Are Latex Mattresses Right For You?
If you are trying to determine if latex mattresses might be a good buy, the pros and cons are good place to start. These types of beds have one of the highest overall owner satisfaction ratings for mattresses, but they still may not be for everyone. Just as with any other product, there are both attractive and potentially off-putting traits to consider.
The following lists compile information that can help you determine whether this may be the best choice for your needs. The differences between natural latex, synthetic latex and hybrids are notable and should also be taken into account when comparing advantages and disadvantages of an individual mattress.
Latex Mattresses Are Not Created Equal
First, here is a quick primer so you understand what we refer to when discussing pros and cons. Latex mattresses can be made using natural material or man-made synthetic latex. All-natural latex is derived from the rubber tree, which yields a milky white fluid that, with a few additions, becomes rubber.
Synthetic latex, like everything else, is made of chemicals; however it can also be labeled as latex or all-latex. Blends that incorporate both natural and synthetic latex are most common, though products are also available that place latex over poly foam cores or spring supports. When shopping for a new mattress, make certain you understand exactly what type of bed you are looking at. Even “natural latex” can mean a blend with up to 30% synthetic material.
Pros and Cons of Latex Mattresses
Because no product is perfect for everyone, the buying process often involves a series of comparisons to see which options offer the greatest benefits and fewest drawbacks. Preferences certainly can differ, but the lists here represent what a majority of people tend to perceive as either good or bad. First, we will consider latex beds in general, then afterwards we will go over differences among all-natural, synthetic, and hybrid models.
Disadvantages of Latex Beds
The following list of complaints explain what people are most likely to dislike about these types of beds.
Firmness – Excessive firmness is most commonly reported by owners when they initially purchase their bed, although only 10% of owners have complained that their bed is too firm. Checking Impression Load Deflection (ILD) information before buying can give you added insight, as higher ILDs mean firmer foam while lower ILDs mean softer foam. Many mattresses are more firm in the first few weeks of use. You may need to break the mattress in a little to reach your desired firmness.
Compression – Compression, when the mattress forms imprints where the person generally sleeps, has been reported by approximately 10% of the owners of all-latex beds. This issue is less frequently found in beds made with 100% natural latex foam.
- This occurs with other types of mattresses; about 25% of innerspring and 15% of memory foam owners complain about impressions.
- Compression is more likely to occur on a mattress shared by two people as both are more likely to sleep in the same spot every night.
- These impressions do not affect comfort or support much on latex, but can limit natural movement of the sleeper.
Heat – Sleeping hot has also been reported by about 10% of latex mattress owners. This issue tends to be greatest with closed-cell foams. Latex beds overall tend to rate better than a majority of memory foams, and have the lowest heat complaints when the mattresses are all-latex versus foam hybrids.
- PRO TIP: Make sure the mattress has a breathable cover, like natural cotton or wool, to allow maximum air flow.
Price – Perhaps the biggest barrier to consumers choosing this type of mattress is the cost. Natural latex mattresses can cost several thousands of dollars, especially in local showrooms. This is often one of the more expensive materials for manufacturers to purchase, thus markups may be at a premium.
- PRO TIP: Shop online. You might be surprised to know that a majority of latex comes from only a handful of manufacturers in the US, especially the 100% natural stuff. This means you can get nearly identical mattresses online for a fraction of what you would pay a local dealer. As long as the material is certified natural (Oeko Tex, Eco-Institut, Green Guard), the company allows returns and has legitimate organic certifications for the fabric, you will be getting a good bed. The primary things you want to check are exactly what the bed is made of (type of latex and contents), whether any adhesives are used, the cover material, and retailer reviews. Keep an eye out for online promotions and coupons which can save you even more money.
Heaviness – Heavy weight can be an issue for some latex bed owners who have difficulty moving the mattress, particularly alone. All high-quality latex beds will be heavy, but then again many other types of mattresses are, too. The good news? Latex does not need to be flipped or rotated on a frequent basis like spring beds. This is a relatively minor complaint, but something to consider for those who live alone or may not be able to lift heavy objects.
Advantages of Latex Beds
Now to the good stuff. Here are the top benefits and advantages people tend to report or equate with latex mattresses and a little science to back up some of those claims.
Comfort – Pain reduction and pain prevention have been reported by over 1/3 of the people who own all-latex beds. They have stated that their latex mattresses relieve pressure points and also prevent or reduce other pain they have experienced, including lower back pain. Because latex is a resilient material, it is able to support sleepers with placing excess pressure on hips and shoulders, and contours just enough to support proper alignment.
Longevity – Latex material proves highly durable. All-latex mattresses tend to outlast other types by anywhere from 2 to 7 years, on average providing comfort for 10-12 years. Though very durable, latex is also biodegradable.
