What You Need to Know Before Buying a Latex Mattress

…7 questions you should ask before making a buying decision

Shopping for a latex mattress isn't as easy as it might seem. Below we have outlined 7 reference points along with questions to ask your latex mattress retailer to better guide you through the buying process. With so many self-proclaimed mattress experts touting their product as the best on the market, it is important to have some sensible guidelines to follow in your buying decision:

1. Not all Latex is the Same

Natural Latex vs. Blended Latex

Question You Should Be Asking
Is the latex 100% natural or is it a blend ?
Latex Foam Bed Mattress
Talalay Frothing Process - produces a much higher quality latex foam as the weaker air bubbles are removed

Several retailers on the web and otherwise make the claim that their latex mattresses are produced with 100% latex; however, even man-made synthetic latex can be considered "100% latex". Just as you probably know there is a lot of leeway given in the labeling of food ingredients, the same holds true in the advertising of latex mattresses. There is a difference between blended "100% latex" and pure 100% natural latex however. 100% natural latex is known to be inherently more elastic and resilient, expanding and better conforming to the various levels of weight and pressure it is exposed to.

While blended latex (a combination of natural and synthetic latex) is what is mostly used in mattresses, the feel is a less-lively one that doesn't have the same "kickback" or resilience, but instead provides less response to pressure and weight aside from passively absorbing it. Blended latex is also widely perceived to be less durable and more prone to break down over time. In most cases blended latex contains about 30-40% natural latex, with the remaining 60-70% being synthetic latex and/or fillers. You may be content with a blended latex mattress, but when shopping, be sure you're comparing apples to apples.

Talalay Latex vs. Dunlop Latex

Question You Should Be Asking
Is the mattress all dunlop, all talalay or dunlop core / talalay top layer ?
Latex Foam Bed Mattress
100% Pure Latex - No clay fillers, no chemical dyes, no pesticides, no bleach, and no carcinogenic adhesives

Which is better, talalay latex or dunlop latex? The relevant question is not as much about which is better as it is about where and how it's being used in the mattress. When latex is derived from the hevea brasiliensis tree, it has the consistence of maple syrup. There are 2 primary processes used to transform it to the latex foam used in mattresses; the talalay process and the dunlop process.

To spare you the technical details, the dunlop process produces a latex foam that is more dense, while the talalay process produces a latex foam that is lighter and has more air in it. If we use cake as an analogy, dunlop would be like pound cake and talalay would be like angel food cake. If you were to weigh each as latex cores, the dunlop would be heaver because it has more latex in it.

As a top comfort layer of a mattress, talalay is typically preferred because it is less dense which provides better pressure relief. As a mattress core however, dunlop is preferred because it's dense cell structure will hold the shape of the mattress better over time & will be less prone to sagging or indentations.

Nine out of every ten "natural latex mattresses" advertised are made solely of 100% dunlop latex, which is fine if you're a back sleeper and prefer a firmer feel; however, studies show a top layer of talalay latex does a better job of relieving pressure points in your hips and shoulders, especially if you're a side sleeper. The optimal latex mattress design would be a 100% natural dunlop core, which is denser to prevent sagging, with a 100% natural talalay top layer for better pressure relief.

The optimal latex mattress design would be a 100% natural dunlop core, which is denser to prevent sagging, with a 100% natural talalay top layer for better pressure relief.

2. Not all Latex Mattresses are Constructed the Same

Question You Should Be Asking
Is the mattress solid latex or does it contain other foams? Are the layers glued together?
Latex Foam Bed Mattress
Talalay Frothing Process - produces a much higher quality latex foam as the weaker air bubbles are removed

Where's the Latex? - There's no law that states how much latex must be in a mattress for it to be referred to as a latex mattress. Many of the latex mattresses sold in retail mattress stores contain a thin layer of latex and other "mystery foams", which are cheaper to produce, and can break down quicker. Be on the lookout for "soy-based foam", "smart foam", or "special pressure-relieving material." While these might contribute to a nice mattress, they are typically not latex.

