(and a few misconceptions)

1. Where is Radical Rubber made?

Radical Rubber sheeting is manufactured in Malaysia, one of the world's principal rubber-producing countries, where there is a high degree of experience in making high-quality rubber goods: it is the world's largest producer of medical gloves, and many of the rubber goods you use every day are probably made in Malaysia. Our partners in Malaysia are well-established and very experienced latex manufacturers who also make other latex products in the “human contact & use” sector, such as gloves, dental dams and exercise bands, which they sell to major international customers. For more information on Malaysian rubber click here

2. If it's made in Malaysia, it can't be as good quality as sheeting produced in Europe/America

Malaysian rubber is regarded as the best in the world. ‘Standard Malaysian Rubber' is the description used by chemists & professional bodies to refer to the best quality benchmark for all technically specified rubbers. Companies who may claim higher quality for their products are often using Malaysian liquid latex compound as their raw material anyway. We worked over two years to develop Radical Rubber, in collaboration with our partners, industrial technical consultants, and a ‘focus group' of independent latex garment makers, with the aim of matching the quality that makers and wearers have become accustomed to. Our manufacturing process compares closely with that of other manufacturers. Unlike some, our factory has been accredited to ISO quality assurance standards. Our tests, both with organic chemists in the lab and active hobbyists at home and at play, have shown us that in all practical respects, Radical Rubber is of very comparable quality to any other natural latex sheeting.

3. Isn't it going to be difficult for me to deal with a company in Malaysia?

You won't have to. All Radical Rubber sheeting is imported to the UK and we warehouse it in England. If you have any queries or questions about our product or your order, our staff in the UK will be on hand to look after you. We operate quality control both in Malaysia at the factory, and in the warehouse in the UK, using staff skilled in and with an understanding of the fetish business. This means that we will reject anything we consider below standard.

4. So why is Radical Rubber cheaper than latex sheeting produced in Europe or America?

Because we manufacture in Malaysia, we do not have the high running and labour costs associated with western economies. We can also buy our raw materials locally, and often at better prices. In addition, our shipping costs are lower since we import the finished article (sheet latex) into the UK, while western-based manufacturers have to import their raw materials in the form of liquid latex, 40% of which is water needed to keep the latex liquid during transit. This increases the weight and volume of the cargo and hence transportation costs. We also strive to keep the UK arm of the operation as small and cost-effective as possible, without compromising customer service!

5. It's so cheap it must be synthetic rubber.

Radical Rubber is made from 100% pure natural liquid latex, gathered from Malaysian rubber plantations. The only additives are dyes, and glossing agents. These are the same as those used by all other makers of latex sheeting. Radical Rubber does not contain any synthetic rubber (In any case, at the moment, synthetic rubber is actually more expensive than natural latex!)

6. Is Radical Rubber safe medically? Will it give me an allergy if I wear it?

Radical Rubber has an Extractable Protein Level within medically accepted tolerances. The factory at which Radical Rubber is produced also manufactures latex for medical purposes and conforms to the governing international standard ISO/EN 13485-2003 for Class 1 medical devices. It also has to conform to American FDA (Food & Drug Administration) and many other international medical standards. Our production process involves extensive leaching of the sheeting to reduce as far as possible allergenic proteins in the latex. Most other latex sheeting used for garments does not conform to these standards, and could sensitise you if you are prone to latex allergies. Being sensitised just once can result in your becoming allergic to any latex products. In our experience, many people who believe they have a latex allergy are actually allergic to the talc they are using: wherever possible, use medical-grade unscented talc with your latex, or a silicone oil-based dressing aid such as Cult/Pjur.

7. Is Radical Rubber manufactured ethically?

Malaysia is a well-developed country where most of the population enjoy a relatively high standard of living. There are laws to protect workers - especially children - against exploitation: all staff at our partners' factory enjoy clean and healthy working conditions, are paid the going rate for their job, and are given all breaks and time off as required by local law, plus paid holiday. The raw material used in the manufacture of latex sheeting is liquid latex, which is collected from local rubber plantations. It is a 100% renewable resource. No toxic chemicals are used in the production of Radical Rubber.

