On Memory Foam, Latex and Spring Mattresses

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While all foams have some similarities, there are notable differences in feel and performance of memory foam vs. latex. To start, let’s put out two terms: slow response and fast response. Memory foam is called a slow response foam. To define slow response, let’s add in another term: creep. Creep means that the foam slowly conforms to heat applied, anywhere between 80 degrees to 120 degrees F. It also slowly reforms to its flat shape as it cools. Memory foam has creep, thus it is a slow response foam. Latex, on the other hand, is a fast response foam. Any pressure put on it will create compression; once the pressure is removed, the latex rebounds to its original shape as soon as the pressure is removed. Latex’s movement is very simple; its motion is quickly and directly in response to pressure.

Because memory foam can take a little while to cool down, the valleys made by sleepers take a while to return to a flat position, since warm memory foam is not flat foam. This has some sleepers resenting the valleys that they have to crawl out of to change sleeping positions. Latex does not develop valleys; instead it has a small bounce to it, that fast rebound that returns it to shape. This bounce is most noticed in the firmer layers as their density gives more pushback against the supporting slats. The spongy cradling effect of the softer layers are noted for their cushy feel and absorbent abilities of pressure points. In short, latex’s bounce is characteristic of its fast response and memory foam’s creep is characteristic of its slow response.

Since memory foam’s creep is responsible for retaining heat, memory foam sleeps hot. Latex, while still a solid piece of foam not a bladder full of cold air like a spring mattress, does not retain heat, thus does not sleep hot.


Comparing one foam to another presents some obvious similarities; they have multiple firmnesses to choose from, they feel spongy, they are solid, they are heavy. Comparing a spring mattress to a foam mattress presents more of a striking difference.  Equate the feel of a spring mattress to the support you would feel on a hammock; equate the feel of a foam mattress to sleeping on a giant sponge. To expound, a latex mattress can mold itself around you the way a stress ball molds around your fingers as you grip it. A spring mattress can not be molded, though it can stretch like a trampoline. Latex makes deep pressure point relief possible. In a foam, the latex will dip underneath you in exactly the points that the most pressure is  applied. One a spring mattress, a point of pressure will cause the entire surface to slope toward that point.

It is possible however to get the best of both feels, the spring mattress feel and the latex mattress feel, by picking the appropriate ticking or zippered encasement.  Combine the bounce and pressure absorption of the latex with the stiffness and thickness of the Quilted Ticking. The ticking will imitate the taut fabrics on conventional coil mattresses and will be able to cushion your entire body rather than specific points. The stiffer ticking forces a more even weight distribution of the sleeper  creating some slope and some sinking in, similar to a spring bending underneath your weight. The quilted ticking will also moderate some of the squishiness of the soft latex layers, diffusing that enveloping feeling that some of the softer layers give off as they cradle you. If you want to be raise above the latex instead of being surrounded by it, besides choosing firm layers of latex, consider the tautness the quilted ticking provides.


Upholstery Tips

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Here you will find information and resources to help you with your next upholstery project, be it chair or bench cushions, couches, bassinets, floor cushions, play mats, dog and cat beds, and even the nonupholstery projects, such as ornaments, yarn baskets, stuffed animals or dolls, doll’s bedding or whatever you can imagine.

You will this collection of posts, products and calculators around the website.


Fluffing Kapok Fiber

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Your kapok is coming to you unfluffed. You do not have to fluff it, but if you are using it for a pillow, you will find your pillow rather lumpy without taking the time to pull apart the fibers.

Depending on your distraction level, it will take about half an hour per lb. of fill to fluff. Our technique is simple though rather humorous looking:

  1. Sit down. Make sure you are wearing a shirt you won’t mind throwing down the laundry after your fluffing because it will get covered in kapok, in particular your sleeves.
  2. Place the bag your fiber arrived in on your lap, perhaps even on a chair in front of you.
  3. Pull the bag up to your chin and put your arms inside the bag. I like to tuck the bag securely under my arms so floating fibers do not sneak out.
  4. Take a clump in one hand and pull loose bits off of it with the other hand. Make a channel down the side of the bag to shove all the fluffed kapok in.
  5. Occasionally you may find debris in the kapok, a seed pod, a stick, sometimes a string from packaging. I separate these out and add them to a pocket I make out of the bag sitting up by my neck, discarding them when I am ready for a break.
  6. Fill the pillow slowly or the fibers will become airborne and you’ll have some dusting to do. I usually fill with the zipper half open and then close it more as I get to the top. Pack the fill in tightly.
  7. When fully stuffed, pound that pillow from all sides. The thumping will even out the lumps and smooth the whole pillow.
  8. Save your extra fill. As the fill is compressed, over time the fibers will break into smaller strips. The fill will take up less room in the pillow, giving the feel of flattening. We have supplied you with extra fill to reserve for later when you need some more height in the pillow.
  9. Sleep comfortably.

Caution: Do NOT touch your eyes after touching the fill! If you look on your fingertips after touching it there will be tiny fibers clinging to them. You can imagine the itch if they were to get in your eye.


Happy DIYing.

Fire, Legalities and Wool

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The story goes, in the seventies, when everyone lit up and the number of deaths due to cigarettes in bed was rising, tobacco companies were urged to make their cigarettes safer.  However, since the best way to make cigarettes safer would be to not use them, tobacco companies went another route.  The three Big Tobacco Companies created an alliance called Citizens for Fire Safety. This committee lobbied heavily for flame retardants to be put into bedding and other products.

Now that media has exposed who is actually behind the Citizens for Fire Safety, the tobacco companies have disbanded that committee for a new one. However, their previous website can still be found. Their new alliance is called North American Flame Retardant Alliance. The Chicago Tribune does a good job exposing their recent manipulation of a particular legislation.


Because of current legislation that was initiated in the seventies by these companies, mattress producers must pass a smolder test and a burn test of their product. The smolder test is outlined in law 16 CFR 1632. It specifically “measures the ignition resistance of a mattress or mattress pad by exposing the surface to lighted cigarettes in a draft-protected environment…At least 18 cigarettes are burned on each mattress test surface, 9 on the bare mattress and 9 in between sheets placed on the mattress…Individual cigarette test locations pass the test if the char length is not more than 2 inches (5.1 cm) in any direction from the nearest point of the cigarette. “

The burn test is outlined in law 16 CFR 1633. A burn lab will burn a minimum of three mattresses and box springs, at about a $600 per mattress. The mattresses are ignited with a pair of open flame propane burners, much like a blow torch, on the side and the top of the mattress. The test measures how quickly the mattress burns, how hot it burns and how quickly the flame extinguishes after the torch is removed. To pass, your mattress must self extinguish in a particular amount of time as well as only have a certain percentage of surface area burned.


