How To Buy A Latex Mattress Without Getting Ripped Off By Retail Stores And E-Commerce Sites
…And How To Get The Best Deal From A Reputable Online Dealer
Natural Latex is still the hottest trend in the mattress industry right now, by far. Almost every big player, including companies that we all of heard about that are reinventing the mattress industry with the bed in the box concept, utilize latex in much of their designs. There are dozens of companies selling beds made exclusively with latex, which appeals to people looking for all natural ingredients without all of the polyurethane foams, but how do you choose the right one? And, why has interest in latex grown so much recently, even though it's been around for sixty years in bedding? And why would you buy one vs. a conventional mattress like a polyurethane foam bed, innerspring, or a memory foam mattress? And which brands are better than others?
What’s All The Hub-Bub About Latex Mattresses?
Read on to discover everything you need to know about latex mattresses, and we’ll arm you with all of the information you need. I became involved with mattress reviewing after a bad mattress shopping experience left me feeling like I‘d been had. I’ve been writing reviews and helpful blogs ever since.
I’ve seen latex mattresses make a roaring comeback in the last few years, and I think a lot of it has to do with consumers becoming bored with conventional bedding options, and being overwhelmed with too many mattress choices, many of which are made using mystery materials that are cloaked in names like "Dream Foam", "Wizard Gel", or other foggy descriptions that never seem to tell us what the material is actually made of. But the biggest reason these days people are hunting for pure latex is more about having a clean, green, chemical free mattress.
Mattress fads come and go, and many are way over-hyped in the media as being "the coolest thing on the planet", such as the Casper mattress, made using a couple layers of relatively inexpensive polyurethane foam, wrapping it in a fancy cover, and getting news headlines in the Wall Street Journal, Gizmodo, and other trendy publications. Companies like them have done very well, thanks to intensive social media ads, and using low cost ingredients in their beds, which allow for big budget advertising.
And then there's memory foam, originally created by NASA for fighter pilots to absorb shock and G-forces, and for a long time it was the only really interesting alternative to polyurethane foams, yet unfortunately, the material tends to sleep hot, and smells bad because it's made with urethane foam and often sandwiched together using formaldehyde based glue, and you have to dig your way out of it, and on and on. Even memory foam, which has taken a wild ride in the last ten years, is starting to slowly fade away in popularity. Off-gassing VOC’s and other noxious materials have always been problematic with these kinds of urethane foam, and there is plenty of convincing evidence that some folks are extremely sensitive. However, in all fairness, memory foam has a vast following, and if you are not looking for a natural material as the primary ingredient in your bed, it’s probably the second best alternative.
All natural latex beds have in fact, been around since the 60's, and many Americans grew up on Sears latex mattresses (no longer available). It can be synthetic, a blend of natural and synthetic or all natural, but in any form, it is bouncy, elastic, stretchy, yielding, and you don't get hot, and you don't have to dig your way out of it.
No VOC's, No Offgassing, No Chemicals
Latex mattresses offer excellent pressure relief, and distributes weight loads laterally, or sideways, rather than straight down. That's what provides the floating like sensation you feel. You can buy natural latex or the synthetic variety, and they tend to be indistinguishable, although folks looking the botanically derived variety can find it several places online. Even synthetic latex rubber is safe to use too, as it is not urethane foam, which is used in the production of memory foam, and contributes to the bad, VOC like odor.
As far as exposure to hazardous substances goes, I would say that the greatest concern when you buy any mattress has to be the use of toxic adhesives, which set very rapidly, rather than drying slowly, because in high volume production operations where you are stamping out hundreds of mattresses a day, efficiency and minimal time invested means more money to the manufacturer.
In the end, I think that latex is really about the most comfortable sleep surface out there -- supportive yet cushy at the same time. It also does not sleep hot, a real problem with many consumers. It is great for side sleepers with painful joints, perfect for back sleepers, since it does not have the wet sand feel of memory foam. It doesn’t mash down like quilted innersprings and other mattresses stuffed with poor quality foam layers or other filler.
Latex has much more of a buoyant, uplifting quality to it than other materials, which keeps you from having to dig your way out of a rut or gulley when you want to turn over on your bed.
