Latex FoamSee also: Latex FAQ
Latex has been used in bedding for almost a century. As well as mattresses you can buy latex based sheets, pillows and other bedding.
Over recent years rubber latex has been somewhat eclipsed in the mattress marketplace by memory foam, however some people think that latex bedding is due for a resurgence. This might, ironically, be due to the interest in memory foam persuading people to be more "adventurous" in their mattress choices. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
What is Latex?
Latex foam is based on rubber and was initially a purely natural product. It was created from the milky sap of the rubber tree, usually the Para tree Hevea brasiliensis. When the tree is cut it "bleeds" sap, part of a defence mechanism. This sap can be collected in a process known as tapping and is then used for producing natural rubber latex.
Today you can buy both natural rubber and synthetic latex (styrene butadiene rubber, SBR). Natural latex originally came from Brazilian rubber plantations but today usually comes from Asia.
Unlike some other materials, latex is naturally resistant to mildew, dust mites and other problems. It is sometimes recommended for allergy sufferers - always talk to your doctor concerning an allergy or any other medical condition. As with any other product, some people are actually allergic to latex itself.
Natural vs Synthetic
As with most things, natural latex rubber usually costs more than the synthetic alternatives. Which is better value for money and the best buy? That depends on whether you are talking to a supplier of natural or synthetic product! Both have pros and cons, which is one reason why come items you can buy in the stores combine the two. To make things even more complicated there are also two different latex production methods - Dunlop and Talalay - either of which can be used with natural or synthetic rubber!
Many people prefer natural latex simply because it is natural and avoids the polluting chemicals found in the manufacture and disposal of synthetic materials. Avoiding petrochemicals can be a big selling point for people who want to be green and environmentally friendly.
Natural and synthetic latex also tend to have a different "feel", however which is better tends to be a matter of taste.
For many of us the deciding factor may simply be that synthetic is usually more affordable than natural.