If you have read this far, you’re wondering what we do about this legislation. Quite simply, it doesn’t apply to us, so we don’t have to do anything.

We sell supplies, parts that would be useful if you wanted to assemble them to make your own mattress. You can make a mattress out of our parts, just as you could out of a few bales of straw and a futon case. True, unzipping a three-sided zipper on a piece of ticking and stuffing it full of latex or wool is not difficult for either us or a customer to do, but we deliberately do not assemble mattresses.

Our supplies model enables us to be exempt from the burn test law. Both laws define mattress as follows “Mattress means a resilient material or combination of materials enclosed by a ticking (used alone or in combination with other products) intended or promoted for sleeping upon.”

We do not sell parts enclosed in ticking, so we need no fire barrier and no burn test. No burn test for us, no chemicals and no government agency deciding what you can and can’t sleep on.


Interestingly enough, our quilted ticking could pass the test. Wool is a natural fire barrier, especially when it is compressed so tightly that air, which fire needs to live, cannot penetrate it. The company who makes it for me reports many of their customers passing the burn test with it.

Testing over many years has confirmed that the high keratin protein and moisture content of wool make it naturally resistant to burning. It is difficult to set alight under most conditions and burns only weakly, forming a cold char, which tends to extinguish burning. It is important to note that wool is naturally fire resistant, not a fire retardant. Fire retardants reduce the flammability of materials by either blocking the fire physically or by initiating a chemical reaction that stops the fire. Pure wool without any added chemical fire retardants performs well as a fire barrier if it is used in the proper weight (app. 1.8 oz per square ft.) and is either mechanically densified (needle punched) or densified by the quilting process itself. Wool will burn at 600 degrees F; however if air is removed from the batting by densification, it performs very well and will pass the CFR 1633 burn test. This has been proven time and time again by many credible mattress manufacturers.

There are certain types of processed wool that perform better than others. Not performing well is wool batting that contains synthetic bonding agents; this batting sometimes does not act as a robust fire barrier due to the synthetic polyester used to bond the wool batting together. Another type of wool, raw grease wool is required by law to be scoured or cleaned and cannot be used as fire barrier in its uncleaned state. Some commercial wool available to bedding manufacturers is chemically scoured with hydrochloric acid. This process causes carbonization which strips the wool fiber of lanolin and even can destroy the outer sheath of the wool fiber itself, thus diluting its natural fire resistant properties. Carbonization is the term for the conversion of an organic substance into carbon or a carbon-containing residue through pyrolysis or destructive distillation. Carbonized wool smells like chemicals and is often bleached; two very good reasons we avoid it at all costs. The best performing wools are wools that are scoured in a mild biodegradable detergent without removing all the lanolin or stripping the outer sheath of the wool fibers. Natural pure wool processed in this fashion will pass CFR 1633 burn tests with very good results if used in the proper weight (1.8 oz per sq. ft).

Wool grown on farms or ranches utilizing sustainable ranching techniques without the use of chemical pesticides and overgrazing on pastures that contain no chemical herbicides or chemical fertilizers is the best conditions for purity of the wool. This is our wool.

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To read about flame retardants and their ability to impact our health, read our upcoming post.


For more details on chemicals and mattresses, visit People for Clean Beds.
Some on the details of wool borrowed from Mattress Consultant.

Making Natural Latex

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When natural rubber is tapped from a tree it is very dilute, the rubber content being only about 30%. It has to be concentrated before use to above 61.5% solids. Of these solids 60.0% is rubber, the remaining 1.5% are compounds that are unique to natural latex (proteins, phospholipids, carbohydrates, amino acids). These unique ingredients are very important in explaining the behaviour of natural latex.

Fatty Acid Soaps

This stabilizes the mix, i.e. it prevents it from coagulating until we are ready for it to do so, when the foam is in the mold. Soaps also assist the latex mixture to foam up when air is introduced in the foaming machine.

The latex compound is foamed up to the correct foam density, then the required amount metered into the mold. The mold is closed and the Talalay cycle begins. The mold is cooled and a vacuum is applied, which causes the foam to expand to fill the mold completely. A disposable paper gasket prevents latex entering the vacuum lines and a rubber gasket seals the mold from the outside world.


This is the key step in the foam making process. It is at this point that a phase change occurs and liquid foam becomes “solid” foam, and the foam sets or “gels.” In the original (standard) Dunlop Process, the foam is set by adding to the wet foam a small amount of gelling agent (sodium silicofluoride or SSF). In the Talalay process the foam is frozen at 0°F then carbon dioxide gas (an acidic gas) is passed through the foam to lower its pH and set the foam.

This whole process is done so that when the foam begins to warm up again, it does not revert to a liquid. The foam at this stage is however very weak and could not possibly be removed from the mold intact. The strength is built in during the next stage – vulcanization.

Sulfur and Vulcanization

Sulfur is added to the mix during compounding. Without sulfur in the production process, the foam would resemble chewing gum and would have little resilience. The double bonds in the rubber molecule are utilized by sulfur, which forms bridges with adjacent molecules, known as cross-linking. This process gives the product its familiar properties of elasticity and resilience.

The process of heating rubber with sulfur is called vulcanization or “curing,” and was discovered by Charles Goodyear in 1839. This is a fairly slow process, even at a temperature of +240°F so certain accelerators are required in the production process to make this happen quickly. A very small addition of these reduces the time required for curing from about 25 minutes to about 8 minutes. At the end of this time the mold is cooled, opened, and the product is removed and sent to the washer.


This removes soaps, ammonia and anything else water soluble, which have served their purpose and are no longer required or desirable. If they were not removed they would contribute to discoloration, odour and could leave the product feeling tacky.


This removes all water from the block and completes the vulcanization process, thus giving the product satisfactory physical properties (compression set, tensile strength, elongation at break, pounding and indentation set). The dried products then arrive at Inspection for weighing, hardness checks and grading.