Natural Latex allows you to effortlessly roll from side to back or side to belly, which prevents disruption of natural sleep patterns. Side sleepers, or people who toss and turn tend to sleep much more deeply in consistent REM sleep, because latex properly supports and distributes weight, relieves pressure points by spreading load horizontally rather than downward like cheap urethane or high density slab foams, increasing pressure and pain.
One important thing- pure, botanical based natural latex has some unique properties that synthetic latex, and, of course, synthetic foams do not have, is the amazing anti-microbial and naturally occurring dust mite repellant qualities of the material. It also resists mold, mildew, and will not develop ruts or depressions like petroleum based polyurethane foam will.
Latex is made using a unique technique, called vulcanization, meaning using steam and heat to rapidly solidify the liquid foam into the jiggly solid version. There are two processes used to convert the liquid, hand collected rubber tree milky sap into the solid form.
The most time tested and standardized technique is the Dunlop method, which yields a more supportive and slightly firmer latex, ideal for bottom layers that provide underlying support. The Dunlop method of solidifying latex has been around for 70 years, and you can find Dunlop mattresses still out there today that are in perfect, factory like condition. In fact, it is without question the most durable kind of foam in existence. Check out this video (courtesy of Arizona Premium Mattress Company) of a 50 year old latex mattress being opened, only to find that the material is in original, pristine factory condition:
A more recent technology for solidifying the liquid latex is used in the Talalay process, essentially the same general technique, except it includes a flash freeze step which suspends smaller air bubbles in the mold immediately before it is rapidly heated to solidify the latex, resulting in a slightly softer, but equally supportive feel. Ideal for those top comfort layers and provides a softer, cushier, and wonderful velvety finished feel. It’s also best suited for the top layers of a latex mattress, and the Dunlop latex is ideal for a base, or substrate layer.
Incidentally, there is a common myth within the latex mattress industry, and that is that Talalay latex is only available as a synthetic or partially synthetic material. The truth is, you can find synthetic or SBR (styrene butadiene rubber) Talalay, or blended Talalay (some SBR, some natural), or Pure Natural Talalay. Habitat uses all natural Talalay for our top finish layers.
A lot of people ask, why do you use Dunlop latex for the bottom layer of your mattresses rather than Talalay all the way down? The fact is, pure Dunlop latex has been used in the industry for over 50 years and is proven to withstand decades of use, without compressing. Talalay latex is best used, because of it's softer feel, as the top "finish" layer to give the ultimate yielding and body conforming-while still buoyant and uplifting- sensation.
These two ingredients combined offer the most comfortable, supportive, and longest lasting pure latex mattresses you can buy. The ideal latex mattress will disperse and distribute your weight horizontally outward, which reduces pressure and relieves pain.
Also, the instantly responsive, buoyant, super-elastic and lively feel of pure latex floats you up to the surface of the mattress, and you enjoy a more levitating like sensation, enabling you to turn effortlessly, enjoy deeper REM sleep while relaxing muscles, connective tissues, and joints.
How To Shop For A Latex Mattress…What To Look For And What To Avoid.
If you start shopping for a latex mattress, you'll want to know a little bit about foam density to feel a bit more confident when talking to sales people. The unit of measurement which gauges the softness or firmness of natural latex is ILD (Indentation Load Deflection), which is a term that's tossed around a lot, but don't be intimidated by it, as it is the one tool you can use to compare one manufacturer's mattress to another. It basically is the amount of weight it takes to depress a piece of latex one inch when one square foot of weight is placed on it.
Most manufacturers use natural latex ranging from 18-19ILD for a softer feel (especially the top layers), and 26-30ILD, for a firmer feel on the bottom, but often manufacturers use combinations of various layers to create more specific sensations of support. Many times, these ingredients and their combinations are trade secrets with many companies.
Also, many people get concerned about allergies from latex, especially latex. Synthetic latex and natural latex both tend to be hypo-allergenic, and far more people have negative responses to urethane (memory) foams that latex, because of chemical sensitivities rather than allergy issues.
