Nobody wants to sleep on a mattress that’s like a bouncy castle, do they? That’s the key to a Talalay latex mattress. It bounces. It springs back. It’s soft and fluffy like sleeping on top of clouds. But…all natural Talalay latex mattresses are hard to find. How do they compare to regular foam mattresses? Foam mattresses are very popular: they are supportive, ultra-comfy, and durable. All told, you spend about a third of your life in bed, and ideally, your mattress will be free of harmful chemicals that can cause a range of serious health problems while cradling you in a soft, supportive cloud of joy while you sleep. Let’s explore the Talalay latex mattress. Is it for you?
Types of Latex Foam for Mattresses
Before we dig into the specifics of Talalay foam mattresses, I thought I’d start with explaining the 3 different types of latex foam. This is important so you can understand which are synthetic, natural or a combination of both. What you find out may shock you because you may have been sleeping on a mattress made with materials that are toxic and could be harmful to your health.
Latex foam mattresses come in three basic types: Synthetic, blended, and natural.
Synthetic latex foam
Synthetic latex foam, which includes memory foam, is made from petroleum-based oils and contains a number of chemical additives, many of which have been deemed dangerous, including formaldehyde and potent flame retardants. These chemical additives off-gas into your home and have been shown in numerous studies to increase the risk of a wide range of health problems, including cancer, obesity, brain damage, and reproductive problems.
Synthetic latex foam is sourced from the same gasoline you put in your car. Image Source.
Natural latex foam
Natural latex foam comes from the thick sap of the rubber tree, which is collected by slicing open the bark and collecting the liquid that seeps out. The bark heals quickly, and a single rubber tree can provide latex for 30 years or more, making natural latex an environmentally friendly and highly renewable material. Natural latex is also naturally biodegradable, anti-microbial, hypo-allergenic, and dust mite-resistant, and it doesn’t off-gas harmful chemicals.
Blended foam, or hybrid foam, is a combination of natural latex and petroleum-based latex.
Natural latex foam for mattresses is processed using one of two different methods that result in two very different products. These methods are the Dunlop process and the Talalay process. Regardless of the method used, the highest-quality natural latex foam will contain at least 95 percent pure latex. Because small amounts of additives, including antioxidants, are required to make latex foam, there is no such thing as a 100% pure natural latex mattress. Remember that when the mattress sale person starts talking!
What is the Difference Between Dunlop and Talalay Latex?
The Dunlop way
The Dunlop process for manufacturing Talalay latex foam has been in use since 1929. Pure, natural latex sap is whipped into a frothy liquid and steam-baked in large molds. The sediments in the sap settle during the baking process, resulting in a denser bottom side.
The Talalay way
The Talalay process was made commercially practical in the late 1940s and is the same as the Dunlop process except for the addition of two steps that create an open-cell structure in the foam. After the frothy latex is poured into a mold, the mold is vacuum-sealed and the contents are flash-frozen before baking to prevent particles from settling and to create a product with a highly consistent cell structure.
You can view this more consistent structure in the 2nd of the 2 images shown below.
Although you may hear claims about how one process is superior to the other, the fact is, neither is universally better than the other. Rather, Dunlop and Talalay are simply different methods used to create products with different properties.
Talalay foam is often compared to fluffy angel food cake and lends itself to sinking luxuriously into bed, while Dunlop is more like firm, dense pound cake and keeps you suspended on top of the mattress. If you like the sound of a Dunlop latex, check out my review on the My Green Mattress Simple Sleep or the Natural Escape (100% Dunlop latex and organic cotton).
The less coarse structure and finer air bubbles inside a Talalay-based mattress is pillow-soft and generally bouncier than Dunlop.
With denser and coarser particles in its structure, Dunlop-based mattress typically has better motion isolation, which means that one partner’s movements won’t disturb the other partner.
Dunlop foam mattresses contains latex as close it’s natural state as possible. The Talalay process requires an extra 2 steps in the latex manufacturing process.
If you like the sound of a Dunlop latex mattress, check out my review on the My Green Mattress Simple Sleep or the Natural Escape (100% Dunlop latex and organic cotton).
Read on for my recommendations for Talalay foam mattress.
Natural vs. Blended Talalay Mattresses
Blended Talalay is more common
Talalay latex mattresses sold in mattress shops are most often of the blended variety. This means that Talalay foam is used for the uppermost comfort layer while synthetic, petroleum-based foam is used for the base support layer and will off-gas volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Talalay has the bounce and the fluffiness that suits being at the top of the mattress not at the bottom where something denser is required.
