Latex mattresses, flammability, and purchasing without trying

Thanks for a great website, Phoenix, and providing important information on the mattress industry. I can’t tell you how helpful this has been to me. A good night’s sleep is so essential to health and well-being, and yet impossible without a proper mattress. You are providing such an important service!

Based upon my review of your site, forum posts, and trying out the latex mattresses at Healthy Back, I think latex is the way to go. Two basic questions:

(1) Are there any concerns with flammability?

(2) Is it “safe” to order long distance if you purchase separate layers by describing other beds you like and what your issue are? I am thinking that if the only downside is the risk of a small exchange fee, it would definitely be worth it.

For example, I tried out the Essence latex mattress at Healthy Back which seemed fine (as much as you can tell in 15-minutes). (In terms of comfort, I preferred the feel of the Tempurpedic Cloud Luxe.) But I decided against Tempurpedic as the price was insane – and I prefer being able to move around in bed, and the durability/coolness/naturalness of the latex.

As far as body type and issues, I am 46 years old, 5’8" and 138 pounds. I wake up every morning very stiff all over, with very tight calves and hamstrings. I also have a lot of muscle tension throughout my upper and lower back, and have sciatica (which only flares up when I am sitting for long periods). I try to sleep on my back with a pillow for lumbar support, but end up rolling to my side and toss and turn quite a bit. The mattress we have is a traditional 11-year old spring mattress. I never did love it, but we bought it out of desperation. I am determined not to make a bad decision again…and live with another 10+ years of back pain.

My husband is 180 pounds, doesn’t have any back issues yet, and doesn’t seem to care what mattress I choose. That’s what he says now, although I am sure if I make a choice he doesn’t like, he will be sure to complain!

Thank you again for your site…and thank you in advance for taking the time to respond.

Hi FairfaxMom,

No. All mattresses “legally” sold today have passed the 1632 and 1633 flammability tests which are very rigorous (many would say too rigorous). There is probably more consumer concern with fire retardant methods than there is with the risk of flammability itself.

Online purchases are a little more risky than choices based on personal testing because there are many factors that can change the feel and performance of a mattress including the ILD (softness firmness of the layer), the thickness of each layer, the type of material or latex being used, the quilting layers, and the ticking itself. All of these can have an effect on how a mattress interacts with each person. The better manufacturers though are good at helping you choose the layering or the mattress design that has the best odds of working well for you and they would certainly take any local testing you have done into account (as long as you know the specifics of the layers) in the suggestions they provide.

While a local mattress can’t normally be “duplicated” exactly unless every layer and component is identical (see post #9 here) … your local testing can give you (and them) a sense of the balance between pressure relief and support you may need. There are different degrees of ability to customize component mattresses that are sold online but in general they will have several choices for one or more layers but will have standardized layer thicknesses that can be exchanged or re-arranged which can sometimes be a limiting factor. For example if you order a mattress that has 3x3" layers or 6" + 2" layers … then the possibilities are limited to exchanging a layer for another one of the same thickness but a has a different firmness level and you can’t change layer thickness.

In other basic mattress constructions … you may find that the top layer can be exchanged but the core will be the same or in others yet you may find a standard “soft” top layer (often a soft 2" thick comfort layer) and the mattress can be customized for both pressure relief and support by changing the firmness of the bottom 6" layer. All of these are part of mattress construction theory and have advantages or disadvantages. There are different “pathways” in other words to similar results.

For those who want to be more actively involved in the “theory” of different constructions as it relates to height weight body shape information and the different layering methods and constructions … there is a lot more information in the “sleeping style, preferences, and statistics - overview” section of the site and the 5 more detailed pages that are in the section and in the “putting the layers together - overview” section and the 5 more detailed pages that are in that section as well along with the tips and tricks page here. For most though … scanning the overviews and a few of the pages in the sections will be enough basic information to help them work with the manufacturer more effectively.

In practical terms though … most of these online manufacturers (and especially the online manufacturers that are members this site and that are listed in post #21 here) are very good at working with their customers and in most cases they offer some type of return policy or an exchange after purchase that can allow for changes if you get it wrong at a reasonable cost along with the effort involved of course of sending back the previous layer (in most cases). They also tend to be very accommodating and will do whatever they can to make sure you “get it right”. Each different manufacturer may have different options for both the degree of customization that is possible and for returns or exchanges after purchase so make sure you’re familiar with all the options available to you with each one you are considering.

