How to choose a latex mattress?
If you’re not familiar with latex mattresses, you’re probably not alone.
What’s inside a latex mattress?
Not all latex foam starts with tree sap. You can also find synthetic latex mattresses, made from petroleum-based ingredients engineered to feel like natural latex. The synthetic version of latex, while less expensive, is not as durable, nor is it eco-friendly.
The best latex mattresses are typically made from layers of natural latex, with the addition of other organic materials like natural wool flame retardants and organic cotton covers.
How to pick the best latex mattress
Now that you know what’s inside a latex mattress, consider these other features that may be a key to getting a good night’s sleep.
Firmness: Though Dunlop latex tends to be firmer than Talalay, new ways of manufacturing both types and combining the two can lead to beds of all different levels of firmness. Like memory foam, the firmness of latex mattresses is measured in terms of “impression load deflection,” or ILD. Generally the lower the ILD, the softer the foam, or the lower the amount of pressure needed to make an indentation in the surface.
Temperature: Latex mattresses tend to be temperature neutral—that is, they don’t sleep “hot” like other types of foam. That’s because the foam has a more open cell structure, allowing for much better air flow through the bed and a cooler night’s sleep.
Allergies: Latex is naturally mold and dust-mite resistant, so it’s less irritating to people with those allergies. Because it is washed multiple times during the manufacturing process, most of the proteins that cause latex allergies are rinsed away, and the finished product does not usually cause allergic reactions. That said, people with severe latex allergies should use caution: Research published in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology found that some proteins still remain in natural latex mattresses.
Eco-friendliness: Since all-natural latex is plant-based, it’s biodegradable and renewable, making it more environmentally friendly than man-made synthetic materials that don’t break down. Some natural latex mattresses also use organic covers and plant-based flame retardants instead of chemical treatments.
Off-gassing: All-natural latex mattresses can have a “rubber” smell when new, but that usually dissipates within a few days and is not the same as the “off-gassing” commonly associated with synthetic foam. The latter is what happens when volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, created during the manufacturing process are released into the air, bringing with them noxious smells and potential health risks. “Greener” mattress foams use renewable plant-based ingredients, such as soybean oil, in place of some of the petroleum derivatives.
The bottom line on latex mattresses
All-natural latex comes with lots of benefits, but because the harvesting and manufacture is a labor-intensive process, latex mattresses tend to be pricey. One feature that mitigates the cost is durability: Latex typically lasts two to four years longer than other mattress types. The best latex mattresses come with warranties of 20 years or more; just make sure you know what to expect when it comes to returning a mattress.