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Are Organic Mattresses Worth the Money?
Rest Easy with Peace of Mind and Good Karma

Last updated on June 22, 2022

If you prioritize environmental responsibility and sustainable materials, you can find mattresses that match your values. Natural mattresses (or at least mattresses that are more natural than others) are becoming easier to find. Mattresses using some certified organic materials are also common, and while there are some all-organic mattress, prepare for sticker shock, and to decide for yourself if they are worth the extra cost.

Natural vs. Certified Organic Mattress Materials

When we talk about natural and organic materials, we mean biodegradable plant-based fabrics, padding, and foams such as cotton, silk, bamboo, soy, wood, natural rubber latex, and coconut husk (coir). Other examples are animal-based materials like wool, mohair, cashmere, fleece, features, down, and horsehair.

While plant-based and natural, these materials aren't necessarily "Organic Certified" (grown without the use of chemical pesticides). You can find Certified Organic versions of all of these in mattresses, but at a significant price premium. Various certification agencies inspect and assess the quality and manufacturing process of these materials. For example, Certified Organic cotton and other textiles are certified mainly by two bodies, GOTS or OCS. Certified Organic latex (made from rubber trees grown without pesticides) is certified by the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS).

What about steel?

Steel (used in mattress springs and coils) isn't an natural material; it's a man-made product made from iron and carbon, and occasionally other minerals. While steel isn't natural, it is a recyclable product, and in our view that gives it an advantage over non-recyclable mattress materials. Some manufacturers use recycled steel in their springs, adding another layer of sustainability.

Below: Natural mattress materials, including cotton, fleece, horsehair, and natural latex

Vispring Signatory Superb

Why buy a natural mattress?

As with other natural products, the benefits of a mattress made of plant- and animal-based materials extend both to the environment at large and to its owner more directly.

The construction of a natural mattress begins with simpler materials like wool and cotton, and then uses a less energy-intensive production process, all of which results in a smaller carbon footprint relative to a traditional mattress. Moreover, natural mattresses are designed to decompose more thoroughly when discarded, which in turn reduces their long-term waste and pollution. This is especially important since nearly 40 million mattresses are discarded each year, with the average queen size mattress weighing more than 60 pounds and occupying over 20 cubic feet of landfill space.

Along the way, in addition to the satisfaction of having minimized their impact on the environment, owners of green mattresses receive more direct benefits as well. Fewer chemicals used in the production of an organic mattress translate into fewer chemicals to which they are exposed every night. Also, many natural materials have the added advantage of being inherently hypo-allergenic, anti-microbial and breathable, in addition to providing excellent moisture absorption.

Features of eco-friendly mattresses

When you think of a natural mattress, you first think of the obvious materials, like the fabric of the cover, and the padding inside. But there are some other aspects that might not immediately come to mind.

Low use of glues and adhesives

Most mattresses rely on chemical glues to hold their various layers together. In more natural mattresses, like the Avocado Green, you'll find layers held together by functional tufting -- yarns that travel though the mattress from top to bottom, anchored on each end by a fabric button.

Non-chemical fire retardants

Since 2007, federal law has required that mattresses sold in the United States meet certain standards for flame-resistance. In traditional mattresses, this is typically achieved through the use of fire-retardant chemicals in the outer layers of the mattress.

Natural and organic mattresses use plant- and animal-based fire retardants while still complying with federal fire safety regulations. In some mattresses, the fire retardant chemicals are placed in a separate cover that can be removed by consumers who may be more concerned about long-term exposure to harmful chemicals than they are about fire risk (of course, any decision to remove the protective cover is entirely up to the consumer, and is not necessarily encouraged or recommended). Other models use a layer of organic wool that is sufficiently fire-resistant to meet fire safety standards without being treated with chemicals. Still other mattresses avoid fire safety requirements altogether, through a loophole that allows consumers with a prescription from a doctor to purchase a mattress that does not meet the fire safety regulations. Naturally, this exception is designed for consumers that have a medical reason for avoiding fire-retardant chemicals (eg, an allergic reaction). That said, it is also worth noting a potential bonus of this last approach.

How are Certified-Organic mattresses different?

Many of today's mattresses use some amount of Certified Organic materials, most commonly organic cotton, its less common to find mattresses that are entirely Certified Organic. Some manufacturers do both. An example is Nest Bedding, which makes a natural version and a Certified Organic version of its Nest Latex Mattress. Both use natural materials including cotton, wool, and all-natural latex, but the Certified Organic version uses organic GOTS-certified cotton and wool, and GOLS-certified organic latex made from trees grown without chemical pesticides. The price difference between the two is roughly $1,200 for a queen size bed.

While individual agencies certify individual organic materials, the USDA monitors production of mattresses that claim to be organic. In order to use the “organic” label, a mattress must meet the same USDA standards required for other organic products.

Reading the label: Sorting through the claims

When shopping for an organic mattress, be aware that the organic and natural mattress industry is still in its very early stages. Consequently, just as with many other "green-features" products, standard definitions and conventions have yet to be established, which has important implications for you as a mattress shopper.

First, given the lack of widely accepted standards for natural mattresses, manufacturers and retailers will tend to stretch the definition of terms like ‘organic,’ 'eco-friendly,' ‘natural,’ and ‘green’ as far as they are allowed. For example, some manufacturers will label their mattresses “natural” if they contain a blend of natural and synthetic latex. In this case, these mattresses may indeed be more ‘green’ than traditional mattresses, but if you are seeking a mattress that is truly made of plant-based material, you should make sure that 100% of the latex in the mattress is natural, made from rubber sap.

Mattresses advertised as natural or green can vary widely in the quality and quantity of their eco-friendly materials. A given model may have some features that are genuinely Certified Organic and others that are not. Look for as many of the features described above as possible, and be sure to ask questions about those aspects of the mattress that are not explicitly described as natural or organic.

As demand grows, we believe the trend towards more eco-friendly and sustainable mattresses will continue. GoodBed provides a wealth of information that can help you decide which product to buy and where to buy it, and will stay on top of the trends.

GoodBed Green Ratings

In our GoodBed reviews, we give each mattress we review a "Green" rating, based on natural materials, organic and other certifications, and a company's policies regarding sustainability, fair labor, and recycling.

Brands and models that receive higher GoodBed ratings include the Avocado Green, with certified organic cotton and 100% natural latex over coils made of recycled steel. The Zenhaven and Spindle latex mattresses are both made of 100% natural latex, with certified organic cotton and natural fire socks. The Hastens 2000T and Vispring Signatory Superb are two ultra-luxury beds made with organic cotton, wool, sheep's fleece, natural horsehair, silk, and other sustainable materials.

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