Talalay vs. Dunlop: Which Makes a Better Latex Mattress and Why

Talalay vs. Dunlop: Which Makes a Better Latex Mattress and Why

One of the most challenging decisions consumers encounter when shopping for a latex mattress is determining the differences between Talalay and Dunlop latex. People usually want to know what makes them different, why one costs more, and which is more comfortable and durable. To further confuse the issue, synthetic and natural latex can both be used with either method. It is important to research and understand the differences between the types before purchasing a new bed. To determine whether a Dunlop or Talalay latex mattress would be best, you should understand the processes used to create them, their inherent properties, and the benefits each provides.

Latex Mattress Manufacturing: Talalay vs Dunlop

The terms Talalay and Dunlop refer solely to the method used to change the latex liquid into the foam material used in beds.

The Making of a Dunlop Latex Mattress

The Dunlop process was the original method for making latex foam, as developed by the Dunlop company in the 1920’s.

  1. The Dunlop method begins with whipping liquid latex into a froth.
  2. The frothy liquid is poured into a mold.
  3. The liquid is allowed to gel in open air.
  4. The mold then undergoes heat curing (vulcanization to solidify the foam.
  5. Dunlop mattresses undergo one rinse before being allowed to dry.

The Making of a Talalay Latex Mattress

The Talalay process was developed in the 1940’s by the Talalay brothers. This process allows for greater control over density and firmness.

  1. The Talalay method also begins with latex that has been whipped into a foamy consistency.
  2. This mixture is placed in a mold which vacuum sealed, and excess air is removed to allow the latex to evenly fill the mold.
  3. The mold is flash frozen to -20 degrees Fahrenheit which maintain the even consistency.
  4. Via the pins in the mold, CO2 is added to gel the latex.
  5. It is then vulcanized at high temperatures (220-230 degrees) to cure.
  6. At this point the mattress is released from the mold.
  7. The latex mattress then undergoes five rinses to eliminate any residues.
  8. The material is then thoroughly dried before packaging.

To summarize and provide an analogy, Latex International, one of the largest manufacturers of latex products describes the difference like this:

Talalay latex is like a chocolate soufflé; although the process is long, your end product is a buoyant, airy, complex delight. Dunlop latex is more like a tray of brownies; tasty, but dense and flat in comparison.

Key Differences Between Talalay and Dunlop Latex

The ability for a mattress to remain durable, offer support and provide pressure relief are very important when determining which one to purchase. The two types of latex mattress manufacturing result in significant differences likely to impact the decision of which is best for your needs. (Statistics below are from Latex International).

Consistency

Consistency is a significant factor when determining whether a Talalay latex mattress or Dunlop model is best. Dunlop manufacturing allows sediments to settle, which creates a mattress that is softer on the top and firm on the bottom. The latex particles may also be unevenly distributed, yielding a lumpy sensation. The vacuum and flash-freezing steps in the Talalay methods evenly disperse the particles, creating a finer, consistent cell matrix that yields a consistent feel throughout the material.

Firmness

The firmness of Talalay latex can be adjusted by controlling the amount of latex in the mold before pressurization. With Dunlop latex, the only way to soften the material is to add fillers which disrupt the natural integrity of the foam. Thus, Talalay products can achieve a much wider range of firmness levels, and prove superior especially in softer applications.

Pressure Relief

The vacuum process of Talalay latex allows it to retain elasticity, whereas the flat molding process of Dunlop creates a firmer product. Think of a rubber balloon compared to an eraser. When it comes to mattress materials, this elasticity means Talalay material can better contour to the body to relieve pressure points. One study indicates that Talalay latex provides 33% greater pressure relief over Dunlop material.

Breathability

How breathable a mattress is can have a big impact on sleep as science shows that cooler temperatures are more conducive to quality rest. The large, open, round cells of Talalay latex allow more air flow than smaller, closed, inconsistent cells of Dunlop. Talalay latex thus can be up to four times more breathable.

Durability

When buying a new mattress, people usually want a bed that will last. Impressions can be troublesome to many, and research has shown that Talalay latex resists compression three times longer than Dunlop. This is due primarily to cell structure, as Dunlop’s snowflake-type matrix is less capable of resisting compression and more likely to weaken over time.

Manufacturing Costs & Availability

Dunlop latex is typically cheaper the cheaper of the two, and many wonder why. It really boils down to the effort and resources used in the process, and the availability of the product. The Dunlop process takes approximately an hour and is fairly common. The Talalay process takes up to 14 hours and involves more specialized equipment. Very few facilities in the world produce Talalay process latex, thus due to “economies of scale”, this process remains somewhat more expensive.

Is One More Natural?

Either process can be made using 100% natural, blended, or synthetic latex. We discuss the differences between synthetic and natural latex in detail in a previous article, “What is in a Latex Mattress?“, which are also important to understand when comparing latex beds. We recommend opting for all-natural latex whichever type you chose in order to reduce chemicals and maximize benefits.

Which Makes the Best Mattress?

When the two products are compared side-by-side, a clear winner results. Talalay latex proves superior in consistency, pressure relief, breathability, and customizability, all factors critical to comfort. While Talalay can cost more than Dunlop, the improvements in in durability means consumers will be able to utilize their mattresses longer.  Thus, the ideal latex mattress would contain a Talalay core and comfort layers in order to receive the greatest benefits.

For those looking for specific recommendations, in our past comparison of retailers we found Astrabeds.com to offer the best value on 100% natural Talalay latex mattresses. If you are shopping for latex mattress, take the time to understand and consider the materials used in the bed as well as the manufacturing processes rather than just relying on prices and brands as these will prove more important to your comfort and satisfaction.

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