Topic: Natural Rubber

Moisture Control in Mattresses and Bedding

Moisture control in mattresses and bedding.

Often overlooked by traditional manufacturers, moisture control in mattresses and bedding is probably the most important factor in creating a successful sleep environment.

When we sleep we perspire.  If that moisture remains next to our body we get clammy and hot.  Often to alleviate this issue we will throw off the blankets causing the moisture to evaporate quickly and cooling us so fast we get a chill.  Then we repeat the process over and over destroying any hope of a decent night sleep.

To ensure the comfort of our mattress and bedding products we use two natural fibres – Wool and Alpaca.  I will expand on Alpaca later but first let’s look at why wool is great for moisture control.  Wool will continue to feel dry even when it has absorbed 30% – 50% of its weight in moisture.  Capillary action (wicking) moves the moisture along the fibres and away from your body.  Wool has a very fast drying rate so it releases the moisture that has been drawn away from you into the air keeping you warm and dry; not hot and sweaty.  Alpaca’s fibre is hollow and it works like wool but even better with faster drying and better capillary action.  It does not contain lanolin which we love for its antibacterial and anti-dust mite properties so we use Alpaca in pillows and duvets, blended with 30% to 50% wool.

In closing, research with tell you there are many synthetic wicking fibres on the market today.  They are used in sportswear and some traditional mattresses and show excellent capillary action. Unfortunately tests show they do not offer the quick drying ability of wool and also have the problem of trapping fats and bacteria in the fibre pores resulting in odour.  Most of us have purchased these high tech garments and have been stunned by the seemingly impossible to remove smell after just a few workouts.  Manufacturers combat this problem by adding even more chemicals to combat the odour – something none of us need in our chemical soaked environment.  This is why we have no doubt Wool and Alpaca are the best fibres for moisture control in mattresses and bedding.

Latex History

latex mattress

Rubber, the most fascinating natural material, is also known by the Maya name caoutchouc. Knowledge of the elastic properties of rubber was brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus, who observed inhabitants of Haiti playing with bouncing balls. Considerably later, in 1615, a Spanish explorer reported how milk (latex) gathered from incisions made on specific tropical trees was brushed on cloaks, rendering them waterproof after drying, or on earthern , bottle shaped moulds to produce containers. It was not until 1735 that the French geographical expedition identified caoutchouc sap of the hevea brasiliensis tree, today called the rubber tree, because rubber has the capability to erase pencil marks. Hevea trees only grow ten degrees north or south or the equator, and need heavy annual rainfalls of about 250 cm and tropical climate. The rubber tree is presently cultivated in Malaysia, Ceylon, south-east Asia and West Africa. Wild rubber is still harvested in Brazil and Peru.

Latex is only workable when freshly tapped from the rubber tree, thus Europeans struggled considerably to find solvents for caoutchouc to make it spreadable after it arrived in Europe in its dried state. Efforts utilizing ether, turpentine or naphtha (a waste from coal-gas plants) were only partially successful since the water proof items, produced from rubber remained sticky particularly when warm, and turned to dust in the hot summers.  Moreover, these rubber items were odorous, perishable and became brittle and even cracked upon the use during extreme cold winters.

Nevertheless, a large number of products were manufactured in the early 1800s such as air mattresses, portable bathtubs, waterproof mail bags and boots. In the 1820as a machine was built to rapidly cut rubber into small pieces which generated heat and thus facilitating the fusing of rubber scraps into blocks.

Riding on the rubber boom of the 1830s, Charles Goodyear after considerable experimentation discovered the curing process during heating. The new substance did not melt.  It was durable and retained pliability and elasticity when cold. This technique of vulcanization is still used today.

In 1860 John B Dunlop patented and developed a pneumatic rubber tire based on Goodyear’s invention, which eventually made the bicycle popular and had an impact on the auto industry several decades later.

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Where Does Rubber Come From?

Most of the world’s rubber comes from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka

These countries are all located in South-east Asia.

Brazil provided the world with the rubber tree, Hevea Brasiliensis, but Brazil no longer plays any significant part in the natural rubber trade. Seeds were exported from the lower Amazon area of Brazil to London UK by Henry Wickham, a local planter acting for the British Government in 1876.

The seeds were germinated at the Tropical Herbarium in Kew Gardens, London later that year. From there seedlings were exported to Ceylon (Now Sri Lanka). In 1877, 22 seedlings were sent from Ceylon to Singapore, where they grew strongly, and the technique of tapping was developed.

Prior to this, the trees had to be felled before the latex could be extracted.

By 1900, most of the techniques and agricultural practices required to establish large plantations had been developed. One key technique was bud grafting. This is essentially a cloning technique which ensures that genetically identical trees can be produced in unlimited numbers.

The rubber industry often talks about high-yielding clones, or other types of clone; and this is the basis of that terminology.

Over the next 40 years or so, the British in Malaysia and the Dutch in Indonesia cleared large areas of rainforest to create rubber plantations.

Simultaneously, local farmers saw the opportunities of rubber cultivation, and planted small groves of trees to supplement their own income.

This gives rise to two types of rubber plantations in most producing countries: the plantations and the smallholdings.

Smallholdings tend to produce solid rubber, while plantations are essentially large-scale farms, with professional management. Most latex comes from professionally managed plantations.

Is Latex Made From Sap?

