Latex Mattresses - A Comfortable and Natural Alternative ... If You Know What To Look For

different stages of making latex mattress
Natural Latex Mattresses Are Made From The Sap Of The Rubber Tree

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?

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. We’ll even suggest who you might buy from at the bottom of this article, and explain why.

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 supportive. 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.

Because of these qualities, latex is very comfortable -- supportive yet cushiony at the same time. It also does not sleep hot, a real problem with many consumers, and, does not off-gas any dangerous and toxic fumes, like memory foam and conventional mattresses do, often because there is so much formaldehyde glue used in their construction, and oil based compounds that put off fumes, often forever.

And, latex is gaining huge momentum because more people are concerned about the growing eco-friendly trend. Latex is perceived as "green" because people think all latex is made from natural rubber. However, in truth, though, only certain types of latex are really made from fluid collected by tapping the rubber tree -- the majority is made from a petrochemical derived product (something I was astounded to find out) called SBR-styrene butadiene rubber. I’ll get into that further on.

So, latex is a hot commodity because it is seen as a healthier alternative to beds made using these non-natural and potentially toxic ingredients. Pure Latex (latex derived from the rubber tree, the sap of which is used to make a true, natural latex mattress) works well for allergy sufferers, and asthma sufferers, since it is considered hypoallergenic, and it is naturally anti-microbial and anti-bacterial as well.

Even better, pure latex is also naturally resistant to dust mites, which can leave egg casings and feces in conventional mattresses, something you don’t want anywhere near where you sleep, right? The combination of these factors has made naturally derived latex the fastest growing segment in the mattress industry.

The Dark Secret Of The "Latex" Mattress

Again, be warned, though, that not all "latex" is the same. One of the secrets of the mattress industry is that "latex" actually refers to two very different substances – pure, botanically derived, natural latex and petrochemical based synthetic latex (SBR). And while natural latex is made from fluid collected by tapping the rubber tree, synthetic latex is made from a calculated mix of chemicals.

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 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 which is much less expensive, that combines the really good stuff- pure plant based natural latex, with the petroleum based, cheaper synthetic latex that simply does not have the elastic, rubbery, quick response feel of the real thing, that is the pure natural latex.

Usually, this deceptive recipe 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.

So, if you do start shopping, make sure what you are getting is pure latex, and not the blended so-called “natural latex”- 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. We’ll help suggest who you might buy from at the bottom of this article, and explain why.

Pure Natural Latex – It’s The Real Thing, Baby

Pure, botanically derived natural latex is surprisingly different from blends of natural and synthetic latex or even all synthetic latex, being more responsive, elastic, and much livelier and bouncier, translating to a more instantly responsive and more reactive mattress, without that dead feel.

Also, natural latex does not sleep hot, and dust mites cannot live in it 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. Some research indicates that dust mites simply avoid latex because of the smell-not anything we can perceive, but to a dust mite, it’s probably pretty bad.

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% natural 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. Sidesleepers, or “flip-floppers” (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, and is just plain more comfortable.

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 are sold to the consumer, though, there isn't a whole lot of difference in price between the synthetic or synthetic blend latex beds 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 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 pay all of the middle men, distributors, and factory reps, which drives mattress prices through the ceiling. We’ll suggest who you might buy from at the bottom of this article, and explain why.

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 not as much a stiffer, supportive sensation. Ideal for those top comfort layers and provides a softer, cushier, and wonderful velvety finished feel.

How To Shop For A 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 that weight is placed on it.

Most manufacturers use natural latex ranging from 18-19 for a softer feel (especially the top layers), and 26-30, 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, but 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 botanical latex, (ask if they have in their possession a MSDS, or Material Safety Data Sheets, on the latex - if they do, you will know they are legitimate, but if they don't, move on). We’ll suggest who you might buy from at the bottom of this article, and explain why.

Just as an aside, most natural latex mattress suppliers also offer natural latex pillows, which are highly flexible and supportive, and a real pleasing alternative to conventional pillows since they are so elastic and are not as hot to sleep on as say, memory foam, or even down pillows, which tend to bottom out.

Don't get reeled in buying the prettiest mattress on the floor because it has the suede side, and the silk braided poofy pillow top with that one layer of so-called latex. I recommend simplicity, and a more leaner, “European” look- the thinner the outer cover, the closer you will be to what you are paying for- pure latex and all of the benefits. And get a pure latex mattress that is latex from top to bottom if you can. Forget about the fancy outer cover, because when you get it home, you’re going to cover it with a sheet!

I’ve seen them out there, and I think that there is a marketplace for Latex Hybrid mattresses, too, 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. We’ll suggest who you might buy from at the bottom of this article, and explain why.

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.

Come on, pay a few dollars more and get 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.It amazes me how many people fall for this commonly used scam in latex mattress sales.

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. There are some companies that allow you to donate a returned mattress, so long as you provide proof of donation and removal of the mattress from your home. I applaud the few companies out there that are doing this-everyone needs a mattress to sleep on.


As you can see, buying a natural latex mattress isn't so easy. Ask lots of questions. It can be difficult to assure yourself of what you are buying (natural or synthetic), and also latex mattresses can be very expensive.

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 $75, and if you don’t like your mattress, you can wrap it up (don’t even have to use the original box) and donate it to a charitable organization-they even allow shelters as a donation option.

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 3 videos are really the best informational source on latex and latex mattresses that I've run across.

Or, if you prefer talking with someone, they do offer live phone customer service 9am to 5pm Eastern Time, Monday - Friday, at 800-231-1651. All their staff apparently have years of experience and an in-depth knowledge of all 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!

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 they contribute something to the cost of maintaining my site, which is minimal, but I researched dozens of companies selling latex mattresses before inviting the one company I recommend, and I even talked to a few of their customer representatives just to get a feel for their eagerness to please, and I was very impressed. Thanks, Eben.