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How To Buy A Pure Latex Mattress Without Getting Ripped Off By Retail Stores And E-Commerce Web Sites
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As the web’s biggest go to source for unbiased opinions on many different kinds of mattresses, we get a lot of shoppers studying our reports once they discover how difficult it is to shop for a genuine latex mattress.
Latex is the hottest trend in the mattress industry right now. There are dozens of companies selling “latex mattresses”, but how do you choose the right one? And, why has interest in latex grown so much recently? Why would you buy one vs. a conventional mattress like an innerspring, or a memory foam mattress? And which brands are better than others?
What’s All The Hub-Bub About Latex Mattresses?
Read on to discover everything you need to know about latex mattresses, and we’ll arm you with all of the information you need. I’m Eben Goresko, and I’ve been a piano tuner for decades. I became involved with mattress reviewing after a bad mattress shopping experience left me feeling like I‘d been had. I’ve been writing reviews and helpful blogs ever since.
I’ve seen latex mattresses make a roaring comeback in the last few years, and I think a lot of it has to do with the interest in safer, greener and cleaner, chemical free beds. Much of what is for sale out there has a lot of materials that off-gas fumes, since they contain an insane amount of petrochemical products, formaldehyde, and filler materials, including shredded recycled fabric, plastics, and more.
Even the glue that is used to laminate all the layers of materials together in a typical mattress are loaded with heavy metals, VOC’s, and other toxins that off gas fumes for years.
Back in the 60’s and 70’s, Sears and other retailers sold latex mattresses like gang busters, because of its soft yet supportive, bouncy, and buoyant qualities. Latex also offers radically different performance qualities than stiffer, synthetic foam layers often shoved into many big name brands. They just don’t react to subtle body movements and don’t fill in areas like your lumbar region or between shoulder blades.
First of all, latex has a distinctly different feel from all other mattress surfaces. It is highly elastic, giving and yielding, while at the same time being very resilient and uplifting, with no sinking or “trapped” sensation.
It pushes up, creating a buoyant effect, and distributes weight load sideways, rather than down, eliminating pressure points far more effectively than other kinds of beds, kind of like spreading your fingers across pizza dough in a pan.
Because of these qualities, latex is very comfortable -- supportive yet cushy at the same time. It also does not sleep hot, a real problem with many consumers. It is great for side sleepers with painful joints, perfect for back sleepers, since it does not have the wet sand feel of memory foam. It doesn’t mash down like quilted innersprings and other mattresses stuffed with poor quality foam layers or other filler. But…
There Is A Dark Secret About "Latex" Mattresses:
In my research about latex, I began to discover that “latex” is not necessarily what it seems to be...One of the dark secrets of the mattress industry is that "latex" actually refers to two very different substances – pure, botanically derived, or plant based natural latex, and petrochemical based synthetic latex (SBR). And while natural latex is made from the white, sappy fluid collected by tapping the rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis, synthetic latex is made from a calculated mix of noxious chemicals, called styrene butadiene rubber.
The reason these substances are both called “latex” is that synthetic latex was designed to mimic the properties of natural latex, and is MUCH cheaper to produce. But in my experience these materials, while seemingly similar, feel dramatically different when you try them side by side, as I have. Durability wise, the synthetic latex lasts much less longer, and develops ruts, dips, body contours, cracking, pilling, and other defects that pure latex does not. And in my research, there are even more factors which make natural latex a much superior product and sleep surface.
The "dark secret" we mention is that a lot of latex mattress manufacturers, and even big name companies making conventional innerspring mattresses that slip a layer of latex into their higher end models to tout the green and wonderfully supportive qualities of latex, falsely use the term "natural latex" and are typically using a blended version.
Usually, this deceptive “witches brew” is 70% chemical latex and only 30% or so natural, just enough to warrant them calling it “natural latex”. The result is a mattress that is stiffer, more difficult to turn on, hotter, and not as comfortable. We'll get into that some more below.
The darker, most insidious secret is that many companies (some shown in the chart below) advertise under search terms like “latex mattress” or “natural latex mattress” and are selling blended latex which is natural latex mixed with petroleum based foams.
So, if you do start shopping, make sure what you are getting is pure latex, and not a blend - ask for pure latex by name, otherwise, you could end up replacing your mattress in a few years and not getting the benefits of pure latex.
