Should You Buy a Natural or Organic Latex Mattress?

If you're looking for a mattress made from natural materials, a latex mattress is a fantastic choice. Besides being a natural material, a latex mattress also delivers optimal comfort from its inherent springiness.
You have probably noticed that some latex mattresses are labelled as "natural" while others are labelled "organic". You may be wondering what the difference is between a natural latex mattress and an organic latex mattress.
What exactly is latex?
Latex milk
To understand the distinction between natural and organic latex, we first have to understand what latex is. Unlike other mattress materials, latex is a natural product. Latex is harvested from the sap of the rubber tree (Hevea Brasiliensis) and resembles a milky white liquid. It then undergoes processing to form the molten latex into the desired shape and firmness. The processing can be thought of akin to baking a cake: the material is poured into a vessel and solidifies into the desired shape. The exact methods of the latex processing can be varied slightly in specific ways to produce the different levels of firmness. This type of latex is called "natural latex".
What about synthetic latex?
Synthetic latex is an artificial form of latex. It is made by polymerizing a monomer which binds other molecules to form a polymer which is then processed to become latex that looks and behaves similarly to natural latex. In contrast, the latex from the rubber tree is termed natural latex (which may or may not be organic).
In the market, most latex mattresses you see at bedding stores are either 100% natural, or a natural/synthetic blend of latex. In practice, you cannot really find a latex mattress that is completely synthetic.
If you're already debating between a natural or an organic latex mattress, then you probably aren't interested a mattress containing natural/synthetic blended latex, though there is nothing wrong with the comfort it offers. By mixing natural latex with synthetic latex, manufacturers are able to manipulate the mixture to achieve different comfort and firmness level to cater to different needs more consistently.
Latex trees
What is the difference between "natural latex" and "organic latex"?
Natural latex comes from the rubber tree, as we learned above. When shopping for an all-natural latex mattress, you should look for a mattress labelled "100% natural latex". Or alternatively you could select an organic latex mattress to meet that same goal.
Organic latex is natural latex which has been grown organically, without use of pesticides. Therefore, all organic latex is natural latex. But not all natural latex is organic. Look for the GOLS (Global Organic Latex Standard) certification to ascertain that you are buying a truly organic latex mattress. A product may be organic without being certified as such. However, there is no way for you to have any proof of this without a certification. Thus organic certifications are important if you're seeking to buy an organic product.
Which is better for me: natural or organic latex?
This is not a situation where an option is 'better' or 'worse' than the other. The performance of a 100% natural latex mattress is indistinguishable from that of an organic latex mattress. Instead it comes down to personal preference and what sort of features you value most highly.
If you are an eco-conscious shopper, then an organic latex mattress is the best choice for you. You can be confident that the materials are organically grown. Furthermore, buying an organic latex mattress means that the rubber tree plantations are farmed in an eco-friendly manner without use of certain chemicals. Therefore, by purchasing an organic latex mattress, you are supporting environmentally-responsible plantation practices. If these things are important to you, then an organic latex mattress would be the best fit with your personal values.
Even if you are not overly eco-conscious, but want to ensure there are not even the slightest traces of pesticides and herbicides in the mattress, an organic latex mattress is ideal. For example, we see an increasing number of parents with young children falling in this category.
However, if you're in neither of the above situations, then a 100% natural latex mattress is all that is really needed. Of course, you can choose to purchase an organic latex mattress, but be aware the cost of an organic mattress tends to be higher. If you're concerned solely with performance, then the two are equivalent: in that situation, the 100% natural may be more suitable as it is likely to have the lower price tag. Again though, the choice is ultimately yours: you can't go wrong with either one.
Beware of greenwashing!
Reputable bedding shops will be able to answer your questions about the source of a product and whether it is organic, 100% natural or blended. They should also be able to produce the appropriate certifications as proof when asked.
Unfortunately, not all mattress manufacturers and bedding shops are ethical. You need to be wary of "greenwashing" by the less reputable shops. Greenwashing occurs when a product (e.g. a mattress), is labelled misleadingly to make it seem more environmentally friendly than it really is.
There are several ways that even the savviest consumer can be led into believing that something is more eco-conscious that it is. One such example of greenwashing is a manufacturer who creates their own eco-friendly looking logo for a mattress, but it does not in fact correspond to any sort of independent "green" standard. It may be simply a logo or sticker they have slapped onto this particular model of latex mattress to add an eco-friendly look to the product. This sort of branding is highly unethical but unfortunately the less reputable manufacturers will do this to try to dupe eco-conscious shoppers.
Another example of greenwashing is the use of meaningless terminology. For example, claiming that a mattress cover is "eco-cotton" is entirely meaningless. Cotton is either ordinary cotton or it is organic cotton. There is no such thing as eco-cotton. Yet the use of misleading terminology is exactly what unethical manufacturers will do to try to attract environmentally conscious customers.
Therefore, if you are shopping for a latex mattress - be it a 100% natural or an organic one - you need to be careful to question any dubious-sounding or unclear terminology. Ask questions, and request proof of certifications. Online or in person, a reputable bedding shop will be more than happy to help you with this.
Enjoy your natural or organic latex mattress
A latex mattress provides you with an unparalleled sleeping experience. You can be satisfied that the comfort, performance and durability is the same whether you select a natural or an organic latex mattress.
If eco-conscious values are important to you, or if you want to avoid even trace amounts of pesticides, then you should strongly consider an organic mattress. But if you prefer a natural product without necessarily being organic, then a 100% natural latex mattress will serve your needs at a slightly lower cost. The choice ultimately depends on your personal preference and on what features are important to you.
Whichever option you decide upon, one thing is certain: you'll enjoy the unique feeling of luxuriating on your soft yet supportive latex mattress.

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