Also, there are now companies who are creating mattresses designed to be more price sensitive by offering a hybrid mattress, which will have a section of latex on top as the comfort layer, and a supportive base layer which provides the foundation for the mattress. These are also worth looking at, though, if you can spring for an all latex mattress, since you get more of the good stuff top to bottom.
And, if you buy a pure latex mattress from a smaller, boutique vendor without a lot of overhead, you’re going to get a better bed, because they don’t need to compensate all of the middle men, distributors, and factory reps, who drive mattress prices through the ceiling. The big foam mattress companies also have limited warranties and return policies, too, another red flag.
I’ve seen plenty of latex hybrids out there, and I think that there is a marketplace for Latex Hybrid mattresses if you want to save a little money. You typically get a two inch layer of latex on top of a synthetic layer of foam beneath, often very closely calibrated to feel like the bottom layers of a natural latex mattress - not quite the same feel, but I’ve tried some that were pretty close. Just make sure that the underlying foam is one of the cleaner, greener, non-toxic foams like a Certi-Pur recommended foam.
As for the exterior fabric on a latex mattress, there are a myriad of choices, but you can keep things simple by adhering to some basic guidelines.
1. Don't get mattress with a lot of quilt in the covering. It is counterproductive and actually mutes the feel of the layers of advanced materials beneath that you are paying for. Quilted covers generally sleep hotter, too. Look for knits, not wovens. The thinner, the better.
2. Avoid wool when used as a support or integral component of the bed. Get a mattress that offers wool woven into the fabric, but not layered underneath the outer cover. Again, wool can be hot for some, and you are dampening the liveliness of the mattress.
3. Try something unique- like a copper fiber, something with some carbon woven into it, or a forward thinking material like Tencel, which is made from at least some natural components and is a natural heat deflector.
Trial Period And Warranties- Make Yourself Bulletproof When Buying A Mattress Online
Shopping for a new bed can be daunting, but you can certainly score a great bed for under $800 in queen, maybe even king, if you compare ingredients, look for a decent no questions asked trial period of at least 90 days, and get a good solid warranty of at least 10 years, covering any defect or damage to the bed. We also recommend looking for a bed with a removable outer covering, which allows you to replace the cover in the event it is damaged.
Look for companies that are BBB A+ rated companies, and display the live link logo. If you can’t find these on a company’s web site, you shouldn’t really be shopping there, in our opinion. Beware of strangely unheard certifications on web sites too, like “TrustDoctor” or “Certified by The American Foam Institute”, often creative graphic design by the owner of the web site, and not a genuine third party organization. Honestly, BBB and Consumer Reports are the only two organizations that are truly vetted and believable. Good luck!
Buy a Properly Made Natural Latex Mattress, Not A Bag Full Of Pads That Shift Constantly
Very importantly, I recommend a company that laminates or glues their layers together using a non-toxic adhesive. Many companies employ a scam which is quite deceptive, when selling their latex beds - they sell an unglued mattress which contains several layers that stack one on top of the other, so you can “switch out the layers” to get different feels and combinations. Cheaper to make, cheaper to sell.
It all sounds good, until you get this bag full of layers of latex delivered, stack them inside the accompanying bag, and sleep on it for a few nights. You’ll find yourself unzipping the cover, and constantly restacking and realigning the layers because of shifting during the night.
I suggest buying a finished product. I’ve read a lot of complaints about these kinds of beds, and because latex is highly flexible and stretchy, it only makes sense to buy something that is properly glued together to prevent migration and shifting.
Buy From A Company That Gives You A Decent Trial Period And Warranty
Since there are so many choices on the web selling latex mattresses, it all comes down to a few things to consider- but without a doubt, the best choice, usually has something to do with a money back trial. Most companies now offer them, typically 90 or 180 day trial periods. Look for a company that gives you the longest amount of time, and allows you to return the mattress for whatever reason, without questions.
Typically, there may be a small return fee, of $50 -100, which is fair, since the retailer has to pay someone to come to your house and pick up your mattress.
Recommendations On Where To Purchase
To sum it all up, here’s a quick bullet point list that will help you quickly determine what to look for to help you get the best deal on a pure, plant based, all natural latex mattress:
- Make sure you are offered a decent return guarantee, at least 90 days.
