Uh oh! you’re out gathering information about natural mattresses and realize that you have a crucial choice to make. Talalay or Dunlop natural latex.

Let’s break down the different facets of this question.

It all starts with Organic Latex that is made from the sap of rubber trees that typically grow in south-east Asia. This primary matter is transformed into latex using two distinct manufacturing processes: Dunlop and Talalay. Organic Latex pads used in mattresses do not use chemicals, synthetic materials, pesticides or herbicides. It is important to determine if the manufacturer you choose to buy your mattress from uses 100% Organic Latex or a synthetic blend.

Blended latex foam contains both natural and synthetic latex typically in a proportion of 80% synthetic and 20% natural. Synthetic blend latex foam is less expensive to produce, but does not breathe as well as organic and is less durable. Synthetic blend latex foam can also become deformed over time by being compressed in the same place. Legally, latex can be labeled as “natural” even if it contains only 30% natural latex. If you’re looking for completely natural latex with nothing added, make sure the manufacturer labels it as “100% natural latex”, or “100% organic latex”.

Dunlop and Talalay refer to the method of converting liquid latex into a solid form.

The Dunlop method has been used since 1929 to “vulcanize latex.

The Dunlop process

This is the time-tested way of converting liquid latex into useable foam.

  1. The liquid latex is emulsified in a giant milk-shake type blender. This process infuses the liquid latex with tiny little air bubbles.
  2. The emulsified liquid is poured into a mold that resembles a waffle cooker.
  3. The lid is closed and the latex is steam cooked. Thousands of small rods distribute steam evenly in the latex. These rods also leave a perforated pattern that promotes air circulation.
  4. In about 20-30 min. the latex is cooked and the foam is extracted from the mold.

The Talalay process

This is a more modern way to process natural latex and produces a foam that is less dense than Dunlop foam. This does not mean that it is softer. Talalay foam can be produced in a variety of firmness levels.

  1. The liquid latex is emulsified in a giant milk-shake type blender. This process infuses the liquid latex with tiny little air bubbles.
  2. The emulsified liquid is poured into a mold that much resembles a waffle cooker.
  3. The mold is filled about half way.
  4. A non-toxic chemical compound is added to stabilize the air bubbles.
  5. The air-tight lid of the mold is closed and the mold is put under vacuum. All the air is sucked out of the mold and the air bubbles caught in the latex expand. In this step, the latex fills the interior of the mold.
  6. The latex is then frozen to a temperature of −20 °F (−28 °C), and the air bubbles maintain their position within the foam.
  7. Carbon dioxide is pushed through the foam. The chemical reaction causes the foam to gel into place and hold it’s shape.
  8. The temperature inside the mold is incrementally increased to 230 °F (115 °C) for a measured amount of time.
  9. The foam is de-moulded and washed. The entire process takes around 60 min.

Depending on the manufacturer, Talalay foam can contain non-toxic adhesives.

For example, http://www.talalayglobal.com/, a USA based foam manufacturer  uses water-based adhesives that contain contain 6 non-toxic chemicals (acrylate resins, diphenyl diisocyanate, Phenol-melamine resins, Phenol-urea, Polyvinyl acetate and waxes styrene- butadiene copolymer) and 3 natural materials (fats, hevea brasiliensis milk, and water.) in their manufacturing process.