Latex is used in several ways in mattresses and bedding. It is commonly used in pillows and mattress pads/toppers. It can be found in cover quilting and comfort layers on innerspring mattresses. Even memory foam mattresses may have a latex layer. Then there are latex mattresses, usually a latex comfort section over a base foam support core. Some latex models also have a latex support core, either (mostly) a high-density and high resiliency latex foam or (seldom) a solid block of latex.
Formerly called “foam rubber,” latex foam is made in a number of ways. Foam rubber was first made by Dunlop, a tire manufacturer. Foaming agents were used to whip liquid synthetic rubber into foam. Then rubber tree sap (natural latex) was whipped and cured into solid foam. Now there are several kinds of latex foam, depending on the proportion of natural latex and the composition of other ingredients. All natural latex foam is (or should be) made from 100% natural latex sap. Natural latex foam is partly synthetic. Then there is synthetic latex foam. Synthetic ingredients can be petroleum derived or natural ingredients, such as soy oil.
Latex foam is highly resilient. Its recovery time from pressure is virtually instantaneous. Latex is conformable, not as much as memory foam, but it is more durable. Its durability partly depends on the manufacturing process. Latex is used in some mattresses for the support core.
The oldest method is the Dunlop process. Liquid latex is mixed with the foaming agents and poured into molds to cure. The cured latex foam then is cut to specification.
Another common manufacturing method for latex foam is the Talalay process. The liquid latex is fed into a closed mold from which air has been removed. Freezing and insertion of carbon dioxide are used in expanding the foam, and heat is used to cure it. This is a more costly process, but it can be done without toxic ingredients or agents. Also, parts can be molded in their final form.
Like memory foam, latex is sometimes infused with gel for cooling. Latex foam is naturally breathable, and it is cooler than memory foam, but the addition of gel is seen as an added value for cooling and its smoother support. Latex is naturally resistant to bacteria, mold, mildew, and dust mites. Properly washed latex foam is hypoallergenic, since allergens have been washed away.
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