- Get a latex mattress with a decent cover, like cotton or bamboo.
- Buy a latex mattress that uses non VOC adhesives to avoid fumes and toxins.
- Get a decent warranty, I’d say at least 15 years, with 5 years minimum free replacement if the mattress fails in any way.
- Look for BBB Online ratings, preferably A or A+, with the live link on the site.
- Consider sites that offer true third party reviews that link to outside sources.
- Buy from a site that is at least 10 years old- many sites go out of business in 2-3 years, and then you are stuck with a warranty that is useless.
- Buy a latex mattress that is top to bottom latex with no synthetic foam base, to insure you get the maximum benefit all the way down, and don’t bottom into something that will break down over short periods of time.
- If you do consider a Hybrid (made with latex in combination with polyurethane foams, make sure the warranty covers it for 10 years or more.
If you've just your quest for the perfect mattress online, you're probably looking at a lot of foam beds, including the big name "bed in a box" brands that chase us all over the internet, on social media, and even to our offices and homes. One think you may not notice, that I do, from being in the bedding business for more than 20 years, and inventing and designing, then marketing and selling dozens of foam beds online myself, is that they are kind of all the same. A big slab of polyurethane foam on the bottom, padded with a really cool mint green layer of memory foam, which is still polyurethane foam, and then another layer of "graphite infused" cooling gel foam, which is, you guessed it, yet another slab of polyurethane foam. There are probably 50 of them that are prominently featured in search results on Google, and they basically all feel the same.
Did you ever consider that all of these beds are made from petroleum based materials, and are glued together with a petroleum based adhesive? Wrap it up in a polyester cover and you've got what I call the perfect chemical bed. I'm not going to say they are toxic, though in my years selling pure latex beds I spoke to many people with allergies to synthetic foam, formaldehyde based adhesives, and smell sensitivity, who would tell me often, "I had to return my polyurethane mattress because it was making me sick and giving me hives".
If you are sensitive to chemical smells, or breakout in strange rashes when exposed to bedding products, synthetic clothes, and you are looking for a safe, clean, "non-toxic" mattress. I urge you to consider an all natural latex mattress.
There are a few different reasons behind the rising interest in all natural latex mattresses. One theme we hear is from people interested in a "green" mattress option. This can include those that want a mattress made of all natural ingredients, those wanting to buy a mattress made from sustainable materials, or those that want to assure that their bed isn't off gassing any unnatural materials into their bedroom.
And while there are other materials that offer some of these "green" qualities, such as organic cotton or wool, none of them have the same buoyant and elastic characteristics that a latex mattress offers. Cotton mattresses, much like futon mattresses, pack down over time and get much firmer, and while wool makes a very nice comfort layer, you still need a good mattress "core" or base, to layer the wool on top of.
Others find Natural Latex interesting because of its hypo-allergenic, anti-bacterial, and anti-dust mite qualities. These organisms do not thrive in natural latex, and it's the only bedding component that has these amazing qualities. Almost everyone is allergic to dust mite feces and egg casings, which accumulate on polyurethane mattresses by...you got it, the millions. The only dust mite free sleep surface is an all natural latex mattress.
And finally, there are a fair amount of people that just haven't been able to find a comfortable bed. Since all of the popular polyurethane foam beds basically feel the same and do not offer anywhere near the pressure relieving qualities and buoyancy and levitating feel that only pure latex offers, why are they even considering them as an option? Often they have specific pain issues they are trying to address, but others have tried all sorts of other mattress options and just can't get a good night's sleep.
And the truth is, that despite all the hype in the industry about latex, it really is a great option for these different kind of customers. There is no "greener" mattress than an all natural latex mattress, and it can be a very effective choice for those that have chemical sensitivities or other allergy concerns.
The most important reason latex has become the current "hot" product, though, is that it is a uniquely comfortable sleep surface. Latex is both a very dense surface, but also because of its elastic properties, still has a yielding, giving, and conforming quality. So for those that just haven't been able to get a good night's sleep or have unrelieved pain issues, a latex mattress is a top of the line alternative that has a very different feel, offers unparalleled comfort and support, that may well do the trick..
