What is Latex?

The History of Latex

Natural latex (NR) is derived from Hevea brasiliensis, a species of rubberwood that is native to Amazon rainforests in South America. This region includes Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, and Brazil. The majority of natural rubber (NR) came from here throughout most of the 19th century, however over 90% of the world's natural rubber today comes from plantations in Southern Asia.

This shift in sources can be traced back to 1876 when British explorer Henry Wickham smuggled seeds from Brazil and delivered them to Kew Gardens, England. Only 2400 seedlings resulted from the original crop and were distributed throughout British colonies in Asia – including India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

Due to their climate and geographic profile being very much like Brazil’s, Southern Asia was the perfect location for these new rubber plantations.

Our Latex

Kottayam, fondly known as "The City of Literacy, Lakes, and Latex," is one of the fourteen districts that form the state of Kerala in India. The city gets part of its nickname from the fact that it is ranked as the most literate in the country. Despite having such a large area and the highest population in Kerala – it has managed to achieve 100% literacy for its residents.

Kottayam has a complex network of rivers, backwaters, and lakes; and values this resource for its ability to attract tourists from all around the world. They are highly focused on protecting this most precious of natural resources and has managed to keep the area free from most industrialization. Kerala is also one of the 12 states of India who has laws specifically to prevent and control water pollution.

Despite having a favorable climate, Kerala is not agriculturally self-sufficient and imported as much as 70% of its food as recently as 2013. However, with cancer rates increasing more than 10 percent faster than the rest of the country, the state government decided to ensure its agriculture is 100% organic by 2020. Since Kerala is known for its exports of black pepper, turmeric, coffee, coconuts, and rubber, this decision means that they, too, benefit from this ambitious goal.

The natural organic latex we use here at Majestic Sit and Sleep is GOLS-certified and comes from a third-generation family-owned producer who controls all aspects of their supply chain. From farm to production facility, they ensure that their product remains untouched by harmful chemicals from start to finish. They also built the worlds most advanced certified organic latex factory in 2016.

How Latex Is Harvested

While rubberwood trees grow relatively quickly, it is five to seven years before one can be tapped for its latex. However, if this is done properly, a Hevea tree can produce latex for as long as 30 years. Many people refer to latex as the sap of the rubber tree. This is incorrect, though. Raw latex is a milky white substance that comes from the lactiferous vessels in the bark of the tree, while sap comes from the deeper cambium layer.

The tapping of a rubber tree is done twice a week, before dawn. To preserve the long-term health of the rubber trees, they are wintered during the period where they lose their leaves. Latex is also not collected during the heavy rainfall season. It takes a very skilled tapper to tap a rubber tree correctly. The tapper must make a very careful spiral incision that is deep enough to open the lactiferous vessels. But it must not be so deep that it damages the cambium layer, as this can cause so-called callouses and swelling.

The raw latex extracted from the actual tree is known as field latex. This is collected several hours after the tapping has been done then sent to a local processing facility. This field latex is a combination of raw latex, water, and other natural by-products. The latex to water ratio varies in field latex, so it is always run through a centrifuge. This concentrates the liquid rubber to a uniform ISO 9001 standard.

Our latex is put through the centrifuge process an additional time to lower the natural proteins found in natural latex. These proteins are what can cause allergies in some people, although it doesn’t eliminate them completely. Latex that has gone through this extra step is known as low-protein latex and is somewhat safer than traditional latex for allergy sufferers.

The final concentrated latex is known as Cenex and is made up of a 60/40 latex-to-water ratio. Once all the field latex has been concentrated to a uniform mix, it is ready to be converted to foam rubber.

The Organic Dunlop Process

We only use transaction-certified Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) Dunlop latex in our products. There are two processes for producing latex; however, we do not use any Talalay latex products.

The Dunlop process begins by pumping the concentrated liquid latex into a mixing tank. Here a small amount of GOLS approved gelling and curing agents are added. These are predominantly zinc oxide and steric. As it is impossible to make latex rubber without any additives, the organic certifier approves any that are used as well as the finished product as part of the GOLS certification process.

Once the latex has been whipped into a thick froth in the mixing tank, the semi-solid latex is gravity-fed through a density regulator and into an open mold. Once the mold is filled, it is closed and sent on a conveyor through a vulcanization oven. Vulcanization is the heating process used to create the permanent structural bonds necessary to turn liquid rubber into a solid foam rubber.

Once the vulcanization process has been completed, the latex foam is removed from the mold and sent to a washing station. During this step, the latex is compressed and washed with purified water to remove any residual impurities remaining from the manufacturing process. Next, the washed latex is dried and cured to remove all the water remaining in the foam rubber block.

The final step is quality control. Every slab of latex is weighed, measured, and ILD-tested to ensure that the highest level of consistency possible from a natural product is achieved.

Dunlop vs. Talalay Latex

Dunlop and Talalay refer to the two different processes used to turn liquid latex into a solid foam. The major difference between these two happens during the second step. In the Talalay process, the semi-solid froth is poured into a closed mold and injected with CO2;then it is flash frozen. This process produces a latex foam rubber that is bouncier and less dense.

In more general terms, the Dunlop process is the original process of manufacturing latex rubber. Because it doesn’t use any hard-to-obtain chemicals or gases, it is best suited for organic and 100% natural latex. The Talalay process was, in fact, invented in response to the introduction of synthetic latex and is best suited for products that depend on the more uniform physical properties of synthetic latex.

This is why the vast majority of Talalay, as much as 98%, contains 60%-70% styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR).

Regardless of which process is used, all latex can be made with or without synthetic latex or what is known as a filler. Filler and synthetic rubber (SBR) have a massive effect on the feel, support, and overall quality of the latex than the process itself. This is why using organic latex in a latex mattress is far more important than the manufacturing process used to create that latex foam rubber.

At Majestic, we only use GOLS-certified organic latex, and this is why we only use latex manufactured using the Dunlop process. Now it’s time to learn about some of the Benefits of Latex Mattress.

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