Latex mattresses come in three main density categories. The low-density products are those below 4.3 PCF, from 4.3 to 5.3 PCF is medium-density range, and anything above 5.3 PCF is considered high-density.
When people start thinking about what is causing their poor sleep, the mattress is usually the first and most obvious culprit. Many old beds have indentations and sagging that doesn’t allow your spine to align naturally, and you end up sleeping in a way that could harm you instead. If your body is not in the right position during the night, some parts will likely experience more pressure and feel sore in the morning. That is the most frequent cause of neck, shoulder, and back pain, so picking a mattress that offers the right level of support, and conforms to your body closely, can do wonders for your nightly slumber.
Latex beds have become very popular in recent years for several reasons. When people think of mattresses, the first thing that comes to mind are innerspring models, with their classic bouncy feel, and top layers that provide a certain degree of comfort. They are the most popular choice ahead of memory foam mattresses. However, both of these options have their downsides, and latex seems to come with fewer drawbacks and combines all the features that sleepers love.
One of the things that describe the quality of latex is its density. It can be useful for shoppers to understand what it represents, how it is measured, and how it affects other aspects of a bed. Keep reading if you want to learn about those things, and why you should consider getting a new mattress.
Density is the characteristic property of substance, and it refers to how much mass there is in a certain amount of volume. It is expressed in pounds per cubic foot (PCF), and it is relatively easy to calculate. For instance, a layer that weighs 80 pounds and measures 20 cubic feet has a density of 4 PCF, provided that it has a uniform consistency. That means that every cubic foot will weigh four pounds each.
Latex mattresses come in three main density categories. The low-density products are those below 4.3 PCF, from 4.3 to 5.3 PCF is medium-density range, and anything above 5.3 PCF is considered high-density. Keep in mind that most manufacturers don’t share with customers the density of each individual layer in their products. It is more common to use firmness or ILD (indentation load deflection) as a representation of how sleeping on a mattress feels. Although these terms are somewhat connected, there is a difference between them, so let’s see how they compare.
Although some bedding brands use the terms firmness and density interchangeably, we must state that it is not correct to do so. The first one represents a link between weight and volume, while the second refers to how soft or firm the whole mattress feels. It is usually rated on a 1 to 10 firmness scale, while most models fall between 3 and 8.
Indentation load deflection (ILD) is another measurement used to describe the firmness of the bed, and it shows the amount of weight needed to compress the material. It is calculated by putting a metal disc with 1 foot in diameter on a 4 inches thick area. The ILD is expressed in numerals, and it is the amount of weight needed to compress the material by 25%. If it’s 20 pounds, then that product has an ILD of 20.
Here is how ILD for latex affects the overall feel of the mattress:
There is a clear correlation between latex density and ILD and firmness measurements. While less dense mattresses often offer a softer feel and more conforming, denser ones are usually recommended for those who like a firm surface and no sinking. Keep in mind that the manufacturers typically disclose ILD or firmness measurements, but you can figure out material density using our instructions.
Latex is a natural liquid derived from the sap of rubber trees (Hevea brasiliensis). Because of its physical properties such as excellent durability and flexibility, it has found many purposes in today’s industries. In recent years, it has also become one of the favorite mattress materials. There are two types of latex: Dunlop and Talalay, and the differences mostly refer to a processing method, which later affects consistency, breathability, weight, and other characteristics.
The production of Dunlop latex resembles baking a cake as the sap is first mixed into a froth so that a lot of air bubbles can enter the liquid, and then it is injected in a mold, and baked in an oven. After that, the latex is thoroughly washed to remove all the proteins that are responsible for triggering allergies in people. Then the mattress is thermally processed once again to remove any excess moisture from the material. The end product is heterogeneous as the heavier sediment falls to the bottom while the fluffy foam material sits at the top. Because of this, the bottom half usually carries more weight, but it provides excellent support. Although people often think of Dunlop latex to be firmer than Talalay, this is a common misconception. It can be engineered to any firmness level, but it is usually used in support cores and therefore made to be sturdier.
First steps of the Talalay process is similar to Dunlop. The sap is mixed into a froth and injected into the mold, but it has small tubes that should allow more air to stay in and make an even sleeping surface. After molding, the product is vacuum sealed to induce full expansion of the material. It is then frozen to push out all the carbon dioxide and form air pockets, that make these mattresses highly breathable and suitable for most people who need a cooler surface because they struggle with sleeping too hot. After thermal processing, latex is removed from the mold and washed to remove all the proteins, and then dried. Because of the evenly distributed air pockets, the material is homogenous, and it has fluffy consistency throughout the whole mattress. That makes it a bit more on the softer side, which is why it is usually used for comfort layers rather than support cores. Talalay latex also tends to be lighter due to numerous air pockets in the material.
Natural latex is harvested from rubber trees, and then treated and processed to give that signature foamy feel. It is important to state that harvesting is not harmful to the trees and that the sap is a reasonably renewable source. The manufacturing is also relatively clean, and if you want an eco-friendly mattress, this is the best pick. Keep in mind that some brands advertise their products as 100% organic, which can be very misleading since the term requires that no chemicals are used in the manufacturing process. However, the label mandates that a product contains at least 95% of natural latex, which still leaves room for chemical usage. Don’t fall into this marketing scam, there is nothing wrong with synthetic materials, and just because something is natural, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is better.
Synthetic latex is made from chemicals derived from petroleum such as styrene and butadiene, which are later treated to get the desired characteristics. The end product is very similar to natural latex in terms of feel, density, and that signature bounciness, but it appears that it is slightly less durable and to trap heat more. While people usually get scared when they hear the word ‘chemicals,’ synthetic latex is much cheaper to produce, and the manufacturing process is not that bad.
However, most mattresses are made from a blend of synthetic and natural latex, and this ratio varies between models, but it must contain at least 30% of rubber tree sap component; otherwise, it is labeled as ‘synthetic.’ These products cost less, and they bring excellent features and long durability.
What material is used and a whole manufacturing process are essential for the quality of the mattress and its features. Here is how latex density affects different characteristics of every product:
There are several things to consider when choosing the density of the mattress. The most important things that a bed should provide are strong support, and an amount of conforming that keeps your whole body aligned during the night, to prevent pressure buildup that leads to discomfort and pain. The choice comes down to your body weight, resting position, and sleeping preferences.
Lighter individuals (those who weigh under 130 pounds) usually prefer beds that are less dense and have a softer feel. Their petite build might not be enough to feel all the benefits of high-density material, as the mattress doesn’t conform and they end up sleeping on top. It can even lead to pressure, especially for side sleepers who need a soft surface to remove the tension from their shoulders and hips.
On the other hand, heavier individuals can feel all the benefits of high-density material, and they often go for firmer options. Softer models don’t seem to provide enough support for them, especially in the areas that carry a lot of weight. While side sleepers require extra cushioning under the hips and shoulders, back and stomach sleepers need a flat surface that allows their spine to stay aligned throughout the night. Average weight individuals usually prefer beds that offer proper support with a nice amount of body contouring.
If you need more help to choose the right bedding product, be sure to check our guides and reviews and get the best information available.