The Complete Guide to Non Toxic Mattresses

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by Erica Jones

The Complete Guide to Non Toxic Mattresses

Don’t you just love getting into bed to relax after a long and busy day? I do. Our bedroom is something like a sanctuary – a place where we can go to be at peace and let go of the day.  Given the fact that we spend about ⅓ of our lives in bed we thought it was a good idea to make sure that we invested in a top quality mattress.

For us, it had to be pure, super comfortable and also a non toxic mattress. We have all the above – and we NEED it! Between running our businesses and doing life with our kids we need a cozy place to crash at night so we can get great sleep and wake up with high energy.

We love our bed so much that I can say for sure that investing in a high quality, non toxic mattress was one of the best things we ever did.

Conventional Mattresses and Off-Gassing

If you’re wondering, “Is a non toxic mattress really necessary?” It is. Conventional mattresses contain tons of chemicals mainly in the form of flame retardants. Mattress companies can use dozens and dozens of these chemicals in one mattress and they haven’t been tested for their synergistic effects or their effects on the human body.

They don’t have to disclose the chemicals that are used either. And to make matters even worse (and more confusing), all mattress companies say that their mattresses are 100% safe. But I’m about to show you why conventional mattresses are not 100% safe and what you should be looking out for.

First, Polyurethane foam is the main filling material required to make a conventional mattress. This material is petroleum based (just one reason why we don’t recommend it) and extremely flammable. As a result, it has to be treated with lots of flame retardants.

Flame retardants are way more  harmful than you might think. It would be bad enough if they just stayed inside your mattress. They don’t.  They are off-gassing constantly, meaning they are found in your bed and in your home environment.

Approximately 90% of people in the US have some kind of flame-retardant chemical inside their body – even newborns who “inherit” these chemicals in utero from their mother (see The Body Burden Study by the Environmental Working Group). And people in California, the first state to make use of flame-retardant chemicals, may be even more affected.

The other thing to note is that flame-retardant chemicals release higher levels of smoke, carbon dioxide and soot. Yes – they are still capable of catching fire. In case of a fire accident, they are more likely to kill an individual, than the burning itself. In other words, flame retardant chemicals are capable of making fires more dangerous.

The other consideration is the health implications of flame retardants. Conventional flame retardants are chemicals that are often linked with health risks like birth defects, infertility, reduced IQ, hormonal disruption, neurotoxicity,  neurodevelopmental delays, behavioral changes in children and even cancer.   

As mentioned previously, these chemicals also end up off-gassing (or releasing) into your environment making you vulnerable to breathing them in as you sleep or spend any time in your bedroom or in your bed.

Take PBDEs for instance. PBDEs are hormone disruptors. They interfere with your body’s ability to release hormones and can even reduce fertility. They are also neurotoxins and can impair brain functions that affect your ability to remember things or even learn.

Even though the use of PBDEs was banned back in 2004, many older mattresses still contain these harmful chemicals and they are still off-gassing. This is why you should upgrade if you do not have a natural or organic mattress. The other consideration is that the chemicals that are standing in to replace PBDEs (OPFRs) may be just as bad as their predecessors.

Given that you spend a significant chunk of the day sleeping it’s critical that you’re not breathing in a bunch of toxic chemicals when you do. Your sleep is the time for your body to rest and repair. You don’t want to be causing damage or disruption to your physiology by choosing a mattress that is loaded with toxins.  And this is why we recommend a non toxic mattress.

What Is a Non Toxic Mattress?

A non toxic mattress is one that is safe to sleep on because it’s made without toxins and harmful chemicals.

Non toxic mattresses are typically made of a mixture of cotton, wool, latex and/or other natural materials.

Some or all of the materials used may be organic. In our experience it’s pretty tough to find a mattress that is 100% organic inside and out. Most mattresses marketed as organic use some organic materials, but it’s not typical that all materials used are organic.  

A healthy mattress is a great investment into your overall wellbeing no matter who you are, but especially if you struggle with respiratory problems, asthma, allergies or chemical sensitivity. A healthy, non toxic mattress is also a much better choice for children and babies.

