Natural and Organic Mattress Buying Guide

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Natural and organic mattresses are just what they sound like. The construction of some or most of the materials is made up of natural components such as wool and cotton. If you are prepared to make a sizable investment in a product that will feature some of the best quality materials in the industry, I’m excited to walk you through the various types of natural and organic mattresses on the market. There is a lot more to consider than meets the eye to help you find the best natural and organic mattress to meet your needs, so let’s jump right in!

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Why the Popularity in Organic Mattresses?

When you make the investment in a sleep product, you’re essentially making an investment in your own health and well-being. Therefore, you want to ensure you can enjoy a quality product for as long as possible. When you choose a natural fiber mattress, you can expect both. These products are made without all of the petroleum and other highly-complex materials commonly used in other mattresses. Not only does this allow you to take advantage of the reduction in offgassing, but you can rest assured that you’re doing what you can to help protect our environment for future generations to enjoy.

Highly Durable

You want your mattress investment to last, and organic and natural products often feature the best durability in the industry. While a standard mattress will offer you around five to ten years of proper structure, they do wear out over time, and natural products can last much longer than this. Think about that for a moment. Yes, you will likely have to make a slightly larger initial investment. But, how much would it cost to replace a $500 mattress in five years? If your aren’t ready to make the purchase when the time comes, are you prepared to compromise on your sleep quality?

What Makes an Organic Bed?

When it comes to classifying an organic mattress, this means the product has passed certain certifications that allow them to qualify. This must be a recognized third-party organic certifying agent. A couple you can count on include the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS).

Check the Expiration Date on Certifications

As you examine a natural product for authenticity, make sure to take a look at the certification expiration date. Some companies have been known to buy organic for the first batch and switch to non-organic for the following batches. If the expiration date is past, speak with a representative to find out why or just continue shopping for other products on the market.

Latex and Control Union

Most natural products you’ll find on the market will feature some type of natural latex. While these are certified using GOLS standards, Control Union is the only company certifying latex as organic. There are other qualifying labels to look for that we’ll cover more here in a minute.

Common Organic Components

Organic cotton

  • Grown without fertilizers and pesticides
  • Not genetically modified
  • Unbleached cotton products further increase the natural qualities
organic wool from sheep wool

Organic wool

  • Helps keep your mattress cool
  • Prevents moisture buildup using lanolin, a natural wax produced by sheep that keeps their hair dry and soft through harsh weather

Understanding the Manufacturing Process

As I mentioned, most natural products will feature some type of natural latex, and there are a couple of manufacturing processes that are followed in this production. It’s because of this that you’ll often come across products featuring 100% Dunlop or Talalay latex. These two processes are actually quite similar. First, liquid latex is extracted from trees, and this liquid is whipped up and placed into a mold. During Dunlop processing, the product is then placed in a vulcanization oven where it is set. When complete, the product is washed and heated to remove moisture.

The Talalay process is very similar, but there are a couple of differences worth noting. First, when the mold is poured, there is room made available that creates a vacuum which causes the expansion necessary to fill it up. This ultimately allows for carbon dioxide to release during the freezing process and create breathable airholes. For this reason, Talalay is often a good choice if you want a product that won’t sleep hot.

Adhesives, Flame Retardants, and Other Man-Made Materials You Won’t Find

A certified organic mattress will spare you a number of man-made products that can cause irritation for those who suffer from allergies and skin problems. The US fire retardant standards were applied to non-organic products in 2007 in order to ensure they properly protected consumers from the potential for their bed to set fire. To comply, many began spraying chemicals onto the mattress fibers. This is why it’s not uncommon for you to experience offgassing when you open a new, non-organic product. Aside from flame retardants, just a few other common chemicals which are used include:

  • Adhesives
  • Deodorants
  • Perfumes
  • Glues

As you seek out the best organic mattress, you can take advantage of alternative fire retardant materials such as Kevlar, the fabric commonly used in fireproof vests. There are different ways in which the mattress can be made to meet the industry standards without exposing consumers to often controversial fire retardants such as:

