Buying a latex mattress - harder than I thought!

Hi Phoenix,

Thanks for all your information, time and research that goes into your site. After doing a lot of reading and note taking I feel as though eventually I will find the right mattress for my husband and I.

I live in Burlington, Ontario, I am 5"7", 110lbs and a side sleeper, my husband is 5‘2", 140lbs and a back sleeper. We are looking for a King size latex mattress and will customize each side for our unique preferences. I went through your extensive list of dealers in the GTA and decided to visit Ideal Mattress Ltd in Mississauga yesterday. We worked with Stan (who was quite nice and took his time with us) and we came up with this combination: (all Dunlop latex) 7" firm core, 1/2 3" firm with 1" firm comfort layer, 1/2 3" soft, 1" soft comfort layer, covered in cotton ticking and wool quilting. We were quoted $3400 for the mattress which seems quite expensive and out of our price range.

I was disappointed with the fact that they didn’t have any Talalay that I could trial (Stan brought out a scrap and told me it was mostly synthetic and steered me away from it completely), they only carry soft and “firm” Dunlop (soft being ILD 18 and firm ILD 26, if I’m not mistaken soft is ILD 19-21, medium ILD 24-26, med firm ILD 29-31 and firm ILD 34-36 - please correct me if I’m wrong) and was informed that a solid plywood base or box spring were the best foundations for a latex mattress (we were assured that the mattress would feel the same at home on our existing box spring as it did on the solid foundation in the show room - not sure if this is true). My plan was to find the perfect combination and then call around to different dealers to get quotes and go with the dealer who was producing good quality mattresses at the right price.

My concern now is that with the subjective use of firm and soft, we won’t be comparing apples to apples when calling another dealer. I’ve got to be honest in that my husband is not too keen on driving all over to find a mattress, he’s not the one who is having restless nights… Do you specifically recommend any particular dealer in the GTA? I don’t feel as though Ideal Mattress was the right one for us.

We have the option of purchasing a NaturaOrganics EcoSanctuary Dual Mattress for $1000 cheaper than the Ideal Mattress quote with our Direct Buy membership. What do you think of Natura World Mattresses and do you think this would meet our needs? I obviously want to try it however I’m having a hard time finding one in a showroom (I have emailed Natura to ask as some of the dealers listed on their site are no longer in business).

Shopping for a mattress (once you’ve become an informed consumer) is a difficult task!

Any help or advice would be appreciated,

Hi Andrea,

This is very true … and it’s not made any easier with the subjective use of terms (as you noted), the wide range of prices for similar mattresses, the lack of disclosure that is so prevalent, and the stories and “partly true” or misleading information that seems to be everywhere. It’s certainly worth it IMO to take the time to find the most suitable and best value mattress possible but the current state of the industry sure doesn’t make it any easier.

Over time, feedback from the forum members about specific retailers mattresses and pricing information (that may be variable and change from time to time and/or quickly become out of date) will turn “possibilities” into “probabilities” or “suggestions” and finally into “recommendations” (site membership) but this will be a step by step journey and in the meantime since the membership is currently thinly spread and there is lots of great quality and value outside of the membership of the site … the process of finding good quality and value and knowing how to make meaningful comparisons is much more reliable than specific recommendations for either merchants or specific mattresses that could quickly become out of date or encourage consumers to believe that personal testing or their own research and best judgement was less important than it is. The most important part is knowing who and what to exclude so that the focus is on merchants (either manufacturers or retailers) where the odds of better quality and value and higher levels of knowledge, experience, and service is much more likely to result in the most suitable mattress with the best possible quality and value.

If I’m understanding the construction correctly … this has a total of 11" of latex with a high quality cotton/wool quilted cover. I am assuming that the Dunlop is 100% natural and not a blend (and I would ask this specifically because blended Dunlop is a less costly material).

If this is correct … this is what I would call “better than average” value but not “best available” value. If you compared it for example to a Stearns and Foster luxury latex which uses a similar amount latex but is lower quality Dunlop latex (mostly synthetic), includes lower quality polyfoam in the comfort layers, can’t be customized on each side, and sells for higher prices … it would be much better value. If on the other hand you compared it to other all latex mattresses that were similar that were made by other manufacturers … it would be on the high side. It would certainly be better value than most consumers that don’t really know what to look for would end up buying but it probably isn’t the best value available in the GTA.

Now that you have a reference point though … it puts you in a much better position to do more research on the phone before you make too many more visits to specific outlets. Now you can call other merchants that are available to you and give them the specifics of what you have looked at (a king size mattress only with 11" of 100% natural Dunlop latex with a cotton wool quilted cover for $3400) and ask whether they have anything similar that would be worth testing with similar or better value. This will help you narrow down where to do any further testing although it probably wouldn’t be realistic to have most retailers quote you specific prices for specific mattresses on the phone.

Transparency is not at this level yet in most cases or areas and the risk they would be taking by disclosing more than the quality specs of their mattresses or perhaps even “price ranges” rather than specific prices would be that most consumers have little to no knowledge of the relative quality or value of the materials and would make “apples to oranges” cost comparisons only or that the ones that did understand the quality of the materials may (falsely) believe that they could estimate what a mattress felt like to them based on “comfort specs” alone and wouldn’t come in to test them in person.