Pure Natural Latex – It Offers Much More Than Synthetic Or Blended Versions
Pure, botanically derived natural latex is much more responsive, elastic, livelier and bouncier than synthetic latex or blends of natural and synthetic. This translates into a more instantly responsive and more reactive mattress, without that dead feel.
Also, natural latex does not sleep hot, and repels dust mites due to its unique organic properties, primarily because pure latex has a low pH, meaning it is more acidic, and many organisms will not flourish in these environments.
The anti-dust mite quality makes natural latex appealing to people with hypersensitivity to allergens, too. Further, mold, mildew, bacteria, and fungal organisms will not inhabit natural latex, but the more synthetic there is in the mix, the less of a repellant effect the latex will have, which is why it is important to ask for 100% pure latex, so you can get all of the benefits. In other words, the more you dilute it, the less benefit you receive, and the less comfortable the mattress will be.
Pure Latex also has much more of a buoyant, uplifting quality to it than other materials, which keeps you from having to dig your way out of a rut or gulley when you want to turn over on your bed.
Natural Latex allows you to effortlessly roll from side to back or side to belly, which prevents disruption of natural sleep patterns. Side sleepers, or people who toss and turn tend to sleep much more deeply in consistent REM sleep, because pure latex properly supports and distributes weight, relieves pressure points by spreading load horizontally rather than downward like cheap synthetic foams, increasing pressure and pain.
Despite these benefits of natural latex, most mattress manufacturers use cheaper synthetic latex in their mattresses, or blend natural latex with the less expensive synthetic latex. Why? There aren't any real benefits that I found to the user (although some manufacturers claim synthetic latex is a bit more resilient). The bottom line is cost. It is just less expensive for manufacturers to make a latex bed using synthetic latex or a blend of natural and synthetic than an all natural latex mattress.
By the time the mattresses reach the consumer, though, there isn't a whole lot of difference in price between the synthetic and the all natural latex beds. But since there is a real difference in the comfort, hypo-allergenic and eco-friendly properties of the mattresses, I believe that all natural latex mattresses are by far the superior product and a better value.
And, if you buy a pure latex mattress from a smaller, boutique vendor without a lot of overhead, you’re going to get a better bed, because they don’t need to use the cheaper synthetic latex to compensate for all of the middle men, distributors, and factory reps, who drive mattress prices through the ceiling.
How Pure, Natural Latex Is Made
Botanically derived natural latex is collected in liquid form by hand from the rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis, where it is meticulously gathered, then poured into large vats where it is filtered carefully to remove particulate matter. It is then poured into large molds where it is slowly heated and vulcanized, a process where the liquid latex rubber converts to a flexible, solid state.
There are two methods of vulcanization (the process used to convert the liquid to a solid, rubbery, jiggly form) that are used. The most time tested and standardized technique is the Dunlop method, which yields a more supportive and slightly firmer natural latex, ideal for bottom layers that provide underlying support. The Dunlop pure latex has been around for 60 years, and you can find pure Dunlop mattresses still out there today that are in perfect, factory like condition.
The newest technique, called the Talalay process, is essentially the same general technique, except it includes a flash freeze step which suspends smaller air bubbles in the mold immediately before it is rapidly heated to solidify the latex, resulting in a slightly softer, but equally supportive feel. Ideal for those top comfort layers and provides a softer, cushier, and wonderful velvety finished feel.
How To Shop For A Pure Latex Mattress…What To Look For
If you start shopping for an all natural latex mattress, you'll want to know a little bit about foam density to feel a bit more confident when talking to sales people. The unit of measurement which gauges the softness or firmness of natural latex is ILD (Indentation Load Deflection), which is a term that's tossed around a lot, but don't be intimidated by it, as it is the one tool you can use to compare one manufacturer's mattress to another. It basically is the amount of weight it takes to depress a piece of latex one inch when one square foot of weight is placed on it.
Most manufacturers use natural latex ranging from 18-19ILD for a softer feel (especially the top layers), and 26-30ILD, for a firmer feel on the bottom, but often manufacturers use combinations of various layers to create more specific sensations of support. Many times, these ingredients and their combinations are trade secrets with many companies.
Also, many people get concerned about allergies from latex, especially natural latex. However, natural latex mattresses typically undergo a lot of rinsing (with drinkable water) after they have been vulcanized which removes the powdered proteins which cause these reactions, so it is rarely an issue. Look for companies that use pure latex that has been rinsed and squeezed at least twice during the process.