8. I've heard the cost of liquid latex is rising - does that mean Radical Rubber will have to increase its prices?

Latex is a traded commodity (like coffee or oil), so its price can be affected by speculation, as well as natural disasters in the regions where it is produced, and the exchange rates of the currencies in those countries. In recent months, the price of raw latex has reached record levels (the highest since the 1950 Korean War!). Like other manufacturers of sheet latex, we have had to pass some of the increase on to our customers; but due to our knowledge of the market within Malaysia, and our partners' substantial buying power, we have managed to keep these rises to a minimum. The fact that there is now real competition in the sheet latex market - thanks to the existence of Radical Rubber - has had a restraining effect of the level of price rises.

9. If I start using Radical Rubber I'll have to change all my patterns as it stretches differently.

Not so. Major manufacturers throughout the world are now regularly using Radical Rubber (including our own sister company Libidex), and none have had to make any alterations to their patterns. That's because we specified our product with this issue in mind. Technically speaking, the ‘modulus' of Radical Rubber is marginally lower than some other latex sheeting (so it stretches a bit more in tests carried out in a laboratory), but this is not significant enough to make any difference to the stretch allowance built into patterns.

10. Does Radical Rubber Stick OK?

Libidex Ltd our sister company was using Radical Rubber about 6 months before it was launched in July 2007, and has now been using it for all its garments for the last three years. Over that time, there have not been any significant instances of Libidex garments peeling apart, and in this respect Radical Rubber achieves as good a bond as 4D or any other latex. Some of our earliest ‘testers' have hung on to their test items and have brought them in to show us. The seams on these are nearly six years old and in fine shape

11. What glue should I use with Radical Rubber? Does Radical Rubber supply its own glue?

Radical Rubber can be stuck with most glues suitable for latex. These include white latex-based glues, as well as solvent-based glues - the actual brands vary from country to country. Seams should be cleaned with thinners before sticking. Radical Rubber sells both latex (RadicalBond 2) and solvent (RadicalBond 1) based glues. RadicalBond 1 may be purchased from our Trade Counter at 1 Millman Mews between 10.00-17.00; Mon. - Fri.
Radicalbond 2 is SUITABLE FOR EXPORT - so we are able to ship it to anywhere in the world

12. I sometimes see what seem to be water marks on the surface of Radical Rubber - what causes these, and are they permanent?

These marks are mainly caused by our leaching process to reduce allergenic proteins in the latex (see question 6), which involves passing the latex through a bath of water. They are not permanent and can easily be removed using polish or cleaner. Other marks can be caused by uneven talcing, but once again these can be removed by polishing.

13. I've had problems with some colours bleeding and staining others - I've even heard some latex colours can stain the skin!

This is a problem the occurs with some colours in latex sheeting. Certain dyes are difficult to ‘fix' in latex because so much pigment is needed to obtain the right depth of colour; hence there is some dye on the surface of the latex which can rub off on skin or other latex. This is generally confined to colours in the ‘red' spectrum (i.e. pinks, reds, violets etc) where the latex has to be saturated with dye. The problem can be partly solved by washing garments thoroughly if they do tend to bleed. It is also not a good idea to store very light colours next to darker ones as they can pick up some colour.

14. What if I do get a faulty roll from you?

It can happen (nobody's perfect) but we operate a strictly ‘no quibble' guarantee. If your latex is in any way faulty or not up to the standard you expect, then we will exchange it for you free of charge, or give you a refund. We always inspect the fault very carefully and discuss it with our technicians in Malaysia so that we can find out how it was caused and make sure it doesn't happen again.

15. How can you best clean and polish Radical Rubber?

Naturally we recommend our own polish, Radicalshine, which is similar in content to the blue cleaner sometimes known as ‘Pervoshine'. The advantage of Radicalshine is that, because it is white, it doesn't stain light coloured zip fasteners and the like. Practically any other polish or cleaner suitable for latex can be used to clean Radical Rubber, and of course you can also use silicone spray to achieve a high gloss finish. Sponging down the gloss side of the material to remove the talc applied to let the sheet separate on the roll, during storage, often makes a considerable difference to the polish and shine achieved.

16. Can I get Radical Rubber in a heavier gauge than 0.8mm?

Yes, we now offer 1.05mm (equivalent of 0.040/0.045") gauge in Black and Red. We will gradually be producing other popular colours in this thickness, starting with the Favourites Colour range.

17. Is Radical Rubber available in widths greater than 1 metre?

No - we do not have the machinery to produce widths greater than 1 metre and the demand for wider latex rolls for the fashion industry is not sufficient to justify the investment in such machinery. Some manufacturers produce wider rolls because they also supply industrial customers; whereas Radical Rubber aims to be a specialist producer exclusively for the fetish fashion industry.