The answer is No

Latex is often described as the sap of the Hevea tree. This is not an accurate description. The sap runs deeper inside the tree, beneath the cambium. Latex runs in the latex ducts which are in a layer immediately outside the cambium. This highlights the skill of the tapper. If the cambium is cut, then the tree is damaged, because the cambium is where all the growth takes place. Too much damage to the cambium and the tree stops growing and stops making latex.

Methods of Latex Rubber Tapping

All natural rubber originates in the Hevea tree, and it starts its journey when the tree is tapped. Trees are rarely tapped more often than once every two days.

A tapper starts the trek around the plantation before dawn. At each tree a sharp knife is used to shave off the thinnest possible layer from the intact section of bark. The cut must be neither too deep, nor too thick. Either will reduce the productive life of the tree. This starts the latex flowing, and the tapper leaves a small cup underneath the cut.

In ordinary circumstances, this latex will normally coagulate into a lump in the bottom of the cup, called ‘cup lump.’ If the plantation manager wants to make latex, then the tapper must add a stabilizing agent to the cup. Usually this is ammonia, which prevents the latex from coagulating.

The tapper returns a few hours later and collects the stuff in the cup — either cup lump or latex. The double round trip usually finishes at about 2 pm.

Processing of Latex – Cup Lump or Liquid Concentrate

If solid rubber is required, the cup lump, together with tree lace (the remnants of the latex flow from the cut down to the cup) and other bits and pieces are collected together and processed. That processing involves quite a lot of heat, which destroys many of the proteins. It ends up as solid rubber. Depending on the method of processing and the final purity of the material, the industry refers to it as sheet rubber. This rubber is often used to make mattress cores.

When latex is required the material is gathered on the tapper’s return journey, poured into containers and delivered to a processing station where it is strained and concentrated. At no stage in the process is the latex heated. This means most of the proteins remain in the latex.

More stabilizer is added and the latex goes into a centrifuge to remove some of the water, and increase the rubber content of the latex. After centrifuging, the material is known as latex concentrate, and contains roughly 60 percent solid rubber and 40 percent other stuff (water, proteins etc.).

This is what is used in the dipping process when making gloves.

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Why a Latex Mattress?

Latex mattresses have been around for a very long time, and have become popular because of their sturdiness. There’s never a need to flip them, they won’t sag within the center and they won’t  loose their springiness. You are guaranteed anywhere from 20 to 40 years of usage.

There are 3 types of latex mattresses

100% Latex is made out of the sap of the rubber trees

Blended Latex is a mix of pure and synthetic Latex

Synthetic Latex contains no pure latex

Most Latex mattresses in today’s marketplace are made from blended latex or synthetic latex. Only stores that specialize in latex will carry mattresses that are 100% natural latex. Most mattresses that claim to be latex, only have a 2-3 inches of latex on top. You have to really investigate the product construction to really find out what it’s made of.

There are two methods of processing latex.

The Dunlop latex which is available in 5 firmnesses, was developed in the 1950s and the most popular.
The Talalay latex is a bit softer but most always blended. Talalay latex blends extra synthetics into the mattress, and may be up to 100% percent synthetic. 100% pure latex talalay mattresses don’t exist in the market, most are a blend of 80% artificial / 20% pure latex.

Natural latex lasts a lot longer than blended or synthetic latex and is much more comfortable as it does not break down as quickly.

Are natural latex mattresses very expensive?

They cost just a bit more than a good quality coil mattress, but they are much better value. You may have to replace a standard coil mattress 3 to 4 times before you have to replace a natural latex mattress.

Most good quality natural latex mattresses also use organic wool and organic cotton and most are built in layers to adjust comfort levels. A good quality latex mattress will also be constructed to provide each sleeper with supreme comfort, long-lasting support and provide correct natural body alignment using healthy natural materials. Each side can be customized to match the sleeper’s body weight, shape and desired comfort.

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All Natural Latex Mattress Buying Tips

Look for 100% natural latex and don’t be afraid to ask about their source for their latex and what process they use for making the latex foam.

Always purchase from a reputable company. You can usually tell how a company operates by the neatness or chaos in their showroom.

Always purchase from a company that offers a vast selection of natural latex mattresses. A selection of one or two mattresses is like having no selection at all.

Look for mattresses that offer different comforts for different sleepers.  Dual comfort should be the standard not the exception. If you are sleeping with a partner you should not have to compromise your personal comfort. A good quality all natural latex mattress will offer a different feel on each side.

Look for mattresses that are built in layers allowing you to change the comfort of the mattress. After all, these mattresses may last up to 30 yrs and you may want to change the feel in the future.

Ask to see certificates for the components in the mattress. It’s easy to say things are natural or organic but the proof is in the certificates.  Ask to see these certificates to make sure they exist.

The warranty should be a minimum of 10 years – a 20-year warranty is best.

Shop at retailers that specialize in these types of mattresses.

Make sure the outside mattress cover is produced from a breathable material – very important so the latex can breathe. Wool and cotton seem to compliment latex best.

Opt for latex mattress construction that features Dunlop latex . Dunlop latex provides good support.

Latex mattresses are delivered most frequently via freight delivery companies who will not bring the mattress into your home due to the weight of these types of mattresses. Look for retailers that offer full service. Delivery and set up.

An all natural latex mattress may be just the right fit for you, but take your time researching the companies and the products to ensure you get the best mattress for your needs. A serious natural latex mattress retailer will have dozens of units to choose from.

Dormio Organic Beds…naturally better

Best selection of natural and organic quality mattresses and bedding in the Toronto area!