For the large majority of people … and because people tend to fall into fairly predictable average “ranges” of pressure relief and support … the final choice will usually be a good one or close enough that only “fine tuning” is necessary. Most manufacturers generally offer one to several mattress types and about 3 or 4 standard configurations in each type that accounts for the vast majority of “end results” of their customers although as I mentioned there are different degrees of customization available from different manufacturers. Almost everyone will fall into one of a few standard layering choices. For those few who may need more “fine tuning” than most or whose needs or preferences are more complex than the majority … it can sometimes be difficult to get things exactly right within the limitations of each design and this is where manufacturers with designs that offer more flexibility and different degrees of customization can play a role. It is rare that someone is unable to find a layering that works very well for them.

Manufacturers will tend to go by “averages” in their suggestions (which can be modified by your preferences or local testing) so you will often see “standardized” recommendations with 3 or 4 possible levels of firmness in various layers because the odds are good that most people will be in one of the more common groups of people (based on personal stats and sleeping positions and “averages”) for each type of mattress that they sell. This is generally fairly accurate for those those that are inside “average” ranges in terms of PPP (Posture and alignment, Pressure relief, and Personal preferences).

If comparable value is available locally that you can test in person then this is the “safest” way to go and an “expert” can help you better in person than over the phone when they can see how you respond to a mattress with their actual eyes and hear your feedback in real time. Many local manufacturers and some more specialized retail stores may also offer greater levels of customization in terms of both different layer thicknesses and firmness levels as well and provide great after sales service. Because there can be more uncertainty and risk with an online purchase and because the personal attention that is available locally is certainly worth a reasonable premium … if the price difference between a local choice and an online choice of a similar mattress is in the range of 20% or so I would treat them as roughly equal value because of the “value” of some of the benefits that can come from dealing with a local business.

For those areas that don’t have comparable value (and there are many of these) … then the additional risk of an online purchase with exchangeable layers or a good exchange or return policy is well worth serious consideration IMO.

The essence I believe is the equivalent of the 10" PLB Nature (although it’s not identical because it uses Celsion Talalay as the top layer insteaad of “regular” Talalay)

The nature has

2" of 19 ILD
1" of 28 ILD
6" of 36 ILD
1’ of ultra firm (@50) talalay base layer
Stretch knit cover.

As you can see it would not be possible to duplicate this with standardized layer thicknesses but it could provide a very useful guideline. The “target” is always optimal PPP (Pressure relief, Posture and alignment, and Personal preference) rather than another mattress and the better you can describe the mattress layers and what you felt on it in the specific terms of PPP … the more it will help them to help you choose a mattress type and use “best judgement” to “translate” it into one of the standardized layering options they have available.

The overviews I linked to earlier (and some of the other information in the mattresses section of the site) can give you some good guidelines for how different weights and sleeping positions and many other factors can affect the choice of mattress layering but there are too many variables and unknowns to use limited height/weight and sleeping position information to make a mattress choice based on “theory at a distance” and outside of your own personal testing it’s usually more effective to provide this information and talk with a manufacturer or retailer so they can recommend the type of layering (or in some cases side to side split layering for different people) that would have the best odds of working for you based on “averages”. Each manufacturer may have a different “pathway” or choice of options to get to what they believe will work best for you in terms of PPP and there are usually several approaches or designs that will work well for most people. The information on the site (and of course any questions you may have on the forum) will help you understand the “why” behind their recommendations better and help you ask better questions and be a more active participant in the design of your mattress.

Hope this helps


Thank you so much for your prompt and informative reply, Phoenix.

We went to Savvy Rest this morning. Husband and I both liked the same combination of soft talalay on top, dunlop medium in middle, and dunlop firm on bottom. With their 20% off sale, we were quoted a price on a 10" king size of $2 599. They said we could switch out layers for 90 days at no cost.

It looks like we can get a similar soft-med-firm combo at Sleep EZ for $1995 (less 5% discount) + free pillows and mattress cover, with a small charge to switch out layers.

I have a few questions:

(1) Any idea how comparable the two mattresses would be in terms of feel? On the Savvy Rest, I felt like I was well supported, in good alignment, and the soft talalay gave me a great feeling of comfort. Would I likely feel the same on a comparable Sleep EZ combination?