Organic vs. Non-Organic vs. Eco-Friendly

Those in the mattress industry are very aware of the many features of top rated organic mattresses. However, there is additional overhead involved with their production. While there are ways they can try and make the product appear to be organic, it’s up to you to make sure they are as organic as you’re expecting. Just a few things you can be on the lookout for as you determine if a product is legitimate include:

  • Look for the GOTS certification and its expiration date
  • Watch out for labels claiming the product is:
    1. Eco-friendly
    2. Green
    3. Bio-foam
    4. Soy foam
    • This often indicates the manufacturer simply replaces a small portion of polyurethane foam with plant-based components and in no way indicates the entire mattress is organic.
  • To avoid the use of fire retardants, look for products that feature organic wool without chemical treatments for a truly nontoxic mattress.

Pros and Cons of Organic Mattresses

Before you make a purchase, it’s worth taking a moment to remind yourself why you’re reading organic mattress reviews in the first place as well as the potential setbacks that may be cause for you to consider other options.
R

The Good

  • Biodegradable, sustainable, and eco-friendly materials are used
  • Products are free of chemicals and pesticide residues
  • Nontoxic fire barriers are in place
  • Can often be customized to best fit your needs
  • You can do your part in reducing your carbon footprint
Q

The Bad

  • Limited availability and options
  • Can be confusing to buy
  • Can be expensive

With so many different features and technical terms, it can be confusing to weigh your options. While this can be looked at negatively, with the power of the Internet, it’s easier than ever to learn what you need to get the best natural mattress for your needs. That’s why we’re here to help! Not only can we help you clear up confusion, but we can also open up a number of viable options for you to explore as the online experience can help you overcome the limited availability factor.

With so many different features and technical terms, it can be confusing to weigh your options. While this can be looked at negatively, with the power of the Internet, it’s easier than ever to learn what you need to get the best natural mattress for your needs. That’s why we’re here to help!

Understanding Volatile Organic Compounds

Have you ever opened up a new pair of sneakers? Maybe you’ve had the luxury of buying a brand new car straight from the factory. If so, you likely noticed that “new” smell that’s reminiscent of chemicals. These are volatile organic compounds, and they are released for a short period following production.

Organic compounds are found in all living things and contain carbon. What differentiates VOCs, however, is the fact that they are able to easily vaporize. Aside from carbon, other elements they commonly contain include:

  • Hydrogen
  • Oxygen
  • Fluorine
  • Chlorine
  • Bromide
  • Sulfur
  • Nitrogen

While there have been no reports of VOCs being directly related to any type of fatal illness, they can cause irritation for those who suffer with certain skin disorders. As you shop for your low VOC mattress, consider the following list of materials placed in order of high to low VOC count:

Memory foam

    • Often the most common type to emit VOCs

Polyurethane

    • Mixture of polyurethane foam and memory foam, so VOC count can be high

Latex

    • If they are 100 percent natural, VOCs will be low, but some use petro-chemicals which can lead to minor offgassing

Innerspring

    • While insulator pads may be made of polyurethane, so look for those containing soy or non-soy vegetable-based foams

Natural Mattress

    • When you find a mattress without chemicals, you can rest assured that offgassing will be minimal

Understanding Certifications

We touched briefly on a couple of the primary certifications you can expect to run across as you shop for your environmentally-friendly mattress, but, you can’t understand just what they entail if you aren’t familiar with their meaning.

1. USDA Organic Certification

  • Established in 2002
  • Recognizes four categories of organic products
    • Crops
    • Livestock
    • Processed products
    • Wild crops
  • Products must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients

Organic certification through the USDA ensures consumers that mattresses are produced without implementation of excluded processes such as genetic engineering. It also ensures that they use only allowed substances. You can view the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances for further details.

