Latex foam is a foam that is produced from liquid latex through the vulcanization process. There are a few different variations of this process that are used in the production of latex foam. All of these processes, however, can be completed using 100% natural latex, 100% synthetic latex or a blend of natural and synthetic latex.
Natural latex is a milky white liquid which is extracted from the Hevea-Brasilienis tree, better known as the rubber tree. Rubber trees are native to South America and were spread around the world in the 19th century because of their great value. The latex used in our products is harvested mainly in Sri Lanka. Rubber trees have thrived in Sri Lanka since their introduction to the island. This has led to the development of a large natural rubber products industry which has grown around the vast supply of natural latex on the island.
Rubber trees are tapped through a method that is very similar to maple trees being tapped for their maple syrup! A small piece of the bark is carved away, and latex quickly begins flowing from that cut and into containers below. To see this process in action, check out our video and blog post about harvesting natural latex.
Rubber trees must be grown for several years before they will yield latex. Each tree can be used for up to twenty years. The cuts in the tree are periodically changed to maximize yield. After the latex is collected from the rubber trees, it is thickened (by removing excess water) and shipped to factories for use.
100% natural latex foam has a supportive and springy feel. High quality natural latex foam such as our Pure Green latex foam is extremely durable and will last longer than any other type of mattress component. While it does have an odor, natural latex foam usually has a much more mild and less abrasive odor than that of synthetic latex. Most true 100% natural latex foam will meet the most stringent textile and furniture emissions standards such as ecoInstitut, Oeko-Tex and Greenguard.
The only drawback of natural latex foam is that it is not always as aesthetically perfect as synthetic latex foam. Small air pockets and aesthetic inconsistencies can be present on the finished foam. While these inconsistencies usually do not impact the performance of the foam in any way, Sleep On Latex committed to producing the best looking natural latex foam available in the world. Our Pure Green natural latex foam is produced to conform with several aesthetic quality standards.
Synthetic Latex is a synthetically produced compound that mimics the properties of natural latex. Rather than being harvested from rubber trees it is produced from petrochemicals. Several types of synthetic latex exist but SBR (styrene-butadiene rubber) is the most common type of synthetic latex used in the production of synthetic latex foam.
Synthetic latex foam usually has a more dull, less springy feel than natural latex foam. It is generally a bit less durable than natural latex foam and will tear easier. Synthetic latex foam also generally has a stronger and more abrasive odor than natural latex. It is uncommon to find synthetic latex foam that meets textile and furniture emissions standards such as ecoInstitut, Oeko-Tex and Greenguard.
Blended latex foam is produced with a blend of natural and synthetic latex. While blended latex is sometimes described by retailers as bringing together the best qualities of each type of latex, it is mainly used because it is a cheaper way to produce latex foam that contains natural latex. Many latex mattress retailers and manufacturers vaguely market blended latex as natural latex. Usually, blended latex contains mostly synthetic latex with only a small amount of natural latex. Often retailers selling blended latex foams market it as “made with 100% natural latex”, “contains natural latex” or “100% latex, natural origin”. Others simply falsely claim it to be “100% natural latex”.
Choosing to go 100% Natural
When we started Sleep On Latex years ago, we sold both 100% natural and blended latex foam products. In the beginning of 2015, we chose to transition to only selling natural latex foam.
We originally sold blended latex foam because we could sell it at a lower price point and could source it from a factory in the USA. We eventually came to the conclusion that our customers had much more interest in our 100% natural latex foam. We also strongly preferred to sell our customers 100% natural latex foam because we knew it was a much better product.
We found that occasionally customers were simply buying blended latex from us because they did not fully understand the difference and wanted to save a little bit of money. In the end, we decided that while synthetic latex or blended latex has some merit, we have a much stronger belief in the merits of 100% natural latex foam. We felt that we were selling our customers short by selling them a product, that while a little cheaper, was very clearly inferior.
In 2015 we made a commitment to only sell 100% natural latex foam products. We wanted to make it completely clear to our customers how strongly we believed in 100% natural latex foam. We also wanted our customers to be completely confident that when they are buying from us, they are buying only 100% natural latex foam products.