Help with DIY latex mattress layers

I think all I’ve done for a few days now is try to figure this out! So I figured I’d ask for some help. I’m trying to decide between a Pure Latex Bliss Nature and customized mattress layers from Sleep EZ and/or Foam by Mail. I would like to stay around $2,500 for a king mattress with a foundation, if possible. If there’s an economical option I’m missing please let me know…

Here’s our stats:

Me: 105 pounds, mostly side sleeper, some back. I also need this mattress to get me through pregnancy in the next year or so.

Him: About 180 pounds, prefers back sleeping but usually ends up on side.

We definitely like a firm mattress (but not too firm!). I cannot stand pillow tops, feather beds, anything that feels really mushy and fabric-y below me.

My husband has had shoulder pain and problems with his arm falling asleep on a hard mattress (at least that’s what he thinks it’s from). He also wants to feel that his hip is supported when lying on his side. He’s pretty tall and lean so I think some mattresses just don’t support him enough.

I would like about 10 inches of latex, and I’m leaning toward 6 inches of firm dunlap as a base layer (like the Nature).

Any insights? Thanks in advance!

Hello … and welcome :slight_smile:

Of the three outlets you mentioned … I personally would tend to avoid FBM for several reasons. While I recognize that they are “cheap”, the consistency of their product and product descriptions are questionable at best and I believe that they often misrepresent what they are selling. IMO … knowing the “ingredients” of the mattress you purchase and knowing that the layers are correctly described and the correct firmness and type of latex for your needs is a big part of “getting it right”. For me … FBM and its alternative companies are like rolling the dice.

Of the other two … there is no doubt that SleepEz represents better value than Pure latex Bliss. They also have more selection in terms of mattress construction and layering and since they offer the exact same foam as PLB … there is no doubt in my mind which I would choose. PLB is great for testing purposes to see what type of layering works for you and is among the best national brands but I would “duplicate” the construction of the model I liked best through a DIY outlet like SleepEZ because of the better value.

Your husbands shoulder pain is fairly common for his body type in men. The shoulders are wider than the hips and need to sink in further for correct alignment yet the hips are heavier so have a tendency to sink in further. This means that the layering is very important and that the top needs to be soft enough for the shoulders too sink in far enough without causing pressure and numbness/pain. The correct pillow can play a role here as well (side sleeping needs a thicker pillow to keep the neck in alignment and also helps to relieve the pressure on the shoulders slightly).

Another alternative for a DIY mattress is a construction that uses a type of zoning that puts softer foam under the shoulders/torso and firmer foam under the hips. While this is not always necessary with latex which has a higher support factor or progressive firmness than other foam materials … it can certainly make a big difference in more difficult or problem cases. A member here that specializes in this type of DIY construction is

Both SleepEZ and Custom Sleep Design can split the mattress construction side to side so that two people sharing the same mattress can customize each side as well.

In terms of the comfort layers … normally a good starting point for side sleeping is a 3" Talalay comfort layer in the range of 19-24 ILD. In your case … on the softer side may be better because of your lighter weight. In his case … slightly softer may also work well to allow for his shoulders to sink in far enough when he is side sleeping. 19 would seem to be good choice for both of you which also happens to be very similar to the Nature.

In terms of the support core … Both Dunlop and Talalay latex would work well and with a 3" comfort layer I would recommend firm for both of you. In your case … a firm Talalay or Dunlop for the next 3" layer and then an X firm Talalay or Dunlop for the bottom 3" would likely work well. In his case … I would recommend firm Dunlop for the middle 3" layer and X firm Dunlop for the bottom 3" as Dunlop has a higher support factor than Talalay which would be important for his heavier weight and better for keeping his hips from sinking in too far relative to his shoulders if the mattress did not have shoulder/hip zoning. Dunlop would have a slight edge in this regard over Talalay.

This would be similar to the Nature in terms of comfort but more supportive in the support layers. Just to let you as well … the Nature PLB uses Talalay in the support layers rather than Dunlop.

