When you’re looking at making your home more sustainable, there are a variety of changes you can make. Your mattress is a very good place to start. All-natural latex mattresses are made from the protective fluid underneath the bark of the Hevea Brasiliensis rubber tree. You may be wondering how that can make a sturdy mattress. Below, we find that out, as well as look at the harvesting process for latex mattresses.
Why is a Latex Mattress So Good For You?
Foam rubber is supple and soft. Also, latex is dust-mite resistant, hypo-allergenic, and anti-microbial. As it’s a breathable material in mattress form, it helps keep you cool in the summer and warmer in the winter.
Latex mattresses are usually made in one of two ways.
1) The Dunlop method comprises of whipping liquid rubber into a foam, and then pouring into a mold. This process adds air, and could be described as being similar to mixing egg whites. The more the liquid rubbed is whipped the softer it becomes. It’s then poured into a sealed mold, and baked, ultimately creating a firm slab.
2) The Talalay method is similar to the Dunlop one until it comes to what happens after the latex has been poured into the mold. This way differs as the latex-filled mold is covered, sealed, and the air is removed via a vacuum. The foam is then frozen and then heated. This creates a less firm mattress than the Dunlop method.
Mattress manufacturers prefer to create their goods using one or a combination of both the Dunlop and Talalay methods. No matter what process is used in its creation, a good quality latex mattress should offer the following:
- No harsh chemicals
- First class comfort
- Good body support
While traditional spring mattresses push back, and memory foam ones create an impression, a latex mattress supports your body by enabling your spine, joints, and muscles to relax naturally.
With a latex mattress, you can experience the following benefits:
- Contouring, buoyant support
- A mattress that doesn’t change shape
- Good support no matter what position you sleep in
- Long lasting comfort
- Allergen-resistant sleeping experience
- Reduced stress of pressure points
- Reduced motion transfer between sleeping partners
A very versatile product and one that’s been sustainably harvested and used for hundreds of years, latex is also used to make pillows, too.
The Manufacturing and Harvesting Processes
There’s a lot more to growing and processing natural rubber than you may think. In fact, the entire operation takes several years. Through using a combination of chemistry and botany, the end result is achieved. Contrast this with synthetic rubber production that involves chemical reactions and computerized control.
Seeds are allowed to grow for approximates 12 to 18 months in a nursery. Then, a new bud is grafted to the plant. After this process has been attended to, the seedling is then cut back and is ready to be replanted. The new trees are cared for until they’re mature enough to be tapped.
During the harvesting process, the cloudy white liquid (that’s similar in appearance to cow milk) from the tree, is collected. This is achieved by cutting a thin strip of bark away from the plant and waiting for the latex to drip out slowly into a container. This is a painstaking process that takes around three hours to produce less than one cup of latex.
Another very crucial aspect to remember is that if the trees are cut too deeply, they will be damaged beyond repair. Workers therefore are required to be skilled enough to always cut off a slanted strip of bark that’s around 0.84 cm deep.
The tapping is repeated every other day with thin cuts being made just underneath the last one. When the last shaving is around one foot above ground level, the opposite side of the tree is then tapped. This provides the first side of the tree with time to rest and renew itself.
What then happens is that a person called a tapper collects the latex that’s coagulated in the cup. They also collect the tree lace, the term for latex that has coagulated around the old cut. Then, the tapper creates a new cut. The latex flows quickly from this and then evens out steadily for a few hours. Eventually, it slows.
To halt the coagulation of the liquid latex, a preservative is usually then added before the latex is transported to processing factories. Before it’s sent, technicians check the latex for purity and quality.
It takes between five and seven years for a Hevea tree to mature. After this point, it can be tapped for as many as 30 years. Generally speaking, rubber yields come in at a ton per acre on large plantations. However, it’s theoretically possible to have yields of four times that number. Under such circumstances, when trees have been heavily tapped, they are sometimes rested for a while afterwards.
There are ways to increase yields and to reduce tapping times. Often, workers employe puncture tapping methods. This is where the bark is rapidly pierced with sharp needles. This can improve productivity in many cases.
Natural latex in its liquid form is made up of:
- 55-65 percent water
- 30-40 percent rubber particles
- Sterol glycosides
It takes a huge amount of latex to make one single mattress. This might be so, but latex can be tapped without killing the trees or creating pollution. It’s therefore an environmentally sound choice remembering also that trees remove carbon dioxide from the air. Furthermore, the process of tapping creates employment in areas where jobs could be scarce.
Rubber trees also live very long lives. Some live as long as 100 years or more, removing carbon dioxide from the air.
So, in short, when you buy a latex mattress, you’re buying much more than just something comfortable to sleep on. You’re actively supporting the growth of rubber tree plantations and the livelihoods of the workers as well as the environment.
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