Any double bonds in the rubber which are not used up by the sulfur are at risk from attack by oxygen and ozone in the atmosphere, particularly when catalyzed by the presence of UV light. This is why latex will deteriorate in sunlight. A small amount of ‘antioxidant’ is added to the latex during compounding. This is a substance which is preferentially oxidized (and therefore sacrificed), thus
affording some protection to the rubber. Eventually however it becomes depleted and deterioration of the rubber then occurs. Latex foam must never be cleaned with solvents (dry-cleaning): this would remove any antioxidant completely; deterioration would then be very rapid.

Molds and Heat Transfer

Molds are made from aluminium (very good heat transfer properties) and are hollow, with channels within their walls so that a heat transfer fluid can circulate through them.

Since latex foam is a very poor conductor of heat a large number of “pins” are present to enable heat/cold to get into the heart of the foam. The resulting pinholes then play another very useful role in that they make it much easier to remove moisture during the drying process.

End Result

In the end, natural latex is still a foam, but an almost perfectly natural one:

Ingredient Amount
1. Natural Latex Rubber 90-95%
2. Zinc Oxide 2- 3%
3. Fatty Acid Soaps 1-2%
4. Sulfur 1-2%
5. Sodium 1-2%

Item 1 is pure, natural rubber harvested exclusively from the “Hevea Brasiliensis” tree, which grows primarily in South-East Asia. Ours is from Sri Lanka.

Items 2 thru 5 are essential to the vulcanization, foaming and curing process that all latex cores must go though. The finished core is then washed a minimum of 3 times to remove any residuals that may be left over after curing.

Things to consider: You will note from the above information that all the ingredients in our 100% natural latex mattresses are natural – this is why it is listed as 100% natural. You should also note that NO fillers are used in these mattresses. It is very common for other sellers and manufacturers to use clay and other natural fillers in a 100% natural latex mattress, these ingredients make the mattress less costly to manufacture but also hinder the quality, comfort and longevity of the mattress as well.

This information is provided by one of my suppliers: Foam Order.

Wool and Latex Combo

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The Case for Wool on a Latex Mattress

Wool and latex share similar properties, so they accompany each other well on a mattress. They both won’t mildew, won’t harbor dust mites, are breathable, flexible and are good at distributing heat so you don’t end up too cold or too hot.

In a latex mattress, wool has another purpose as well as a comfort layer. It is an excellent protector of the latex. Latex is biodegradable; you can throw it in your compost pile when you are done with it. A few months later, it will be completely crumbled. Wool is not as biodegradable; you can weave it into garden mats to keep down the weeds and it will take 2 years for it to degrade rather than a few months. Natural latex contains an antioxidant, much like vitamin A is in our foods.  Once the antioxidant dissipates, the latex can be affected by oxygen. Direct sunlight, direct heat (as from a vent) and poor air quality can cause the latex to yellow and harden sooner than otherwise. Since latex is biodegradable, it appreciates being wrapped to keep it from the elements that cause it to prematurely harden.  Thus, the dense wool wrap adds a breathable layer of defense against the elements.

Some DIYers like to wrap their natural latex slabs with a batt of wool, some just like the quilted ticking with wool inside it. While a second cotton case would alternatively protect the latex, cotton just is not as nice of a fiber as wool. Also, a carded wool batt is more affordable than cotton fabric being a less processed fiber.

Wool through the Ages

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(This article is not my own, but is in its entirety from the American Sheep Industry Association.)

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Like human civilization, the story of wool begins in Asia Minor during the Stone Age about 10,000 years ago. Primitive man living in the Mesopotamian Plain used sheep for three basic human needs: food, clothing and shelter.

Later on man learned to spin and weave. As primitive as they must have been, woolens became part of the riches of Babylon.

The warmth of wool clothing and the mobility of sheep allowed mankind to spread civilization far beyond the warm climate of Mesopotamia.

Between 3000 and 1000 BC the Persians, Greeks and Romans distributed sheep and wool throughout Europe as they continued to improve breeds. The Romans took sheep everywhere as they built their Empire in what is now Spain, North Africa, and on the British Isles. They established a wool plant in what is now Winchester, England as early as 50 AD.

The Saracens, nomadic people of the Syrian-Arabian deserts, conquered Spain in the eighth century and established a widespread wool export trade with North Africa, Greece, Egypt and Constantinople.

During the twelfth century, weaving in Florence, Genoa and Venice was stimulated by the Norman conquest of Greece. The conquerors sent about a hundred Greek weavers to Palermo as slaves, and their extraordinary work was copied at once by Italian weavers.

Back in Spain a thriving wool trade helped finance the voyages of Columbus and the Conquistadores. Guarding its wealth closely, Spain levied the death penalty on anyone exporting sheep until 1786. That year King Louis XVI imported 386 Merino ewes to cross with sheep on his estate at Rambouillet in Northern France. The resulting Rambouillet breed is highly desirable today because of its fine and long-staple wool.

Just like Spain, England froze its borders to raw wool exports. In 1377 England’s King Edward III, “the royal wool merchant,” stopped woven-goods imports and the domestic weaving of foreign wools and invited Flemish weavers fleeing the Spanish invasion to settle in England where the industry thrived. By 1660 wool textile exports were two-thirds of England’s foreign commerce.

Columbus brought sheep to Cuba and Santo Domingo on his second voyage in 1493, and Cortez took their descendants along when he explored what is now Mexico and the southwestern United States. Navajo and other Southwest Indian tribes are famous yet today for their magnificent woolen rugs and colorful wall hangings.

Although pelts may have been worn in Britain as early as the late Bronze Age (3000 BC) England’s “empire of wool” peaked during the 1509-47 reign of King Henry VIII. He seized the flocks of the monasteries and redistributed them to court favorites. This caused unemployed shepherds to be sent to prison for non-payment of debts and was one of the unfair treatments which incited
immigration to America.

Despite the fact that England tried to discourage a wool industry in North America, a few smuggled sheep had multiplied to about 100,000 by 1665. Massachusetts even passed a law requiring young people to spin and weave. Traditions and folklore grew with the industry. Spinning duties fell to the eldest unmarried daughter in the family, hence the term “spinster.” Spun yarn was wound on a reel (weasel) which made a popping sound when a given yardage was reached. Pop goes the weasel!