If you go with shoulder/hip zoning … I would start with the nature as a baseline and then follow Bob’s (the owner’s) recommendations based on your discussions with him. This would allow your husband especially to choose a firmer comfort layer under the hips (say 24 ILD) and a softer comfort layer under the shoulders (say 19 ILD) to allow them to sink in further for better pressure relief without sacrificing hip support. (say 19 ild).

Custom Sleep Design is 11" of latex so it is thicker and more expensive but would be more personalized for both of you in terms of comfort and support. SleepEZ would have 9" of latex (in the 10000 model which I would recommend) and not have the shoulder/hip zoning but would also be less expensive. It has the same amount of latex as the PLB.

I am assuming/hoping that you both tested the PLB Nature for both comfort and support using guidelines along the lines of the “Five steps to your perfect mattress” pages on this website. While you can ignore the parts of the comfort and support pages that talk about choosing materials since you have already decided that latex works well for you, knowing how to test a mattress for both pressure relief and support/alignment inependently is a really important part of field testing.

It would be well worth testing the PLB pamper with the 2" topper on top of it for comparison purposes as it may work well as well for one or both of you in terms of preference. The topper is 14 ILD which would be on top of 1" 19 ILD on top of a firm support layer totalling 9" of latex as well so it would be similar to the Nature with the same support layer but a softer comfort layer of the same thickness.

I hope this helps and if you have any further questions feel free to post them. I would be particularly interested in any comments you may each have regarding a comparison between the Nature and the Pamper with the 2" topper (along the lines of the testing recommendations mentioned earlier) as it would certainly help to determine the construction type of a "non hip/shoulder zonemattress which would work best for you both and the ILD of the comfort layers you may each prefer.


PS: If you register for the forum here and then have at least one post using your registered name … then both SleepEZ and Custom Sleep Design (like all other manufacturing members of this site) will give you an additional 5% discount on your mattress.

Thank you so much for the very helpful information! I am checking out the options on SleepEZ. How would I go about getting the discount?

One question about the firmness options… it looks like the soft talalay from SleepEZ has a range of 19-22 ILD. Does that mean that the ILD could fall anywhere within that range? Is 22 ILD considerably softer than 19 ILD?

sorry forgot to log in before posting :slight_smile:

Hi Allisonbr,

The discount is just a matter of asking for it and letting them know that you are a member of The Mattress Underground and telling them your username on the forum. Shawn is the owner there and if you are talking with someone who isn’t aware of the discount … then he will be.

With ILD (also called IFD) … there is always a slight variance of a few ILD over the surface of the latex layer which is averaged out in the rating. Each ILD number indicates how many lbs it takes to compress a 6" (in the case of Talalay latex) block of latex to 25% of its thickness (or 1.5") using a smaller round compressor. An ILD difference of 1 means a difference of only 1 lb to compress a section to the same depth so is undetectable. In general, anything under 4 lbs is not very noticeable. 19 would be softer than 24 lbs (takes less weight to compress).

A layer that averages out to 19 would be very slightly softer on average than a layer that averages out to 22 but the difference would be very slight and for most people not noticeable so a maufacturer will often “bundle them together” as “soft”. While many manufacturers will classify a “range” of average ILD’s as say soft or medium to save confusion, each manufacturer may use a different ILD range for soft or medium etc so its important to know the ILD rather than just the “word”. If someone is trying to purchase the softest they can … even within the soft range of a particular manufacturer … then sometimes a DIY manufacturer can check a few pieces in the “soft” range to give you the softest piece within their range they can.

There is a lot of “confusion” and inconsistency regarding what each manufacturer calls soft, medium, firm, and all the rest of their comfort labels which is why knowing the ILD and the specific layering can play a big role in comparing different mattresses.


Hi again! I wanted to let you know that we did end up ordering the “special” dunlop mattress with the talalay comfort layer from SleepEZ. Shaun talked me out of the ex firm-firm-soft, so we got the firm-med-soft. I figure it’s a good place to start, and from there we can move around our layers (the 2 core layers are split), swap the med for an ex firm, or add an inch of super soft talalay if needed.

