How To Choose The Safest And Healthiest Mattresses

We get so many questions about which “green” mattresses are truly non-toxic and wanted to share what we (the founders + our team) use in our own homes, and why choosing a safer mattress is so important. Given that we spend at least one-third of our lives in bed, your mattress is probably the most important piece of furniture in your home. The problem is, most mattresses—even “green” or “organic” ones— may have a variety of toxic components. Consumers are becoming aware of this, which is why many are looking for safer brands. However, culling through all the verbiage out there (not to mention the lack of labeling) is not easy unless you’ve done your research and learned from some of the best experts, like this article from Mary Cordaro. 

LIFEKIND AND OMI

The same factory makes these two lines and their workmanship and customer service are excellent. Lifekind sells through their online store and does not offer mattresses for sale in showrooms. They have a big yearly sale with typically 40% off, and several other sales during the year, so be sure to sign up for their emails. OMI is the higher-end wholesale line, which they sell to retail showrooms across the country. The materials are essentially the same as Lifekind, but the products are more luxurious and more expensive. The bonus is you can try before you buy by visiting a showroom, which you can locate on their website. Not all showrooms include all models, so you may have to visit more than one to find the mattress that is right for you. 

SAVVY REST AND SOARING HEART NATURAL BEDS

Savvy Rest and Soaring Heart are also highly reputable and respected for many of the same reasons as Lifekind and OMI. Both Savvy Rest and Soaring Heart’s facilities and equipment are dedicated to organic-only. The one exception is Soaring Heart’s quilted 5 zone mattress. For that mattress, which has a quilted cover, they outsource their quilting to a company that uses a non-organic dedicated quilting machine. That means that conventional materials, which are synthetic and possibly treated, are also run through the same machine. Therefore,  chemical cross-contamination from battings or fabrics is a possibility. 

HOPE MATTRESS BY MY GREEN MATTRESS CO.

The Hope Mattress is one of the most affordable safe latex mattress options. They don’t use adhesives because they button tuft and it is the only mattress this company carries without innersprings.  This facility is also dedicated. 

AVOCADO MATTRESS

Avocado offers a less expensive latex mattress option with metal innersprings that is MADE SAFE certified! This means they have gone to great lengths to make sure that every material used in their bedding has been thoroughly third party vetted and is safe. The facility is dedicated as well. 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT NATURAL LATEX ODOR AND LATEX SENSITIVITIES

Many people presume that non-toxic mattresses will have no odor, but that’s not always the case. Natural latex from the rubber tree has a natural rubber odor that is not considered toxic for most people. Some people don’t smell it at all, others do. If the natural odor bothers you, you may need to air out your mattress for a few days to a few weeks. If you’re not sure if the smell will bother you, you may want to buy a latex pillow from Lifekind first (which includes some wool fill under the cover), to see how well you tolerate the latex smell, and how long it takes for the smell to dissipate for you. It’s a very individual matter, so it’s worth trying-before-you-buy if you’re very sensitive to smells.

If you don’t tolerate natural latex at all, and you must have a “normal” type mattress, you can purchase a custom latex-free inner spring mattresses from Lifekind or OMI Lines, above. Note – any bed, even the organic cotton beds may have a smell initially that some people have to outgas before using. 

If anyone in your family can’t wear wool, most people are still perfectly comfortable sleeping on a mattress and bedding made with organic wool. If necessary, use an organic cotton mattress pad under your sheets to create a barrier. Wool keeps the body warmer in winter, cooler in summer, is dust mite/mold/moisture resistant, and including it in organic mattress construction eliminates the need for dust mite proof mattress encasements, flame retardants, and fire retardant barriers.

LESS EXPENSIVE INNER SPRING-FREE, LATEX-FREE MATTRESS ALTERNATIVES

Yes, safe mattresses can get pricey—especially inner spring-free, latex-free models. Here are three types to check out which are very high quality, unconventionally made, and unconventional looking mattress alternatives. All three are on the very firm side. The third is a layered Japanese style “Shikibuton”, which may be even firmer than the first two.