There are quite a few companies that offer certified organic raw latex. Keep in mind that the USDA certifies agricultural materials. Therefore, if your mattress contains cotton, for example, certification can be sought. However, if other non-agricultural materials are also used, the certification doesn’t apply. Therefore, it’s a good idea to check the label to find out which components apply.

  • Composed of four member organizations:
    • Organic Trade Association (based in the United States)
    • International Association of Natural Textile Industry (Germany)
    • Soil Association (United Kingdom)
    • Japan Organic Cotton Association
  • Addresses post-harvest processing stages
    • Knitting
    • Weaving
    • Dying
  • Bans child labor
  • Bans genetic engineering
  • Bans the use of highly hazardous chemicals
  • Requires three sets of criterion be met:
    • Environmental
    • Human toxicity
    • Social

Products with GOTS certification can be listed as “organic,” but not USDA organic. Nor can they use the NOP seal. The GOTS provides consumer the assurance of a product meeting worldwide standards which differ from those set by the USDA. When you see the GOTS certification logo on your product, this gives you an idea of whether the product was made of organic fibers even if the product is non-agricultural.

3. Global Organic Latex Standard

  • Analyzes organic and finished latex foam
  • Concentrates on three main components:
    • Human health
    • Safety and welfare
    • Environment
  • Product must contain minimum 95% certified organic raw material

The GOLS certification is relatively new, and it was created since, prior to its establishment, there weren’t set standards specifically available for latex products. Since it hasn’t been in existence long, it can be more difficult to find products with this certification. Following are a few companies currently certified:

Latex sheets

  • Latex Green
  • CoColatex

Toppers

  • Richard Pieris Natural Foams
  • Naturepedic

Mattresses

  • CoCo latex
  • Latex Green
  • Organic Mattresses Inc.
  • Richard Pieris Natural Foams
  • Naturepedic
  • Soaring Heart

Of course, the list is always changing. For the most updated information, you can take a look here.

The reason why manufacturers are only required to make products which are 95 percent certified organic raw material is because there are a variety of antioxidants, soaps, curing and gelling agents, and foaming agents used during processing.

4. OEKO Tex Certification

  • Accepted as proof of compliance with textile safety regulations with Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act in the United States
  • Tests textile products for potentially harmful substances at all stages of manufacturing
  • Harmful substances tested for include:
    • Legally banned substances
    • Chemicals harmful to health
  • Meets strict specifications regarding wastewater treatment and waste air emissions

It’s important to understand that OEKO Tex certification has nothing to do with organic farming methods. Rather, it’s geared toward the assurance that there aren’t any harmful substances that may be emitted from the mattress. This is a relatively common certification that you’re likely to come across as you shop.

If you’ve examined any polyfoam or memory foam products, you may have encountered CertiPur US Certified, and OEKO Tex certification is similar in the latex industry. However, the testing procedure for latex is more intense. To view a complete list of testing criteria, click here.

5. Eco-Institut Certification

  • Focuses on current national and international legal requirements
  • Testing of emissions in more than 85 test chambers
  • Odor testing
  • Damage analysis

The Eco-Institut certification alerts you that the product has been tested for emissions as well as natural latex content. They also provide consumers with durability expectations. You can check out their full testing protocols here.

6. Greenguard Gold

  • Ensures low chemical and particle emissions
  • Verifies manufacturer’s sustainability claims
  • Analyzes the company’s:
    • Unique product line
    • Manufacturing process
    • Certification goals

Greenguard Gold testing procedures can be viewed in detail here. Their testing method is unique in that, rather than just testing individual components of the product, they evaluate the entire product as a combined unit.

7. Cradle to Cradle

  • Ensures product doesn’t harm the environment
  • Tests all product components including:
    • Talalay latex
    • Organic wool
    • Organic cotton
  • Covers a number of aspects including:
    • Material health
    • Material reutilization
    • Renewable energy and carbon management
    • Water stewardship
    • Social fairness
Cradle to Cradle is another new certification option that not only alerts consumers of VOC emissions as well as a number of social and environmental issues that are important to many. When you find a product with this certification, you get a pretty good idea as to the ethical standards of the company.