King George III of England made wool trading in the Colonies a punishable offense. Cutting off the offender’s right hand was the chosen punishment. This policy, together with other oppressive actions including the Stamp Act of 1765, which required that revenue stamps be affixed to all printed matter and official documents in the Colonies, helped incite the Revolutionary War.

Despite the King’s attempts to disrupt wool commerce, the wool industry flourished in America. Both Washington and Jefferson maintained flocks of sheep; both were inaugurated in woolen suits. New inventions like the spinning jenny, combing machines and water-powered looms, expanded the industry rapidly. Sheep moved West with civilization and beyond; at the turn of the 18th century small flocks in the hands of pioneers started the industry in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Sheep are as versatile as the fiber they produce. All parts are used; they provide tender, delicious meat… and wool is a renewable resource. Sheep thrive in all 50 states and most nations of the world, often in rough, barren ranges, or high altitudes where other animals cannot survive because of lack of vegetation.

Sheep can survive and flourish on weeds and vegetation other animals will not eat, therefore they convert to protein a group of natural resources which would otherwise be wasted.

Sheep fill our food and fiber needs today just as they have for centuries.

This article taken in its entirety from:

Division American Sheep Industry Association, Inc.
6911 South Yosemite Street
Centennial, CO 80112-1414
(303) 771-3500 • Fax (303) 771-8200

The Banana Test

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How to Determine Latex Firmness

Picking out latex firmnesses is very vague if you have no frame of reference. So, I present to you, the banana comparison, an imperfect example but a good start.

Imagine the amount of pressure it would take you to flatten the following bananas with the palm of your hand and you just might be capture the feel of flattening the latex too.

Soft: a brown banana
Medium: a yellow banana with a few spots
Firm: a yellow banana
Extra-Firm: a chartreuse banana
Hard: a green banana

The Job of your Layers


The top layer of a mattress is the comfort layer. This is true if you make a wool mattress and use a wool topper or if you make a latex mattress and choose a soft piece of latex. The top layer will degrade faster than the rest of your layers as not only does it get the most use, but it is the softest and has the least amount of material to resist your body weight.

Choose your comfort layer first. You will feel this piece as soon as you crawl into your mattress. It is the layer that will cradle your pressure points and give you ease as soon as you lie down.


A supporting layer keeps you from sinking through to your slats or frame beneath you. it is what holds up the comfort layer and ultimately you. While its feel may be subtle, its function is necessary. A supporting layer is what you sink into after you use up the depth of the top layer.

When making a mattress, you can choose to concentrate the feel toward either comfort or support. In other words, you could choose a Soft/ Medium/ Extra Firm to concentrate on the comfort layer. Or you could choose Soft/ Firm/ Extra Firm for a concentration on the supporting layers. Rule of Thumb #3′ & 4 (below) are for people who don’t want to choose a concentration but rather a balance.

Rules of Thumb

  1. Children often prefer a medium 3” as opposed to firm 3”.
  2. If you like firm bedding, you will find a Firm to feel soft, and Extra Firm to feel medium and a Hard, firm.
  3. A common combination for 9” layers is Soft/ Medium/ Firm.
  4. A common combination for 6″ layers is Soft/ Firm.
  5. 3” is generally sufficient around to 100 lbs.
  6. 6” keeps you from feeling the slats until about 200 lbs.
  7. 9” will last you until shortly before 300 lbs. However, a lot of customers who could take a minimalist approach on 6″ choose the 9″ option, as it gives you one extra layer to put in the comfort category or the support category. 9″ is also a good choice if you are a sensitive sleeper, as you will probably end up fine tuning your mattress after you purchase it.

Sleeping Position & Body Shape


You create the largest pressure points of all sleepers with your hips and shoulders. You will tend to want a soft or a medium layer on top of your bed, unless you fit into Rule of Thumb #2’s category.


Your pressure points are not as large as a side sleeper’s are. You will tend toward a medium or a firm as a comfort layer.


Your body weight is stretched out so the pressure points you create will not be compounded at one point of the bed. This means that you may be comfortable on a minimalist depth of 6″ of latex or 4″ wool mattress with topper.


Your body weight is compact which means that your pressure points will be concentrated. You will lean toward a deep mattress of 9″ or more.


While you could get the best comparison if you tried out a latex bed, wrote down the ILD’s of the layers you liked and then came to us, perhaps having a comparison of what I am comfortable on might give you some more perspective.

I weigh 120 lbs and am 5’4” tall. I sleep 80% of the night on my side, 20% percent on my back, 0% on my stomach.

My own choice for mattress and bedding is (with my husband who is 200 lbs and 5’10”)
top: 3″ Medium
bottom: 3″ Firm

I do not use a mattress protector or topper. I sleep on a shredded latex with a quilted pillow case.

Be Forwarned

These are not rules or even suggestions. Consider them generalities.

Remember we offer a buy and try period. You may swap out layers of latex until you are satisfied with the firmness for 60 days.


Simply said, slats are the most common support system used with latex and wool mattresses. For more thorough information, see my article here on Bed Frames.

History of Natural Latex

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This timeline traces rubber back to its beginnings, follows the British experiments, the plantation startings, Goodyear’s perseverance and brings us out to the present with latex foam. fancy line

