Are you looking for a safe and comfortable new mattress? In assembling this essential guide to choosing a healthy mattress, I’ve discovered from personal experience that it can be tough to pick the right one. This is especially true in an industry that’s super competitive—the mattress market is worth about $12.9 billion (2020) in the U.S. alone, according to Statista.
The good news is, with a little bit of time and research, you can find mattresses with excellent features like medium-firm comfort levels, high airflow for cool sleep, and allergy-free organic fabrics. When searching for a new mattress, these are some of the key features to look for to get the right balance of comfort and support.
Furthermore, it pays to be acutely aware of red flags to watch out for, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other warning signs of low quality mattresses. You’ll especially want to avoid these products if you have skin allergies or breathing conditions, for example.
There’s no question that choosing the right mattress can help you get a good night’s sleep. However, it’s often less clear about how mattress selection affects the process. Here are some terms you should get familiar with:
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Read on as we explore these important attributes.
This is probably a surprising benefit of non-toxic mattresses. In fact, it’s one of the easiest ways you can remove harmful chemicals from your home.
Besides the danger of the chemicals themselves, consider that people usually spend from one-quarter to one-third of their lives sleeping. This can cause them to be exposed daily to stuff like VOCs.
Free of Toxic Chemicals
There are lots of dangerous chemicals found in today’s mattresses, including:
Both of these materials can cause health issues. Plastics are oil-based, while polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is the most dangerous vinyl and is known to be cancer-causing.
Many of today’s mattresses are made from petroleum-based materials. Keep in mind that fossil fuels are produced from decayed plants and animals.
This is typically made from a cancer-causing substance known as styrene. Some studies show that styrene can affect the nose’s lining and cause liver damage, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Such chemicals can produce so-called off-gassing odor when you unwrap the plastic covering from a new mattress. Make sure to check the actual chemicals that are added to foam mattresses, for example, to make them fire-resistant.
What Exactly Is “Non-toxic”?
Sometimes this term is paired with others like “natural,” “organic,” and “green.” It’s important to know what these terms mean and how they differ—please keep reading.
These terms are similar yet are still clearly different. For example, let’s say you purchase a natural latex mattress. While the material is a “natural” material that exists in the natural world, it might not be organic. If it was grown using fertilizers and pesticides with artificial chemicals, then it’s non-organic.
Some of the most popular natural materials include cotton, latex, and wool. That’s because they’re grown rather than manufactured. While memory foam mattresses can have features like allergy-friendly, their materials are manufactured so they’re non-organic.
One caveat to watch out for is what parts/percentage of the mattress is organic. It’s rare for 100% of the mattress to be organic, but there’s a difference between the whole mattress and just the mattress cover being organic.
You can find some non-toxic mattresses that weren’t treated with any dangerous chemicals. This is one of the best ways to pick non-toxic mattresses.
This refers to eco-friendly mattresses versus the color. For example, the materials might be made using sustainable farming. This helps to make sure the fibers in the mattress will make the smallest carbon footprint possible.
True green mattresses are also certified by reliable and respected 3rd-party mattress certifications. Before the mattresses are made available to the public, these are inspected carefully to ensure that they are sustainably made with natural materials.
Check the mattress label. If you find that these are certified by any one the following, then you are purchasing a truly green, eco-friendly mattress (click through the links below for details on the respective standards):
If you have skin allergies, for example, it’s important to stay away from allergens that could trigger allergic reactions.
Avoiding non-toxic mattresses in your mattress selection can help to provide a hypoallergenic mattress. Meanwhile, VOCs are more likely to cause such allergic reactions.
Natural mattresses tend to last longer versus ones with synthetic materials. For example, while a memory foam mattress tends to last 8 to 10 years, a natural latex mattress often lasts up to 12 years. This makes it a good investment if you want to save money in the long run.vudeo
There are certain components in traditional mattresses that can cause health issues, including:
Natural/organic mattresses are less likely to contain these artificial substances. If they do, then there’s usually a very small amount.
A natural mattress produces less pollution versus one with synthetic fibers. This creates a larger carbon footprint and makes the mattress less green versus natural/organic fibers.
Natural mattresses also tend to have better airflow, which can help to prevent issues like night sweats. Some good options include plant-based latex/foam mattresses. They’re better at wicking away moisture/heat versus units with toxic materials.
Top Non-Toxic Materials
Latex Foam (Natural)
Fun fact: Natural latex is harvested from rubber tree sap. This is a strong and durable crop, which makes it a healthier option versus manufactured latex.
There are a few key benefits that make natural latex more eco-friendly. The tree can be tapped numerous times before being chopped down, and pesticides aren’t required to grow the rubber trees. On the other hand, synthetic latex contains chemicals that can be toxic to humans. Natural latex provides benefits like highly durability, mold-resistance, and biodegradability, in addition to making your home truly sustainable.
These natural materials are healthier than synthetic materials. Cotton is a fast-growing, breathable, and allergy-friendly material. Meanwhile, organic cotton is also pesticide-free.
Organic wool also provides benefits over toxic materials. It’s a natural flame-retardant, so a better option versus synthetic options. It can also help to regulate body temperature and night sweats.
Memory Foam (Plant-Based)
While traditional memory foam mattresses aren’t natural, plant-based ones are. This allows you to avoid petroleum chemicals that originate from fossil fuels.
Meanwhile, plant-based memory foam contains some plant-sourced oils that make the mattresses more eco-friendly. This boosts the breathability and helps a person get a good night’s sleep. The foam is also cheaper versus latex foam and stronger than standard memory foam.
Top Tips for Picking Non-toxic Mattresses
Go with natural/organic latex;
Ditch spring mattresses;
Stay away from synthetic fire-retardants;
Pick organic fabrics over synthetic ones.
When buying a new mattress you have plenty of options. This includes picking non-toxic mattresses that contain synthetic chemicals that can cause negative effects on health and environment. The key to choosing the right mattress in terms of natural/organic mattresses is to do your homework, and then shop around. This can help you not only pick a mattress that’s as safe as it is comfy, allowing you to spend one-third of your day getting some blissful shut-eye.
If one thing is true about Lillian Connors, her mind is utterly curious. That’s why she can’t resist the urge to embark on a myriad of green living/home improvement projects and spread the word about them. She cherishes the notion that sustainable housing and gardening will not only make us far less dependent on others regarding the dwellings we inhabit, but also contribute to our planet being a better place to live on. You can check her out on Twitter and LinkedIn.