Natural & organic mattress buying guide: Everything you need to know to choose the non-toxic, eco-friendly, organic mattress that’s right for you.
Our mattress was a wedding gift. It served us well but after 20 years, our backs were telling us it was time for something new. Since I know a little bit more about mattresses than I knew 20 years ago, I knew I wanted a non-toxic mattress that was safer to sleep on and healthier for the planet too.
It took a lot of research to finally find a natural, non-toxic mattress that we were comfortable with and that fit within our budget. As much as we wanted the best luxurious organic mattress on the market, we needed to find an affordable non-toxic mattress that wouldn’t break the bank.
After lots of research, we finally found an eco-friendly but affordable mattress that was a perfect addition to our non-toxic bedroom! Since we all have different criteria for purchasing mattresses, I put together this guide to help YOU find the non-toxic mattress that you’ve been dreaming of!
First, let’s talk about what’s wrong with most conventional mattresses you’ll find on the market today.
The problem with conventional mattresses
Most mattresses are made with synthetic, petroleum based foam, treated with chemical flame retardants and covered in PVC vinyl. Toxic formaldehyde is also found in synthetic foam, as well as in the adhesives used to make the mattress. Ultimately this means that your mattress is releasing toxic fumes while you sleep. Not good.
Those off-gassing fumes, known as VOCs have been associated with a whole host of health disorders including thyroid, reproductive and behavioral problems, as well as cancer.
It’s hard to rest easy knowing you are sleeping in a bed of toxic chemicals – especially since we sleep for approximately 1/3 of our lives.
Criteria for a non-toxic + organic mattress
If you’ve ever shopped for mattresses you’ve probably noticed that the mattress industry is complicated and confusing. The number of options and differences between products is overwhelming and every brand has their own “proprietary” way of doing things.
You’ll need to cut through the hype and the clutter to find the elements of a safe and healthy mattress that are important to you.
Here are some things to look for in a non-toxic mattress:
- Zero chemical flame retardant chemicals – this was my #1 criteria
- Made with certified organic materials including cotton, wool and latex, certified by GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) or GOLS (Global Organic Latex Standard)
- If you want latex, make sure it is natural latex rubber, not synthetic
- Preferably no synthetic polyurethane foam at all
- Certifications like MADESAFE, GOTS, GOLS, Oeko-Tex or eco-INSTITUTE (learn more about certifications below)
- If you want waterproof protection, look for food grade polyethylene or ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) instead of PVC vinyl
RELATED POST: 4 Good Reasons to Buy Natural, Non-Toxic Products for Your Home & Life
Natural & Organic Mattress Certifications
In a category as confusing as mattresses, certifications are an important guide to the safety, quality and eco-friendly attributes of the mattress.
Let’s take a closer look at the certifications:
Internationally recognized organic standard for textiles including fabric used in clothes, home textiles, yarns, and in this case both the cotton and wool used in mattresses. GOTS ensures the organic status of textiles every step of the way – from the harvesting of raw materials to the processing, manufacturing and labeling of finished products. Known as the toughest organic textile standard.
Note: GOTS & GOLS certifications cover three levels – the factory, materials used, and finished product. Ideally both the factory and the finished product will be certified. You may have to do some digging on the company website to find this out.
This standard monitors the natural rubber used to make organic latex and ensures that everything from the rubber plantation, to the manufacturing plant to the final product are in compliance with the standard. To be GOLS certified, a finished product must contain at least 95% certified organic raw material.
When you see the MADESAFE label you know it has met rigorous standards to make sure it does not harm human health, animals or the environment. All certified products are screened for known behavioral toxins, carcinogens, developmental toxins, endocrine disruptors, flame retardants, heavy metals, neurotoxins, high risk pesticides, reproductive toxins, toxic solvents, or harmful VOCs. Only a few mattress brands have met these strict standards.
An international, third-party certification program that tests for more than one hundred harmful substances, including formaldehyde, banned colorants and heavy metals.
This certification looks at air quality standards and assures that products designed for use in indoor spaces meet strict chemical emissions limits. Gold certification considers safety factors to account for sensitive individuals, such as children and the elderly.
An independent certification agency based in Germany that tests for pollutants and emissions. Products are evaluated for formaldehyde, VOCS (volatile organic compounds), heavy metals, pesticides, phthalates, and other potentially harmful chemicals.
CertiPUR-US is a certification for conventional polyurethane foam that ensures that it is low-VOC. It is free from the worst flame retardants (PBDEs, TDCPP or TCEP- “Tris”) but not all flame retardants – so keep in mind that some chemical flame retardants may still be used. CertiPUR foam is also free from ozone depleters, formaldehyde, mercury, lead, and other heavy metals and phthalates. NOTE: This certification was developed by an association of foam manufacturers so it’s not perfect, but could be safer than traditional polyurethane foam.
Finding the non-toxic, organic mattress that works for you
Choosing the right non-toxic mattress is a big deal! To avoid information overload, I recommend starting with some online research and then visiting a small, local store that specializes in natural and organic mattresses, rather than heading to a mega mattress store.
Of course, purchasing a mattress online is becoming more and more common and with the happiness guarantees they offer, this could very well work for you! Mattress testing stores like Sleep Sherpa in the Twin Cities are popping up too. They stock popular brands so you can test them and then facilitate ordering online.
Determine your top priorities for a mattress, shop around and by all means test out the product if you can. That means taking off your shoes and getting comfy in a public space. Embarrassing but extremely helpful!
Some things to consider:
- Type – Latex, organic cotton, organic wool, innerspring or a combination
- Feel – Firm, medium or soft
- Price – Queen size prices start at $795 and go up to $5000 or more, with many options in the $1000 to $2000 range
- Shipping – Is there an extra shipping or delivery charge? Do you need a compact bed-in-a-box model in order to get it up the stairs?
- Happiness Guarantee – Will they take the mattress back if you are not 100% happy with it?
Affordable Non-Toxic Mattresses
We had a tight budget for our new mattress. While I was willing to spend extra to get a safe, organic mattress, I could not quite afford the ultimate green mattress I was dreaming of. We ended up buying a quilted, organic cotton innerspring mattress from Naturepedic. It is a super comfy, affordable, non-toxic, organic mattress and we love it! (Unfortunately, that model is no longer available in Queen size – only Full or Twin.) Naturepedic has many other more luxurious organic mattresses to choose from in a range of prices.
Since then, we have also acquired mattresses from Happsy and Zen Haven for our kids’ beds. They are both super comfy and I feel good knowing they are sleeping on healthy, non-toxic mattresses.
Non-Toxic Mattress Brands
I may receive commissions from purchases made through links in this article. Full Disclosure
Here are a few non-toxic mattress brands that stand up to my green & healthy scrutiny. I’ve personally tried Naturepedic, Happsy and Zen Haven and I’ve heard good reviews about the rest.
For detailed information about these brands and more, check out my post about Non-Toxic Mattress Brands.
If a natural or organic mattress is simply not in your budget, here are a few things you can do to lessen the negative effects of a conventional mattress:
Your turn: Are you in the market for an organic mattress? What are your most important criteria?