What's the Best Latex Mattress for the Money?
Latex mattresses have become increasingly popular in recent years, and deservedly so: They offer many of the advantages of other mattress materials and are among the most durable beds out there.
“Latex has all the positive properties of foam mattresses—they contour well to the body and are comfortable—but have all the springiness of an innerspring ," explains Michael Breus, PhD, a sleep specialist in Los Angeles and author of Good Night: The Sleep Doctor's 4-week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health.
Those great qualities come at a cost. Latex mattresses have an average price point of $2,000, which is roughly twice what you'd need to pay for a decent innerspring bed. So it's especially important to get a handle on the key features that make a latex mattress a good deal.
How to get the best latex mattress for the money
Here are four questions to ask while shopping to make sure that you're getting the most for your money.
How is the latex produced? Latex is made in one of two ways: the Dunlop method or the Talalay method. The main difference is in how the natural material is processed. In both cases, sap from rubber trees is collected, beaten into a foam, poured into a mold, and baked. To make Talalay latex, the mold is flash-frozen before being heated, which gives the finished product a more supple and lighter feel. Dunlop, by contrast, undergoes less processing, which yields a denser and heavier material.
Another difference is in how the mattresses are constructed. Talalay beds are put together in layers rather than a single block of foam. As a practical consequence, that means one mattress can have two firmness options. Saatva's Zenhaven latex mattress, for example, is flippable, with firmer layers at the bottom and more resilient on top. For a different comfort level, all you need to do is flip the mattress over.
Is the latex all natural or synthetic? One appeal of natural latex is that it's free of potential chemical irritants. That makes it a good choice if you have allergies or chemical sensitivities. It's better for the earth, too, because as a natural material latex is sustainable and biodegradable.
When researching latex mattresses, pay close attention to the type of latex: it can be all-natural latex, synthetic latex, or a blend of both. While synthetic latex feels similar to natural, it may release toxic ingredients into the air, a process known as off-gassing, or have an unpleasant chemical smell when you first start using it. The advantage to getting a synthetic latex mattress is that it is much cheaper. If you choose to go with natural, make sure the product description says “100% natural latex," so you know exactly what you're getting for your money.
You also shouldn't be scared away from a natural latex mattress if you have a mild latex allergy. “People are allergic to the proteins in the latex, which are washed out during the manufacturing process," Breus explains. (Although natural latex is hypoallergenic, if you have a severe latex allergy, it's best to choose a different material.)
Learn More About Saatva's Latex Mattress
What's the density? The two terms you'll see most often when shopping for a latex mattress are density and ILD. Density, which is calculated in pounds, is the measure of the mattress's weight per cubic foot. “The higher the density, the firmer and the more durable the mattress," says Joe Auer, founder of mattress review site Mattress Clarity. Natural latex typically has a density between 4 and 6 pounds.
The ILD (Indentation Load Deflection) is another measure of firmness. Technically, ILD measures the pounds of pressure needed to make a certain size indent in the foam. The higher the number, the firmer the mattress, with most people choosing an ILD somewhere between 25 and 35.
Don't get too hung up on those numbers, however. Unlike foam mattresses, density and ILD don't affect the price as much as the type of latex used—Talalay versus Dunlop, for example, or natural versus synthetic. Just keep in mind that higher density latex mattresses tend to be firmer, though they also last longer.
What other materials are used? Besides the latex inner support core and comfort layers, latex mattresses may include other materials in padding and covering. Top layers and covers made from organic cotton or 100% pure wool (used as a flame retardant) are costlier. But if you can swing it, an all-latex bed combined with a natural covering offers the maximum benefits in terms of breathability, sustainability, and durability.
Trying to decide between a latex mattress and a memory foam mattress? Here are six key differences.