Natural Talalay is harder to find
Natural Talalay foam mattresses can be more difficult to come by but they are widely available online. They are well worth searching out for their absence of harsh and toxic chemicals. These mattresses and mattresses made with other natural materials like organic cotton and wool are the type of mattresses I am passionate sharing with people that want to know more about them
These mattresses and mattresses made with other natural materials like organic cotton and wool are the type of mattresses I am passionate sharing on this blog with people that want to know more about them.
Talalay Mattress vs. Memory Foam
Memory foam mattresses under the spotlight
Memory foam is made from polyurethane and other chemicals. Memory foam mattresses, including the ever-popular TempurPedic, conform to the contours of your body through a chemical reaction triggered by body heat. These mattresses offer excellent pressure relief and dramatically reduce motion transfer. But the off-gassing of the chemicals used in the synthetic-based memory foam, which continues throughout the life of the mattress, is a threat to your long-term health. Memory foam also traps heat between its surface and your body unless cooling chemicals are added to the mix.
Traditional memory foam mattresses also trap heat between its surface and your body. That’s why memory foam mattresses are often referred to as “sleeping hot”. Scientists and manufacturers keep innovating traditional memory foam to reduce or avoid this tendency for memory foam to retain your body heat, making you sweat and uncomfortable whilst you sleep. Some of these innovations have included:
- Infusing gel particles in the dense foam to help with breathability and cooling (gel memory foam mattress);
- Infusing green tea extract into the foam to make it fresher;
- Infusing activated charcoal into the foam to reduce odors and absorb moisture;
- Adding aloe vera for a kind of aromatherapy when you’re sleeping.
What you need to be aware of is these enhancements to your traditional memory foam mattress are adding synthetic cooling chemicals to an already synthetic mattress. These enhancements potentially add more toxic chemicals that you will be breathing in whilst you sleep at night.
How is Talalay better than memory foam?
I believe a Talalay foam mattress is superior to memory foam. Here’s why:
- It keeps you cooler while you sleep;
- It doesn’t off-gas harmful chemicals;
- It’s far more durable than memory foam, whose support begins to wane after a few years as interior foam cells begin to collapse;
- It springs back, responding to your body movement instantaneously as you change positions or get out of bed. Memory foam takes time to both conform and unconform to your body. Some memory foam leaves you with that sinking feeling like you’re sleeping in quicksand!
Advantages of a Talalay Latex Mattress
Talalay foam mattresses have a few advantages over other types of mattresses.
Talalay foam mattresses are available in a range of firmnesses (is that a word?), so even if you like your mattress on the rock-hard side, you should be able to find one that suits your preferences like soft-firm, medium-firm and hard-firm.
But even a “very firm” Talalay mattress is naturally springy, making it ultra-responsive and excellent for pressure relief.
Talalay is very breathable compared to synthetic latex. This is due to the open-cell structure of the Talalay latex mattress, which enables air to flow all the way through the foam from top to bottom.
Both Dunlop and Talalay latex are naturally hypoallergenic, anti-microbial, and dust-mite resistant, according to an Allergy Consumer Review. A Talalay late mattress is great for allergy sufferers or people with multiple chemical sensitivities.
Talalay is the most consistent latex on the market, thanks to the manufacturing process that keeps sediment and air bubbles suspended rather than allowing them to sink to the bottom of the mattress as with the Dunlop process. That consistency means your body weight is more even supported, no matter where you are on the mattress – the middle or the edge.
Because of its high level of consistency, a Talalay mattress is very durable and won’t lose its supportive features like synthetic and Dunlop foams can. A mattress will last you (on average) 7-10 years. You can expect a Talalay mattress to be more on the 10-year side than the 7-year side. Considering the dollars you invest in buying a good quality mattress, the durability of Talalay latex mattress means you get more bang for your buck!
Disadvantages of a Talalay Latex Mattress
Although Talalay mattresses are superior in many ways to other types of mattresses, they don’t come without disadvantages.
Talalay latex is more expensive than Dunlop latex due to a more intense manufacturing process.
Needs glue (could be toxic)
Talalay mattresses wider than a twin are created with foam pieces that are glued together. Ideally, a nontoxic glue will be used, but it’s important to confirm this with the manufacturer or make sure the mattress is certified by organizations like Oeko-Tex or GreenGuard.
You won’t likely find a pure Talalay mattress in a standard mattress showroom. Online has the best source of these speciality mattresses.
What to Look For When Buying a Talalay Latex Mattress
The biggest thing you need to know before you buy
When you’re in the market for a natural Talalay mattress, you may have trouble finding one in a standard showroom, which means it may be difficult to try out the mattress before you buy it. Although you can return a mattress you buy online, its best to do all your homework, research and know all the facts you need to know before committing to buy a Talalay foam mattress online. doing so won’t be an easy task, so you’ll want to have a good idea of the firmness you want before you make your final selection. The firmness of a Talalay mattress is expressed in
The biggest thing you need to know is what level of firmness you want to sleep on. The firmness of a Talalay mattress is expressed in indentation load deflection, or ILD. Here’s a useful guideline:
- An ILD of 14 to 22 is considered soft;
- 23 to 29 is medium; 30 to 37 is firm, and
- 38 and higher is extra firm.