Even though non toxic mattresses are more of an investment than conventional ones, they are well worth it. And thankfully, pricing for these types of mattresses has become more and more competitive over the years.

Benefits Of a Non Toxic Mattress

Aside from the obvious health benefits there are also more pros to going natural with your mattress. Here are a few to keep in mind.  

  • They are natural repellents of dust-mites (which means you will be exposed to fewer dust mites and lesser risk of allergies)
  • They are anti-bacterial and mold resistant
  • They are absorbent and moisture-wicking in nature
  • They are chemical free – they are not treated with dangerous flame retardants
  • They are not manufactured with polyurethane which is toxic and capable of triggering allergies
  • Many non toxic mattresses are made from breathable materials helping to keep you cool during summer and warm during winter
  • They are eco friendly and many are made with biodegradable materials
  • They can be customized according to the firmness required
  • They have no pesticide residues
  • They are free of VOCs   

What to Look for When Buying a Chemical Free Mattress

Not all non toxic mattresses are alike. If you don’t choose the right ones, even your “organic” mattress might have some of the same health issues as that of a conventional mattress. Therefore, you have to ensure that the mattress you chose is made from natural materials. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Wool: By nature wool is bacteria-resistant and mold-resistant and it’s a natural flame retardant as well. It can also repel water which is another plus. For mattresses advertised as organic wool look for a GOTS Certified.
  • Cotton: This is another natural option that is pretty common. For mattresses advertised as organic cotton, look for a GOTS certification.
  • Latex: We chose a latex mattress and we LOVE it! Latex provides great support without compromising comfort. Keep in mind when choosing latex, there are two main types – Talalay and Dunlop. We chose Talalay for its many benefits. If you’re looking for organic latex make sure it’s GOLS Certified.

One other thing to keep in mind is that the material you choose will make a difference in the level of support and comfort that you feel. For example, cotton mattresses tend to be more firm. So, that’s something to consider as well. And while there are companies out there claiming to have 100% “natural” polyurethane foam I recommend that you steer clear and choose a more natural material instead.

Non Toxic Mattresses and Durability

If you’re new to the idea of a non toxic mattress, you may be wondering how it holds up compared to the conventional kind. We chose a latex mattress and these are the most durable natural mattresses on the market. The average mattress lasts anywhere from 5 to 7 years – this doesn’t mean that people replace them this often – this means that this is how long it takes for the integrity of the mattress to wear down.

Natural latex mattresses last anywhere from 12 to 20 years and natural mattresses in general have a much longer lifespan than your average conventional mattress.

According to Joyce Robertson of Mountain Air Organic Beds,  the durability of these mattresses depends on their density. Which means, the denser the foams, the better the longevity. Robertson also noted that the foam of Polyurethane mattresses is around 2 pounds in density. The foam of a Tempur-pedic (conventional) mattress is 5.5 pounds in density. On the other hand, a natural latex mattress is approximately 40 pounds in density. Thanks to their high density, natural latex mattresses are the most comfortable mattresses and remain so for many many years.

Tips for Buying a Non Toxic Mattress

Before you head out to invest in a non toxic mattress there are some things to keep in mind. This is a substantial investment and you want to make sure that you are completely satisfied with your purchase. So, follow these tips before you venture out:

1- Determine Your Needs and Do Your Research

Before you head out to the mattress stores, consider what your needs are and do some research. What level of firmness do you prefer? Are there special needs for “back pain” or other challenging physical conditions? Do you have allergies that need to be considered? Are you a light sleeper and need a mattress that minimizes the movement you feel from your significant other? What’s your budget? A good quality natural mattress can run anywhere from $1000 to several thousand dollars. While it’s a worthy investment, you will need to figure out how much you can afford.

2- Shop Around

After you determine your needs and budget, you need to find some mattress stores in your area. Personally, I recommend shopping a store that specializes in non toxic mattresses. These stores will usually advertise natural or organic mattresses and they are becoming more common since there is a growing interest in this area.