8. CertiPUR-US Certified

  • Made with ozone depleters
  • Made without PBDEs, TDCPP or TCEP (”Tris”) flame retardants
  • Made without mercury, lead, and other heavy metals
  • Made without formaldehyde
  • Features low VOC count

While CertiPUR US certification also tests emissions, they focus on foam products rather than latex. Sponsorship comes through a group of companies that manufacture polyurethane foam, and you can review their testing methods here.

  • Fibers are 100 percent organic and have been tracked during all stages of production to ensure they don’t mingle with other fibers
  • Applies to all goods that contain a minimum of 5 percent organic cotton

Certifications in a Nutshell

Tests for Safety

  • Oeko-Tex
  • Eco-institut
  • Greenguard Gold
  • CertiPUR

Tests for Proper Organic Farming Methods

  • GOLS
  • GOTS
  • USDA Organic

Breakdown of Mattress Material Types

Shopping online can be exciting, and there are so many valuable natural products to choose from. However, as you start shopping, you’re going to come across a variety of material types, and it’s crucial that you understand what each is and whether or not they can even be considered truly organic. Being in-the-know on this can help you better pinpoint a true natural product and assist you in the decision of which will work best for your specific sleep needs. So, let’s take a look at some of the top contenders so you understand them better.

Polyurethane Foams

Polyfoam is similar to memory foam which seemingly melts when you lay on it. The difference is a lack of a few key chemicals that aren’t added during the manufacturing process. These products are typically easy on the budget. However, they are known to quickly develop:

  • Indentations
  • Lack of support
You can also expect offgassing in these products and they do not represent a natural foam mattress type. They are manufactured using petroleum by-products with chemicals. Polyfoams are typically governed by CertiPUR-US certification standards.

Memory Foam

Memory foam features a high degree of contour, and this is accomplished due to the addition of chemicals during manufacturing. While traditional memory foam often sleeps hot and makes it difficult to move around, there have been a number of innovations that have improved this type of mattress.

Since they use chemicals that increase both its density and viscosity, you aren’t going to find a 100 percent natural memory foam mattress. However, there are eco-friendly options out there which incorporate the use of natural and organic products to increase their overall sustainability.

Plant-Based Memory Foam

While you won’t find a 100 percent organic memory foam mattress, a good alternative is
plant-based . During production, some of the petroleum typically used is replaced with plant-derived oils. While this can help the mattress attain more eco-friendly properties, it also offers a number of other benefits including:

  • Reduces heat retention
  • Reduces odors
  • Reduces excessive viscosity

If this sounds like something you’re interested in learning more about, Amerisleep has quality products that are as close to a chemical free memory foam mattress you’re going to find. This product features a variety of options in firmness and even provides whole-body recovery products intended to optimize support and boost rejuvenating REM sleep. Just a few certifications to look for in plant-based memory foam include:

  • GOTS
  • OekoTex
  • Greenguard

Latex

Latex is material that can absolutely be used in organic bedding. This is because it’s produced using the liquid from the rubber tree, a natural resource. We’ve already discussed the differences between the Dunlop and Talalay manufacturing processes, but let’s take a look at an outstanding product that I recently had the chance to test out.

Latex

Latex is material that can absolutely be used in organic bedding. This is because it’s produced using the liquid from the rubber tree, a natural resource. We’ve already discussed the differences between the Dunlop and Talalay manufacturing processes, but let’s take a look at an outstanding product that I recently had the chance to test out.

The Avocado mattress is constructed with a combination of:

  • Joma® New Zealand Wool
  • Natural Dunlop Latex, eco-INSTITUT certified
  • Innersprings
I found this product to feel very fresh, and you could tell there was something different about it as I didn’t notice any offgassing at all when I opened it. I would encourage you to check out this product if you’re interested in a natural organic latex mattress at a reasonable price considering the quality.

Natural vs. Synthetic Latex

Not all latex is natural, and there are synthetic products on the market you want to be aware of to ensure you are able to successfully pick out the most non toxic latex mattress for your needs and budget. Just as the name implies, synthetic latex is chemically based as it typically adds petroleum by-products in its processing. The reason I wanted to bring these this option up is to encourage you to be on the lookout for synthetic products. While the manufacturer may claim the product to be eco-friendly, this doesn’t mean it’s all-natural or organic. This often means there are a blend of natural and synthetic materials used.

A few certifications to look for in latex products to help guide you toward the best option include:

  • eco-Institut
  • Oeko-Tex
  • Greenguard
  • GOLS

Innerspring

Innerspring mattresses are, by far, the most popular choice among mattress shoppers in general, and they are often used in sustainable mattresses. Now, it’s important to note that they are made of metals, so they can’t be 100 percent natural. However, many manufacturers use recycled products that increase their eco-efforts and enable them to provide products that are still able to meet the vigorous requirements of a variety of certifications.

Innerspring products typically feature the innerspring unit as the support base with added layers on top to offer comfort. Since innersprings were first patented in 1857, you can rest assured that innovators have been improving them for well over a century. As you can imagine, this has resulted in a number of options to help you optimize your shopping experience. Just a few coil types you’ll have the option to choose from include:

Bonnell Coil

  • Inexpensive
  • Low durability

Continuous Coil

  • Firm support system
  • Inexpensive
  • Poor contour in some circumstances

Offset Coils

  • Shares the load better than pocketed coils
  • Can be expensive for those on a budget

Pocketed Coils

  • Contours well with your body
  • Good motion isolation
  • Some imports feature low durability

As you seek out innerspring credentials, keep in mind that this is also dependent on the materials located in the comfort layer. Just a few of the certifications to look for include:

  • Eco-Institut
  • GOLS
  • GOTS

Natural Fiber

Last but not least, we arrive at natural fiber mattresses. While these are often the most costly, they are also known to last the longest. These are the easiest to make truly organic, and just a few certifications to look for to ensure the option you’re considering in the healthiest bed to sleep on include:

  • Organic Exchange
  • CertiPUR-US
  • USDA Organic
You will often find products featuring wool and cotton. Just make sure you know what happened during production as sometimes materials are allowed to mingle with other fibers that will reduce the purity of the final product. Those which are Organic Exchange certified assure you they were closely monitoring during every step of production.

Best Organic Mattresses

Final Verdict

I’m a big fan of making a slightly larger investment in a quality product that will stand the test of time, and the winner here with that mindset would be Zenhaven. While you may have to pay a little bit more in the beginning, you’ll soon find that it was an investment worth making as you’ll long enjoy the various features it has to offer. The Talalay latex adds additional heat transfer capabilities, and this can prove to be highly desirable if you tend to sleep hot. Overall, it’s a high-quality product at a fraction of the price of comparable mattresses on the market since you can cut out the middleman when you order online.

I hope I have helped you make this big decision a little easier to make. When shopping for an affordable natural mattress, you’re sure to run across terminology and information you just don’t understand. If you still have questions or would like to make a comment, please do so below. We will get back with you quickly to help guide you toward the best product for your needs every step of the way.

Final Verdict

I’m a big fan of making a slightly larger investment in a quality product that will stand the test of time. While you may have to pay a little bit more in the beginning, you’ll soon find that it was an investment worth making as you’ll long enjoy the various features it has to offer.

I hope I have helped you make this big decision a little easier to make. When shopping for an affordable natural mattress, you’re sure to run across terminology and information you just don’t understand. If you still have questions or would like to make a comment, please do so below. We will get back with you quickly to help guide you toward the best product for your needs every step of the way.