History, Features and Benefits of Latex Mattresses
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In 1926 Dunlop first developed a process that turned the raw rubber sap collected from rubber trees into a vulcanized latex foam that could be used in bedding. That was the birth of latex being used in mattresses and pillows and many people may be surprised that latex was being used so long ago by the British. It is viewed generally as one of the “newer” materials and in the US, latex mattresses are still luxury items.
Since 1926, of course, the process of latex foam making has not stood still. In addition to the Dunlop latex, which had the feature of being slightly denser at its base than at the top, because of the rubber sediment settling towards the base of the mold, a new process was developed and became widely used in the 1940′s. This is the Talalay method of latex foam making and it adds a vacuum and freezing step to the process which stabilizes the cell structure of the rubber and includes the addition of carbon dioxide before it is heated. This produces a foam of more even density than the Dunlop process.
Talalay latex is marketed as being healthier than the Dunlop method because it is less likely to give off volatile compounds as they age. It is also often marketed as “natural” or “organic” which is not always true because during the process most Talalay latex uses “unspecified curing agents” which may include man-made chemicals, as well as the use of ammonia in stabilizing the liquid rubber. If you are looking at natural latex mattresses be sure that the manufacturer claims are not misleading. There are many synthetic latex materials out on the market now and they will often be used in the cheaper mattresses you see. A manufacturer like Ikea is very upfront about the latex they use and even on their web site they will detail the percentage of synthetic and natural latex in a particular mattress.
Whether you choose Talalay or Dunlop latex may depend on the overall feel you want from your mattress. Talalay provides a more pillowy-soft surface than Dunlop, which is slightly denser and considered to be more durable.
It is the natural springiness and support of latex, as well as its inherent hypo-allergenic, anti-microbial and dust-mite resistant qualities, which makes it an ideal choice in mattress comfort layers. Often nowadays you will see latex mattresses sitting at the top of the range of the established manufacturers, with a few inches of latex foam being used to top off the conventional pocket-spring mattress. It is a combination that offers the best of both worlds but it usually comes at a premium price as the thing you will notice about latex is – it’s not cheap.
Generally the best latex mattresses are well received by owners, who report great motion isolation and general comfort and support levels, as well as good breathe-ability. The main complaint about latex mattresses are that they are heavy, which can make turning and changing the sheets a little harder than standard inner-spring mattresses.