How To Buy An Organic Mattress

In this video tutorial, I show you how to buy an organic mattress.  You might not have considered that a mattress could actually be organic, but they do exist, and in this tutorial I’ll put forth an argument for why you might want to invest in one and where you can find one.

So why would someone want an organic mattress?

Reason #1:  If you make an effort to live green, eat organic food, buy organic soaps and shampoos, and show concern for the environment in your daily life, it makes sense for that to extend to your bedroom.  After all, we do spend a third of our lives asleep and we’re very close to our mattress and pillows at night.  We “breathe” what we sleep on.

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Tip: Buy lots of plants for your house! Plants have the ability to absorb VOC’s.  Plus they make oxygen!

Reason #2:  Most mattresses are made from synthetics, and most of these synthetics are derived from petrochemicals and all sorts of nasty stuff.  Polyurethane foam, memory foam and polyester are examples of three very common materials used to build mattresses, and perhaps you are trying to move away from petrochemicals as much as possible in your home.  Perhaps you want to reduce your exposure to VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) or from fire retardants.  If that’s the case, then an organic mattress could be a good choice for you.

Reason #3:  It used to be that people with chemical sensitivities were the main buyers of organic mattresses.  Most mattresses are treated with harsh fire retardant chemicals which have recently become a very big concern for people, not just for mattresses but for furniture as well.  Buying an organic mattress guarantees that the mattress is totally free from those harsh fire retardants as well as any other synthetic material.  Most use wool because it’s a natural fire retardant and it doesn’t off-gass noxious fumes.  Ahh…

Reason #4:  Now, people are looking for organic mattresses because it aligns with their own beliefs.  It’s simply a natural extension of what feels right to them.  They also learn that because of the materials used, an organic mattress is much more likely to last a lot longer.  There’s something very appealing for a lot of people about sleeping on something made from natural materials instead of something totally synthetic.

So what then exactly would make a mattress organic?

An organic mattress is essentially free from any synthetic material.  So this means no foam, no viscoelastic foam, no polyester, no dacron fibers, nothing synthetic.  The materials must be sustainable, renewable, and follow very strict guidelines of cultivation and production.  It means natural fibers like cotton & wool are grown or raised without chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, hormones or GMO’s.

100% Natural latex rubber, organic cotton batting, and wool are typically used in place of foams for layering.  Steel springs can still be used in an organic mattress and are typically made from recycled steel.

The most common configurations you’ll find for organic mattresses are:

  1. Innnerspring mattresses made with a combination of organic cotton batting, natural latex, wool and organic cotton covers (covers are also called “ticking.”)
  2. Spring-free mattresses made from 2 or 3 layers of natural latex then wrapped with wool and a cotton cover.
  3. Mattresses made simply from wool batting or cotton batting and an organic cotton cover (based on the Japanese futon style.)
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Tip: Look for ‘Pure Grow Wool’ or ‘Premium Eco Wool.’

The wool acts as a natural fire retardant and is amazingly able to pass the federal fire regulation tests without any additional chemicals.

Unfortunately there’s a lot of ‘greenwashing’ going on at the moment, so always check to make sure that the materials used in beds claimed to be organic are certified organic to be sure.

The USDA does not certify mattresses as a finished product as ‘organic,’ but the individual components used to build the bed can be certified.  This is why you’ll always want to know the details of the exact materials used to build the bed.

For example, truly organic cotton covers and wool will be Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified as well as Oregon Tilth Certified Organic (OTCO), truly organic cotton batting will be certified by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP), and organic natural latex will be Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) certified and you’ll also see the GREENGUARD certification for manufacturers that really go the extra mile.  Reputable organic mattress companies will post all of their certifications publicly.

Beware of memory foams being described as “natural memory foam,” things described as “chemical-free” since nothing is chemical free (chemicals are the building blocks of life), look for more information when you see the phrase “non-toxic” because everything on Earth has the potential to be toxic in certain doses — even water, and dig deeper when you see the word “green” being used to describe a mattress.

Play the “Name That Sin Game” at The Sins of Greenwashing to test your knowledge!

What you want to see instead is the phrase certified organic.  If you don’t see that phrase or any legitimate 3rd party certifications, then the mattress isn’t organic.  Keep in mind that I’m mostly referring to American manufacturers.  Things are slightly different in other countries, but in America in order to call your mattress ‘organic’ you have to be able to substantiate it with the proper third party certifications.

So, how do you find one?

There are quite a few small, boutique style stores that specialize in organic mattresses and bedding across the country.  There’s a pretty decent amount of smaller manufacturers dedicated to producing only organic beds as well, and there’s also a few online brands that ship direct to you.  Finding the right one for you may involve a little bit of research.  You can start by searching for one in your local area.

Be prepared to spend slightly higher than average prices for an organic bed (read: sometimes a lot higher).  The materials are not cheap and the certification processes are costly as well.  Remember the phrase certified organic and when in doubt, ask for the certifications for the materials.

Let me know if you have any questions by posting them in the comment section below!

– Sean