Updated January 4, 2021If you’ve been shopping for a natural latex mattress recently, you’ve probably run across the terms Talalay latex and Dunlop latex, and you may not be sure what they mean. Are they grown from different kinds of trees? Are they from distinct parts of the world? Is one organic and the other not?Don’t worry—we’ve got you covered. Below, we’ll talk about what makes Talalay and Dunlop different, how they’re processed, and the advantages and drawbacks of each.What is LatexTo get started, we’ll first delve into what latex actually is. Latex is the soft, white “milk” that comes from the rubber tree. Rubber tappers harvest the latex by cutting under the bark of living rubber trees, removing a small section, and inserting a tap and collection bowl underneath the cut to catch the liquid that runs out. This process does not kill the tree because it can heal itself from the small cuts necessary to harvest rubber, allowing tappers to collect from each rubber tree for years.After they collect the raw material, farmers ship latex to processing sites so it can be spun into the strong, flexible material we see in so many of our products, from surgical gloves to balloons to mattresses. It’s at the refining site where the fundamental difference between Talalay and Dunlop comes in: it’s all in the processing.TalalayThe newer of the latex refining processes, the Talalay method is the more complex and energy-consuming of the two because it has more steps, but it produces a cooler, less dense mattress than the Dunlop process.ProcessTo make Talalay latex, manufacturers first whip the liquid latex into a froth inside a centrifuge and dump it into a mold, though this mold is only filled part of the way up.Next, the foam and the mold are both vacuum-sealed, allowing the latex to “proof” inside the mold just like bread dough. Once the latex expands to the point it fills the mold, the whole thing gets flash-frozen, a process that injects the foam with carbon dioxide to reduce its density compared to Dunlop. The latex is then baked while frozen, washed, dried, and prepped for shipping.FeelTalalay is lighter and less dense than Dunlop, meaning it’s a lot more responsive or “springy.” Because it’s less dense, Talalay latex is more breathable as well, meaning it will sleep cooler because it allows your body heat to escape.PriceTalalay is typically the more expensive of the two options, but the difference isn’t excessive. Sometimes, manufacturers use Dunlop to reduce the cost of a Talalay mattress by layering the two together. Your latex mattress might have a support layer of denser Dunlop and a comfort layer of springier Talalay. This can help reduce the overall price of your mattress as well as giving a denser base to your squishier topper.Pros and ConsOne of the best things about Talalay is its wonderful springiness. If you like a responsive mattress that conforms to your body’s curves and bounces right back, the less-dense Talalay latex will probably be for you. If you’re a hot sleeper, you will probably enjoy the coolness of Talalay’s heightened air circulation.Conversely, if you like a denser mattress that maintains its shape better, Talalay’s springiness might be a con in your book. Other drawbacks of Talalay include its higher price tag, less efficient manufacturing process, and reduced durability.DunlopThe Dunlop process has been around for almost a century, and it’s generally the cheaper and more energy-efficient of the two methods. It also makes for a denser and less responsive but more stable and motion-isolating mattress.ProcessTo make Dunlop latex, the liquid rubber tree sap is whipped into a foam and poured into a mold—just like with Talalay. Unlike with Talalay, there’s no vacuum sealing or flash freezing involved. The full mold just goes straight inside a vulcanization oven to bake and harden.Once the latex in the mold reaches its desired firmness, the foam is washed, both to remove impurities and leftover processing ingredients and to stop the vulcanization process. When the foam is clean, it is then heat-dried and prepared for shipping.FeelThe Dunlop process results in a denser, heavier, and more durable latex than Talalay. Dunlop latex is not as bouncy as Talalay, nor does it conform as easily. Since the natural sediments in the raw latex settle to the bottom during vulcanization, Dunlop may be a bit firmer on the bottom than the top.PriceSince it’s an easier and more energy-efficient process, Dunlop latex will have a lower price tag. Keep in mind the price probably won’t be significantly lower than Talalay, but since Dunlop is more resilient than Talalay, a Dunlop latex mattress may save you a lot of money in the long run by not needing to be replaced as often.Pros and ConsOn the plus side, natural Dunlop latex is denser than Talalay, so it will stand up to more wear and tear, and it won’t deteriorate as quickly. Dunlop also won’t cost you as much as its counterpart. And it’s easier on the environment because the processing method doesn’t require as much energy or