Buying a Latex Mattress: Dunlop vs Talalay

Buying a Latex Mattress: Dunlop vs Talalay

There are plenty of reasons why choosing a latex mattress is right for you. Perhaps you are looking to relieve aches and pains that you’re consistently waking up with, or you need to conquer the sleepless nights your current traditional mattress provides. If this describes you, you’re in luck! With a latex mattress, people experience excellent support, pain relief, and lasting comfort. But, a latex mattress can be difficult to shop for, simply because it is different from other beds. Here, we will explain the differences between two major latex categories: Dunlop and Talalay.

First, latex shares many of the body conforming features that have attracted people to memory foam for years, yet maintains a more resilient feel that can be preferable for those who dislike the sinking/melting sensation of memory foam. And since the material in a latex mattress is a natural rubber product, it’s quite possibly the most eco-friendly mass-produced mattress in the world. Both hypoallergenic and devoid of harmful chemicals, natural latex offers even the most sensitive sleepers the best chance of waking well-rested, and pain free. Finally, when properly maintained, they will outlast any conventional coil spring mattress on the market.

But before you start your latex mattress search, there are a few more attributes that need to be discovered, and it starts with one incredibly important question.What’s the difference between Dunlop and Talalay?

Dunlop vs. Talalay – The Making of a Latex Mattress

Dunlop and Talalay are the names associated with the most common processes of creating latex. Though they can both be made with similar materials (natural or synthetic), each offers unique characteristics that will help you decide what mattress is best for you. The image at the top of this article shows two latex mattress cores; the one on the left is Dunlop, and the right is Talalay.

The process used to create Talalay latex is the more modern of the two and is defined by an even density distribution throughout the mattress. The first step requires the aeration and vacuum-pressurization of liquid rubber in a vacuum chamber that allows the latex to stretch more than during the Dunlop process. This aeration also creates a uniformed round cell structure that improves durability and allows for a wider range of firmnesses. To maintain this even distribution, the Talalay latex is flash frozen at -20°F right after aeration is complete. The next step of this process is to then expose the latex to high temperatures in excess of 230°F for close to an hour to finish setting the latex and maintain a consistent feel throughout every part of the mattress. The latex is then washed and dried to remove any remaining residual moisture.

The Dunlop process has been around for decades and is known for creating a firmer, more inconsistent form of latex. During this process, frothed rubber is poured into a mold which allows the setting to begin. However, since this step does not take place in a vacuum chamber, the cell structure inside this latex is more of a snowflake structure. The Dunlop process does not incorporate a flash freeze, but the foam is still vulcanized to cure it. During this cooling process, the pockets of air inside the latex will rise towards the top while particles may settle, giving the base of the mattress a thicker consistency.

You Can Feel The Difference Between a Talalay and Dunlop Latex Mattress.

As mentioned above, the difference in creation leads to a difference in consistency and feel. The Talalay is a longer and more complex process, which many feel provides a better product that is more durable and will maintain it’s original state through the life of the mattress.

Pressure Relief: One of the top reasons so many sleepers switch to latex when it’s time for a new mattress is the relief of pressure points on the body which cause sleepless nights or painful backs, necks, and hips when they wake in the morning. Due to Talalay’s aeration in the vacuum chamber, the more flexible and resilient latex allows your body to sink into the mattress and provides a relaxing contoured feel. Since Dunlop is poured into a mold, the latex produced is not as spongy and gives less when pressure is applied.

Firmness: A common myth offered by manufacturers that use just Dunlop or a mixture of Dunlop and Talalay layers in their latex beds is that Dunlop provides a mattress that appeals to sleepers looking for a firmer feel. However, both forms of latex are rated by the same tool to measure their firmness and Talalay can be just as firm as Dunlop. However, the pressurized manufacturing process of Talalay latex allows for a greater and more precise variation in firmnesses, so that Talalay layers can achieve much softer foams as well.

The Indentation Load Deflection (ILD) test measures the amount of force necessary to impress the machine’s foot a certain distance into the mattress. The test produces an ILD number which is used to rate the firmness with higher numbers resulting in a firmer feel.

