Buying a Latex Mattress: Dunlop vs Talalay

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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 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 can come from a natural rubber tree, 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 Dunlop process has been around for decades and is the most widely used method of creating latex foam. During this process, frothed rubber is poured into a mold which allows the setting to begin. The foam is vulcanized (heated) to transform the liquid foam into finished latex foam. Afterwards, the foam is washed and left to cure (dry) before being sliced into it’s intended sizes.

The process used to create Talalay latex is similar, but different. The liquid latex is still further and aerated, but it goes into a vacuum-pressurized chamber. The air is sucked out, and the foam rises to fill the mold. Then the latex is flash-frozen using CO2 gas before it is vulcanized. Once set, the foam is washed and dried to prepare for use.

Now that you know the processes, let’s look at some differences. Sellers of Dunlop will tell you that Talalay is overpriced or perhaps too soft. Sellers of Talalay may tell you that it is more cushiony or durable. Basically, brands of each type will of course tell you that their foam is best.

In reality, foams made by high quality manufacturers have very few differences in terms of owner satisfaction, feel and performance. Talalay may be more consistent for softer layers, but it’s not always the case. Dunlop may provide a more supportive core, but Talalay can work, too.

The Real Difference Between a Talalay and Dunlop Latex Mattress.

As mentioned above, the difference in creation leads to some minor differences in the end product. Let’s look at the major points of comparison so you can see which type of bed might work best for your needs.

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.

Both types of latex foam provide cushioning support and contour to sleepers. Talalay may have a slight advantage on contouring, while Dunlop rates as slightly more supportive according to Sleep Like The Dead’s extensive review analysis.

Firmness: A common myth offered by manufacturers is that Dunlop can only be made firm and Talalay can only be made soft. However, both forms of latex are rated by the same tool to measure their firmness and Talalay can be just as firm as Dunlop, and Dunlop just as soft as Talalay. The pressurized manufacturing process of Talalay latex allows for a greater and more precise variation in firmnesses, but both types can be found in all firmnesses depending on the manufacturer.

The Indentation Load Deflection (ILD, also called IFD or indentation force deflection) 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 very  firm, while a mattress with an ILD number of 20 would be considered very 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.

Breathability: Some claim that Talalay latex sleeps cooler than Dunlop latex due to a “more breathable” cell structure. But in reviews, both types have fairly similar rates of people reporting heat. More relevant here is whether the latex is natural or synthetic.

Natural-ness: One area where differences could be relevant is for those seeking an organic mattress. Both Talalay and Dunlop foam can be made using 100% natural latex liquid, synthetic, or blend of both. For Talalay process, blended is by far the most dominant and widely available type.

Talalay latex also must be glued together to foam complete foam sections, and though low-VOC glue is available some people may prefer not having it in their beds.

Also, the only latex foam currently certified organic to the GOLS standard is Dunlop latex.

Durability: As a whole, latex is one of the most durable mattress types around lasting on average 10 years. Both Dunlop and Talalay rate good on resistance to impressions. Regardless of type, all natural latex has a durability edge over blended and synthetic, and all-latex mattresses have an advantage over latex/poly foam hybrids.

The quality of manufacture is important for durability, so checking reviews could give more insight for individual brands.

Price: Across similar types of latex (natural/synthetic), Dunlop tends to be cheaper while Talalay more expensive. This price difference is less magnified more recently, but the added ingredients, equipment and time needed to produce Talalay latex do mean higher costs.

Owner Satisfaction: Overall, a little over 80% of latex mattress owners are satisfied with their beds regardless of type according to SLTD.

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 were one of the few that use certified organic latex foam as opposed to just natural or blended material and allow reviews on their website. Other brands had satisfaction 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.

Marketing hype can be a powerful influence when it comes to buying a bed, but it’s important to be aware of the facts in order to shop smart and make good comparisons. Dunlop and Talalay latex can both offer excellent, durable mattress options, and knowing about the minor differences can help you decide which is right for your sleep.

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3 Comments

  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!
    Lorraine

  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?

    Thanks

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