The Difference Between Talalay and Dunlop Latex Mattresses

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/ April 29, 2019
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Mother nature has given us the best things in life: water, food, fire, and even our favorite mattress. Latex foam mattresses are still relatively new, deviating from the industry’s traditional models filled with springs or air, but they’re quickly gaining in popularity.

Why use latex for your material? It’s simple. Natural latex mattress are the healthiest option you can make to achieve your best night’s sleep (and improve your overall health!). Naturally hypoallergenic, latex mattresses are resistant to the dust mites, mold, and dead skin cells that you’d often find on the inside of memory foam or typical spring mattresses.

Latex mattresses also contour naturally to your body, allowing the mattress to respond to your sleeping form no matter what position you’re in. Unlike memory foam, if you shift positions during the night, the latex mattress will respond. Do you sleep hot? No problem. Latex mattresses have an open cell structure that makes them naturally breathable, so your body will remain at a comfortable temperature throughout the night.

There are a couple of varieties of latex mattress out there, so how do you know what type is right for you? The two options, Dunlop latex and Talalay latex, are actually incredibly different. Named for their differing production processes, Dunlop and Talalay processes each produce a unique latex mattress with their own qualities.

The origins

Dunlop and Talalay are two different methods for transforming liquid latex into mattress foam cores. They both originate from the sap of rubber trees (the Hevea Brasiliensis tree) that are often found in South America. Our trees have a 25-year productive life span before tapping to harvest the sap, which is where we get the liquid latex. The sap collection process is similar to how we get maple sap from maple trees. The collector cuts into the bark to remove a small section where he taps into the tree to collect the sap (usually into a bucket). This process is repeated with a fresh cut the following day until the extraction process is complete.

Once the sap is extracted, it’s shipped to our production facility in the United States and is combined with a few natural ingredients to form a liquid latex. Our process features natural, biodegradable ingredients that come from renewable resources and water-based raw materials.

The liquid latex batter is then mixed together to form an airy, light batter. This process is often likened to the process you go through to bake a cake or whisk eggs into a meringue.

From there, the process gets a little complicated, and it’s is where the two types of latex mattresses, Dunlop and Talalay, begin to separate and develop.

What’s the difference?

Dunlop

The Dunlop process was created in 1929 and is the oldest method for producing natural latex. Overall, the production process is faster and simpler than the Talalay and produces the same standard core each time. The liquid latex formulation is poured onto a conveyor belt mold and is then sent to an oven where it is heated to “gel” into a permanent, solid form. The form is then passed on to a washing station where small amounts of residual foam are washed away. Once cooled, the solid latex is removed from the conveyor belt.

Talalay

The Talalay family developed the Talalay process during World War II, so it’s a newer production process than the traditional Dunlop latex. The Talalay process starts the same as the Dunlop, whisking the liquid latex to form an airy batter. After the airy batter is formed and poured into its mold, it’s sealed and closed. Now is where the process starts to differentiate itself from the Dunlop latex production process.

A vacuum is created to disperse the liquid latex evenly throughout the mold (creating consistency) and is then flash frozen. After freezing, the latex is flash heated into a “gel”. The last step is to cool and remove the core from the mold. The additional two steps, the vacuum, and flash freezing add a few hours onto the production time of the Talalay latex (usually up to four hours or more).

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What do the Talalay’s two extra steps do?

The vacuum step allows the liquid latex to be evenly distributed throughout the mold, which enables us to make the mattress consistently formed and as firm as we want it to be. The more liquid that’s poured into the mold, the firmer the mattress will be (and vice versa). Because they are made in the same mold without the vacuum process, Dunlop products are unable to vary in firmness without sacrificing their structural integrity. They’re often firmer and less buoyant (like sponge cake as opposed to the angel food cake). Talalay latex, however, can be as firm (or as soft) as you need them to be. The result is a finished product that contours to your body perfectly as you shift, providing just the right amount of support your back needs no matter what sleeping position you’re in.

The flash freezing process also adds to the Talalay latex mattresses consistency. Freezing the liquid at once allows the product to have the same feeling (firm or soft) from the top to the bottom. Dunlop mattresses often feel inconsistent (firmer at the bottom and softer at the top) because they lack a flash freezing process.  As the particles cool, they settle unevenly at the bottom of the mold, making one side firmer than the other.

To help picture the difference in consistency: If Dunlop was a typical sponge cake (more solid/ firm), Talalay is angel food cake (light, airy, and more buoyant).

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