4th Century BC Herodotus Zanzibar Claimed to have seen natives playing with balls from Lydia which bounced high in the air. This seems to be the only reference to “rubber” in the old world.
6th Century Aztecs & Mayas Mexico & Central America Played with balls, dipped feet to make shoes, coated fabrics etc. Gulf of Mexico. (Pictures copied in National Museum, Mexico)
1493 Columbus Haiti 1st European recorded to have seen rubber balls but second hand observation – not recorded by Columbus himself.
1528 H Cortez Spain Returned to Spain with two teams of ball players.
1536 D’Orviedo y Valdes Spain Describes the N American Indian ball game (Batey). Some balls light in weight – perhaps they were of blown rubber.
1735 – 1745 Charles Marie de la Condamine Andes Described how Indians “milked” trees for liquid to waterproof fabrics. The Indians called the tree “HEVA” and the gum from the liquid “CAHUTSCHU”. He used the word “latex” to describe the “milk” or sap from the tree.
1751 La Condamine France Presented his and Fresneau’s work to Paris Academy of Science.
1755 Don José Portugal The King of Portugal sent boots to Para (a region in French Guiana, South America) to be waterproofed.  The first sapling of the ‘hevea braziliensis’ had been discovered in French Guiana by Fresneau just years before, causing a bit of confusion between the different types of latex dripping trees.
1761 F Fresneau France Discovered turpentine an ideal solvent for rubber. He told Minister Bertan who ‘leaked’ information to two professional Scientists, Herrisant and Macquer.
1770 E Nairne UK Started to sell cubes of rubber from his artists’ shop as pencil erasers.
1770 Priestly (of oxygen fame) UK Noted that Nairne sold a ½ inch cube of material for erasing pencil marks for 3 shillings. He called it “INDIA RUBBER” having found from whence it came.
1783 JAC Charles France First hydrogen-filled balloon. The fabric was rubber-proofed oiled silk.
1803 France Probably the first ‘Rubber Factory’ (to make elastic bands) built near Paris.
1813 J Clark UK Patent for making inflatable articles from rubber interior-coated fabrics – beds, cushions etc.
1820 T Hancock UK First patent for dry rubber; cut strips for elasticizing clothes, braces etc. Opened a factory in London which became ‘James Lyne Hancock”.
1823 C Macintosh UK Realized that if fabric coated with rubber solution then had another layer of fabric applied to rubber, the three layer sandwich was waterproof and not sticky –“MACINTOSH”.
1827 UK First recorded use of rubber hoses used against a fire (in London).
1828 EM Chaffee USA Roxbury India Rubber Co. founded (1st US rubber Co.).
1832 A Barbier &  NE Daubrée France Founded company named after themselves. Eventually became Michelin et Cie.
1834 T Hancock & C Macintosh UK Hancock became director of Chas Macintosh and Co.
1834 C Goodyear USA Became intrigued by rubber – some say obsessed after seeing rubber goods in New York store of the Roxbury India Rubber Co. And so begins the race between Goodyear and Hancock to improve on and experiment with rubber.
1837 C Dickens UK Wrote that Mr. Pickwick’s frown vanished like the marks of a blacklead pencil beneath the influence of India rubber.
1839 C Goodyear USA Left a mix of rubber, sulphur and white lead on a hot stove and he recognised that the resulting material was “CURED” of all its defects. It no longer softened on heating/hardened on cooling and it had lost its stickiness. Now rubber no longer melted in the summer and became as brittle as glass in the winter.
1842 / 1843 T Hancock UK Identified sulphur in a piece of Goodyear’s cured rubber. Could not duplicate cure as did not know about white lead, but effected cure with rubber/molten sulphur. Nicknamed the process “vulcanization,” after the Roman god of fire, a term much easier to remember than Goodyear’s name for the finished product “rubber gum elastic.”
1842 UK The UK began to import wild grown rubber from Singapore (from ficus elasticus and urceola elastica). The ‘hevea braziliensis’tree which we use today was still undeveloped. Most of the latex collected was from South America at this time.
1847 JG Ingram UK Began manufacture of vulcanized rubber balloons.
1848 UK Byrne India-Rubber Co. founded later sold to Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Co.
1853 Amazonia 3 tons of rubber exported.
1853 USA Rubber sole with leather edging (to sew to uppers) appeared. The rubber sole of boots is called a commando, thus where the military squadron got its name.
1855 C Goodyear Junior USA Patented use of ebonite for dental plates. Around the same time that Goodyear received his patent on vulcanizing (sadly 3 years after, anesthesia was patented by a fellow named Wells. Relatively speaking, Wells’s discovery made getting your teeth pulled a moderately painless experience, so teeth were being pulled left and right. This meant, of course, that the demand for false teeth was rising proportionately. Before vulcanization, denture bases had been made primarily of gold and were both costly and difficult to make. After vulcanization, denture bases could be made of vulcanized rubber set in plaster molds. This process did not demand a great deal of skill, and soon scores of dentists had small, round vulcanizers with which to ply their trade. These were called “dental pot” vulcanizers and would be used eventually to manufacture the first rubber stamps.
1859 UK New Liverpool Rubber Co founded – later to become Dunlop Rubber Co.
1860 Brazil Rubber prices at all time high – cost more than silver.
1862 J Leighton USA Invented the ubiquitous rubber stamp. Metal printing-stamps, also called hand stamps or mechanical hand stamps, preceded rubber ones by six to eight years.  The union financed the war by issuing revenue stamps which were required on virtually all business papers of any kind — notes, drafts, bills, checks, etc.
1868 USA A shoe was produced with a vulcanized rubber sole fused to a canvas upper. Reputedly known as the ‘felonies’ and also ‘brothel creepers’ they must have been very quiet! In the UK they were eventually called Plimsols by Philip Lace (1876).
1875 G Bouchardet France Suggested that isoprene was the primary unit of rubber and obtained a ‘rubber’ by heating it with fuming hydrochloric acid. The first synthetic rubber?
1876 H Wickham Brazil Three years after his commissioning for this project, he dispatched about 70,000 hevea seeds to the Botanical gardens in Kew, England. 2397 germinated.
1876 Singapore 50 seedlings arrived from Kew. Died due to neglect. After several false starts, including one by a planter in northern Borneo who felled his plantation after finding no rubber balls hanging from the branches, the prospects were grim.