Your comment …

Is exactly what they want to avoid because the belief that you can know how well one mattress matches another one in terms of feel and performance with some basic “comfort specs” alone is not really accurate enough to be the basis for a buying decision. In other words … in today’s market … they may believe (with some truth) that they may be shooting themselves in the foot and could cause harm to their business. Don’t forget too that only a very small percentage of consumers know what you know. It is also quite likely that you also know more than many people who are selling mattresses.

When you are testing mattresses locally … the “comfort specs” such as ILD are not nearly as important because they have little to do with quality or value. also because ILD information is never exact and also because the “feel” and performance of a mattress is only partly about the ILD of the layers … this information is not widely available and quite frankly (as I mentioned) making it more widely available could be very risky for a retailer and encourage consumers to believe that they can use ILD or even more subjective “word ratings” to make meaningful comparisons between mattresses in terms of suitability when these specs can be as misleading in some cases as they can be helpful. Because ILD’s can vary between materials and are only a range (even if they are listed very specifically), and because there are other factors which lead to the feel and performance of a mattress that can be quite complex … personal testing is a far more accurate indicator of the suitability of a mattress and should always be used when shopping locally. While quality specs are very important … comfort specs are generally only important with an online purchase where they are the only way to estimate what you may be buying in terms of how suitable a mattress may be for your personal needs and preferences. Even here without the context of personal testing locally on similar mattresses, this information would have little value to most people.

“Word ratings” will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and as I mentioned even ILD ratings can often be misleading (especially when they are used to compare different materials or are “guesstimates”). There is no official rating for translating ILD into words and even if there was each person has a different sense of what they perceive as being soft or firm anyway. In a Dunlop comfort layer 18 ILD would be soft for most people (although still firmer than 18 ILD Talalay) and 26 would be on the medium side (more so than with Talalay) but 26 ILD would also be considered a relatively “soft” support layer and you would generally find it in “soft” mattresses.

The most important part of your phone research is to find equivalent or better “quality/value” but not to try to compare the comfort and performance of the mattress using specs. This needs to be done in person. Once you have identified a few that have the general quality/value you are looking for (using your reference points as guidelines) … you will also find that most merchants that “fit the bill” offer a range of mattresses that you can test for PPP (Pressure relief, Posture and alignment, and Personal preferences) that will tend to have similar value (if they are made by the same manufacturer).

This mattresses uses good quality materials and the top 5" are 100% natural Talalay (which is a more costly material than 100% natural Dunlop or blended Talalay) and the lower 6" uses 100% natural Dunlop (similar to the Ideal mattress). It also has a side to side split and a wool/cotton quilted cover so this mattress would be roughly comparable in terms of quality and materials to the one you tested at Ideal. If it is $1000 less … and considering that the comfort layers are a more costly material (which may or may not be what you want or prefer) … then it would certainly be better value and in the “good value range”. Regardless of its relative value though … if it doesn’t “match” your specific needs and preferences in terms of PPP … then whether it was the cheapest or best value mattress available or the most expensive it would have little value to you personally. If you aren’t sure how suitable it would be (and again testing it personally would be important unless you found the same model elsewhere or knew the specific layering and materials well enough to know for sure that another mattress was truly comparable in terms of its performance and suitability) … then the exchange or refund policy would be more important so that you had good options if it didn’t match your needs and preferences.

Natura lost a lot of retailers since they went bankrupt and were bought out by Spring Air/Sommex but the benefit of this is that their prices have gone down significantly in many places because many retailers are clearing old stock out and taking a wait and see attitude about whether or not to continue dealing with them.

So if I was in your shoes … I would use the reference points you have to do some initial research on the phone and mentioning what you have tested to give them a chance to tell you whether they would have anything roughly comparable with better value or if you would just be wasting your time going there. With your lighter weights … a mattress that contained less latex (say 8" - 9") could also work well so this would also be something to factor in to your research and phone calls.

If the foundations you are comparing are all rigid and non flexing with even support (whether slatted, grid type, or a solid platform) then the mattress would feel similar. If you put a mattress on a boxspring or foundation that had some flex … then this will affect the feel and performance of the mattress to varying degrees. The thinner the mattress and the heavier the person’s weight … the more difference a flexing or “active” boxspring may make. There are many conflicting ideas about whether a solid wood platform is suitable for a latex mattress (or any mattress). My personal thoughts are that closely spaced slats or a closely spaced grid provide more ventilation which provides better humidity and temperature control and reduces the risk of unwanted visitors (such as mold, mildew, and dust mites). While this doesn’t mean that all those who suggest solid surface foundations are “wrong” or that there will definitely be issues with a solid surface … I personally believe that unless there are specific reasons to choose otherwise (such as wanting an adjustable bed where the benefits of the bed outweigh any additional risk of its solid surface) I would choose a support surface that allowed better ventilation and humidity control.

I know that sometimes it can be like pulling teeth but if you do as much as possible on the phone and only visit the merchants or manufacturers where a phone call indicates they have real “possibilities” then the search can be much less frustrating and time comsuming than it would be if you had to visit every option listed.

You’ve probably seen this but in addition to the Toronto list there may be some possibilities in post #2 here.

Hope this helps … and I hope you have the chance to provide more feedback along the way. While being a “pioneer” and an “educated consumer” can be frustrating when you come face to face with the reality of most markets … it will also be worth it in the end :slight_smile: