If you are still considering the type of mattress you want to buy and are looking at latex, you’ve probably heard the term “Talalay Latex” by now. What does that mean? Is it a brand? Is it a variety of latex? Actually, it’s neither. It’s a process used to make the latex into solid pieces of foam rubber. The process was developed in the 1940s by three guys with the last name Talalay, so it is named after them.
But first, let’s start with latex rubber itself. Latex rubber is a natural product that comes from the sap of rubber trees. Rubber trees are grown on plantations in places like South America and Malaysia, and they typically make rubber for up to 30 years. To tap the latex, someone will remove strips of bark, which causes the tree to drip the liquid latex that has to then be processed for whatever its end use will be.
For mattresses, which consist of very large pieces of latex foam rubber, there are two main processes. There is the Dunlop process, and the Talalay process.
The Dunlop process is a pretty simple process, where the rubber can settle in the mold and where the resulting material that comes out might be firmer on one side than the other. The material in general will also have an overall higher firmness. Dunlop material is also usually heavier.
With the Talalay process, the manufacturer will take liquid latex, put it into a mold where all air is vacuumed out. Then the mold is frozen to stabilize the molded material, and injected with carbon dioxide, and then heated up so that the rubber becomes vulcanized and will hold its shape permanently.
With either method, the mold where you pour the latex rubber will have pins in it, which leaves air holes. You can vary the number of pins and the size of the pins to make the mattress perform differently.
There is a lot of additional room for changing the properties of the mattress using the Talalay process, so you can make it softer or firmer.
When you are using latex as the core of the mattress, either method is pretty suitable. But for the layer at the top of the mattress that you feel, you might want to look for Talalay.
Keep in mind that latex can either mean completely natural latex rubber that comes from rubber trees, or it can be a blend of natural and synthetic latex rubber (made from styrene butadiene), or it can be completely synthetic rubber. Completely natural rubber latex is the most expensive. Blends are common. Purely synthetic latex is typically on the low end on the cost scale.
Here is an example of a competitively priced Talalay latex mattress that comes well reviewed on Amazon, and on many of the mattress forums.
Did I leave anything out? Do you still have questions about Talalay latex mattresses? Leave a comment, and if I don’t know the answer, I’ll try to figure it out.