evenly and the pressure inside the bubbles is driven to equalize over the entire latex block, leading to a very uniform density. The water in the latex foam is then frozen and carbon dioxide is injected. The freezing prevents the latex particles from settling at the bottom and transforming into a solid product. This means that the finished Talalay latex mattress has very consistent density and from top to bottom. Because there is no freezing stage in the Dunlop process, the rubber particles settle in the bottom of the mattress while the liquid latex is gelling into its solid form and so there could be slight differences in the feel and the firmness of the two sides of a Dunlop latex mattress. Although the Talalay process takes four times longer and consumes five times more energy than the Dunlop process, the two additional process steps improve the feel, quality and consistency of the finished latex, but at high additional cost and also with a much bigger carbon footprint.

 

Dunlop Latex Manufacturing Process

a.   The mixing of the ingredients (latex, soap, vulcanisation agents…) into compound
b.   Compressed air (necessary to make a foam)
c.   Continuous foamier
d.   Cleaning and heating of the mould
e.   Applying a special agent to be able afterwards to get the mattresses / pillows out of the moulds

1.   Filling the mould with the latex foam
2.   The mould closes and enters the vulcanisation oven
3.   Vulcanisation oven: steam at 100ºC
4.   The finished mattress / pillow core is demoulded
5.   Washing of the mattress / pillow core
6.   Drying
7.   Quality control (checking hardness, weight, visual control)
8.   Finishing
9.   Storage

 

Talalay Latex Manufacturing Process

 

 

a.   The mixing of the ingredients (latex, soap, vulcanisation agents…) into compound
b.   Compressed air (necessary to make a foam)
c.   Continuous foamier
d.   Cleaning and heating of the mould
e.   Applying a special agent to be able afterwards to get the mattresses / pillows out of the moulds

1.   Filling the mould with the latex foam
2.   Creating a vacuum (Specific for talalay process only)
3.   Freezing to -30°C (Specific for talalay process only)
4.   The mould closes and enters the vulcanisation oven
5.   Vulcanisation oven: steam at 100ºC
6.   The finished mattress / pillow core is demoulded
7.   Washing of the mattress / pillow core
8.   Drying
9.   Quality control (checking hardness, weight, visual control)
10.   Finishing
11.   Storage

 

 

 

It is difficult to say, as this depends on what are you looking for and how much you are willing to spend. Neither is superior to the other. Considering the price difference, Dunlop latex is better value for money, but Talalay latex has a plusher, more buoyant feel and is available in a greater range of densities. Similarly, Dunlop latex is denser, which makes it a bit firmer than Talalay, so Talalay is a good choice if you like a soft surface feel. A combination of the two is also an option – a Dunlop latex base for firmer support, with Talalay latex top for a truly luxurious feel, for example.

Many people assume latex and memory foam are the same thing.

In reality, they are complete opposites and the sleeping experience they each offer is totally different. Latex actually outperforms memory foam in every way.

Firstly, latex is a natural material while memory foam is made from chemicals. Latex is seven times more breathable than memory foam and does not feel hot. Latex is simultaneously supportive and pressure relieving, while memory foam has only pressure relieving qualities. Latex provides 33% more pressure relief while offering instant support because of its buoyant nature.

You sink into a memory foam mattress, which makes it really difficult to move, while latex keeps you on top of the bed and moves with you when you change sleeping positions.

Latex is healthier and creates a naturally hypoallergenic sleeping environment, free of dust-mites, mould and mildew, making it ideal for allergy sufferers. Also, latex does not give off the harmful fumes that may be present with memory foam.

Finally, latex is more durable and lasts much longer than memory foam.

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