The Banana Test

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How to Determine Latex Firmness

Picking out latex firmnesses is very vague if you have no frame of reference. So, I present to you, the banana comparison, an imperfect example but a good start.

Imagine the amount of pressure it would take you to flatten the following bananas with the palm of your hand and you just might be capture the feel of flattening the latex too.

Soft: a brown banana
Medium: a yellow banana with a few spots
Firm: a yellow banana
Extra-Firm: a chartreuse banana
Hard: a green banana

The Job of your Layers


The top layer of a mattress is the comfort layer. This is true if you make a wool mattress and use a wool topper or if you make a latex mattress and choose a soft piece of latex. The top layer will degrade faster than the rest of your layers as not only does it get the most use, but it is the softest and has the least amount of material to resist your body weight.

Choose your comfort layer first. You will feel this piece as soon as you crawl into your mattress. It is the layer that will cradle your pressure points and give you ease as soon as you lie down.


A supporting layer keeps you from sinking through to your slats or frame beneath you. it is what holds up the comfort layer and ultimately you. While its feel may be subtle, its function is necessary. A supporting layer is what you sink into after you use up the depth of the top layer.

When making a mattress, you can choose to concentrate the feel toward either comfort or support. In other words, you could choose a Soft/ Medium/ Extra Firm to concentrate on the comfort layer. Or you could choose Soft/ Firm/ Extra Firm for a concentration on the supporting layers. Rule of Thumb #3 & 4 (below) are for people who don’t want to choose a concentration but rather a balance.

Rules of Thumb

  1. Children often prefer a medium 3” as opposed to firm 3”.
  2. If you like firm bedding, you will find a Firm to feel soft, and Extra Firm to feel medium and a Hard, firm.
  3. A common combination for 9” layers is Soft/ Medium/ Firm.
  4. A common combination for 6″ layers is Soft/ Firm.
  5. 3” is generally sufficient around to 100 lbs.
  6. 6” keeps you from feeling the slats until about 200 lbs.
  7. 9” will last you until shortly before 300 lbs. However, a lot of customers who could take a minimalist approach on 6″ choose the 9″ option, as it gives you one extra layer to put in the comfort category or the support category. 9″ is also a good choice if you are a sensitive sleeper, as you will probably end up fine tuning your mattress after you purchase it.

Sleeping Position & Body Shape 


You create the largest pressure points of all sleepers with your hips and shoulders. You will tend to want a soft or a medium layer on top of your bed, unless you fit into Rule of Thumb #2’s category.


Your pressure points are not as large as a side sleeper’s are. You will tend toward a medium or a firm as a comfort layer.


Your body weight is stretched out so the pressure points you create will not be compounded at one point of the bed. This means that you may be comfortable on a minimalist depth of 6″ of latex or 4″ wool mattress with topper.


Your body weight is compact which means that your pressure points will be concentrated. You will lean toward a deep mattress of 9″ or more.

For common configuration ideas, see this chart here.
For an interactive selector that will walk you through the process to a probable comfortable combination, see here. (link coming)

Pillow Considerations

Besides comfort, there are three notes to consider when choosing a pillow.

All of our pillows can be made high or low, soft or firm at your whim, due to the easy access of the fill because of pillow case’s zipper. Some pillows can accommodate multiple sleeping positions, such as our shredded latex pillow which lets the sleeper shove extra fill into the corners, if desired, for when rolling onto a side.


The softness of your mattress will affect the height or depth of your pillow. A soft mattress lets you sink into it further than does a firm one. That sinking in takes away some of the height needed for a pillow. Conversely, those of you on firm mattresses may find you prefer a higher pillow than when you are on a soft mattress.


Back or stomach sleepers tend toward thin pillows. A side sleeper’s shoulder raises the head much higher off the mattress than does a back or stomach sleeper, thus the tendency toward a higher pillow. With our pillows that simply means adding in more fill for side sleepers and less fill for back and stomach sleepers.


