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Low-profile Talalay latex mattress
I've decided that I want an all-latex mattress, and preferably one that's relatively inexpensive (they can get quite expensive, I've found). I'm 6'2", 220lb, and I'm a side sleeper.
Today, I tried a Dixie Foam 100% Talalay 7" mattress (35 ILD) and found it to be very comfortable. It was firm, yet supple, which I like. I feel like I could even go a bit firmer.
I've been searching online and found similar 7" mattresses from sleeponlatex.com and latexmattressfactory.com, though they both use Dunlop latex instead of the Talalay that I tried. On the other hand, they are cheaper and have better trials in case I don't like the mattress. How would Dunlop latex compare to the Talalay in terms of feel? How about for sleeping cool? Would 7" be thick enough for my weight? (the Dixie Foam I tried seemed fine, but I'd like to be sure long-term). Thanks!
How would Dunlop latex compare to the Talalay in terms of feel?
That’s a bit of a difficult question to answer, so I’ll go into a more detail here (perhaps more than you want ) and do my best to compare Dunlop and Talalay for you.
The two different methods used to make the foam are the Dunlop process (the original method) and the Talalay process (a newer more high tech method although it has been used for decades). The Dunlop process has two main variations and one is made in a mold and the other is made with a continuous pour method on a moving belt. Post #3 here has some videos of the different production processes.
The Dunlop method is simpler and results in a denser foam. Dunlop made in a mold is more difficult to make as soft as the Talalay process. It is also less complex and less costly to make than Talalay. While it can be good quality in either a blend or all natural version ... it is often preferred in an all natural version because the greater elasticity can somewhat make up for the fact that it is more difficult to make as soft as Talalay and because the lower cost of production can make up for the higher cost of using more NR latex as a raw material. It is poured in a mold or on a "belt" and then heated and cured to make the foam. It is most popular in a support layer however there are those who also prefer it in the comfort layers.
There are some newer versions of continuous pour Dunlop coming onto the market that are being made as soft as the softest Talalay which are somewhat "in between" Talalay and Dunlop although they would be closer to Dunlop in terms of how they "feel". Dunlop is not as "lively" as Talalay because it is a denser foam with a different cell structure. Continuous pour Dunlop has a "feel" that is somewhat in between molded Dunlop and Talalay but would be more comparable to molded Dunlop than to Talalay. Continuous pour production methods result in a little less variance in terms of firmness throughout the material.
The Talalay method is more complex and results in a less dense foam. It can be made softer and more consistent than Dunlop because of the production method that uses less latex by expanding the latex in a mold using a vacuum and then freezes it so the latex particles don't have time to settle before it is heated and cured. It is because of the lower density and the method that it can be made more consistent and softer. In spite of having less latex in the foamed core because of the Talalay production method ... it has a stronger cell structure with thicker struts so this can make up for the lower amount of latex in the material in terms of durability. Blended Talalay is most often used because it can create a more durable foam ... especially in the softer versions or ILD's. Talalay that uses 100% natural rubber is also available and is more elastic than a blend but may not be as durable as the blend in softer versions (lower ILD's). There is more about 100% natural and blended Talalay in post #2 here . It is also more difficult to work with to make a consistent firmness so the natural Talalay can be made softer than most Dunlop (except continuous pour Dunlop) but not as soft as blended Talalay. The two different versions of Talalay are very similar in feel and are lighter and more "lively" than Dunlop.
Talalay and Dunlop have often been compared to angel food cake vs pound cake. There is a little more about the differences in "feel" between Dunlop and Talalay in post #7 here .
All of these production methods make a very high quality foam that is more durable than any other types of foam materials (such as memory foam or polyfoam) and also have unique characteristics in terms of their ability to relieve pressure and provide support (get firmer with increased compression). The ability of softer latex to relieve pressure as well as memory foam and also to "hold up" the heavier parts of the body better than any other foam is part of the reason why so many people consider latex to be such a desirable material in a mattress.
There are also companies that produce organic Dunlop (which is 100% natural and has an organic certification as well). You can read more about organic Dunlop in post #6 here ).
In terms of cost ... Synthetic or blended Dunlop is the least expensive (less natural rubber lowers the cost of the material), Natural Dunlop and blended Talalay are roughly equivalent, and Natural Talalay and organic Dunlop are generally the most expensive. There are some variations here because of variations in methods of production and variations of NR latex used between different foam producers and other factors but in general this is roughly accurate. Which is best for each person depends on their preferences and their budget because all latex is a high quality material compared to other types of foam.
Outside of normal differences between different manufacturers or retailers or differences in design ... the difference in the type of latex used and the differences in various ticking/quilting used to cover the latex accounts for most of the price differences between different lines (wool quilting for example is significantly more expensive than just a material without a wool quilting).
So to recap ... Synthetic or blended Dunlop is usually the lowest cost version of latex (including some of the newer continuous pour synthetic or synthetic blend Dunlop latex materials which are also promising in terms of durability) but higher percentages of synthetic rubber in a blend will generally result in a lighter (less dense) and less elastic and resilient material that is a little less "supportive" (it has a lower compression modulus which is the rate that a material becomes firmer as you compress it more deeply) but they can make a good choice if budget considerations are the most important factor and all latex is a high quality and durable material compared to other types of foam. Continuous pour Dunlop can be found in softer versions than most of the molded Dunlop you will find. 100% NR Dunlop or blended Talalay (70% SBR / 30% SBR) are the next up in price and are the most popular choices for overall performance and "value" while 100% NR Talalay or organic Dunlop is the most expensive. 100% natural Talalay latex is most popular with those who want Talalay latex in its most natural version or in its most elastic version in spite of the fact that it may be less durable in softer ILD's in a comfort layer. Organic Dunlop is most popular with those where an organic certification is important for personal reasons regardless of whether there is any difference in the actual feel or performance between organic Dunlop and 100% natural Dunlop which is basically the same material without an organic certification. In similar ILDs, the Dunlop will tend to feel a bit softer during the first 25% or so of compression, but then it will “firm up” faster than the Talalay and overall it will tend to feel firmer than the corresponding Talalay piece.
How about for sleeping cool?
Latex is generally one of the most breathable foams, with Talalay generally being more breathable than Dunlop. The covering used around the mattress and your mattress pad and fitted sheet will tend to impact our sleeping microclimate more than the latex within the mattress. There is more about the many variables that can affect the sleeping temperature of a mattress or sleeping system in post #2 here .
Would 7" be thick enough for my weight? (the Dixie Foam I tried seemed fine, but I'd like to be sure long-term).
For a higher ILD, this would generally be adequate, although YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary), and nothing beats the personal testing you’ve already done. If you do decide to order online, you’ve already been smart and investigated the return policies of other brands just in case your purchase doesn’t turn out as well as you had hoped.
As your aware, Dixie Foam Beds, Sleep On Latex and the Latex Mattress Factory are all members of this site which means that I think very highly of them and that I believe that they compete well with the best in the industry in terms of their quality, value, service, knowledge, and transparency.
I’ll look forward to learning about your progress or any other questions you may have.