If you don’t have a non toxic mattress store in your area, then you could call around to conventional mattress stores to see what options they have. Many are now carrying natural and organic mattress options.

You can also forego stores altogether and do your shopping online. You may also get a better price this way since companies that sell online often cut out the “middle man” passing the savings onto you. Just make sure you fully understand the return policy in case you change your mind.

3- Negotiate

Once you’ve narrowed it down to 2 to 3 options, it’s time to negotiate. In the world of mattresses there’s usually some wiggle room with pricing when it’s time to make the sale. If you can find another store in the area that has the same or similar mattress then you have even more leverage.

If the store won’t move on pricing, you can always opt to negotiate additional products. For instance, we got two king size pillows thrown in for free. We’re not afraid to negotiate and at the same time we do respect their right to decline to do so. As long as it can be done with tact, negotiate away!

Questions to Ask When Buying a Non Toxic Mattress

If you’re looking to find the best non toxic mattress for you and your needs you can’t be afraid to ask questions…lots of ‘em. Here’s some questions that you might want to ask during your search:

1- For any mattresses advertised as organic ask if they are GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) Certified and if so, what is the expiration? If there’s an expired certification that’s a red flag.

2- For any mattresses advertised as organic latex ask if they are GOLS (Global Organic Latex Certified) and what is their expiration? Again, if the certification is expired it’s a red flag. They shouldn’t be advertising as Organic Latex.

3- Ask what is used for flame retardants? There are safe synthetics that can be used and to go completely natural, wool is a great option and is naturally flame resistant.

4- How long is the warranty? The longer the better.

5- Does the mattress have good motion separation? This is a great question if you’re a light sleeper (like me). I don’t want to feel the movement of my husband as I sleep throughout the night. Motion separation was a big consideration for us because it deeply impacts my sleep and energy the next day.

6- Can you test out the mattress? Many companies will offer a trial period over a certain amount of days. If you can’t test it out, what’s the return policy if you decide you don’t like it?

7- For mattresses advertised as latex, how much latex is in the mattress? For example, a mattress that is 12 inches can be 4 inches of latex or it can be 12 inches of latex. The more latex, the more durable and high quality the mattress is.

8- Another question for latex mattresses is what kind of latex is used? There are two different kinds of latex – Dunlop Latex and Talaylay latex. Talaylay latex is higher quality.

9- Where was the mattress made? No disrespect to any other countries, but I prefer American and European made products whenever possible. In some countries around the world (not naming any names but you know who) the quality and safety standards are questionable. I personally, want to make sure that I’m investing in a mattress made in a country that has high standards for safety and quality.

Non Toxic Crib Mattress

Every good parent wants the best for their child which is why I highly recommend a non toxic mattress for your children and especially babies. Young children are most vulnerable to the damaging effects of chemicals and toxins. We do everything we can to eliminate exposure for our children – including investing in non toxic and organic baby mattresses.

Conventional crib mattresses can contain chemicals like PVC, Polyvinyl Chloride, Phthalates DEH and Polyurethane Foam. We made a decision very early on to invest in non toxic and organic mattresses for our children.  As mentioned previously, natural materials are mold and dust mite resistant helping to prevent allergies and other avoidable sensitivities.  

Where to Buy a Mattress that Is Non Toxic

These days you have many options when it comes to choosing where to buy your non toxic mattress. It’s ideal if you can find a brick and mortar location near you so that you can actually lie on the mattress and test it out before investing.

On the other hand we have had great experience with buying mattresses online as well. It all depends on what you’re looking for and what you’re comfortable with. While I will share some of the brands that we have personally used, I will say the choice of  mattress is a personal decision. There’s a lot to consider and our needs may not be the same as yours. Here are some brands (and stores) that we have personally used (and love) for their non toxic mattresses.  

Pure Talaylay Bliss

This is the mattress that my husband I sleep on. And it’s a dream. Any time we’ve been traveling and we come back to our bed, there’s a sense of relief and deep comfort that’s indescribable. It’s pure luxury and I’ve had the best sleep of my life on this mattress (he has too!).

