Do you need a new mattress? When most people shop for a mattress, they consider things like price, durability, warranty, and, of course, comfort. But have you ever wondered what materials are used to make your mattress and whether they’re healthy or safe?
Conventional mattresses are typically made with synthetic materials that can off-gas volatile chemical compounds (VOCs) into your home, aggravating allergies, asthma, and other health concerns. Even the natural materials, like cotton, in your mattress can pose a health risk, because of all the pesticides used to produce them. An organic mattress made with natural chemicals is the healthier and safer option, and you don’t have to sacrifice comfort, either. Here’s what you need to know to interpret the labels on organic mattresses and choose the best one for your needs.
Organic Mattress Materials
Organic mattresses are made with many of the same materials that conventional mattresses contain, minus synthetic plastics and polyurethane foams that can off-gas toxic chemicals. Organic mattresses are typically made with organic cotton, wool, or latex, which is a natural material made from the sap of the rubber tree.
Organic is much healthier and safer than conventional cotton because it is grown without pesticides. Cotton is actually the world’s most pesticide-intensive crop, consuming more than 20 percent of all insecticides and herbicides used worldwide. If you choose a mattress made with conventionally grown cotton, you’re sleeping on all those pesticides. So, clearly, organic cotton is the way to go.
Organic wool is also a good choice if you want a comfortable, water-resistant and naturally fire-retardant mattress. Wool is naturally fire-resistant because it contains high levels of water and nitrogen, so it needs more oxygen than the surrounding environment can provide in order to burn.
Many organic mattresses are made with organic cotton and/or wool padding wrapped around inner coil springs, just like most conventional mattresses. However, there’s some evidence that an inner-spring mattress can increase rates of cancer and melanoma. If that’s something that concerns you, an organic latex mattress might be the best mattress for you.
How to Interpret Organic Mattress Labels
It’s best to buy your organic mattress, mattress pads, and protectors from a reputable manufacturer of organic bedding materials. The Avocado Green Mattress, for example, is a popular choice. If you want to shop around, though, you need to do your research on companies and understand what organic mattress labels mean.
Not all of the words and designations on organic mattresses mean what you think they mean. For example, the term “natural” carries no weight, as there are no standards used to define something as “natural.” It’s nothing more than a marketing gimmick.
You should even be cautious about the word “organic” on mattress labels. Unless the mattress is labeled with the USDA Organic seal, you have no way of knowing that a substantial portion of the materials used to make the mattress are actually organic. The USDA Organic seal certifies that at least 95 percent of the materials used to make the mattress are certified organic and processed without the use of possibly toxic chemicals.
Organic mattress manufacturers use a lot of logos to label their mattresses, and they don’t all indicate the same stringency in processing standards, nor do they even all apply to the entire mattress. For example, the popular Casper line of mattresses is labeled Oeko-Tek Standard 100 compliant, but that label applies to the top of the mattress alone. The rest is compliant with the less-stringent CertiPUR-US standard.
The best labels to look for on organic mattresses include the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification, which means that at least 95 of the materials used in the mattress are certified organic, and the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS), which means that a mattress made with latex is 95 percent organic. Both standards also place restrictions on the use of toxic chemicals in the other five percent of a mattress’s components.
Less stringent, but still good, the Oeko-Tek Standard 100 label doesn’t mean that a mattress is organic, but does mean that certain toxic and allergenic chemicals have been banned in its manufacture. It also sets limits on how many VOCs can be used in the mattress.
You spend a third of your life in bed, so it’s important to use safe, healthy bedding. You’ll get the best sleep of your life knowing you’re safe from toxic chemicals, flame retardants, and synthetic components. When it comes to choosing a new mattress, organic is worth it.