resources.However, Dunlop is usually denser than Talalay, so if you’re in the market for a highly responsive mattress, Dunlop latex may not be it. This type of latex won’t bounce back quite like Talalay, and it won’t have the same squishy feel.FAQsHow can I tell if the latex in my mattress is organic?The best way to tell you’re getting a real-deal organic latex mattress is a Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) certification. GOLS is considered the gold standard for organic latex, and their requirements for latex farming, processing, manufacture, packaging, and shipping often go above and beyond the minimum standard for an “Organic Certified” seal.GOLS protects not just the end consumer, but the workers who make the latex products and the environments in which they’re manufactured. They do this through a range of specifications about things like:Worker hours and payChemicals permitted in processingMinimum organic fiber contentWastewater disposalEnergy and resource consumptionFacility cleanliness and safety proceduresDoes all Dunlop/Talalay latex feel the same?No. Manufacturers can have variations in their Dunlop and Talalay processes that can cause their final products to feel different, meaning all Dunlop foam doesn’t feel exactly the same, nor does all Talalay foam. For example, two Talalay mattresses of the same firmness level made by two different manufacturers might have slightly different responsiveness, textures, or densities.Keep in mind both kinds of latex come in the full range of firmnesses, meaning a soft Dunlop mattress is not going to feel the same as a medium or firm Dunlop mattress made by the same company, and the same holds true for Talalay as well.What’s the most eco-friendly processing method?Since the Dunlop method uses less energy and has fewer steps than the Talalay method, it is the more eco-friendly of the two because of its lower carbon footprint. However, any certified organic latex is considered a “green” option for environmentally conscious consumers because the organic label focuses on sustainability and ecological impact as well as safety. So even if you opt for organic natural Talalay latex, you can rest assured that it’s still an eco-friendly mattress choice.Do they make synthetic latex, and is it any good?Yes. It’s called styrene-butadiene rubber because it’s produced from the petroleum compounds styrene and butadiene rather than natural ingredients. However, this version of latex is not as durable or elastic as natural latex, meaning there are a lot of rubber-based products out there that cannot be produced without the nature-made stuff.Synthetic latex also has a much higher VOC content than natural latex, meaning a mattress made of this stuff is not going to be as safe as an organic natural latex mattress. As with most “alternative” manufacturing materials, synthetic latex is a far cry from its natural counterpart. There’s just no substitute for the real deal.Is latex the same as memory foam?No. While latex and memory foam are both foams, latex is made of natural material, but memory foam is synthetically produced (meaning it’s all human-made material). Memory foam was originally developed by NASA to use as G-force cushioning for astronauts in space crafts because it offered pressure relief and soft support to help the human body bear the tremendous force of a rocket takeoff. It later became one of the most popular bedding materials in the world because of its comfort, its support, and its ability to isolate motion.Can a latex mattress still give me an allergic reaction?It’s very possible. The main way you have a reaction to latex is direct contact between your skin and the material. Since your mattress is covered by a couple of layers of cloth (your mattress protector and sheets), you might have some protection while you’re sleeping, but there’s still the risk of contact when you change your bedclothes or if the sheets slip off.Because of this risk of exposure, if you’re allergic to latex (and especially if you’re at risk of anaphylactic shock), it’s better to choose a different material. Memory foam mattresses can give you a similar feel to latex foam ones without the risk of triggering your latex allergy.Bottom LineIf you’re buying a natural latex mattress, you have three basic options: pure Talalay, pure Dunlop, or a mix of both. While you’re deciding between these options, it’s important to note the differences between Dunlop and Talalay are not massive.Talalay is more responsive, Dunlop is denser. Dunlop is a little cheaper and more durable, but not by much. At the end of the day, these materials are similar enough that your personal preference will probably be the ultimate deciding factor in what you buy.As always, you should make sure whatever organic latex mattress you purchase has an adequate trial period (at least 90 days). That way, you’ll have ample time to ensure the ratio of Talalay or Dunlop is right for your needs.This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional. 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