Hybrid latex mattresses (latex on the top layer with a foam core) can still be great mattresses, and are optimal for people on a budget who want to experience sleeping on latex; however, when shopping, just make sure you know what you're comparing.

To Glue or not to Glue – Some companies glue their latex layers together. While they claim un-glued layers shift around, we have not found this not to be the case, as latex is very abrasive material & layers will naturally grab each other. A disadvantage of gluing layers together is that if for some reason your mattress is either a little too firm or a little too soft, your only option is to return the whole mattress, whereas if the layers weren't glued together, you might be able to conveniently exchange a layer of a different firmness with the manufacturer.

Know how much latex is contained in the mattress, as well as what options you have if you are not satisfied with the mattress firmness.

3. Not all Latex Mattress Dimensions are the Same

Question You Should Be Asking
What are the actual dimensions of the mattress? How many inches of latex are in the mattress?
Latex Foam Bed Mattress
Talalay Frothing Process - produces a much higher quality latex foam as the weaker air bubbles are removed

Some manufacturers build their mattresses slightly smaller to cut costs, so an advertised "queen size" (60" x 80") is really only 59" x 79", which might be fine; however, if you are putting this mattress in a bed frame, it could leave wider gaps than normally expected.

Mattress Height – While height is a consideration, you should be comparing how many inches of latex are in the mattress as total height can be deceiving. For example, two competing online retailers sell an 8" latex mattress, one slightly cheaper than the other. However, upon further investigation, the more expensive one is built with 8" of natural latex (6" Dunlop, 2" Talalay), and 1" for the cover, making it a total of 9" high. The slightly cheaper one was built with only 6" of natural Dunlop, and a 2" wool-padded cover. Overall, the slightly higher priced mattress was the better deal as it contained 25% more natural latex, and a talalay layer.

From one manufacturer to the next, the dimensions of the mattress may be represented differently; don't blindly compare mattress height or advertised size without looking at the details.

4. Not all Latex Mattress Warranties are the Same

Question You Should Be Asking
What exactly does the mattress warranty cover, and how long is the full replacement period?

Warranties are designed to protect against manufacturer's defects and most latex mattress warranties protect users against excessive sagging. Typically warranties on indentations larger than 1.5” over the life of the mattress are acceptable. Most warranties start with a full replacement for an initial period of time, and shift to a limited warranty as time progresses. On a limited (pro-rated) warranty, the consumer is responsible for a percentage of the replacement mattress cost. Considering that the cost of latex consistently rises every 3-6 months, you're "pro-rated” cost to repair or replace your mattress could be as high as what you initially paid for the first mattress within as little as 3-5 years. In comparing latex mattress warranties, we've seen full replacement warranties for as little as 2 years and as high as 10 years.

Typically warranties on indentations larger than 1.5” over a period of time are acceptable… know what portion of the replacement cost is yours should the warranty be pro-rated.

5. Not all Return Policies are the Same

Question You Should Be Asking
If you aren't satisfied with the mattress, do you have to ship it back yourself or will they pick it up? Is there a cap on your return costs, and can you get it in writing?

Hopefully you'll choose the right latex mattress the first time around, and will sleep happily ever after. But what if you don't? What are your return options? What are your return costs? Will the company tell you up front? How many days do you have to try the mattress (60 days is acceptable, 90 would be better)?

Does the company have a comfort exchange policy or is your only solution to send the mattress back? Will the company come and pick up the mattress or are you responsible for shipping it back to the company? Many companies tell you they will "take the mattress back” within a certain time period, but fail to mention that it's up to you to get it there. It typically costs $300-$475 to ship a used mattress one-way across the country.

Are you responsible for just the return shipping or the shipping costs both ways? Is there a cap on what those costs are? What does "like new condition” really mean, and is it possible to be in "like new condition” after sleeping on it for 30 nights?

Read the fine print, as what seems too good to be true, usually is. There's an old adage, "What the bold print giveth, the fine print taketh away.” While you should never expect a complete refund if you damaged a mattress you're returning, look for fine print that leaves the amount of your refund to the discretion of the company, as there have been many occasions where customers are charged hundreds of dollars because of ordinary use being claimed as mattress damage. Expect to pay something for returning a mattress. Anything that promises otherwise might be too good to be true.

