Houston Mattress Factory - Talalay Latex Mattress

Hello Phoenix. I have really enjoyed reading your guides and articles on the technical details and theories of what makes up a good quality mattress.

My wife and I visited the Houston Mattress Factory today to test out Talalay latex mattresses. My wife and I are average build. My wife primarily sleeps on her side. I sleep on my side and back.

We spoke with Michael and his wife, who owned the business and were very friendly. He seemed very knowledgeable about mattresses, and our visit lasted 2 hours. His showroom is quite small and his mattresses were covered in plastic, but he was able to show us a few different latex options. One 100% Organic Talalay mattress he designed for a couple had a 5 inch 18 ILD top layer organic Talalay latex with a 6" trizone Talalay core with 36 ILD for the hips and 28-30 ILD for the feet and shoulders. We tested this out and, while we liked the softness, I felt like my spine was misaligned especially when laying on my back because my hips sank in too much. I asked him why he designed such a thick soft comfort layer, and he stated the customer wanted a very soft mattress.

After discussion, Michael is generously going to layer a mattress for us to test in the showroom that will hopefully meet our needs. Here are the specs:

3" 18 ILD top layer Natural Talalay latex
6" trizone Natural Talalay core: 36 ILD for the hips and 28-30 ILD for the feet and shoulders.
3" very firm Dunlop latex (didn’t know ILD)
wrapped in wool
Bamboo cover (12 inch)
Price: $1715

Please let me know your thoughts. I have a few questions that hopefully you can shed some light on.

Michael only carries 12 inch bamboo covers in stock. He added the bottom Dunlop layer to fill out the bamboo cover. We have the option for him to special order a 9 inch cover and remove the 3" Dunlop layer, which may save a little money (special order for Bamboo more expensive, but save on extra cost of 3" Dunlop layer). Are there advantages to having a thicker mattress?

What are your thoughts on the trizone option vs. an all 36 ILD core on the mattress described above? Cost could be a little more for the non zoned core layer since this is not their standard offering.

Michael stated that the natural Talalay is 97% natural and 3% synthetic. Is this common for natural talalay? I thought natural talalay was 100% natural. He stated only the organic Talalay is 100% natural. He also stated that the organic Talalay felt softer? I am somewhat confused here.

Michael also adds very firm (50 ILD) foam rods around the edges of the mattress at the core layer. He stated that he does this so the latex maintains its form. Is this really necessary? How could this foam affect the long term durability of the mattress? I am worried that this could degrade and break down over time.

Michael also stated that he glues the layers together and the cover does not have a zipper option. He stated that a zipper option is not available due to the strict fire code requirements. I question this since other manufacturers such as Arizona Premium Mattress Company offers this option. I am somewhat concerned about gluing the layers of the mattress. How does gluing the layers affect the comfort/feel or durability of the mattress? Does this mean that a layer cannot be exchanged?

Michael also stated that the bed purchase would be tax exempt if we had a doctor’s note or prescription. Do you have any recommendations on getting a doctor’s note? My wife and I have allergies, so I would assume a natural latex mattress would help alleviate these symptoms and could be justification for a doctor’s note? Thoughts?



Hi sylkvezter,

Just for clarity … Talalay doesn’t come in an organic version but it does come in a 100% natural version (that doesn’t have any synthetic rubber in the latex). The only latex that is certified organic is 100% natural Dunlop made by a manufacturer that has been certified (see post #6 here).

[quote]3" 18 ILD top layer Natural Talalay latex
6" trizone Natural Talalay core: 36 ILD for the hips and 28-30 ILD for the feet and shoulders.
3" very firm Dunlop latex (didn’t know ILD)
wrapped in wool
Bamboo cover (12 inch)
Price: $1715

Please let me know your thoughts. I have a few questions that hopefully you can shed some light on.[/quote]

They are certainly good quality materials with no weak links but your own testing or experience is the only way to know how well it will match your specific needs and preferences in terms of PPP (see mattress firmness/comfort levels in post #2 here). The “value” of a mattress purchase depends on the criteria of your own personal value equation that are most important to you and how they compare to other mattresses you are comparing it to. I don’t know the size you are considering or if anything else comes with the mattress or any of their return or exchange policies or what else is included but assuming that it’s not one of the smaller sizes then the price seems very reasonable. I would also want to know the blend of the Dunlop. The ILD’s aren’t important to know for a local purchase because your testing will tell you whether a mattress is a good match for you in terms of PPP.

A firmer middle zone can be quite helpful for some people because the pelvis is the heaviest area of the body and can have a tendency to sink in too far in some mattress designs for some people. There is more about zoning in this article and in post #11 here. Once again though … your own personal testing will tell you more about how well a mattress keeps you in alignment (with or without zones) than any “theory at a distance”.

There is no organic Talalay and both Radium and Latex International make two types of Talalay. One uses 100% natural rubber and the other uses a blend that is in the area of 30% natural and 70% synthetic. With any latex core though there are other substances used to make the foamed latex core besides just the liquid rubber (foaming agents, curing agents, antioxidants, and others) so a latex core is never 100% rubber. Both come in a range of firmness levels or ILD’s.

I’m not sure what he means by “foam rods” or how they are added to the foam. Could you provide more details?