Ask the right questions
Whether you are in a mattress showroom or buying online, be sure to ask if the mattress is pure Talalay latex or if it’s blended. The documentation may not specify. You’ll want a pure botanical Talalay foam mattress for the healthiest sleep possible.
Be a savvy shopper
Beware of labelling. Companies that manufacture latex mattresses can say their latex is “natural” even though the mattress may contain up to 30% of synthetic latex. That’s why it’s so important to be confident in asking is the mattress is 100% Talalay latex or is the latex used a blend of foams.
I would recommend buying a 100% Talalay foam mattress where you can (for the positive health benefits). Better still if you can afford it, to optimize the health benefits even more, buy certified organic latex.
If you need a mattress larger than a twin size, ask if there is any glue in the mattress and what that glue is made from (chemical or natural materials).
Useful terms and certifications explained
If the latex comes straight from the sap of a “rubber tree”, it’s called natural latex or “botanical latex”.
Thankfully, certifications can help you make the best possible choice for any type of mattress. Certifications basically do all of the legwork for you and serve to offer assurance that a mattress is, for example, all-natural, organic, eco-friendly, free of harmful chemicals, or produced in a socially responsible way.
Here are some of the more meaningful certifications you might find on a Talalay latex mattress:
- Oeko-Tex 100 Standard evaluates products for chemical safety. It tests the raw materials, evaluates the processing method, and tests the final product for hazardous chemical emissions, including emissions related to allergenic dyes, colorants, and chemical flame retardants. If you are looking for a Talalay foam mattress and have allergies or chemical sensitivities, then the Oeko-Tex certification is most important for you.
- GreenGuard evaluates mattresses for emissions of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which are harmful to your health. To test a mattress, it’s placed in a vacuum chamber, and air samples are tested for VOCs with state-of-the-art technologies like mass spectrometry and gas chromatography. If a mattress carries the GreenGuard GOLD certification, it has achieved the highest level of purity and is safe for even vulnerable populations like children and the elderly.
- Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) certification means that a latex foam mattress is organic. This certification covers the growing and harvesting methods of rubber tree farms and the processing of the sap into foam. To be GOLS-certified, 95 percent of the materials in the mattress must be certified organic, and the other five percent can’t contain certain harmful substances such as flame retardants and other dangerous chemicals.
- Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification is similar to GOLS certification but covers only textiles, such as the fabric used to cover a mattress.
- CertiPUR-US certification covers only polyurethane foam and will only apply to blended mattresses. CertiPUR-US prohibits particular chemicals that are found in a wide range of foams but which are hazardous to humans, such as formaldehyde and certain flame retardants.
- Cradle to Cradle is a graded certification that gives a product a score based on five categories: Material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness. The awarded grades are Basic, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.
When in doubt, ask about certifications. It’s your health at stake.
The Top 3 Most-Reviewed Talalay Latex Mattresses on Amazon
If you’re looking to buy a mattress online, which is convenient (if you don’t have to ship it back) and can save you money, you can buy a mattress through Amazon or through the manufacturer or brand. Either way, Amazon can be a helpful tool in finding the ideal mattress for you, thanks to their rating system and robust collection of reviews. Here, then, are three of the most-reviewed Talalay latex mattresses on Amazon:
- Dream Foam Mattress Ultimate Dreams Latex Mattress (Queen). Priced under $599. This 10-inch Talalay latex mattress features a bamboo cover and is made in the USA. With 447 customer reviews, it has a four-star rating. You can read my detailed review on this mattress by clicking here.
Brooklyn Bedding Latex Mattress (Queen). Priced under $800. This mattress features two inches of Oeko-Tex-certified Talalay latex above a two-inch layer of Dunlop latex and is made in the USA. With 243 customer reviews, it has a 4.5-star rating.
Ultimate Dreams Eurotop Latex Mattress (Queen). Priced under $1000. This 12-inch Talalay mattress features a zipper cover over a Eurotop and is made in the USA. With 221 customer reviews, it has a 4.5-star rating.
The Bottom Line on Talalay Latex Mattresses
If you’re looking for a good night of zzz’s on a comfy, durable mattress that doesn’t off-gas harsh chemicals, a Talalay latex mattress may be what you’re looking for. Decide on your budget, do the research, and be sure to choose a pure latex mattress rather than a blended one for the healthiest possible sleep.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide.
May the zzz’s be with you,