Read the fine print of the return policy. If the return policy is vague or can be interpreted more than one way, inquire and get it in writing before making your purchase.

6. Not all Free Bonus Gifts are the Same

Question You Should Be Asking
Are the bonus gifts of the same quality as the mattress, or are they a gimmick?

Free gifts with a mattress purchase have almost become the norm in the mattress industry, and while not every company offers them, the ones that do ultimately factor their cost into the price, so each mattress needs to be evaluated with the overall value you're receiving. In saying this, it's common to see "2 free latex pillows + mattress protector.” While it's a nice touch, many of these bonus gifts are of the cheapest quality available, considering they are "free.” Here are some factors to evaluate when looking at bonuses:

  • Are the pillows also natural latex or blended (synthetic) latex?
  • Are the pillows dunlop latex (hard for pillows) or softer talalay latex?
  • What size are the pillows? Can they be upgraded?
  • Is the mattress protector polyester, terry cloth, or 100% cotton?

Free gifts with a mattress purchase have almost become the norm in the mattress industry… Evaluate the bonus gifts carefully, as they are factored into your final price.

7. Not all Latex Mattress Companies are the Same

Question You Should Be Asking
Is your interaction with the company positive, do they have an unspotted reputation, and how do they demonstrate standing behind their product?

Just as important as the quality of the mattress you're buying is the quality of the customer service and company you're buying it from. Nobody enters into a product relationship expecting problems, but if problems do arise, you want to be sure there's a company who stands behind their products who can resolve them.

Don't just compare mattresses; look deeper to the companies selling them as well. Some companies can offer tempting prices, but the writing is on the wall for the service you can expect even before your initial purchase.

  1. Does a live person answer the phone and in an attentive, pleasant way?
  2. Are their associates willing to answer your questions gracefully without pressuring you through the process?
  3. Do you feel like they're trying to help you or sell you?
  4. Are they an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau?
  5. Does their reputation and their disclosure (as well as your gut-feel based on your interaction with them) tell you post-purchase issues will be dealt with fairly and in an efficient manner?
  6. Do they have positive feedback in the form of independent, 3rd party ratings, reviews, and testimonials from past customers that you can sort through and read?

Carefully evaluate who you will be giving your latex mattress dollars to. You want to feel good about the transaction both beforehand and after all is said and done.

By following these general guidelines, you have a much better chance of minimizing confusion, and finding the right high-quality latex mattress.

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Where can you find a latex mattress that meets or exceeds all of these criteria?

In the interest of full disclosure, we do receive a minor benefit from sending visitors to select latex mattress dealers who meet our strict guidelines, but of course don't do so solely in the interest of profit. We are approached by mattress manufacturers on a regular basis, and could form a relationship with any or all of them, however we maintain high standards to only recommend latex mattress dealers based upon the quality of their mattresses, the integrity of their company, the merits of their brand, and them exceeding all the criteria we've outlined.

If you're in the market for a high-quality, all natural latex mattress, we recommend the Botanical Bliss latex mattress collection at PlushBeds.com. Plushbeds sells 100% all natural latex mattresses. They arrive fully assembled, however PlushBeds doesn't glue their layers so you can exchange comfort layers until you find just the right firmness. Their Botanical Bliss collection is constructed with natural dunlop cores and natural talalay latex comfort layers. There are no fillers, additives, or other synthetic foams used within their mattresses. Their specs are what they say they are, and their 100 night return policy is very straightforward, with nothing hidden. The 20 year warranty on their latex mattresses is one of the strongest in the industry, with a 10 year full replacement guarantee.

Plushbeds is very reputable with great customer satisfaction reviews and is a member in good standing with the both the Better Business Bureau, and their BBB online reliability program. They have a stellar product line in their Botanical Bliss latex mattress lineup, and have earned our faith and confidence in the way they conduct themselves with their upstanding and ethical business practices. Visit the PlushBeds Botanical Bliss collection for an easy and informative latex mattress buying experience.