Innerspring mattresses are the most common type of bed, and for many people who have only used spring beds, considering a new material like latex can seem a bit daunting. Several differences exist both in the mattresses’ construction and materials that can affect the shopping process and purchase satisfaction. To help you navigate through the terminology and make product research easier, we put together this guide. We begin by explaining how latex beds differ from from innersprings and then go over latex-specific terminology and other information prospective buyers should consider in order to shop smart.
How Does Latex Differ from Springs?
The differences in feel and durability between latex foam and spring beds arise from the inherently different materials and the way the beds are put together. Overall, spring mattresses tend to be cheaper and easier to find, but latex tends to last longer, prove more comfortable, and earns higher owner ratings (60-65% of spring owners satisfied versus 80-85% of latex owners).
The feel of sleeping on latex versus that of an innerspring is difficult to adequately explain. Innerspring beds, because they contain metal coils, can accurately be referred to as “springy” or “bouncy”. These types of mattresses have a layer of foam and/or fiber above the springs to provide cushion and the support level can range from extra-firm to soft. Models with greater amounts of foam tend to be better at contouring, while those with slim pillow-tops will have a limited ability to contour to the sleeper. The types of coils can also affect the overall feel, with individual/pocketed coils reducing motion transference compared to continuous coils.
These mattresses should be all latex foam, and as such will not be “bouncy” like a spring bed. However, good-quality latex foam does have a resilience that may be described as springy since it bounces back to its original shape instantly (unlike polyurethane or memory foam which recover more slowly). With a mattress made of latex, the ILD number will reflect the firmness, with lower ILDs being softer and higher ILDs being firmer. Both the firmness and the overall thickness of a latex bed can affect conformability, with thicker and softer materials conforming more readily than firmer, thinner beds.
Composition and Construction
Innerspring mattresses vary somewhat by manufacturer, but in essence they consist of coils that are either independently pocketed, wired to a frame, or linked together. The coil support core is wrapped in foam and/or fiber padding. Some models have a cheaper recycled compressed fiber, while others may have poly foam, memory foam, or even latex foam incorporated into the pillow-top. The entire bed is then covered in fabric ticking, which can very significantly by brand. The primary indicators of quality with an innerspring bed are the type and count of coils used, and quality of the topper materials.
All-latex beds contain a solid latex core for support, and this may or may not be topped with additional layers of latex. Some brands may also add other materials like wool or fiber quilting on top. The bed is then covered in a fabric encasement, which might be fixed or removable. Depending on the brand, these mattresses may be customizable, meaning the layers are not glued and could be changed or replaced by the owner. The primary indicators of quality when it comes to latex are the type of latex (natural, synthetic or blended), and the quality of other materials used in the bed.
- Latex mattresses are considerably heavier than innerspring or coil beds due to the density of the solid latex material versus the light, open coil design. Though some people complain about the weight, this usually only becomes an issue when moving or rotating the bed.
- Latex mattresses tend to have more basic, no-frills appearances compared to innerspring beds, which may feature fancier fabrics and a more intricate appearance.
- The average lifespan of an innerspring mattress is between 6-7 years. Innerspring beds are prone to sagging in the springs and compression of pillow-top materials. Warranties tend to cover sagging over 1.5″ deep.
- The average lifespan of a latex bed is between 8-12 years. Natural latex, Talalay process latex, and all-latex beds best resist impressions and sagging. Warranties usually cover sagging around 1″ deep.
- Innerspring mattresses can be found fairly cheap, but they can also reach into the thousands of dollars as well. The price paid for a mid-range spring mattress set tends to be around $800-1500. More expensive beds tend have more ‘advanced’ spring technologies and materials like memory foam.
- Synthetic and hybrid latex mattresses tend to have fairly low costs, often as low as basic spring beds ($300-800). Natural latex is more expensive, often running between $1000-3000. The amount of latex, how natural it is, how it is produced, and the cover material all affect price.
Shopping For a Latex Bed
Understanding the basics is important when shopping for a latex bed, and those new to the mattress type may be confused by all the new terms they encounter when they begin shopping.
Terms You Need to Know
- The term “latex” encompasses synthetics, natural latex, and a combination of the two.
- Synthetic latex is derived from chemicals in a lab, is cheaper, and is not as durable as natural latex. It may just be called latex, or man-made/synthetic latex.
- Natural latex is collected from rubber trees and processed with minimal additives. It is hypoallergenic and durable, but more expensive. An all natural latex bed will be described as all-natural or 100% natural.
- Blended latex includes both synthetic and natural latex and is the most common type of material on the market. Even material called ‘natural latex’ can include up to 70% synthetic latex.