I would need to know a little more about how the “foam rods” are used and the density of the foam.

A zip cover can certainly pass the fire code (and there are many manufacturers that use it).

Post #2 here has more about glued vs unglued layers but it will have no meaningful effect on durability (some people believe that unglued layers are less durable but you can see my thoughts about this in the linked post) and little effect on the comfort or feel of the mattress vs unglued layers (other variables will have a more significant effect).

With a finished or tape edged mattress that doesn’t have a zip cover then I would personally glue the layers as well because there would be no way to access them if they shift.

Many manufacturers will change out a layer by opening up the mattress, replacing the layer, and then tape edging it again so I would check with them if this is a service they offer.

All you have to do is go to your health care provider (doctor, chiropractor etc) and ask them for a prescription for a mattress with no fire retardant (if that’s what you want) or a chemical free mattress or a specific mattress for allergies (such as a latex mattress). If you have the prescription that describes the mattress then there would be no tax. You can read more about latex mattresses and dust mite allergies in post #2 here.



Thank you for all of the advice, and answering my questions. This will definitely help me make an informed decision.

I forgot to mention the mattress size is a queen mattress. Houston Mattress Factory is offering a 20 year warranty and has a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Michael stated that he will make the mattress right if we are not satisfied. I would have to understand how he could swap out layers if necessary, however, since he glues them together.

As for the bottom Dunlop layer, I need to ask what the blend is or if it is 100% Dunlop. We are tempted to just remove the Dunlop layer and go with a thinner 9" mattress. Do you think there is a noticeable difference?

Thank you for clarifying the types of Talalay. This concerns me some, since he stated that organic Talalay is an option. Michael stated that his latex comes from a company in California.

Michael adds a zone layer of firm perimeter foam around the edges of the support core. He cuts out the perimeter of the support core and puts in place a piece of foam that is 6" thick, ~3" width and runs along the perimeter of the mattress at the core layer sitting underneath the top layer. After reading your Zoned construction article, you mention this type in the second to last paragraph. So it sounds like that this would be unnecessary and could lead to durability problems. I will ask about the density of the foam used and the type of foam.

Thanks for the info about the pros/cons of gluing and zipper options. I will ask him if he can provide a zipper cover and not glue the layers as the advantages outweigh the disadvantages IMO.

Thank you for all of your advice and detailed information.


Hi sylvezter,

Every change in a mattress can affect the “feel” and performance of a mattress to some degree but how much of this can be felt by specific people will vary widely based on their body type, sleeping positions, and individual sensitivity and whether they are closer to the “I can sleep on anything” or the “princess and the pea” end of the range. This is something that only each person can answer based on their personal experience.

Almost all the latex you will encounter is a high quality material but there are differences between the different types and blends and there is certainly some misinformation or misunderstanding about the specifics of the different types throughout the industry. In some cases this can come from a sales rep that supplies the latex to a manufacturer or can be from some initial source of misinformation or “misinterpreted” information that is perpetuated over time and is never “corrected” over the years.

As you read in the links I posted in my earlier reply … there are two main types of processing methods used to make latex which are Talalay and Dunlop.

Talalay is made by two manufacturers (Latex International and Radium) and comes in either 100% natural or a blend of “about” 30% natural and 70% synthetic rubber. Both are high quality materials.

Dunlop is either made in a mold or in a continuous pour process and can come in a wide range of blends from 100% natural to 100% (or almost 100% synthetic) or any blend in between. The only one that comes in an organic version is some of the 100% natural Dunlop.

Since all latex needs other compounds or chemicals to foam and manufacture the latex … the final product will always be less than 100% rubber and will contain other substances in the final product. Some people sometimes understand this to mean that there is less than 100% natural rubber in the final product (which is true) and that the rest is synthetic rubber rather than “non rubber” chemicals or substances (which may not be true).

If a latex core is certified as organic then they should also be able to show you the organic certification that goes with that specific product. This doesn’t make it “better” in terms of performance … but the certification may be important to some people for personal reasons. Some people are happy to pay the extra cost for the organic certification and for some people the certification isn’t nearly as important or worth the extra cost vs a Dunlop core that uses 100% natural rubber and no synthetic rubber in its formulation.

OK … this makes more sense and I was confused when you mentioned “rods” rather than a foam surround or edge support. The use of edge support in latex is a personal choice and preference and while most people wouldn’t need it and if the polyfoam is lower density it can present durability issues … for those who are more sensitive to the firmness of the edge (especially with softer support layers) or who sit on the edge of their mattress and want a firmer edge … it can be worth the risk of using a lower quality material for edge support. Latex can “sink in” more deeply when you sit on it because of the more concentrated weight and its “point elasticity” compared to polyfoam which is “stiffer”. There is more about edge support in post #33 here and in post #3 here but in the end it’s a personal choice based on each person’s preferences and any durability tradeoffs involved in the material used to provide a firmer edge.

This may not be possible and there are many local manufacturers who only provide a tape edged cover in their mattresses because they believe in the advantages of a “finished” mattress with a tape edge. I would also keep in mind that the cover and how the mattress is finished is part of what provides the “feel” of the mattress and using a different cover will change the mattress which may not be what they wish to do when they can still change out the layer if necessary (by removing the glued layer which they would be able to do).