ALL LATEX MATTRESSES AREN'T CREATED EQUAL
Be warned, though, that not all mattresses called "latex mattresses" are the same. How can this be? Well, it is a long story that boils down to this - synthetic latex was created during World War II (to help deal with shortages of the natural latex needed for the war effort), and these days a mattress is considered latex regardless of whether it is made of natural latex (made from the sap of the rubber tree) or of synthetic latex (made from petrochemicals), or more commonly a mix of synthetic and natural latex (referred to, in the industry, as a "blend" of latex).
Why should you care about this? Well, if you are interested in a latex mattress because of its "green" or natural properties, you would want to make sure that the "latex" mattress you are looking at is made of natural, plant derived latex (rubber tree sap) and not chemicals. Further, while natural and synthetic latex may look the same under the microscope, in real life they have somewhat different feels and, some claim, differing levels of durability (although, to be honest, I've heard the natural and synthetic latex purveyors both argue that their product is more durable, and not having a degree in chemistry I just don't which side has the more compelling argument).
SO WHAT DO I RECOMMEND? FOR BOTH COMFORT AND A CHEMICAL FREE SLEEP, GO WITH NATURAL LATEX
After looking at a variety of natural and synthetic latex mattress offerings, based on pure comfort I strongly prefer natural latex. I'll be honest with you though, when you start to look critically at latex you step into very deep water. While I've mentioned the basic difference in latex, natural vs synthetic, you also get into how the latex was actually manufactured.
There are two methods, the original Dunlop method, which is the longstanding, traditional method and primarily used for making natural latex, and the newer Talalay method, which is primarily used for making synthetic latex (although, to add to the complexity, you can find some natural Talalay latex, but a real premium price to natural Dunlop latex).
Without trying to put you to sleep, here is a very short description of how latex is made -- understanding this a bit will make you much more informed consumer and give you a much better understanding of just what to look for when buying a latex mattress.
HOW NATURAL LATEX IS MADE
Natural latex is collected in liquid form by hand, then poured into large vats where it is filtered carefully to remove particulate matter. It is then poured into large molds, emulsified with water and air bubbles, then it is slowly heated and vulcanized, a process where the liquid latex rubber converts to a flexible, solid state.
As I mentioned above, there are two methods of vulcanization used to produce solid latex. The oldest technique, and the most time tested, is the Dunlop method, which yields a more supportive and slightly firmer natural latex. The newest technique, called the Talalay process, is essentially the same general method, except that it includes a flash freeze step which suspends smaller air bubbles in the mold immediately before it is rapidly heated to solidify the latex, resulting in a slightly softer, less supportive feel.
Here's my bottom line: natural latex made using the Dunlop method has a somewhat firmer and more buoyant feeling that Talalay latex. And since Dunlop latex is less expensive than Talalay, you get a cost savings as well. So for these reasons, I prefer my latex natural and Dunlop. One caveat: you can get a bit of the best of both worlds if you make a combo mattress with a core of Dunlop and a top layer of Talalay (the Dunlop "core" gives you the good support and basic comfort, and the softer Talalay top gives a softer, more luxurious feel, right up next to you).
OTHER ADVANTAGES OF NATURAL LATEX
Another plus of natural latex is that it doesn't sleep hot, and dust mites and other microbial organisms do not thrive in the material due to its unique organic properties. Natural latex is also durable, resists packing down, and forming body impressions as well. Because of its buoyant and highly elastic qualities, it allows you to easily roll from side to belly or side to back, which prevents disruption of natural sleep patterns.
Why, then, with all these benefits of natural latex, do most mattress manufacturers use cheaper synthetic latex in their mattresses, or blend natural latex with the less expensive synthetic latex? There aren't any real benefits to synthetic latex over natural that I found to the user (although some manufacturers claim synthetic latex is a bit more resilient). And there are a lot of detriments (synthetic latex isn't made of natural ingredients, I like the consistency and feel of natural rubber over synthetic, natural has anti-bacterial and other hypo-allergenic qualities, etc). The bottom line is cost. It is just less expensive for manufacturers to make a latex bed using synthetic latex or a blend of natural and synthetic than an all natural latex mattress.