(2) Shawn at Sleep EZ said that we could put the latex mattress on our old box spring, and that has been done for years with no problem. The salesperson at Savvy Rest said no; that it would impact breatheability of the latex and could cause mildew to develop. Which is true? I’d prefer not to have to buy a new foundation unless I have to.

(3) Healthy Back store said that a waterproof mattress cover was necessary - that water spills were hard to clean and would nullify the warranty. Savvy Rest said this is not necessary unless you were pretty accident prone - that their mattress pad would absorb minimal water, like sweat and that should be enough. She also said that waterproof materials are manmade and it wouldn’t make sense to put them on top of all-natural latex. Again, I am not sure who to believe on this.

Thank you for your help and advice! I had an especially bad night sleep last night, and can’t wait to make a decision and get my new bed!:cheer:

Hi FairfaxMom,

The “regular” price for your layering is $3429 and with 20% off then the price would be $3429 - $685.8 = $2743.20. If the three layers are all Dunlop then the 20% off price would be $3079 - $615.80 = $2463.20. The first thing I would want to do is clarify the price and it’s basis. There have been several instances that a Savvy Rest price quote turned out to be wrong (or based on an incorrect layering) and I would just want to make sure it’s correct. I’d also want to know if this was all inclusive (all costs including any tax). For the sake of this post though I’ll assume that however they came to it … that the price is correct.

The “same” mattress at SleepEz (10,000 organic king) would be $2395 with all included less your 5% or $2275.

This is about a $320 difference (rough math) which is small enough that you would need to decide which one best “fit” your value equation with the benefits of ordering locally on a mattress you have actually tried vs one that would be very similar but may not be “exactly” the same. They would both use the same talalay but their source of Dunlop is equivalent quality but different suppliers. This is about a 12% savings which would mean that which was “better” would be up to which “benefit” you believed was most important either personal testing or a lower price.

Another alternative with SleepEz which also may be attractive may be the 10000 natural which would have blended talalay as the top layer (a little more durable and pressure relieving) and still Dunlop in the base layers (it would be natural rather the organic certified Dunlop and only each person can decide on the value of the certification when the materials themselves are fundamentally the same). The cost for this would be $1995 less your 5% or a total of $1895 which would be a more significant difference of $700 for still a very similar mattress. If this was an attractive option for you … then the 27% difference would probably justify the “risk” of an online order for most people but again this would be a personal decision.

While there is no way to know exactly" how different they would be and Savvy Rest doesn’t say the ILD of their layers … the natural talalay would be similar (they both use the same supplier which only has 5 choices in natural Talalay) and the Dunlop would also be very equivalent and the same quality even though their Dunlop suppliers are different.

The switchout or layer exchange process would be similar but since you are local there would be no shipping cost with Savvy Rest (normally they charge round trip shipping) and with SleepEz there would be a $30 charge which is their cap for shipping costs and they would send you a new layer and then you would send the old one back again.

If you made the same choices then they would be similar. Of course there is no way to know how “exact” this would be but the material on top would be the same and below would be very comparable. It’s difficult to make objective comparisons for subjective perceptions but these two mattresses would be very comparable with similar firmness choices.

Latex mattresses can certainly go on a box spring (box springs have springs which I assume is what you mean) although it would change the feel of the mattress and it wouldn’t feel the same as on a solid foundation or what you tested it on. A box spring with springs is still breathable so this wouldn’t be an issue. If by “boxspring” you mean a solid platform foundation with a solid surface and no slats … then this is a matter of “degree” of risk you are comfortable with. While latex is very breathable and there would be little risk with a solid platform foundation without slats … some people (including me) are more comfortable with slats. It would also depend on other factors such as climate, humidity, basement or upper floors, and the amount of moisture released by the people on the mattress. I personally prefer either slats or a solid grid foundation but I like to do everything I can to improve ventilation and lower the risk … even if it’s small. You can see a case here for example where all the factors worked against them and their all latex mattress (the Zenbody is all blended Dunlop) developed mildew. The risk for most would be small in other words but there would be some effect on the ventilation of the mattress.

This is a matter of personal preference and which of the mattress protector tradeoffs are most important for each person. Your three basic choices are either …

A: the thin membrane type which are less breathable, likely hotter for some, and can range from little to some effect on the feel of the mattress and are waterproof,.