1877 UK In all, by the end of 1877, Kew had distributed over 3000 seedlings; vastly more than their primary stock, so there must have been considerable propagation from cuttings. Sri Lanka then forwarded 22 seedlings from that delivery of 100 to Singapore. All of these survived and Henry Ridley, Director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, was later to remark that it was from these 22 seedlings in the Gardens that more than 75% of the cultivated plants in Malaysia were derived.
1884 G Daimler Germany Produced a light-weight four stroke petrol engine which would fit in a ‘horseless carriage’
1884 C Macintosh UK Invented a ‘cushion tyre’ for bicycles.
1885 Belgium Congo Exported first African wild rubber. King Leopold of Belgium had spent the last 20 years manipulating European countries and banks to set up his kingdom in the Congo.  While ivory was his first expectation of profits, rubber soon took over.  The slavery and gruesome tales of this period of history are captured in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
1888 JB Dunlop UK “Reinvented” the pneumatic tyre, now bicycles and vehicles were available to use it. Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Co. Ltd was formed to accommodate this great demand.
1890 JW Williams Belgium Congo In an open letter to President Harrison he coined the phrase ‘A crime against humanity’ in describing what was happening in the Congo.
late 1800’s to 1920 JG Araujo, JC Arana & The Suarez brothers Amazonia The three great overlords, all 3 specializing in torture, maiming and murder to amass their millions (JGA in the ‘Manaos’ region) (Suarez, 16,000,000 acres in Bolivia centred at Cachuela Esperanza). (JCA 14,000,000 acres in Colombia and Peru). Arana is the most documented because of the ‘Putumayo atrocities’
1895 H Ridley Singapore The head of Singapore’s botanical garden, persuaded two coffee growers to plant two acres (.8 ha) of Hevea trees. Twelve years later more than 300,000 ha of rubber grew in plantations in Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka) and Malaya. Because of his very fervent promotion of this crop, he is popularly remembered by the nickname “Mad Ridley”.
1892 W Tilden UK Synthesised ‘rubber’ from synthetic isoprene.
1898 F Seiberling &   C Sieberling USA Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Co. formed.
1898 Michelin France The “Michelin man” appeared for the first time.
1899 Sri Lanka 1st Plantation rubber shipped from Sri Lanka.
1900 Firestone USA Firestone Tyre and Rubber Co formed.
1900 Michelin France Michelin introduced grooved tire treads.
1901 Goodyear & Ford USA Goodyear enters motor racing with Henry Ford.
1906 TW Miller USA Patented the molded rubber hot water bottle.
1910 World Wild rubber production around 85,000 tons (50% Amazonian, 25% African, much of the rest from Mexico) and 11,000 tons of plantation rubber.
1913 / 1914 World Cross over point! Plantation output of NR exceeds that of wild (ca. 55/75,000 tons plantation to 66/49,000 tons of wild).
1914 WL Utermark UK Patented latex concentration by centrifugation.
1914 P Schidrowitz & HA Goldsborough UK Patented manufacture of foams from latex as opposed to dry rubber.
1915 SJ Peachy UK The first practical patent for chlorinated rubber. Solutions as varnishes and corrosion- resistant paint.
1920 P Schidrowitz UK Prevulcanization of latex and its use to manufacture dipped goods. This prevulcanization process let workers do away with the chemical sulphur chloride; instead they added polysulphides to the latex followed by controlled heating for a prolonged period of time. The end product gave a latex which was visually unchanged from the starting material but, when it was dried and gently heated, it had the properties of a normally vulcanized piece of dry rubber. The process was known as the Vultex process.
1924 Germany Fossilized rubber 60,000,000 years old found in lignite deposits.
1920 World Natural rubber production (on the plantations) 350,000 tons, only 37,000 tons wild.
1925 Germany Serious work began on the synthesis of Synthetic polybutadiene (Buna).
1926 Rosenbaum UK Quote: “Synthetic rubber is dead”.
1927 Henry Ford Brazil Began to build ‘Fordlandia’ – a complete town in the jungle with (eventually) a plantation of over a million rubber trees.  However, due to leaf blight, his plantation was wiped out twice and then abandoned within 7 years.
1929 E.A. Murphy UK A research scientist at Dunlop Tyre and Rubber Company accidentally discovered that mixing together and heating soap, liquid latex, and gelling agents would create latex foam.  His wife suggested using a cake mixer to create the airy product.  It worked. The latex foam branded Dunlopillo® was soon used for theater seating, cushions for cars and airplanes.
1931 S Ishibashi Japan Forms Bridgestone Co Ltd.
1931 Dunlop The first latex mattress sold using the Sodium Silicoflouride process (known as the Dunlop® process).
1933 N Christensen USA Invented the ‘simple’ ‘O’ ring seal.
1935 Russia Leon, Joseph and Ansil Talalay reinvented latex-foam rubber products. They manufactured and sold latex mattresses to Sears, Roebuck & Company in American department stores.
1940’s USA With Japan occupying prime rubber-producing areas in Southeast Asia, the U.S. feared it would run out of the vital material. Every tire, hose, seal, valve, and inch of wiring required rubber. They created a program to come up with some novel plans to produce rubber, including planting dandelions—their milky sap a small, but useful source of rubber—in 41 states. Extensive work on synthetic rubber yielded a product that, in time, economists predicted, would replace natural rubber.
1943 USA GR-S production started (now known as SBR). Government rubber-styrene -> styrene butadiene rubber (c.f. Buna S).
1945 Dow Corning & General Elec. USA Silicone rubber. Not a sulphur cure, peroxides used.
Late 1940’s B.F. Goodrich, Dunlopillo, and Radium LLC USA & UK Made Talalay process latex foam commercially practical.
1950’s Brazil Last wild rubber exported.
1960 World NR production 2,000,000 tons, Synthetics 2,500,000 tons.
1970 World NR production 3,000,000 tons, Synthetics 5,750,000 tons.
1972 Dunlop UK Dunlop introduced the ‘tubeless’ tyre.
1973 OPEC Arabia The oil embargo of 1973 doubled the price of synthetic rubber and made oil consumers more conscious of their gas mileage. The concern over gas mileage brought an unexpected threat to the synthetic rubber market: the widespread adoption of the radial tire, which Michelin had imported to the US in 56. The radial tire replaced the simple bias tires (which had made up 90 percent of the market only five years earlier) and within a few years virtually all cars were rolling on radials. Synthetic rubber did not have the strength for radials; only natural rubber could provide the required sturdiness.
1990 World Perhaps 5 billion plantation “hevea braziliensis” trees producing rubber worldwide.
1997 World NR production 6,500,000 tons, Synthetics 8,700,000 tons.
1990 Arpico Sri Lanka Starts massive US campaign to revive the latex mattress industry.

