Organic Latex vs. 100% Natural Latex

What is the difference between 100% natural latex and organic latex?

This is becoming a very pertinent question, as people go online to do research and find a wealth of information, both correct and incorrect. We’re seeing such an increase in interest of all-latex model mattresses that it seems like a good idea to go over the basics and try to simplify the differences.

Firstly, the very basics: latex foam is made with the sap (latex milk) of the rubber tree. The sap is harvested, then put through a process of heating the liquid rubber with sulphur, soaps, and ammonia (gelling agents) in order to make it into latex foam. This is called vulcanization. Without the gelling agents, the sap would still be in liquid form.

On to the question at hand--what’s the difference between natural latex and organic latex?

Simply stated: organic latex does not exist.

That’s a big one, isn't it? It doesn't exist? Why does it not exist? Which then leads to the question “why are businesses claiming their latex is organic?”

Any claims of “organic latex” are incredibly misleading. The companies claiming they have organic latex are either uninformed, or are confusing the term “organic” with the word “natural.” Perhaps also they recognize the growing demand for all things organic and are betting customers won't question the claim. At any rate, it’s a wonderful, but completely unsupportable claim.

Why is it an unsupportable claim? The fact is, there are a few rubber tree plantations claiming organic status of their trees. That means, if they do have certification, that the rubber sap (latex milk) would be organic.

However, it is impossible to vulcanize the sap without the additives necessary to make that sap gel, which would effectively render any originally organic raw material NON-organic at the end of the process. Which means that as a finished material, latex foam cannot be organic.

What is “100% natural latex?”

Latex that has been vulcanized in the fashion described above, then washed free of any leftover non-organic additives. The proof of 100% natural latex would be the final product being sent to a third-party testing facility for certification that there are no residual unwanted non-organics left in the finished material.

That’s the short and sweet of it. As a consumer, always look for 100% natural latex that has been certified (as a finished product, not as pre-vulcanized sap) by a third-party testing laboratory, such as Oeko-Tex.