B: A thin wool protector such as the Dormeir which is very popular and is water resistant (which for most is fine) and much more breathable and temperature regulating but may have a little more effect on the mattress (like wool quilting)

C: A stretch cotton protector which is very breathable and elastic and would have little effect on the mattress but would only absorb “regular” moisture and body oils and would be more risky for larger “accidents”.

There are quite a few posts about the tradeoffs involved in the choice of a protector and a title search on “protect” or on “cover” will bring up many of them (you can just click the links). In other words it is personal preference and depends on which qualities are most important to you.


Thank you again, Phoenix, for another helpful, detailed reply.

Yes, the Savvy quote I received was correct. They even gave me a spec sheet with all their prices, so the quote - discount was correct.

Considering what you wrote, I decided it made more sense to go with the Sleep EZ 10000 natural rather than organic. Not only is there a significant cost savings, but they are including two free pillows. Also, the cover cost extra at Savvy. The sales tax was also not included in the Savvy quote, which is not insignificant. So it really came down to a pretty big price difference.

As far as the risk of purchasing without trying, I decided it was probably riskier to buy from Savvy where I could only swap out layers vs. SleepEZ where I would have the option of not only swapping layers, but returning the whole thing.

Thank you again for your website, and explaining all of the important variables to consider. I never would have even considered latex without reading about it on your site, and certainly would never have the courage to buy a mattress on the other side of the country without trying it first!

We expect to receive the mattress in about a week. I plan to write a review of my experience with the hopes I can help someone else make a good decision the way you have helped me.


I seem to be following the same path as you. I was at Savvy Rest Friday afternoon and was impressed with how helpful the saleslady was and without the sales pressure. I’m hoping to order from SleepEz also, by duplicating what I liked at at Savvy Rest and I’d be interested in hearing your impressions of your bed from SleepEz in a month or so just to see if it turned out to be what you had hoped. I also have sciatica and its funny how that acts up when back alignment isn’t correct. Trying out so many mattresses actually made my shoulders and hip hurt!

I also had a good experience with Showcase Furniture in Manassas with their line of Winndom beds but their top of the line coil/latex was still more that I wanted to pay and I was still trying to decide whether or not I even wanted latex at that point but they would be a good place to check out for any other NOVA people interested in looking at beds.

Anyway, I hope your new bed turns out to be your dream bed!


Hi FairfaxMom,

Congratulations on your new mattress :slight_smile:

As you probably already know I think you made a great choice!

Thanks too for your kind words and I’m looking forward to your report on your experience with it when you’ve had the chance to sleep on it for a while and I know Searchingforsleep would also be very interested in your feedback since your “paths” were very similar.


I will let you all know how I like my new mattress. Even though it’s taken well over a month to make my decision, I can hardly stand to wait another week for the mattress.

Searchingforsleep – I also have sciatica flare-ups that started over a year ago, and every morning I wake up with new aches, pains, and numerous pressure points. I do a lot of exercises and stretching – but I have come to realize that all my hard work can’t make up for sleeping for hours on a bad mattress.

How did you like the Savvy Rest mattresses? I really loved one of the beds I tried (and really hope my SleepEZ is just as good!). I wish I could have just bought from Savvy - the saleslady was so helpful and nice, and their beds looked wonderful – but price is a big consideration for us.

That being said, I am an incredibly cautious person so it was a big deal for me to spend nearly 2K on a product I’ve never seen from someone I’ve never met! Honestly, I’m still a little nervous about it.

I didn’t know about Showcase Furniture. I tried American Foam Center (waste of time!) and I asked for a price quote from Mattress Traditions, but since I never heard back I didn’t bother to check them out. It’s amazing that there are so few good choices in the DC area, but there’s a Mattress Warehouse/Discounters/Sleepy’s on every corner!

Phoenix - Just wanted to let you know that there is a significant price discrepancy between the prices Savvy Rest lists on line and the Manufacturer’s Suggested Price List that I was given at the store. Just thought you should know in case other posters have similar differences in their pricing.

Hi FairfaxMom,

Thanks for the feedback on your shopping experience.

I’d be particularly interested to know about your experience with American Foam Center. When I talked with them it seemed that they had some good quality materials available although they are not so much a mattress manufacturer as a foam outlet that made some mattresses. If your experience there was less than satisfactory I’d love to know about it because even though there are not lots of great options in the DC corridor … I also don’t want to list a outlet that for some reason is not a good option to even consider.

