From polyurethane molding, steel or metal coils, and gel beads, mattresses include a wide range of materials. While the majority are foreign to most, these components are instrumental in how mattresses feel, and more importantly, how they impact your sleep and overall health.
Perhaps one of the lesser-known materials is Talalay latex, renowned for its durability and the way in which it makes nighttime turning feel almost effortless, as compared to its memory foam- and spring-forged cousins. Harvested from rubber trees, concentrated down, and molded from natural rubber to latex-foam rubber, Talalay undergoes an incredible process that creates a material ideal for a perfect night's sleep.
Natural latex is a rubber made from the rubber tree. Since the composition of latex can differ from plant to plant, most of the rubber comes from one species of tree called the Hevea Brasiliensis, a tropical native to South America. Latex is found in the form of a cloudy, white liquid that can be extracted from these trees. In order to go from the raw liquid to the processed latex we see, it must be harvested and processed. The sap can be tapped after the trees reach approximately six years of age, according to Rainforest Alliance.
From The Tree To The Factory
To harvest the rubber, the trees are tapped similarly to maple trees. A thin layer of bark is removed from a small area and the raw material is funneled into a container. To prevent clumping, manufacturers mix a marginal amount of ammonia with the raw material, otherwise, the rubber tree extract wouldn’t be suitable for processing.
This is where the latex process differentiates from the rubber process. To make latex, the raw material is sent to a processing station where it’s strained to remove particles, and then concentrated. Next, the latex is placed in a centrifuge to help further concentrate the rubber by removing some of the water. At this point, the latex can go through two methods of processing: either the Dunlop or Talalay process.
What is Dunlop Latex?
Latex manufacturers have been using the Dunlop process for decades. Basically, the thick rubber liquid is placed in a centrifuge, molded, covered and baked. The final product is a durable material especially suitable for mattresses.
What is Talalay Latex?
Talalay, which is a relatively new process, is a more sophisticated production method that transforms quality natural rubber into molded pieces of latex foam rubber. The process is similar to Dunlop latex production, but includes two additional steps: an aluminum pincore mold and flash freezing. This prevents the particles from settling to the bottom, thereby resulting in a more consistent cell structure.
The Talalay process
- A cocktail of ingredients, including liquid latex, soaps and rubber-curing agents, are blended together, forming a batter.
- Transferred to a pressroom, the batter is frothed and subsequently injected into an aluminum pincore mold, which creates the latex's aerated cell structure. The mold is sealed and a vacuum is pulled to extract air and completely fill the mold cavity with foam.
- What makes the Talalay process unique is its freezing stage, which ensures consistency. The batter is frozen at a temperature of -20.
- The latex goes from sub-zero temperatures to intense heat, as carbon dioxide is added to whip the recipe into a frothy state. The material is baked at 220 degrees in order to achieve the necessary solid state.
- The solid latex is cooled and removed from the mold.
- The latex travels on a conveyer belt in a multi-stage process that includes a freshwater rinse to remove the material of natural latex proteins and other elements.
- The Talalay latex is then dried.
- Finally, the latex undergoes a rigorous test to ensure it meets high-quality standards.
Talalay Vs. Dunlop
Although the Talalay and Dunlop processes are similar, the latex they produce has many differences.
The Talalay process produces latex with a more buoyant, springy, and weightless feel, while the Dunlop process creates a denser latex that doesn’t bounce back.
The Dunlop process allows the particles in the material to settle on the bottom of the mold, making one side firmer. The flash-freezing step associated with Talalay solves Dunlop's inconsistency problem, because it prevents particles from falling to the bottom. Each piece is robotically tested in nine areas for consistency and uniformity, to ensure the best-quality product.
Since the Dunlop process produces non-elastic latex, it doesn’t conform to the body as well, nor offer as much pressure relief. Talalay, however, produces latex that relieves pressure up to 33 percent better than the Dunlop process and other foam mattresses.
Dunlop latex has a smaller cell structure, which reduces breathability and causes it to trap heat. Talalay, on the other hand, creates an open-cell structure, which provides the material with full ventilation, and allows for unimpeded air flow.
Talalay produces latex that is three times more durable than its Dunlop counterpart. Thanks to its unique round cell structure, the material doesn’t break down upon compression. However, Dunlop latex produces a snowflake cell structure that breaks down when similarly compressed.
Benefits of Talalay Latex
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, dust mites are one of the most common causes of year-round allergies. Talalay latex is naturally dust mite-resistant, and basically acts like a shield to prevent such arthropods from latching onto the mattress. The material also goes through the aforementioned freshwater washer, cleansing it of allergic, reaction-causing agents.
Producing this type of latex is environmentally friendly from start to finish, beginning with the harvesting of the latex itself. Trees are not harmed during harvesting, and as an added bonus, they quickly absorb carbon dioxide and help reduce greenhouse emissions.
The manufacturing process doesn’t use harmful chemicals that damage the environment or ozone layer, either. It keeps energy and water conservation in mind, and utilizes natural ingredients from renewable resources and water-based raw materials. Latex is also biodegradable, so it won’t sit in a landfill for years.
Although this latex may have a slight smell at first, it is made of only natural materials, and does not give off Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), like many other synthetic materials.
It is mold- and mildew-resistant and is inherently antibacterial and antifungal.
Why It’s Great In A Mattress
In many ways, Talalay latex seems an obvious mattress-making material. It has an embracing feel, and molds to your body, making it perfect for back, stomach, and side sleepers alike. It has a similar feel to memory foam, but without heat retention and sinking. It transforms your sleep and offers both a comfortable and healthy sleeping experience. Choosing a Talalay latex mattress is extremely beneficial to your sleep.
Talalay's unique cell structure creates a natural buoyancy. This “springy” feeling results in a mattress that is responsive to your body, meaning, the more pressure you apply, the more it supports you while you sleep. This provides "uplifting” support to help keep your body, spine, neck, and head aligned and reduce associated pains. It also enables your muscles to relax, and maintain critical blood flow.
A Cleaner And Healthier Sleeping Experience
Talalay latex is one of the healthiest and cleanest materials on the market. It is both hypoallergenic and environmentally friendly, thanks to a five-step fresh washing process that eliminates residual soaps, curing agents and proteins (which can often cause allergies).
Dust mites latch onto mattresses, are a common trigger of year-round allergies, and could exasperate existing asthma conditions, causing difficulty breathing and chest tightness, among other issues. Dust mites feed off human skin, which you may shed during sleep. Various scientific studies have shown that pillow or mattress covers do little to reduce dust mite allergies.
Over time, our mattresses become home to bacteria, mold, fungi, and other harmful microbes that we breathe in while we sleep, and in some cases, can cause health problems. Talalay is mold- and mildew-resistant, as well as antibacterial and antifungal, so your mattress remains bacteria-free.
Our mattress materials are Oek-Tex certified, meaning independent testers have determined no harmful substances exist.
A Cooler Sleep
Thanks to Talalay's large open-cell structure, sweaty nights are now a thing of the past. It is naturally breathable and maintains the ideal temperature while you sleep.
Perfect For Couples
Unlike springs, Talalay latex has no motion transfer. This means you're less likely to be woken up when your partner gets up or rolls over in their sleep.
A Long-Lasting Mattress
Since it is signifcantly more resilient and durable, a Talalay mattress has a lifespan of more than a dozen years, dwarfing the seven-year average of the standard mattress.