Do Layer Cakes Really Make Good Beds?

To hear many mattress makers tell it, the only way to make a good mattress is to make it like a layer cake.

You know, as in: “We’ve got a layer of this, and a layer of that, and a few more layers besides.”  For example, I’m looking at a website that brags how their 12-inch mattress has a 1-inch thick slab of pure latex, plus a 1-inch layer of “cooling comfort” memory foam, plus a 5-inch layer of core support foam, PLUS a layer of 4″ individually-wrapped coil springs surrounded by a 4-inch thick layer of edge support foam, all sandwiched inside a damask cover with a generous layer of wool batting.

I’m sorry, but that’s nuts. You don’t need all that stuff for a comfortable mattress. And you don’t want all that stuff if you want a durable and healthy mattress. They’re doing all this to make a cheaply-made mattress look super-special: lots of details for their sales people to chatter about. (Did they mention it’s 12 inches thick? And it’s got memory foam! And coil springs!!)

So here’s the straight scoop: a truly high-quality mattresses doesn’t need all of that. To be really comfortable, really healthy, and really durable, it needs a whole lot fewer layers … layers made of better materials.

Let’s break down this mattress I’ve just described. The damask cover is likely made from rayon or nylon … that is, oil. The wool batting is there to serve as a flame barrier. But when it gets damp – and it will, because most people perspire a cup or two of moisture every night – it can get really set your allergies afire, and harbor dust mites a-go-go. Not to mention that, sooner than later, it will inevitably crush down, creating low spots.

The memory foam? Another blob of oil. And no matter what they claim, it works as memory foam by retaining heat, which becomes very obvious in hot weather. On the other hand, in winter cold it can feel like a slab of modeling clay. (To be sure, many folks genuinely DO like the way memory foam feels in good weather … but, then again, those same folks often adore the way real, 100% natural latex foam rubber feels too. And latex stays cooler in summer, comfier in winter … and it comes from trees, not oil wells!)

The springs impart their own special feel, which isn’t necessarily bad. But they’re cheap – which is why they’re used – and six years down the road they typically start to sag.

The 5-inches of core support foam is what’s doing most of the work. Like the memory foam, it too is made from petrochemicals, meaning it out-gases all kinds of stuff. The 1″ of latex? That’s there for bragging rights, because a mere inch of latex can’t really be doing a whole lot  … and if it doesn’t say “100% natural,” it could be cheap man-made latex (that is, more oil).

But you know, I’ll give them this: these mattresses often look terrific! The covers are gorgeous, with nifty contrasting colors, handy sewn handles, and impressive piping. If outer looks equal quality, they’re got a great mattress.

Okay, so what do WE think makes a great mattress?

Not a layer cake. Just a plain 100% organic cotton cover encasing 8 inches of 100% natural latex produced from rubber trees: 6-in. of Dunlop medium-firm latex core topped with 2″ of cushy-soft Talalay latex. (The only difference between Dunlop and Talalay is how the rubber resin is cured. It’s all the same stuff, but the Talalay feels cushier to the hand).

The Dunlop core gives you full-body resilient support. The Talalay topper provides zoned support while also cushioning all your pressure points. The cotton cover keeps it snugly assembled and is a nice sleep surface. That’s all the layers you need … and all without a cloud of petrochemicals off-gassing into your face night after night.

Oh, and six or seven or eight years down the road – when the layer cake mattress is saggy and smelly and leaves you with a low-grade backache every morning – your 100% latex mattress will be going strong, inviting you every bedtime to a great night’s sleep!

That’s all we make and sell at Santa Cruz Natural Mattress. Give us a call, plan on a visit, make a day of it at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk … just come on over and experience how comfortable a 100% natural latex mattress really is.



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