For example, a mattress with an ILD number of 45 would be considered firm, while a mattress with an ILD number of 20 would be considered soft. Since mattresses created through both processes are subjected to the same ILD test, there is no difference between the firmness of a Dunlop mattress with and ILD number of 40 and a Talalay mattress with an ILD of 40. The difference between the two is that in addition to the equal firmness provided, the Talalay latex is softer and better contours to the body, which provides more pressure relief.

Breathability: Due to the circular cell structure that doesn’t collapse on itself, Talalay latex is four times more breathable than Dunlop. This allows a better flow of air throughout the mattress and helps cool the body over the course of a night. Dunlop latex’s snowflake like cell structure is less resistant to compaction. This results in a denser mattress that restricts airflow and makes it harder to cool the body.

Durability: Again due to the strong cell structure created during the vacuum chamber aeration process, and the flash freeze that locks the evenly-distributed air pockets in place, the Talalay processed latex is three times more durable than the Dunlop latex. This will not only prolong the life of your mattress, it also provides a mattress that will continue to feel new by resisting a the constant indentation created by body weight. Dunlop latex will breakdown quicker, showing less resiliency and allowing indentations in the mattress from repeated body pressure.

Two Dimensional vs. One Dimensional: The most telling sign between the two latex processes is that the extra time and work spent during the Talalay process provides a two-dimensional compound that gives a sleeper pressure relief and support throughout the body more consistently while providing a longer mattress life. Due to the unstructured aeration process, Dunlop is a one-dimensional compound that provides support but may not excel at pressure relief.

Owner Satisfaction: In our last article, we compared eight popular latex mattress retailers. In that comparison, Astrabeds proved the best-rated latex mattress brand based on reviews, averaging a 95% owner satisfaction rate. They are the only retailer in the group to use 100% natural Talalay latex in their line. The other lines used a mix of Dunlop and Talalay, and had ratings between 70% and 91%.

When shopping for a new latex mattress, it is important to understand the materials to ensure you get the best value, and a bed that you will be happy with for years to come. While both processes can utilize eco-friendly natural materials and offer excellent support, the advanced technology used to make Talalay latex essentially creates a more versatile, durable latex mattress than its Dunlop counterpart.

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    1. Lorraine Halonski February 17, 2014 Reply

      Thank you for clarifying the difference between Talaly and Dunlop mattress durability and the aspect of “pressure relief AND support” provided in a Talay mattress vs. just “support” in the Dunlop mattress. I had not been aware of that after reading several articles over the past 8 months about both types. In one article I had read that Dunlop is the preferable latex mattress but at this point I cant remember why. Also this is the first article that stated what the acronym IDL means, and that both Talay and Dunlop use the same IDL test measurement. This has been helpful. I have been considering buying a Queen sized Dunlop mattress on E-bay for about $500, which really is affordable. Now I will take a look to see if there is a Talalay mattress I can afford. Thank you!

    2. I just purchased a VERY expensive organic latex mattress after much research and deliberation. The mattress is a dunlop type, which the salesperson claimed, is just as breathable as the talalay and there isn’t any difference between the two. I have been sleeping on it for just over one week now, and have been waking up in the middle of the night, every night, drenched in sweat. I tried cooling off the room by opening up the window. I am using an organic wool comfortor, and tossed off the comfortor, replacing it with a lighter wool blanket and cotton sheet, but then I freeze on top and still sweat beneath. I called the salesperson back and explained that I am cooking at night, but was told that only one other customer (in all of their experience)has had the same problem. No returns allowed. I wish I had read your article before I purchased it. Does anyone else out there have a dunlop mattress, and have the same problem as I do????

    3. I note the references to Talalay latex being 4 times more breathable and 3 times more durable than Dunlop latex. does anyone know how synthetic versus natural latex of either process affects the relative breathability and durability?

      For instance, If all natural talalay latex is 4 times more breathable than all-natural Dunlop latex, how does a synthetic talalay compare to an all-natural Dunlop, or a synthetic/natural blended talalay compare to an all-natural Dunlop? Similarly for durability and other issues you can think of that might be relevant?


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