Aside from the comfort, this mattress is made with 100% pure latex that is OEKO-Tex certified. Because of the way the mattress is constructed it maximizes the benefits of using latex. We LOVE this mattress and wish we had bought it sooner.

Infant and Toddler Mattresses

Naturepedic Organic Baby Crib Mattresses
With Naturepedic the entire crib mattress is GOTS certified organic (hard to find) and they are made with organic cotton filling. They are also free of flame retardants and fire resistant barriers keeping your baby and toddler safe from breathing in toxins and chemicals. What I also love is that these mattresses can grow with your child.  You just flip the mattress over to the other side and it’s more suitable for a toddler as opposed to a baby.

Coco-Mat Natural Mattresses
This is the type of mattress that we got for my firstborn. I love the simplicity of the structure. It’s made of natural latex, coconut fiber, wool, horsehair and seaweed. The materials used are simple, but the construction is high quality. I loved that we could provide a naturally made mattress for our son. He still sleeps on it and loves it!

Nature Baby Moses Baskets and Bassinets
When our boys were very young we always let them “room in” with us in the early months. It was easier to nurse and more convenient. We could just walk a few feet over to the basket as opposed to walking down the hall to another room. Plus, I just always wanted my kids nearby when they were newborn.

I love this Moses Basket because it’s also free of flame retardants and all chemical residues. So I can sleep without worrying about the baby – and sleep is SO critical during those early months!

The Natural Sleep Store
If you live in the Atlanta area, the Natural Sleep Store was where we bought our Talaylay Bliss mattress years ago. The sales reps were awesome and they made the experience wonderful! They have now expanded to include a Johns Creek location as well.

Natural Sleep Mattress – Buckhead
3129 Piedmont Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30305
Located across the street from Bones Restaurant.
404-238-7403

Natural Sleep Mattress – Alpharetta
501 S. Main Street
Alpharetta, GA 30009
Located just east of Ferrari Dealership, next to Lift Yoga
404-238-7403

Should You Replace Your Mattress?

If you’re already using a mattress that’s giving you poor sleep or it’s conventional (and possibly offgassing) you definitely need to upgrade. If you’re wondering when is the best time to retire your old mattress we’ve got some things to think about below so you can get some insight and make a determination.

Remember that your sleep is one of the most critical factors of how you function in a day. Forget high energy and high performance if you’re getting low quality sleep every night.

Consider these warning signs as a clear indication that it’s time to upgrade your mattress.

  1. You regularly wake up with stiffness, aches, pains or numbness
  2. Your mattress has taken a toll and is showing signs of being overused. Holes, stains, tears and sagging are good indications.
  3. You go to bed at a decent hour and feel that you’ve slept well most nights but you still wake up feeling tired.
  4. You get better sleep in other beds – whether it’s travel for vacation or a visit to a relative’s – if you’re in a different bed you tend to sleep better.
  5. You’re sleeping on a conventional mattress that was made before 2004 (it could be treated with PBDEs – toxic chemicals that disrupt hormones).
  6. Your mattress is conventional and it’s more than 8 years old. It’s probably time for a replacement.
  7. You find that your mattress just isn’t “comfortable.” It’s either too soft or too firm and you just can’t relax.

These are all warning signs that it may be a good time to upgrade to a non toxic mattress. Honestly, I wish we had invested in ours sooner. It’s easily one of the best purchases we’ve ever made and I sink into our bed every night enjoying the luxury of a well-made non toxic mattress. if you haven’t already, I hope you decide to do the same!

So, what’s your experience? Does your mattress need to be upgraded? Have you already taken the plunge with a non toxic mattress? If so, what was your experience and how do you like it? We’d love for you to share in the comments below!

References

http://www.bestmattress-brand.org/in-depth-consumer-latex-mattress-reviews/

https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/12/30/mattress-toxic-chemicals.aspx

https://www.mountainairorganicbeds.com/

http://puretalalaybliss.com/

https://www.thesleepjudge.com/best-organic-mattress-reviews/

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