TIPS ON CHOOSING THE SAFEST, NON-TOXIC BEDDING

If you’re also looking to purchase bedding, here are a few tips:

For moisture, mold and dust mite-resistant items, stick with the brands and products mentioned above or make sure you carefully vet all items you are interested in. Make sure there are no chemical treatments. Again, Lifekind’s big yearly sale is a great resource for saving money on these quality products and they offer discounts several times per year. If you tolerate organic wool, consider their wool mattress protector and wool fill pillows and duvet, all of which are covered in organic cotton fabric. 

How to find quality wool: if you’re looking at wool-fill bedding made by other companies, and if the wool is not certified organic, the only other truly chemical-free wool fill option is “Premium EcoWool” from the Wool Gatherer’s Mill—which, in some ways is even better than organic. All others with “chemical-free” claims are risky due to lack of regulation and too many unknowns.

And don’t be afraid of wool and overheating! Wool regulates the body’s temperature and humidity, keeping you warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, and is naturally dust, mold, and moisture-resistant. 

Pillows can also contain natural latex if you tolerate it, but they need to be covered in both wool fill and organic cotton fabric, not just fabric-covered. Avoid cotton-fill items unless you are allergic to wool (beyond dermal sensitivities), because they will breed dust mites. 

The Download on Down

Down is a major breeder of dust mites, is often grown/harvested inhumanely, and may be treated with chemicals, including pesticides. If you have down items now, and you’d like to keep them, make sure to cover them in untreated dust mite barrier encasements. Consider encasements made by “Allersoft” (sold by many online retailers), either in cotton/poly for a tighter barrier, or organic cotton if you are not severely dust mite sensitive. 

Kapok, from the kapok tree, feels closest to down, and unlike down is dust mite-resistant. However, kapok breaks down faster. OMI and Lifekind do not make kapok pillows, but Sachi Organics makes wonderful kapok pillows. Only a small segment of the population is allergic to kapok.

If you can’t live without down, Ogalla Comfort offers a healthier down line of products. When you order, double check that the items you are purchasing have no fabric treatments of any kind (for stains, wrinkles, antimicrobial), and that the down is also 100% untreated.

What about certified organic bedding?

You can search for and purchase certified organic linens, including organic cotton sheets, duvet covers and blankets at a variety of stores online, just check they are all “certified organic”, not just “organic”. We have a great resource that we recently published here.  

A final thought – While many people presume they can’t afford non-toxic organic mattresses and bedding, the truth is these products are often comparable to many conventional brands…especially if you shop the sales or are willing to try out a more unconventional option. Plus, since your quality of sleep is so important to your health this is definitely an investment worth making.

 

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5 Comments

  1. Do you know if J-life international is gots certified for their 100% cotton filled futon beds? Please let me know anyone?:)

  2. As a condo-community dweller I’m seeing the downside of online mattress sales. What I’ve been seeing is in our community (a population mix of both college-student renters and adult condo owners) is that people are getting online mattresses and then illegally dumping their old mattress. When you buy from a brick-and-mortar store, most will pick up your old mattress when they deliver the new one. I don’t know if any online seller is offering any options to properly dispose of the mattress you’re replacing. Getting rid of an old mattress properly takes being proactive, which so many people in my area aren’t willing to do.

    A resource that you might want to include with this article is http://www.byebyemattress.com. They provide information on ways to recycle or get rid of your old mattress.

  3. We have recently moved and are in the process of starting over with mattresses, pillows, bedding, etc. I would love to buy a bunch of new decorative pillows for beds and couches but am having a difficult time finding good options. I purchased down ones from West Elm w/ covers but then read your information about down and feel like I am back at square one. What pillows have you used for decorating? Thank you so much.

    1. Hello Krista.

      Thanks so much for reaching out with your question. Please know that we do not see you being back at square one. The good news is that you probably don’t sleep on the decorative pillows. You can just air the decorative pillows out in the sun. Typically decorative pillows are filled with a polyester fill or other fill that can be outgassed. They could have a foam with flame retardants but mostly not. The covers can be outgassed as well. The sun is your friend and will help to break down any harsh chemicals. Just be sure to bring them in at night.

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