And, look for smaller companies who can clearly demonstrate that they sell strictly pure latex, (ask if they have in their possession technical documentation that backs up any claims about the purity of their latex - if they do, you will know they are legitimate, but if they don't, move on).
Also, there are now companies who are creating mattresses designed to be more price sensitive by offering a hybrid mattress, which will have a section of latex on top as the comfort layer, and a supportive base layer which provides the foundation for the mattress.
I’ve seen them out there, and I think that there is a marketplace for Latex Hybrid mattresses if you want to save a little money. You typically get a two inch layer of pure latex on top of a synthetic layer of foam beneath, often very closely gauged to feel like the bottom layers of a natural latex mattress - not quite the same feel, but I’ve tried some that were pretty close. Just make sure that the synthetic foam is one of the cleaner, greener, non-toxic foams like a Certi-Pur recommended foam.
Buy a Properly Made Mattress, Not A Bag Full Of Pads That Shift Constantly
Very importantly, I recommend a company that laminates or glues their layers together using a non-toxic adhesive. Many companies employ a scam which is quite deceptive, when selling their latex beds - they sell an unglued mattress which contains several layers that stack one on top of the other, so you can “switch out the layers” to get different feels and combinations. Cheaper to make, cheaper to sell.
It all sounds good, until you get this bag full of layers of latex delivered, stack them inside the accompanying bag, and sleep on it for a few nights. You’ll find yourself unzipping the cover, and constantly restacking and realigning the layers because of shifting during the night.
I suggest buying a finished product. I’ve read a lot of complaints about these kinds of beds, and because latex is highly flexible and stretchy, it only makes sense to buy something that is properly glued together to prevent migration and shifting.
Buy From A Company That Gives You A Decent Trial Period And Warranty
Since there are so many choices on the web selling natural latex mattresses, it all comes down to a few things to consider- but without a doubt, the best choice, usually has something to do with a money back trial. Most companies now offer them, typically 90 or 180 day trial periods. Look for a company that gives you the longest amount of time, and allows you to return the mattress for whatever reason, without questions.
Typically, there may be a small return fee, of $50 -100, which is fair, since the retailer has to pay someone to come to your house and pick up your mattress.
Comparison Chart To Help Weed Out E-Tailers Not Selling Pure Latex Mattresses, And To Help You Find the Best Possible Source..Without Feeling Like You’ve Been Taken.
Recommendations On Where To Purchase
To sum it all up, here’s a quick bullet point list that will help you quickly determine what to look for to help you get the best deal on a pure, plant based, all natural latex mattress:
As you can see, buying a natural latex mattress isn't so easy. Ask lots of questions. When looking around at latex retailers, I was struck by a particular company called Habitat Furnishings and approached them about becoming a sponsor. I really liked their informational, personal approach. And also that they are very clear about what they sell (all-natural “pure” latex mattresses) and they have a strong mission statement as to why. They also offer the longest money back return I found -- a 365 day money back trial.
And, they have a rock solid reputation -- they are a member of the BBB with an A+ rating and guess what? - they’ve got a reasonable return charge of $99, if you don’t like your mattress, and they make it easy, using a nationwide service that will pick up the mattress if you wish to return it within their 365 day trial period, which seems overly generous, but they actually have reviews that mention how easy it is to deal with their staff.
So, if you are interested in finding out more about pure latex mattresses, I think you will learn a lot by Checking Out The Habitat Furnishing Latex Mattress page. Their video about their latex mattresses is great also, and you can read real customer reviews right on their page, which is hooked up to something called Power Reviews. Everything appears to be tied to an outside, legitimate third party source. They offer three models without confusing you, or overwhelming you with too many choices.
Or, if you prefer talking with someone, I noticed that they do offer live phone customer service 9am to 5pm Eastern Time, Monday - Friday, at 800-313-2591. All their staff apparently have years of experience and an in-depth knowledge of natural latex mattresses, and they can help you see if latex may be a solution for your particular sleep needs.
I have found that not all companies selling latex mattresses even offer phone service! They also employ a chat system which is turned on most of the time (unlike other companies I checked out).
Keep in mind, I do not have a financial interest in any company, or receive a commission for sales from anyone I take on as a sponsor. I do ask that companies I review contribute something to the cost of maintaining my site if they wish, which is minimal.
Thanks, Eben Goresko