By the time the mattresses are sold to the consumer, though, there isn't a whole lot of difference in price between the synthetic or synthetic blend latex beds and the all natural latex beds (just better margins for the manufacturers by using synthetic latex). But since there is a real difference in the comfort, hypo-allergenic and eco-friendly properties of the mattresses, I believe that all natural latex mattresses are by far the superior product and a better value.
HOW TO SHOP FOR A LATEX MATTRESS
Ok, so in a nutshell, here are my 8 Bullet Points to consider when shopping for a great latex mattress. These are the important considerations you should be looking for to get a decent deal on a well crafted latex mattress.
- I prefer 100% natural latex over synthetic or blended beds -- natural latex just has a livelier, more responsive, and has more elastic qualities than the synthetic or blended mattresses. Natural latex just has a more comfortable feel. In addition, natural latex, is durable, resists packing down and forming body impressions. It offers other advantages that the synthetic Latex doesn't have, such as the naturally anti-dust mite, anti-mold and anti-mildew qualities, the hypo-allergenic qualities, and it is a chemical free bed that will does not off gas.
- Look for simplistically designed, uncomplicated natural latex mattresses. This will minimize problems with shifting layers and migration of contents. Avoid mattresses with excessive zones or "cut up" designs.
- Dunlop natural latex on the bottom, Talalay natural latex on the top, if you are going to go for a mattress with multiple layers. The Dunlop layer provides a good foundation or substrate layer, offering support, while a Talalay latex top layer offers a luxurious feel to the mattress.
- Look for a breathable outer covering, preferably a wool blend that contains no chemical fire retardants. Also, the covering should not be excessively thick or quilted, so that you remain in close contact with what you are paying for...latex.
- Buy from a reputable company, with easily accessible, independent third party reviews, so you can read what other people are saying who have already purchased latex mattresses from this company. That way, you can avoid the litany of trials and tribulations I often hear about from people who have spent a lot of money on a mattress, only to find that if it isn't working out for them they have no recourse.
- Search for genuine reviews on third party review sites, like Google, or TrustPilot, or SleepLikeTheDead.Com and not fake review sites.
- Most natural latex dealers also have great organic fabric coverings, like bamboo, organic cotton, or blends of New Zealand wool. Hemp is now becoming more popular as a fiber used in mattress encasements or ticking.
- Look for a solid BBB rating, generally A or A+ and make sure you can click on the image to go directly to the BBB.org page.
I hope this sort of thing never happens to you, but I hear all the time from people that have had a bad experience with mattress retailer and/or company -- and feel they have been really taken advantage of. Sometimes it is that they can't get their money-back from the retailer for their brand new mattress that, unfortunately, just isn't working out for them. To late they learned that most retailers offer no comfort guarantee, and those that do offer something offer only an in-store "merchandise credit" -- less a return cost, etc. And since there is often not another mattress at that store that really is of interest, all too often this is just lost money.
So please, don't fall into these sort of traps that other customers have fallen into. Look for third party verification of a mattress retailer, so you know upfront if this is someone who will take care of you, and not fall back on the "standard of conduct within the mattress industry" that may leave you high and dry.
After my own disappointing experiences with mattress manufacturers (not living up to their agreement, shutting down operations suddenly with no provision made for past customers, etc.), I can only urge you to try to look for this sort of third party verification of a retailer before you spend what can easily be thousands of dollars on a new latex mattress. If it doesn't work out for you, or you have warranty issues, it is really important that you picked a dealer that will make things right so you don't end up getting stuck.
Look for a solid warranty, at least 10 years, with full replacement guarantees for at least several years. A reputable dealer will back up their product. You should be able to easily obtain a copy of the warranty.
A trial period that allows for returning the mattress should you decide it just doesn't work for you. At least 60 days, preferably 90 or more, is a respectable time frame to give you time to evaluate a mattress thoroughly.
Freebies and extras that encourage you to buy, are nice to have. Latex pillows and other products that further enhance your mattress will only add to your experience.
Think about buying an all natural latex mattress..for your health.