For more information on historical perspective, famous people involved with its processing and natural latex’s chemistry, technology and conservation, visit BouncyBalls.com

Sustainability of Natural Latex

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Natural Latex is made primarily from tree serum called latex. Latex is not sap and harvesting it does not take the lifeblood of the tree contained in the cambium layer. While the trees do not benefit from chemical fertilizers or pesticides, they do require a specific microclimate. They cannot grow here in the US as we do not have their climate, so any US made latex is either a petroleum product or is a product of liquid latex shipped here.

Rubber is not harvested from the wild trees, leaving the jungle intact. Trees are transferred from a nursery to a plantation when they are about three years old. Herein lies the environmental question. Would these monoculture plantations be better if they were polycultures, with a diverse spread of vegetation? For more detail on this subject, this article summarizes an in depth look at the impact of rubber forests.

Hevea Brasiliensis generally has a life cycle of about 32 years. Rubber serum is harvested from the bark of the tree when the tree is 5 years old. It can be harvested twice a week for an average of 25 years, taking 2 months off during the dry season. When the tree is 30 years old, its latex production slows considerably and it is usually cut down. Previously, the trunks were merely used locally and burned as fuel but recently the rubberwood has been recognized as quality lumber and is now shipped worldwide. It has also been called white teak, Malaysian Oak, Plantation Hardwood, and Parawood. It is used to make a furniture, toys, construction timbers and kitchen accessories. The circle of life continues when another sapling is planted in the same spot.

GOTS Organic Fabric

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GOTS certification: Our organic cotton fabric has attained the GOTS certification. The Global Organic Textile Standard is encompassing; it covers employee’s work standards, growing conditions and processing procedures. It prohibits use of formaldehyde, chlorine bleaches and dyes that release carcinogens. There are two grades available in the standard: level 1 requires the product to have 95% of its fibers organic, level two requires 70% of the materials’ fibers to be organic. Our fabric is not only grade 1, but our manufacturer keeps the fabric consistent and uses the same organic cotton threads for that last 5%. Our fabric then is 100% cotton and 100% organic. For more information, see the standard.

The standard is so complete, it covers on what tables fabric is cut and in what packages it is put.  Our cutting area is not certified nor is our packaging.  We do not display the GOTS logo with out fabric on their page because of our lack of certification. As we work out of our home, we couldn’t really certify our house.  However, we can say that we believe in living naturally, so we consciously keep our home free of chemicals and other pollutants.

Why choose organic fabric? Cotton is one of the most chemically sprayed crops in the US. In order to pick the cotton seeds from the plants with machines, the leaves must be removed from the stalk first. The sprays defoliate the leaves to allow the machine access to the cotton. They also protect the plant from the notorious boll weevil. In our pursuits to pursue chemical free options, the organic label gives the assurance of the fibers being processed consciously. The cotton for our fabric is grown in India, where pesticides have yet to become the dominant choice.


Small Farm vs. Organic Wool

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We like farmers.  Perhaps it is because we’re also foodies and love to cook with fresh, wholesome ingredients.  Perhaps its because of their heritage and strength in establishing this Country. Perhaps its because farmers tend to have initiative and like working outdoors as we do. Perhaps it is because we understand small businesses. Any way, they are people to whom I can appeal to directly with questions of the sheep’s welfare and care.


Knowing one’s source is accountability and in my opinion, better than any organic certification.  A number of our farms could apply for organic certification if they wanted to, as they feed their animals organically and pasture and care for them well.  We support small flock farms where the farmer can keep a close eye on the individual sheep, providing it care it needs.  All of our farms are very conscious sheep owners.

I can ask a farmer what they do with the sheep when its winter, when they have worms, when they are sick; if they name their sheep; if the sheep have a shelter; how long they had sheep; why they have sheep; what the sheep eat, what shelter is provided for the sheep during seasonal changes; how many pastures the sheep have; what else do they do with the sheep besides sell me the wool; how often they shear the sheep, what kind of sheep they raise.  To me, those answers are valuable because they tell me how they care for their sheep and what kind of responsibility they feel toward them.

It goes to reason that what you put in, comes out. The better quality care and nutrition the sheep receive, the better quality their wool is. The better they are taken care of, the better we and their landscape are taken care of. All are causes worth supporting.


Organic certification is useful when I can’t certify the farmer myself, such as with our puddle pads.  Because we do not source the wool or needle punch it, the organic certification is useful.  However, it’s limited:

In order for wool to be certified as “organic,” it must be produced in accordance with federal standards for organic livestock production.  Federal requirements for organic livestock production include:

  • Livestock feed and forage used from the last third of gestation must be certified organic;
  • Use of synthetic hormones and genetic engineering is prohibited;
  • Use of synthetic pesticides (internal, external, and on pastures) is prohibited, and
  • Producers must encourage livestock health through good cultural and management practices.

Organic livestock management is different from non-organic management in at least two major ways: 1) sheep cannot be dipped in parasiticides (insecticides) to control external parasites such as ticks and lice, and 2) organic livestock producers are required to ensure that they do not exceed the natural carrying capacity of the land on which their animals graze.

All of our farms meet these organic standards, with the except of the certified organic feed. Most of them cut their own hay from their own untreated grass for the winter months, thus ensuring their feed is as natural as they need. The wool is as good as organic, without asking the small farms to pay the certification costs.


To take the topic further, not only are the sheep raised well, their wool is also cared for without chemicals.  There is no carbonization, no bleaching, no superwashing.  Nothing but the soap used to remove the lanolin from the wool is put on the wool. The hot water does most of the work of removing the wool grease.

In the end, think that knowledge is power, so I ask questions.

To see pictures and descriptions of our wool sources, see our Small Farm Wool page.

Pressure Points

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Natural Latex

Some have called natural latex buoyant, some call it Santa’s belly, some just call it foam. No matter your name for it, natural latex will not feel like an innerspring mattress. It doesn’t transfer motion the same way, so you will not be woken by the whole bed jostling while your partner turns over. It doesn’t squeak either, so you can sneak out of that bed after putting your child to sleep. Also, because of the nature of the foam, latex is renowned for absorbing pressure points.

Pressure points are the points of your body that will receive the most pressure when your weight presses on them. When lying down on your side, these include your ankles, your hips, your shoulders and your head. On your back, the biggest pressure points are your heels, your butt, your shoulder blades and your head. Because side sleepers create the largest pressure points, they often prefer the soft and medium densities of latex. Back sleepers and stomach sleepers create less pressure points and usually prefer the medium or firm densities of latex.

