The short answer is, no memory foam does not have latex in it. However, we need to explore what we actually mean when we use the terms latex and memory foam, as they can be used as catchalls, often misused completely and unscrupulously by marketeers.
What is memory foam?
In its essence, memory foam is a totally man made material with its core component being a polyurethane foam that has additional chemical materials to manipulate the density, bounce-back and softness of the final product. The technical name for it is actually visco-elastic polyurethane foam, but the marketing guys thought memory foam was a better name to help sell more mattresses!
Memory foam has been ingeniously designed to provide a super comfortable sleep surface that responds to your movements, and offers pressure point relief. However, this material does come with a number of drawbacks:
- Poor breathability - as the memory foam contours to your body you will find yourself effectively wrapped in plastic. The inferior ability to allow airflow can inevitably lead to hot, sweaty and sleepless nights.
- Less durable - memory foam will break down overtime and begin to lose its responsiveness, which is one of its key benefits. Natural latex will hold its shape and performance for much longer.
- Off- Gassing - this is a result of the memory foam breaking down over time, whereby the chemical components are released into the air. These are often toxic that will give the mattress a nasty odour, but more seriously can lead to a number of health issues including infertility, developmental disorders and cancers as you breathe them in night after night.
What is latex?
It sounds a simple question, but in mattresses latex can refer to 3 different materials:
- Synthetic latex - is a manmade petroleum based material, which is less springy and supportive than its natural latex counterpart. It is generally much cheaper, and commonly found in lower quality mattresses.
- Natural latex - made using the tree-tapped latex from rubber trees, which is blended with water, vulcanisation and gelling agents, aerated, poured into moulds and baked. This Dunlop process is almost 100 years old and produces a natural stable latex with the ideal properties for a mattress support layer. This is a premium material that is found in high end mattresses with a focus on natural materials.
- Blended latex - which is a mix of synthetic and natural latexes. This retains some of the benefits of the natural latex, whilst reducing the overall costs.
We recommend natural latex as the obvious superior product, and it is a great option if you are looking for pressure relief, motion isolation (if you have a wriggly partner), and breathability.
To ensure that you get the best quality sleep we would recommend searching for a natural mattress with a latex layer that is either GOLS certified or 100% natural grade A tree-tapped as we use at Snoozel Green. When you are aware of the toxic chemicals in memory foam we are sure that you will be looking to avoid it as much as we do.