Here’s my latest issue… not sure whether you’re into “organic” mattresses, but I am trying to figure out if our mattress will contain flame retardants. I am assuming the latex does not have flame retardants added (although maybe this is a dumb assumption) so the main issue seems to be the cover. It is a rayon and cotton cover, and SleepEZ says the rayon provides the fire retardant qualities that have to be there in order for them to legally sell the mattress. I am assuming the rayon is treated with some chemical, as I don’t think it is flame resistant by itself. It seems that the rayon/cotton cover is cheaper than the regular cover, which is why the “special” is so affordable.

So my question is, do you know of a company that sells a zippered mattress cover that does not have flame retardants? Any recommendations for a good cover that I can replace the cheap rayon/cotton one with?

Hi Allison,

Shawn’s “standard” recommendation is usually FMS as it gives 3 different ILD’s for “switching”. It is often the “safest” recommendation to start with (thus his recommendation) but is sometimes not the “best” for a specific individual. It is a good place to start and since the middle layer is Dunlop … it would feel firmer than the same ILD in Talalay (it gets firmer faster as it is compressed) this should work well. The special you are ordering has a 2" comfort layer rather than 3". This thinner comfort layer also makes a big difference in the mattress construction since 2" would require a softer middle layer to “make up for” the thinner comfort layer. If you went with all Talalay with a 3" comfort layer … then a middle firm layer of Talalay would IMO be more appropriate (again provided the comfort layer was 3"). A thinner comfort layer is based on a completely different type of mattress construction (progressive rather than differential construction) and has a different “layer interaction” and can change the requirements of the other layers significantly.

If you find it is not quite right in this configuration … feel free to post here as I have helped quite a few people adjust their configuration to “get it right” when it was necessary.

You are correct that the latex itself does not have fire retardant chemicals added. The SleepEZ special uses a rayon impregnated with silica type of fire retardant which I believe is a good choice (I chose it in my own mattress). It could be called “semi natural” as rayon is based on dissolved cellulose (wood pulp or similar fibers) and this is impregnated with silica. A common brand of this type of fire retardant would be Visil. Wool quilting is “more natural” and if the wool is compressed can also act as a fire retardant but it has the disadvantage of reducing the ability of the latex to conform to a body shape so creates a firmer feel in the mattress. Some people are also “sensitive” to wool.

Organic and natural are very different things with very different definitions. Something can be 100% natural but not be organic (which is an expensive form of certification that the natural ingredient has been grown in certain conditions and without the use of certain chemicals). An organic ingredient may be exactly the same as a natural ingredient which has not been certified even though it was grown in the same conditions.

Overall … I personally believe that this choice of fire retardant is a good one even though it could not be called “natural” or “organic”.

SleepEZ has both mattresses and separate zip mattress covers which are available separately that use wool for the fire retardant however they are as you suspect more expensive (due to the expense of wool). If you are comfortable with the advantages of a wool fire retardant in the quilting vs its disadvantages … then he would likely be able to accommodate this at some additional cost. Of course another alternative would be to purchase their 1000 model which has a 3" comfort layer over two 3" layer of Talalay (which would make a firm middle layer more appropriate) and uses a wool quilted cover for its fire retardant layer.

Bear in mind too that Talalay latex comes in two types. The more common and least expensive is a blended Talalay (partly natural and partly synthetic rubber) which is basically equal and in some cases perhaps better in its performance than all natural talalay (in the very soft ILD’s). It can also be purchased in a more expensive all natural version which is all natural rubber but is significantly more expesive. There is no organic Talalay.

Dunlop latex is denser and most often uses 100 natural rubber. The rubber itself is about 90% or more of the overall latex foam ingredients (the rest are the ingredients that are used to turn latex sap into a foam).

Hopefully this will help you balance the pros and cons of your choices regarding organic, natural, semi natural, artificial, and chemical ingredients in your mattress. There is more information here Your sleeping style, preferences, and statistics - Natural vs Synthetic - The Mattress Underground