Latex mattresses are made of 100 percent latex, and offer firm, supportive comfort that can last for decades. Though they are largely considered to be some of the highest-quality mattresses available, the truth is that all latex mattresses are not created equal. Latex mattresses can be hypoallergenic, "green," and eliminate aches and pains, but only if you make the right choices when you buy one.
One hundred percent natural latex mattresses are a "green" option, made from sustainable and natural products; these mattresses are also hypoallergenic, anti-bacterial, dust mite resistant and great for people sensitive to chemicals.
Natural latex, made from rubber tree sap, and synthetic latex, made with chemicals, look identical under a microscope, but have surprisingly different benefits. The biggest benefit of synthetic latex is price; synthetic latex or "blend" mattresses (made of both natural and synthetic latex) are cheaper for the manufacturer than 100 percent natural latex mattresses. While they are slightly cheaper for the consumer as well, they do not have the hypoallergenic benefits of natural latex, and they are not "green."
Dunlop vs. Talalay
There are two methods of vulcanizing latex, or producing solid latex out of rubber tree sap. The Dunlop method produces firm and supportive latex, and is primarily used to make natural latex; the Talalay method is newer, and most commonly used for synthetic latex, though either method can be used to make natural or synthetic. The methods are very similar, but the Talalay includes an extra step that freezes smaller air bubbles into the latex. Because of this step, Talalay latex is softer and less supportive than Dunlop latex. However, both are of equal quality and your decision should be based on personal preference.
Avoid latex mattresses with too many zones or layers, as this may lead to an unstable or uneven mattress as the layers shift on each other over time. One of the benefits of a latex mattress is that latex makes a great core as well as a great top layer, so the multiple layers that make up spring mattresses are not needed. However, if you decide to buy a layered latex mattress, a good option is to buy a dual-layered one, with Dunlop latex as the core, and Talalay latex on top. This allows you to enjoy a firm, supportive core with a slightly softer top.
Some latex mattresses have a soft, non-latex layer on top, such as wool or cotton, which serves as a cushion between you and your mattress. Avoid mattresses with thick top cushions, because what this layer really does is separate you from the latex---what you are paying so much money for. Also, many non-latex mattresses now include a layer of latex, but these are not truly "latex mattresses." To get all the benefits of a latex mattress, make sure you are buying 100 percent latex.
- Photo Credit hotel bedroom image by TheThirdMan from Fotolia.com
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