Pressure mapping is a technique to identify how well a mattress is absorbing your pressure points. Using hundreds of sensors to test the pressure between your body and the mattress, it will produce an image with colored circles to identify how much pressure your body is receiving. A quick Google search for “pressure mapping latex” will bring up quite a few images showing how latex is able to relieve pressure from these supporting spots on our bodies. While this machine is a great invention, it does have its limitations, such as what happens when you roll over and what about pressure points created by injuries. Use it as a tool, but let your body be your judge.

Customers tell me stories of years of aches disappearing, back pains gone, new sleeping positions now enabled, being able to roll over without having to lift off the bed. Some even note that the small dips in the body, such as the small of the back and waist actually being supported by the latex, now that every part of their body can sink in. Why does latex and absorb our pressure points? One mattress guru calls it progressive compression. When latex compresses, the latex doesn’t just move to the side like water in a water bed or take up empty air space like springs do, the latex compacts underneath you. This puts a very supportive layer of latex underneath your pressure points while at the same time, allowing you to sink in. Elasticity combined with density produces a very durable and comfortable foam.


Not only does natural latex absorb pressure points, but wool does as well. It has a unique ability to remain soft even after its compression. Unlike cotton, it will never turn hard.  Due to the composition of the wool fiber, its spiral shape lets the fibers stretch instead of just bending like a cotton fiber does. This stretching is what lets you sink in beyond its presumably flat surface. While wool may provide a firm sleeping surface, it also allows space for even side sleepers’s pressure points to be accomodated.

Dunlop vs. Talalay

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Dunlop latex and Talalay latex are not two different kinds of latex. Instead they refer to two different processes used to make latex. Both processes can be used to make natural or synthetic latex or blended latex. Both processes produce latex with the same options in firmness, despite some claims that Talalay makes a softer latex.

Latex firmness is measured in ILDs, Impression Load Deflection. In other words, how many pounds does it take to compress a four inch piece of latex one inch or 25%? Since both Dunlop and Talalay processes can be measured, the firmness between two pieces of latex can be exactly the same. The real difference is durability, price, and response. Let’s start at the beginning.

Latex is harvested from the Pará rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). The harvesting begins when the tree reaches between 5 to 7 years old. A thin slice of bark is peeled away to release the latex, which then drops down into a cup, a process similar to maple syrup tapping. Unlike maple syrup, the sap is not taken from the growing center (cambium layer) of the tree as that would kill the tree. Instead, the flesh wound does not reach as deep as the sap. The cut releases what we call latex or gum rubber or India rubber. Harvesting of natural latex occurs quite regularly, but is spaced out so as not to stress the tree. There are generally only two months out of the year that a mature rubber tree is not tapped – the dry season, when the leaves fall off. This resource explains in detail the timing of the day and spacing out of the tapping, the exact methodology, and the expected harvesting life of the rubber tree plantation with diagrams and text.

After the sap is collected, it is cooked to concentrate it and remove the extra liquid. From there it is processed either Dunlop style or Talalay style.

The Dunlop process of latex, in brief, is to froth the latex in a centrifuge, then pour it into a mold. There it steam bakes for about 30 min before it is rinsed and cooled. The Dunlop process has been around since about 1929. Click here to view an informative video on Dunlop process latex.

Talalay processed latex starts similarly with the frothing, but when the mold is filled, it is only filled ¾ of the way, vacuum sealed, then pumped full of air. It is mixed, flash frozen to suspend the tiny air bubbles while they’re still evenly distributed, then baked, rinsed and cooled.

Both processes result in a piece of latex with small pin cores. The molds are set up like a waffle iron with pins protruding from the top and bottom. These pins help evenly distribute the heat so that the piece does not get scorched. Every once in a while, you’ll see a tiny yellow spot in the middle of a piece, which is a scorched spot; these spots are cosmetic and do not affect the performance of the latex.

Talalay boasts that the cell structure of their cells is more consistent than Dunlop’s. However their weakness is actually the air; the more air, the shorter the life of the latex. This addition is why soft pieces of Talalay latex have been known to get body imprints in as little as five years or so.

Dunlop’s weakness is not its durability but its lack of perfect uniformity. Because it is not flash frozen, the latex has time to settle toward the bottom of the mold. The bottom of a 6” core of latex can be slightly heavier than the top. Delivering our latex in 3” slices helps to keep the firmnesses of the slab consistent. The extra process of the flash freezing also raises the price of the Talalay latex to an average of $200 more than a Dunlop piece.

All of the Dunlop latex produced is a fast response latex; meaning it bounces back when the pressure on it it removed.  Talalay processed latex can support both fast response and slow response latex, a similar enveloping feel to memory foam’s feel.

We stock Dunlop processed natural latex.

Organic Latex vs. Natural

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I choose to sell GOLS Organic Latex. Why? In part because of the thoroughness of the standard, but honestly, mostly because we as consumers have come to equate the word organic with a quality product. When you hear the word organic, you realize that while you still want to read the label, someone else is out there holding your product to a standard. In our case, the standard is GOLS (Global Organic Latex Standard) similar to GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), which we use for all of our fabrics.

Organic is a buzz word. It has been subject to green washing, to inflated prices and to eye rolling at someone’s careful choice.  BUT it is also subject to buying confidence, to a gold standard and to a product’s broad care and oversight. This broad care means that not just the final product of a latex core is certified, but also the growing procedures for the tree, the molding facility, the packaging, and that the worker’s wages are paid out fairly and their working conditions are respectable.

Is there a difference in the end product between natural latex and organic natural latex? My suppliers tell me there is just the difference of paperwork, and as all organic certifications do, the standard certifies 95% of the product. With the final product of both natural and organic latex being 96% rubber, they surpass the certifications requirements for the product.

In the end, all natural latex, whether organic or not, ends up containing the following ingredients:

  1. Natural Latex Rubber 96%
    2. Zinc Oxide 2%
    3. Fatty Acid Soaps 1%
    4. Sulfur 1%
    5. Sodium 1%

Item 1 is pure, natural rubber harvested exclusively from the “Hevea Brasiliensis” tree, which grows primarily in South-East Asia.

Items 2 thru 5 are foaming agents that are essential to the vulcanization, foaming and curing process that all latex cores must go though. The finished core is then washed a minimum of 3 times to remove any residuals that may be left over after curing.

I feel assured that we are getting and selling a product that, for being man-made, is quite natural. You can find the document of organic certification in our natural latex product.