How to Find an Environmentally-Friendly Mattress

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Guest blog by Samantha Kent: Samantha (Sam) Kent is a researcher for Her favorite writing topic is how getting enough sleep can improve your life. Currently residing in Boise, Idaho, she sleeps in a California King bed, often with a cat on her face. 

You spend nearly one-third of your life asleep in bed. While it may feel safe and cozy, many mattresses contain or are processed with chemicals that are harmful to your body. It may take a little more time and money to find an environmentally-friendly mattress, but you'll be able to rest easy knowing you're protecting your health and your family's wellbeing.

Learn the Language

Mattress retailers and manufacturers often put labels on their products that can be misleading. Many times, the labels apply to only one part or component of the mattress rather than the mattress as a whole. For example, the cotton used to make the mattress cover may have been grown and harvested without the use of pesticides or chemicals, so the mattress can be labeled as "organic" even though most of it is not natural.

At this time, there is not a governing organization to check claims of "natural," and "eco-friendly." Instead of relying on these labels, you'll need to check the materials used to make the mattress and look for certifications from independent organizations.

What Makes a Mattress Organic or Biodegradable?

Mattresses are a complex product made of several layers. You'll need to consider the materials used in the cover, comfort layers, and support core. You want to look for:

  • Natural Latex: Natural latex is used to make the only mattresses on the market that are both 95 percent organic and biodegradable. Although, it should be noted that the percentage of natural latex used in the mattress can vary by manufacturer and model. Natural latex mattresses contain a small amount of synthetic latex, which is derived from petrochemicals.

  • Plant-Based Polyurethane and Memory Foam:  Plant oils are used to make plant-based foams, reducing harmful chemical emissions.

  • Organic Fibers: Look for organic mattress covers made from cotton or wool.

  • Fire Socks: Fire socks made of wool, cotton, thistle, and Kevlar are safer than chemical flame retardants. While Kevlar isn't a natural material, no flame retardant chemicals are used in the manufacturing process.

Rely on Certifications

To find more information about the materials used to make mattresses, look for certifications from independent organizations. These groups monitor everything from the harvesting practices of the cotton used to make the mattress cover to the chemical emissions of the polyfoam. We’ve created a list of some of the most helpful certifications and what they monitor:

  • OEKO-TEX Standard 100: This certification comes from a group of 18 independent research and testing institutes in Europe and Japan. Only those products that do not exceed certain emission levels of harmful chemicals receive this certification. Amongst others, they check for emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde, and other flame retardants.

  • CertiPUR-US: The CertiPUR-US certification is received after testing polyurethane foam for chemical emissions.

  • GREENGUARD: The GREENGUARD certification evaluates finished mattresses for VOC emissions. While the certification does mean lower emissions, it does not mean there won’t be some off-gassing when the mattress is removed from its packaging.

  • Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): Both raw materials and their derivatives can receive the GOTS certification, which ensures that the product is 70 percent organic.