- There are two different methods for producing the latex foam used in mattresses: Dunlop and Talalay.
- The Dunlop method involves whipping the latex and additives into a froth, filling a mold, vulcanization (heating), then rinsing and curing. The result is often a denser foam. Requiring fewer steps and additives, Dunlop latex tends to be more cost effective to manufacture.
- The Talalay method is a little more complex; after the liquid latex is whipped it is poured into a mold, vacuum sealed, flash frozen, then vulcanized. Talalay foam is typically washed multiple times then cured. The process is a little more controllable meaning more firmnesses may be achieved.
- The firmness of a mattress made of latex is measured by the material’s indentation load deflection or ILD. This measurement ranges from 14-44, with 28 providing a medium support. The lower end is extremely soft, while the upper is extremely hard. This measurement provides an industry standard for firmness descriptions. Unlike memory foam, the ILD doesn’t reflect density (or quality), rather just how much force is needed to compress the latex foam.
What to Compare
Whereas with an innerspring bed one might check coil count and pillowtop materials, the “checklist” for latex is a little more complicated. Here are the primary things to consider when comparing:
- What is the latex made of? (Truly 100% natural, blended or synthetic?)
- How is the latex made? (Talalay or Dunlop?)
- Where is the latex made? (USA or imported?)
- What all is inside the mattress? (What is the core and each layer made of?)
- What is ILD? (How firm is the bed?)
- What is the cover made of? (Natural fibers like cotton and wool are more breathable.)
- How does the mattress meet fire safety laws? (Via non-toxic wool or fabric barriers or via chemicals?)
- What is the warranty? How much of the warranty is prorated, and how much must the mattress sag for coverage to kick in? (20 years with 10 years full coverage should be the minimum warranty on quality latex beds.)
- Can you return the mattress? For how long, and what are the costs? (Look for at least 30 days with limited fees.)
- How does the price compare to other similar mattresses?
Where to Shop
Shopping for a high-quality mattress, especially all-natural latex, is not always an easy task. Unlike spring beds, they can be difficult to find in local showrooms, and can easily become overpriced. The best place to shop for 100% natural latex is online, due to the greater selection and more competitive pricing. Take your time to research the various factors and mattresses you find, and make sure there is a decent warranty and return period.
Leading Latex Bed Brands
In a previous article, we compared a few leading brands of latex. While there are several brands out there, here is a comparison of a few to get your research started. For a more detailed explanation of the brands and comparison factors, see the original article on latex mattress reviews.
|Astrabeds||Essentia||Flobeds||Habitat Furnishings||Ikea||Savvy Rest||Sleep EZ|
|Where to Buy||Astrabeds.com||Essentia.com, Few Stores||Flobeds.com||HabitatFurnishings.com||Ikea Stores||SavvyRest.com, Some stores||SleepEz.com, AZ stores|
|Firmness||Both sides customizable, removable||Mostly medium||Both sides customizable, removable||Mostly medium to firm||Mostly firm||Both sides customizable, removable||Both sides customizable, removable|
|Latex Type||Organic Natural Dunlop||Unspecified Latex & Natural Dunlop||Natural & Blended Talalay||Natural Talalay & Dunlop||Synthetic & Blended Dunlop||Natural Talalay & Dunlop||Natural & Blended Talalay, Dunlop|
|Latex Manufacturer||Cocolatex||Essentia||Latex Intl||Latex Green||NA||Coco Latex, Latex Intl||Several|
|Warranty/Compression Depth||25 yrs/.75||20 yrs/ .75||20 yrs/ 1.0||20 yrs/ 1.0||20 yrs/ na||20 yrs/ 1.5||20 yrs/ na|
|Thickness (no cover)||7,8,10,13||6,8||7.5,8,10.25,11||6,8,9||5.5,7.6||6,9,12||6,8,9,12|
|Complaint Issues||Shipping Time||Price, Variety||Compression/Impressions||Impressions, Firmness||Firmness, Durability||Price, Durability||Firmness|
|Returns||90 day refund or exchange||60 day refund or exchange||100 day refund or exchange||365 day exchange/refund, $75 fee||90 day exchange||90 day exchange, no refunds||90 day refund or exchange, $99 fee|
Comparing latex mattresses to innerspring mattresses really can be like comparing apples to oranges, as you can see by the differences in construction and performance. Latex foam provides a spring-free support core with an emphasis on pain relief and more natural components, however innersprings have the advantage of being widely available and affordable. Overall, if you are looking for a bed that is more likely to hold up over time and less likely to cause pain, latex mattresses might offer the solution but will likely require a little more research when shopping.