Organic Latex Mattress Technology

What is natural latex?

First of all, it’s important to distinguish between synthetic latex and natural latex.

Natural latex comes from the sap of the rubber tree. Synthetic latex is a foam that’s been designed to have similar properties to natural latex but is created from the polymerization of petroleum.

While synthetic latex isn’t necessarily bad, it’s not going to be as healthy for you—or the earth—as natural latex.

Natural latex isn’t only naturally hypoallergenic, but it’s also more durable and breathable than synthetic latex. Keep in mind natural latex is more expensive than synthetic latex due to the cost of harvesting the material.

Types of natural latex

When it comes to natural latex, you’ll see two different terms that refer to two types of natural latex production: Talalay and Dunlop.

The Dunlop method was developed in the late 1920s and is the simpler of the two methods. In this process, the liquid sap of the rubber tree is harvested and sent to a production facility, where it’s mixed with a small amount of nontoxic, inorganic ingredients and whipped into an airy batter.

The latex is then poured into a mold and baked in a vulcanization oven at 100ᵒC/212ᵒF into solid form. After that, it’s removed from the mold and washed; then it’s baked for a second time to remove excess moisture.

The Talalay method, which was developed later and has been in use since WWII, is slightly more intensive than Dunlop. As with Dunlop, the liquid latex is whipped into a froth and poured into a mold—but in this case, the mold is only partially filled. After the batter is poured into the mold, a vacuum is created to evenly disperse the liquid latex throughout the mold.

The molded latex is then flash-frozen—a process that pushes carbon dioxide through the latex, making the resulting latex foam light and airy as it solidifies. The frozen latex is baked into a solid form, then removed from the mold, washed, and dried.

Both Talalay and Dunlop produce excellent sleeping surfaces, and the choice between the two will come down to your personal preferences.

Choosing a natural latex mattress

In any case, if you’re looking for a fully natural latex mattress, you’ll have to do your research. Labels like “pure latex” or “made with natural latex” means the mattress is probably made with mostly synthetic latex.

Look for “natural latex” and read the labels! Even better, look for some kind of certification—GOLS, GreenGuard, OEKO-TEX, eco-INSTITUT—to ensure your mattress is free of harmful chemicals.

What is organic latex?

Organic latex is a type of natural latex that’s been certified with an organic seal of approval. Typically, organic latex will have a certification from the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS).

What’s the difference between natural vs. organic latex?

While non-organic natural latex is produced from raw latex using standard farming practices, organic latex is natural latex that’s been farmed without the use of pesticides and under the supervision of monitoring body(s).

GOLS is the organization that typically monitors and certifies organic latex producers. Besides farming practices, GOLS monitors materials sourcing, Fair Trade practices, and wastewater treatment, thereby fully supervising the social and environmental impact of latex production.

GOLS standards are incredibly stringent. For example, one of the GOLS regulations is that all the trees were grown in an area where no chemical fertilizers were used for at least four years.

Organic latex tends to be more expensive than natural latex that hasn’t been certified organic due to the costs associated with the certification process.

Choosing an organic latex mattress

Importantly, if you’re looking for an organic latex mattress, look for a GOLS certification. If the mattress is labeled organic but can’t provide the certification, they probably covered their non-organic latex foam with organic fabric.

If it has another certification (e.g. GreenGuard, OEKO-TEX, eco-INSTITUT) it likely refers to the general non-toxicity of the materials in the mattress (which is great), but this doesn’t guarantee the latex is organic.