This one is pretty obvious; a wide shoulder needs a higher pillow and a small shoulder width needs less of one. Children need shorter pillows than adults do.


While you could get the best comparison if you tried out a latex bed, wrote down the ILD’s of the layers you liked and then came to us, perhaps having a comparison of what I am comfortable on might give you some more perspective.

I weigh 115 lbs and am 5’4” tall. I sleep 80% of the night on my side, 20% percent on my back, 0% on my stomach.

My own choice for mattress and bedding is
top: 3″ Medium
middle: 3″ Firm
bottom: 3″ Extra Firm (This layer is only to keep my side the same height as my husband’s side or to help out with pressure points when I am pregnant. Otherwise I don’t need a third layer.)

My husband weighs 200 lbs and is 5′ 10″ tall. He sleeps 60% of the night on his side, 40% percent on his back, 0% on his stomach.

My husband’s choice for bedding is
top: 3″ Soft
middle: 3″ Medium
bottom: 3″ Firm

I do not use a mattress protector or topper. I sleep on a shredded latex with a quilted pillow case and a woolly bolas pillow.

Be Forewarned

These are not rules or even suggestions. Consider them generalities.

Remember we offer a buy and try period. You may swap out layers of latex until you are satisfied with the firmness for 60 days.


Simply said, slats are the most common support system used with latex and wool mattresses. For more thorough information, see the article here on Bed Frames.

5 thoughts on “The Banana Test

  1. I must say that Google is doing its best to block your website, at every turn.

    I don’t suppose you ship to the UK? Organic latex is very expensive out here and many of the mattresses sold as 100 percent natural or organic, are in fact contaminated due to the casings, many of which tend to me made of cotton alone, and not a mixture of both cotton and wool. Sadly this is not being explained to the general public, many of whom tend to give these products raving reviews on Trustpilot, Yelp and elsewhere, believing these to be chemical free products when they’re anything but. Few are as by law, I know that, as America, many of the mattresses must needs be treated with fire retardants in order for these products to be sold to the general public as very few of these manufacturers atest to using WOOL in their mattresses outer casings. It’s very dishonest marketing, at the very least. Hence my desire to make own.

  2. That comment was not for the banana test. My error in posting here..

  3. I don’t understand about how you sleep on shredded latex? Are you saying that your topper is shredded latex?

  4. I have a 54″x74″ wood futon and I am looking to put a mattress on it. It will be used as a futon, so it needs to be able to bend upwards into a couch position and rarely, back down into a bed position. Would it be possible to do this with only a 3″ extra firm talalay of the same dimensions? I was thinking that would be firm enough to not sink into the slats, thin enough to bend into the couch position and light enough to easily reposition the futon and move the mattress when it’s time for me to move into a new home. Do you think this would work?

    When the futon frame is in the upright position, the width shrinks down to 51.75″ (measuring the back height and seat width). I guess the mattress will just rise above the back a few inches, which I don’t see as a problem. With the exception of where the mattress will be bent upward, will the top half of the mattress remain flat against the futon or would the material bulge outward? The futon does remain at a slight backward angle, so it won’t be straight up. What will happen to the mattress where it’s bent? When I put it back down, will that bent part become permanent crimped or will it be able to flatten out in a short amount of time?

    What about the wool mats inside? Will they fall down when in an upright position?

    My previous non-latex futon had velcro straps that held the mattress to the frame, so that it didn’t slide off. Do you have any idea if my mattress cover will need to function like this too?


  5. I want to make mattresses for a moses basket and a changing table basket for my baby due in April. There are a lot of remnant pieces in your clearance section that would work nicely for that, but I am unsure of what firmness and thickness would be ok. I was originally thinking 1″ extra firm bc the mattresses/pads they come with are thin, and it’s generally recommended babies sleep on firm mattresses to decrease the risk of SIDS but I am worried it may be too firm. Does anyone have any suggestions for what firmness would make the most sense in this context?

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