With body-contouring support and cooling comfort, latex mattresses have become very popular in recent years. Latex is revered for its flexibility and strength. Derived from the rubber tree, this natural material is used in a wide range of applications. Mattress producers have turned to latex as a more durable alternative to memory foam. To produce the latex used in mattresses, manufacturers employ one of two methods: the Dunlop or the Talalay process. While one or the other type of latex might be used to produce mattresses, sometimes both are featured. The Dunlop process has some advantages over the Talalay that we will outline here. If you’re considering purchasing a latex mattress, you will want to have some knowledge of latex produced by either process so you can select the right mattress for you.
The Dunlop Process
Developed in 1929, the Dunlop process of producing latex for mattresses begins with liquid latex extract. Manufacturers whip the liquid latex into a foam and then inject it into molds for shaping. The mold is then baked in a vulcanised oven. After this initial baking, producers remove the molded latex and wash it. They then return it to the oven so that any excess moisture is removed during the heating process.
FEATURES OF DUNLOP LATEX
Dunlop latex is known to be firmer than Talalay latex; so, it makes for an ideal mattress core. Whipping the latex during production makes it frothy and foamy, which leads to firmer composition after baking. Although Talalay latex has a reputation for being softer than Dunlop, manufacturers are now producing Dunlop latex for the soft top layers of mattresses.
The Dunlop method is less cumbersome to employ than the Talalay process. The means that the process also tends to be less expensive–and customers can see the cost savings simply by comparing price tags for the different latex mattress types. The Dunlop latex provides soft but firm support. Because latex is a durable material, Dunlop mattresses tend to enjoy longer-lasting use than memory foam mattresses.
THE TALALAY PROCESS OF MANUFACTURING LATEX
The Talalay process has been employed since the 1940s. While it shares various production similarities with the Dunlop process, it is more complex which increases production costs. To make latex using the Talalay method, manufacturers also use liquid latex extract and whip it into froth. They also inject the froth into a mold. Instead of filling the mold, however, they only fill the mold part of the way.
Next, they vacuum seal the mold. This step allows the latex to expand and fill the mold. In essence, producers use less extract to create the needed latex, but the processing involves more time and, of course, the vacuum sealing. After the latex fills its mold, it goes through a flash-freezing process. Freezing pushes carbon dioxide through the latex material, making it even lighter as it transforms from its liquid to solid state. At this point, manufacturers finally bake the frozen latex and remove and wash it. After washing, they dry the latex thoroughly.
FEATURES OF TALALAY LATEX
Talalay latex is known for its softness. Because it’s less dense than Dunlop latex, it’s not typically used for the mattress core. Mattress manufacturers, instead, tend to feature Talalay latex in the top layers of the mattress. Sleepers who prefer a soft mattress that’s less firm and dense than Dunlop latex will likely prefer latex produced by the Talalay process. Though more costly, latex produced by the Talalay method is usually not as durable as the more rigid Dunlop latex.
Manufacturers of both Dunlop and Talalay latex are beginning to add a step to their manufacturing process for some products: latex aeration. They believe that aerating the latex layers allows for improved breathability of the mattress. Producers also aerate the layers because they report that it leads to a ‘cooler’ sleep experience as less heat becomes trapped within each layer.
LATEX MANUFACTURING AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Latex use for mattresses is eco-friendly and favoured among environmentally conscious consumers, but Dunlop latex boasts a less impactful environmental footprint than Talalay latex. That’s because its production involves fewer steps in the manufacturing process. In any case, both types of latex mattresses involve less complex manufacturing than synthetic mattresses do.
WHAT ABOUT SYNTHETIC LATEX?
Both Dunlop and Talalay latex are natural products. The latex extract used to create both comes directly from the sap of rubber trees. It’s important to be aware that some latex mattresses are made from synthetic latex or even a blend of natural and synthetic latex, and this may affect your purchasing decision. Synthetic latex is generally made from petrochemicals such as butadiene and styrene. These materials, though entirely synthetic, mimic many qualities of natural latex and sleepers may not be able to easily note the differences.
When shopping for latex mattresses, keep in mind that a blended mattress may only contain 30 percent natural latex. Some of the complaints that consumers report in association with synthetic latex mattresses is that they retain more heat and emit a strong, displeasing rubbery odour. Synthetic latex mattresses may also come with slightly reduced manufacturer’s warranties.
Choosing a mattress is an important decision because it is a place that you will spend a lot of your time. Purchasing a quality, well-suited mattress is an essential investment and strongly influences your daily comfort. There are some real benefits to choosing natural latex over synthetic latex mattresses and over other mattress types like memory foam. Natural latex is eco-friendly and provides a comfortable, body-contouring support experience. However, it may not be the right choice for people who have allergies to latex. If you’re considering a latex mattress be sure to consider the Dunlop type for its firm support and durability and the Talalay type for its softer support. Many latex beds are now produced with a Dunlop core and Talalay top layer for people who prefer a softer mattress. Explore the various options and layer arrangements to find one that is ideal for you.