No Smells – Limited to no off-gassing is a key benefit for people sensitive to smells. This is a main difference between the different types of latex, primarily linked with all-natural latex mattresses.
- Virtually no one complains of chemical odors in all-natural latex, because there are fewer volatile chemicals to break down and release odors. If a smell is detected, it is usually a faint, slightly sweet scent that most find unoffensive.
- Synthetic latex and beds made using a combination of synthetic and natural latex have been reported by a little over 10-15% to off-gas or release unpleasant chemical smells.
No Disturbances – Motion isolation is a quality associated with all-latex mattresses that 10% of owners praise. Motion isolation means that when one partner rolls over or tosses and turns, movement on the other side of the bed is barely noticeable. This makes for a much more pleasant sleeping experience with fewer disturbances. This is a big advantage compared to spring mattresses and water beds which tend to transfer motion from side to side.
Customizability – Another reason people might choose latex over other types is the ease of customization offered by some retailers. You can often customize your bed from top to bottom to achieve a specific feel, or even create a bed with two different firmness levels on each sides for differing partners. Models with unglued layers also offer consumers the ability to replace upper layers when worn to further extend mattress life.
- PRO TIP: Look for the ILD rating when determining firmness. Latex International, a leading manufacturer, offers the following chart showcasing the scale of ILD and firmness levels. Most people find comfort between the 23-35 range.
Healthy – One of the biggest “selling points” of natural latex is that it is a healthy and safe material to sleep on. Nearly all other mattress types utilize adhesives and petroleum based foams that continue to release toxic chemicals into the air as they age, contributing pollution indoors and out. Beds that are Oeko-Tex 100 standard-certified, Green Guard certified or Eco-Institut certified are tested to ensure that harmful toxins are not found in the end product.
Latex is naturally fire resistant. Other types of mattresses have many different chemicals added to them during manufacturing to increase their resistance to fire. Many of these chemicals are associated with adverse health effects including cancer, immunotoxicity and reproductive toxicity. The natural resistance to fire latex exhibits allows manufacturers to use far fewer, or no toxic flame retardants.
People are also happy with all-latex mattresses for their hypoallergenic and dust mite resistant qualities. This composition is also antibacterial, anti-fungal, and resistant to mold and mildew. Many fungi and yeasts are domestic allergens. Mattresses can be hospitable environments for these unwelcome intruders, and latex helps keep them at bay naturally.
Latex mattresses perform better in regards to pain prevention and relief, also. They consistently receive better reviews from consumers for pain relief than any other type of mattress. This is likely due to the firmness, conformability and support the mattresses provide.
If you are seeking a new mattress because of major health concerns, ask your doctor for advice. He or she will be able to tell you if a certain mattress may help your particular condition.
Environmentally Friendly – Another advantage for all-natural models is being truly eco-friendly, a significant reason for latex’s popularity. The raw materials are harvested from plantations using a method that allows the trees to live and grow while tapped. This means the trees do not have to be cut down for harvesting. Rubber trees can be tapped for as long as 30 years, while converting CO2 to breathable oxygen, purifying the air and water the whole time.
Certified-organic latex is produced in a much more sustainable way. Instead of using synthetic and artificially-produced fertilizers, organic material is used to feed the plants. Artificial and synthetic fertilizers along with the processes used to create them have devastating environmental impacts. They have been linked to biodiversity loss and contribute greatly to global greenhouse emissions. Organic methods mimic the way nature has been growing plants for hundreds of millions of years. As a result, there are no harmful environmental effects with organic methods.
Natural latex mattresses require only a handful of chemicals to create, none of which are significant sources of pollution or concern. Derived from natural substances, latex is also a biodegradable and highly durable material, two factors that reduce consumption and waste.
As you can see, the latex mattress category includes a range of different types, and not all share the same pros and cons. In our comparisons of latex mattresses, those that contain only natural latex rubber rate the highest (15-20% better than synthetics/blends) and have the fewest drawbacks of just about any mattress currently on the market.
Awhile back, we compared several leading latex retailers to offer an overview of the type of latex used and overall reviews. Of the six brands that had review averages over 4 stars, 5/6 used only latex, and about half used natural latex. The brand with highest average review score, Astrabeds, was also the only one to sell exclusively 100% natural, organic latex mattresses.
As with any larger purchase, you’ll want to do some research. There are many companies and individuals who review mattresses regularly. The internet is a great resource for finding the information you need quickly. Be sure to check a few sources so you get a well-rounded perspective.
Ultimately, as you weigh the pros and cons, you will want to consider what aspects are most important to you. Budget, health issues, chemical concerns, and lifestyle will all play a role, and every individual will have unique considerations. If you are looking for a great bed however, natural latex mattresses make a compelling case as one the highest rated options available with minimal drawbacks and several excellent advantages.