The Differences Between Memory Foam and Natural Latex
Explore the differences between the natural latex foam found in our mattresses and memory foam.
Choosing your next mattress? The most important ingredient is the foam it contains. Today, most mattress stores feature a bewildering array of foam varieties—and terms. Here’s how to decide between two popular contenders: latex and memory foam.
Latex comes in two basic categories—natural or synthetic / blended.
Synthetic or blended latex
Synthetic latex is made with petroleum-based oils and chemical additives. Chemicals typically added include formaldehyde and flame retardants, which have been proven dangerous to health. Some synthetic foams (with names such as “bio”, “hybrid”, “eco” or “soy” foam) also contain a small percentage of plant oils.
Chemicals from these foams migrate into household air and dust, either as off-gassing vapor or in microscopic particles released every time the foam is pressed with use. The micro-particles are absorbed into ordinary house dust. Infants and children receive the greatest exposure and carry the highest chemical load in their bodies.
Toxic Dust in Your Home
Harmful chemicals from your mattress(es) and furniture may be floating all around you. Watch this video to learn more about the health consequences linked to the dust in your home.
Natural latex is made from rubber tree sap that is whipped into liquid foam in a centrifuge, poured into molds or continuously onto a belt tray and steam baked. The highest-quality natural latex foam contains at least 95% pure rubber. Tiny amounts of antioxidants and additives are added to produce natural latex foam; chemical flame retardants are not.
Brands advertising “100% pure” or “100% natural” latex are using inaccurate language, because “100%” is an absolute term. If “100% pure” rubber sap were baked with no additional ingredients, it would turn into unusable goo. It would be putting “100% milk” into an oven expecting a fluffy custard to come out.
Detecting the difference
The best way to confirm whether natural latex is being advertised honestly is to view objective, independent certifications.
True natural latex, without synthetic latex or fillers blended in, is simply natural foam rubber. It can be processed in two different ways, resulting in two different forms of natural latex: Dunlop and Talalay.
Learn more about the difference between Dunlop and Talalay and the benefits of natural latex.
Learn more about our natural and organic products
Browse our collection of layered organic mattresses. Choose Dunlop and/or Talalay to customize the feel to suit your body.
Our flagship collection includes an organic sofa, loveseat, and armchair in your choice of color, fabric, and accent finish.
View our collection of hand-made natural platform beds made from sustainably-harvested maple. Available in four zero-VOC finishes.
Memory foam is a type of polyurethane foam with added chemicals. Memory foam changes its shape due to a chemical reaction triggered by trapped body heat. Proprietary formulas for memory foam vary, but the action is generally the same. Heat trapped beneath the sleeper causes the foam to conform to body shape.
There is no “natural memory foam”—this misleading claim has led to disciplinary action by the FTC. The addition of some latex, scents and hydrolyzed corn protein (MSG) to a formula does not justify the false label. MSG is made by prolonged boiling of proteins in strong acid (usually hydrochloric acid) or by fermentation.
The primary attraction is initial pressure relief. It’s a novel sensation to feel memory foam contouring closely to the body. Because the reaction requires trapped heat, however, every time a sleeper changes position, the memory foam must be re-heated to fully contour again. Repeated time lags for re-contouring can cause restless sleep.
Excess heat can hamper sleep as it builds up between the sleeper’s body and the memory foam. New formulas with added cooling chemicals have been developed (similar to chemicals in gel-infused foams).
Most memory foam tends to stop responding fully after a few years, and support may become uneven. Though the surface still “springs back” visually, interior foam cells may collapse and lose their capacity to support.
A well-known characteristic of memory foam is its acrid smell, sometimes disguised with odor-masking chemicals. This is chemical off-gassing, and is a threat to long-term health. Such off-gassing can increase risks of cancer, obesity, infertility, and developmental brain disorders such as autism and ADHD.
Headaches and respiratory problems are also often reported. And unfortunately, odorless off-gassing continues during the life of the product, even after the smell is gone.
Memory foam is a form of polyurethane foam invented by NASA at the dawn of the space age. Various chemicals are added during the production process to give the foam softness, shape retention and color.
This chart illustrates the key differences between latex and memory foam.
Learn More About Memory Foam and Natural Latex
Does Memory Foam Contain Toxic Chemicals?
That “contouring” sensation is produced by a host of risky chemicals.
Natural Latex Mattresses
We offer a range of natural latex and organic mattresses, including customizable designs.
Latex vs. Memory Foam
Compare and contrast the difference between these two popular foams.