The process of turning natural liquid latex into foam that can then be used for mattresses surely is a wonderous process. Who would have thought it possible that by collecting the milky sap from a tree that grows in the tropics and then baking it would turn it into something as soft and durable as foam that you could sleep on? But how is a latex mattress made?
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Latex mattresses that are made by rubber tapping the Hevea brasiliensis rubber tree and collecting liquid natural latex sap, are made into individual layers of latex foam through two main ways. The process of baking latex is called the Dunlop process and is a lot like baking bread, and has been refined over many years. Alternatively, the Talalay method is a curing process that combines natural latex with a minimal amount of chemical curing agents. As such, the Talalay process cannot be referred to as an organic process, whereas Dunlop can be if it is certified as being produced organically and sustainably.
Liquid latex is poured into molds that have a distinctive pattern of thin rods that enable the latex to be baked or cured to consistent conformity. A robot arm spreads the foamy liquid latex in a mechanical production that enables each foam to be consistently manufactured. Latex slabs are then tested, measured, and made to exacting standards. When finished, the foam slabs are washed, dried, and then sliced to the desired thickness. The pinholes in latex slice help define the mattress comfort zones.
Since latex foam is a bit heavier than polyurethane synthetic latex or memory foam products, it is not used everywhere, but is desirable for mattresses and for many reasons, the least of which because it is considered by many to be more comfortable and more durable. Latex foam is produced into slabs of any desired thickness and to many but standard densities specifically for sleeping comfort. Each piece of latex foam can also be configured to provide a truly customized feel. The individual slices of latex foam are then completely encased in a high-quality material cover, usually made from organic material such as cotton or wool, that keeps the layers conformed into a thicker mattress, with zippered access so it can be removed and laundered.
Natural latex that is produced with 100% pure latex can receive designation as being certified organic. Specific natural latex certification ensures that the harvesting and manufacturing and even the packaging process conforms to the highest standards. Certification is one way to reassure consumers that their product has been made sustainably, and is truly organic, made, and without additional chemicals that may create adverse effects.
Foam mattresses are now getting quite popular and have come a long way from the days of the inexpensive dorm room or travel mattress. While there are many types of synthetic foam being used, only natural latex is made from organic sources. Latex items are everywhere – such as gloves, clothing, condoms – but it’s important to recognize that synthetic latex is not the same as natural latex and only just mimics it. Some people have developed sensitivities to synthetic latex, whereas natural latex is hypoallergenic.
Latex mattresses offer unparalleled comfort. They are also very durable and can last past a manufacturer’s warranty beyond 20+ years. Although latex foam is heavier than synthetic foam, it is highly malleable and individually customizable when the layers are made into mattresses. For those who care about the purity of their products, natural, organic latex offers one of the best alternatives to traditional mattresses and synthetic foam.