What is Latex?
Would you believe me if I told you it was tree sap?
Because it is! Well, mostly anyways.
Simply put, it comes from Rubber Trees grown in the Amazon.
It is a natural resource that has anti-microbial properties, making it ideal for use in mattresses and pillows.
There are also synthetic varieties made from petrochemicals, but these are substantially more harmful to your health as well as that of the planet.
Turning latex into mattresses has been around since the early 1900s. It started with a process known as “Dunlop” and eventually the newer “Talalay” method came onto the scene.
How is Dunlop Latex Made?
Dunlop was invented in the 1920’s by John Boyd Dunlop. His process included the latex being whipped into a foam, injected into a mold, and then baked until firm.
Kind of like baking a cake.
The result is a dense rubber foam with some bounce. It is extremely durable, lasting for decades, and is relatively affordable due to the simple manufacturing process.
How is Talalay Latex Made?
About 20 years after the invention of Dunlop, three brothers – Leon, Joseph, and Ansil Talalay – refined the process by adding a couple of steps after mold injection and before baking.
The result of this process is a more porous latex with a consistent density. It’s still just as durable with the addition of being more breathable. Since the process is more involved, it is a bit more expensive but well worth it.
What’s the Difference?
As you can see, these two processes are quite similar. The only exceptions are the two extra steps in the Talalay method – vacuum and flash freeze.
So how much of a difference does this actually make? Quite a bit it seems!
Consistency and Density
Since Talalay utilizes a vacuum to evenly distribute the latex throughout the mold, the density of each layer is more consistent. Once those particles are frozen in place, they can stay that way while baking.
The Dunlop process, on the other hand, is subject to the effects of gravity. Gravity can cause particles to settle to the bottom of the mold during baking. This makes for an uneven distribution and a denser bottom half.
It’s important to note that density does not equal firmness. Both of these processes can churn out different firmness levels to suit your specific comfort preferences.
Since Talalay only requires the molds to be partially filled before vacuuming, this creates a more open structure in the latex. Greater porosity throughout the material encourages airflow and promotes healthier thermal regulation while you sleep.
Dunlop mattresses and even memory foam mattresses are quite dense in their structure and don’t allow for air to move through. This is why it can be easy to feel like you’re overheating at night when you sleep on these mattresses.
The following videos demonstrate the superior breathable of Talalay Latex compared to Dunlop and memory foam:
The Gold Standard for Latex regulation is known as the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS). This ensures that companies comply with organic standards in regard to sourcing materials, emissions, and any additives or filler materials used. [R]
This certification is currently ONLY awarded to companies producing Dunlop Latex.
If you see this symbol, or a website saying their latex is GOLS certified, this indicates that they are selling Dunlop latex. This can help distinguish between the two if you are looking specifically for Talalay or Dunlop.
So, if Dunlop has GOLS – then how do I know if a company producing Talalay is using certified organic and sustainable materials?
If companies who produce Talalay wish to be certified Organic, they just have to pursue a workaround that is not so straightforward.
SavvyRest boasts they’re the “first and perhaps only company to offer a completely certified organic Talalay latex mattress.” They have certifications through the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) as well as the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).
The FSC works with companies to make sure they are sourcing their rubber from certified organic forests in order to decrease the effects of deforestation and environmental damage. [R]
GOTS has very strict regulations for a variety of textiles and even covers the wool and cotton that create the mattress covers by some companies. [R] If you see this certification, you know the mattress as a whole has been ethically sourced.
These are just a couple out of many different sustainable and organic certifications that Talalay companies can achieve. They should have them listed on their websites and you can dig deeper to make sure they align with your specific needs.
You might have picked up on it throughout the article, but just in case you didn’t, this is the bottom line:
Talalay products are more expensive than Dunlop.
Due to its higher manufacturing costs, Talalay latex just costs more to produce. So you end up paying more at checkout for your pillow or mattress.
At the end of the day, a mattress is an investment that should last a few decades if you’re lucky. Latex mattresses in general hold up to this test as they have the elasticity provided by the rubber to sustain them.
My fiance and I personally chose to pay a little more to have a Talalay mattress. We felt that the added benefit of increased airflow for thermal regulation was well worth the cost.
I’m also more of a side sleeper myself, and the Talalay latex has an increased springiness compared to Dunlop which alleviates side sleeping trigger points better.
Check out my article on The Best Talalay Latex Mattress to decide which one is right for you