18. Can I order less than 10 metres of Radical Rubber?

Yes - we have no minimum order, and you can buy as little as 1 metre from us. We do however make a surcharge of 50% per colour or per thickness for orders of less than 5 metres. This is to cover the cost of making up small orders, which involves cutting rolls, and the wastage this creates. However, even with the surcharge, we are still substantially cheaper than many other sellers on the Internet.

19. Is Radical Rubber going to offer printed latex?

We are in the process of trying out a new printing technique (not screen printing) which will enable us to print continuous lengths of patterned latex (up to 10 metre rolls). We have already exhibited samples of our printed latex, and we are currently ‘road-testing' it to ensure the durability and fastness of the ink when worn as garments.

20. Can Radical Rubber produce a customised colour or pattern for me?

We will be able to offer this service once we have perfected the printing technique and road-tested the results. Any customised patterns will be subject to a minimum order of 100 metres, but can be printed on several different colours of latex in the same run (provided the same colour ink is used). Normally we can only print in one colour since it is very difficult to obtain an accurate register between colours because latex stretches.

21. Can I get garment labels or logos printed on Radical Rubber?

We can produce labels or logos printed on bands of latex 15cm wide, in most colours and with a choice of printing inks. Minimum order is 30 metres. Please ask us for details.

22. Why is Radical Rubber producing all these different colours? They don't match the ones I've already got.

It has never been our intention to simply copy the colours of other latex manufacturers. Of course, we do produce popular colours such as black, red, white, blue and so on which everyone has been using for years. Our mission is to increase the variety of colours available to latex fashion designers who, up until now, have had quite a limited range to choose from. We believe that innovation is the life-blood of the fashion industry, and we want to work with the latex fashion designers to stimulate their creativity and produce exciting new looks for their customers to enjoy.

The Malaysian Rubber Industry

Malaysia is the heart of the world’s natural rubber industry. It is where it all began and Malaysia still leads the world in terms of R&D and support for the materials and all the industries that use it.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, rubber came from South America, where the hot wet climate suited the wild rubber tree, but it was very difficult to collect it from the dense jungle. It soon became obvious that more rubber would have to be grown elsewhere to meet the demand.

In 1876, Sir Henry Wickham, at the request of the British India Office, collected and shipped from Brazil 70,000 seeds from the wild rubber tree. These were rushed to Kew Gardens in London and planted in specially prepared hot-houses. The small number which survived were taken in 1877 to Ceylon and later to Malaysia and other countries of South-east Asia.

The rubber tree quickly flourished in Malaysia. By the end of the nineteenth century, there were 2,500 hectares of rubber in Asia.

Shortly afterwards Henry Ford started making his famous motorcar and the demand for rubber - to make tyres - rocketed. The trees in the South American jungle could not possibly produce enough rubber and so the new plantations of Asia found that the world wanted all the rubber they could produce, and more. By 1910 there were ½ million hectares of rubber planted and the countries of Asia had now become the main suppliers of rubber.

With the spread of motoring to every country in the world, even today’s enormous acreage of rubber (about 6 million hectares in all) cannot supply enough. There is not enough natural rubber to go around. Scientists have developed man-made rubbers from petroleum. These are often mixed with natural rubber. For some products, however - for example fashion latex - only natural rubber is really suitable.

Altogether Malaysia produces almost 20% of the world’s natural rubber, and is the world’s third largest producer. Altogether, Malaysia has 1.7 million hectares of rubber. Malaysian rubber goes to every country in the world and is recognised to be the best.

Malaysia is one of the great post-colonial success stories. Since gaining independence from Britain in 1957, it has developed a very well educated workforce producing high quality products. Today, it is a manufacturing-based, export-driven economy, featuring high-tech, knowledge-based and capital-intensive industries.

Within the latex industry the well trained staff, exacting quality standards and superior factories are key to improved quality products and materials that can meet the end users’ demands and applications.

Malaysia provides expert consultancy to latex producing companies worldwide (including Radical Rubber) through the government-funded Malaysian Rubber Board, which has a wealth of know-how and well-equipped laboratories, acting as a catalyst for technical supremacy in latex technology and innovation.

[With thanks to the Malaysian Rubber Board]