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There's a lot of confusion about what Dunlop and Talalay mean. They are neither types of latex nor types of rubber trees, but types of processing. Dunlop is a process that's been around since 1929 and involves the traditional manufacturing method. Talalay is the name of a newer process. Here's how they differ.
When Dunlop latex for mattresses is made, the serum is frothed in a centrifuge, poured into a mold, covered and baked at a low temperature. The natural sediments in the latex settle to the bottom of the mold, which yields a layer that is slightly firmer on the bottom side.
In the Talalay process, after the latex is poured, the mold is sealed and air is vacuumed out. Then the mold is flash-frozen to stabilize the material. This produces a more consistent cell structure, as some of the weaker air bubbles are vacuumed out. Because of the added steps, Talalay latex is more expensive than Dunlop. Latex International is the major company that manufactures and distributes Natural Talalay in the United States. Therefore, most manufacturers (including Lifekind and Savvy Rest) that use Natural Talalay latex are using the SAME EXACT latex.
Which is better?
Having worked with both Dunlop and Talalay latex, we can say with confidence that neither is superior to the other. What matters more is how it is handled out of the mold, how it is packaged, shipped, and ultimately, what is in the end product.
What other variables are there? Some companies add "fillers" such as clay to make the latex go further. And some companies boast "perimeter support", known in the industry as racetracking. That means they use cheaper materials, usually polyurethane foam, around the outside of the latex. This does make the edge of the bed stiffer for sitting on. It also reduces the sleeping surface by up to 20%.
We think it's a shame that companies selling Natural Talalay say it's superior and more pure than Natural Dunlop, and vice versa. Both materials make a great mattress and are extremely pure.
While it is true that Talalay has a wider range of ILDs, or firmness grades, in our experience Dunlop is heavier and more durable. If you like a very soft mattress, you will want Talalay. (For example, a layer of Soft Talalay is softer than a layer of Soft Dunlop.) If you have children who mistake their mattress for a trampoline, you will want Dunlop. That is why we carry both. We are also happy to combine the two in configuring a Savvy Rest.
Natural or synthetic blend?
In the Talalay process, synthetic chemicals are usually added to make Talalay latex, but not always. It is possible to make natural Talalay, synthetic Talalay, natural Dunlop, and synthetic Dunlop. Unfortunately, there is no law that prohibits manufacturers from saying their products contain "natural" latex-even if in actuality that's only the 20% in an 80%-20% blend, for example.
We order only naturally processed latex-natural Talalay and natural Dunlop. Our Talalay supplier certifies that no synthetic chemicals are added to produce this latex.
We also use only natural Dunlop. We are comfortable with the description for two reasons. First, this process has not changed since 1929, and the harmful chemicals available today were not available then. Secondly, because we know that a small amount of sodium silicofluoride is used as a gelling agent, we made sure to find out what that means. We consulted at length with a chemist at the Umweltsinstitut, the independent testing company in Cologne, Germany that does testing for our Dunlop latex. He explained that sodium is simply a salt and that because the fluoride is a stable molecule, there is no need to test for it. Our complete test results are here:
Natural Dunlop latex: