Let’s do a comparison of Talalay vs. Dunlop latex foam.
Talalay and Dunlop are processes for creating latex mattress cores, layers, toppers and pillows; they are not types of rubber. This distinction gets lost on many consumers and can contribute to people making misinformed and potentially costly decisions. Calling latex Dunlop or Talalay does not give any indication of whether it is botanical, blended, or synthetic. The confusion over this differentiation can be used by retailers, who like to charge a premium for what may be lesser products.
The more important decisions in getting your best value are:
- Is the latex botanical, blended, or synthetic (Styrene Butadiene or SBR)?
- How much of the mattress is actually botanical latex and how much is other materials?
Botanical latex comes directly from the rubber tree (Hevea Brasiliensis). This tree only grows within about 15 degrees of the equator. All real rubber comes from this area. Botanical latex is the longest lasting, most durable material used for mattresses and does not have off-gassing chemicals added. Most consumers would think what is called natural latex would be botanical; however, in the industry what is called natural latex is often a blend of synthetics and botanical latex.
Synthetic latex (SBR) was developed prior to World War II because real rubber was restricted during the lead up to the war. Petroleum is the source of both styrene (plastic) and butadiene. Some mattress manufacturers and retailers refer to SBR made products as being “natural” latex, suggesting that petroleum is a natural product, and therefore the end result is also natural. It is not the same as the natural botanical latex that was originally developed for use in mattresses. SBR products have the tendency to break down like polyurethane foams; not keeping their shape like botanical latex. SBR also off gasses because of the petroleum content.
Because the mattress industry has very few regulations, a latex mattress can be made of all synthetic latex, all botanical latex, or a blend of different types. Mattresses can also contain as little as an inch of latex, (often synthetic), laminated to a “soy” foam core (polyurethane). This is the most common type of “latex mattress” on the market and is a recipe for a very temporary sleep surface. This can be hard to ascertain from the salesperson or the advertising for the mattress. Often the promoter of the product relies on the consumer’s lack of knowledge. They’ll say things like, “this mattress is Talalay/Dunlop latex”, rather than addressing how much latex is in the product, and whether that latex is comprised of real botanical rubber or synthetic.
The Dunlop process of forming latex involves large metal molds (think of an oversized waffle iron) filled completely with liquid latex. The molds are heated throughout with thermal pins producing a finished core; it is sometimes referred to as pincore foam because of the holes left by the heating elements. This process yields a solid, durable product that has been used in mattresses and upholstery since the 1920’s.
The Talalay process, developed in the 50’s, uses less liquid latex to produce the same depth of core. Similar metal molds are filled part way and a vacuum is created in the mold to disperse the latex. Then it is freeze-dried in place to set. This process is often used to create a softer product. The softer feel is the result of more air and less rubber. The Talalay process is more often used as the cushion layers on top of beds because of this softness. The trade off is that Talalay produced latex breaks down faster than Dunlop processed latex because there is less raw material and the tiny air bubbles that comprise it have thinner cell walls separating them.
Botanical dunlop cores offer a better, longer lasting support system for mattresses, a fact evidenced by their continuing use and popularity since the 1920’s. Softer, cushioned layers can be either Talalay or Dunlop processed latex depending on the durability preference of the consumer. The purest process and materials used are with Botanicore, a name we trademarked so that consumers can quickly discern what is the purest latex used in the industry.
Botanicore uses a modified version of the dunlop process. Less accessible, and more exclusive than the other types of latex, Botanicore process latex is a balance of consistency and durability. Utilizing an open mold pouring process, there are no voids, no patches, no glued-up sections. To avoid having a firm and soft side, the latex is vulcanized with the mold vertically oriented. Botanicore uses no synthetic or blended latex and the mattress cores are molded to size without glue-ups or patches.