SavvyRest may also be changing some of it’s pricing which would be good news. Many of the retail outlets I have seen that carry them list their mattresses and actually sell them at the same prices listed on the Savvy Rest site. If the prices are coming down then that would be great :slight_smile:


Hi FairfaxMom,

Yes, I know the sciatica well. I’ve had it off and on since my second pregnancy 13 years ago and have seen a chiropractor. It only helped for a short while but I’ve found that staying active and stretching have been the biggest helps.

I liked the Savvy rest Dunlop firm on the bottom and Dunlop medium in the middle with the Talalay soft on top but I’m not in love with it, so to speak. It is something that would work, though. The Winndom coil mattress that I tried in Manassas is still luring me, though and I can’t tell if the industry has changed so much recently that it really is harder to warranty a mattress so, I’m concerned about going that way. We previously bought from Mattress Discounters 15 years ago and although, the mattresses didn’t last, we never had a problem replacing them and got free pillows for the trouble (we’re on our third mattress).

I haven’t contacted Mattress Traditions but intended to so, I’m surprised to hear they didn’t get back to you. Maybe b/c the power was out from the storms?

I also went to American Foam last week. I felt like I had walked into the back end of a mattress shop when I was expecting a show room. Although, Charlie was very helpful and patient with my questions, they only have two mattressess to lie on and I could tell they had a lot of work to do so, i didn’t want to take up too much time trying out different options. He did tell me to come back when the owner was there and to plan on spending as much time as I needed trying out different combos. He also said he doesn’t done a mix of Dunlop/ Talalay yet but was willing to try it out since he’d been hearing of other manufactures doing it. It wasn’t a bad experience just very different from what I thought it would be and I certainly felt comfortable enough that I wouldn’t have a problem giving them my business.

I’m also considering the Rocky Mountain Cloudcroft so, the journey continues. Money is a factor here as well and I’m really not thrilled with spending 2K on a mattress and am still trying to rationalize/justify the expense when I could spend much, much less and still “easily” replace a mattress if needed in 5 yrs.
Too many what ifs!!:unsure:

Oh and I forgot to mention, being able to finance the purchase is also a big factor and I’m not finding that option in much of the latex sellers.

Searching - Sounds like we have similar bed tastes. I liked the same combination at Savvy, though it sounds like I liked it more than you. But you never really know until you sleep on it for a while. I hated spending nearly 2K, but if it helps me sleep and helps my back issues, then it will be worth every penny.

Phoenix - Just to share my American Foam experience:

It was like walking through a warehouse. I visited on a day where temps reached 100, and there was no a/c - just an industrial fan. I did not let that deter me, and tried out the three sample foam beds, which were described by the only person in the store as firm, medium, and soft. I think they were about 6 inches. I asked what the foam was, and he said he didn’t know. I asked if it was on the label somewhere and he said he didn’t know. When I asked about layering foam, he simply put one mattress on top of the other. When I asked about pricing, he said it was $1428 for a king. When I asked how much for a 10 inch, he said the same price. When I said that wouldn’t make sense to charge the same price, he called someone (I suspect the owner) who said it would be $2599 + $199 for covering + $65 for delivery.

Just to be fair, the person there was very nice – he just didn’t seem to know a thing about mattresses, nor did he make any attempt to get any information for us.

Perhaps I would have had a different experience had the owner been there. But even if he had, the pricing was comparable to Savvy Rest.

I hope this helps!

Hi FairfaxMom,

OK … that makes more sense because I talked with the owner (Robert) and I was quite happy that there was another “better” value outlet in the DC area even though I know it’s not a “mattress showroom”. Robert was very knowledgeable about mattress materials and has been making mattresses for 50 years.

They get their talalay latex from Latex international and while they may not be in the “best value” range, they offer some good choices (in polyfoam, memory foam, and latex) including high quality versions of each of these and are certainly better than average value … especially for the area.

I think the prices you were quoted may have been “off the cuff” but even with these they are considerably less than the typical Savvy Rest prices although in fairness this may not be an apples to apples material comparison (Savvy Rest’s listed prices for a 6" King with Dunlop are $2539).

So this helps to clarify that if someone goes there they should clearly call first and talk with Robert before going there to pay a visit and I’ve added a note to the other threads saying that a phone call to Robert first would be a good idea.

Thanks for the feedback … I really appreciate it!