Your bed is your haven away from the rest of the world. It’s where you sleep, read, hold your loved ones close, perhaps eat and watch TV, and maybe even work from home.
As important as your bed is to you, it should also be safe. Many people don’t know that conventional mattresses contain harmful chemicals that are considered toxic. These can not only impact your health but are also bad for the environment.
Let’s break down what you need to know about the toxins in mattresses, what to look for in non-toxic mattresses, and why you should care.
Are Mattresses Really Harmful?
Shopping for a new mattress is already overwhelming enough, so do you really need to care about getting a non-toxic one? The decision is obviously up to you, but at the very least, you should do your research.
Take a look at the potential risks from the chemicals in most mattresses before you head to the mattress store.
Here’s what you’ll want to avoid:
Volatile Organic Compounds
Mattresses release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air in a process called “off-gassing.” The chemical makeup of VOCs can include formaldehyde, perfluorocarbon, benzene, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), trichloroethane, and toluene.
Most of the off-gassing happens when you first get your mattress, which is why brand new mattresses have such a strong smell. You may have a headache during the first week of using your mattress, but it will go away. Your mattress will continue to release VOCs throughout its lifespan, but it will be far less.
To limit your exposure to VOCs, avoid buying a mattress that gets delivered to you in a box. Since they are vacuum-sealed in the box, they emit a much stronger smell when they’re un-rolled. A mattress out of a box can do a lot of its off-gassing before it makes it to your bedroom.
The off-gassing process is not proven to be particularly dangerous in the long-run, but it can impact the indoor air quality of your home. Some consumers prefer not to deal with the smell and fumes from the chemicals at the beginning, so they look for a mattress without the harmful chemicals that make up VOCs.
Chemical Flame Retardants
If you have a mattress that’s several years old, chances are that it was made with Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). They were used as a chemical flame retardant in several types of home materials, from furniture padding to your old mattress.
The idea was to protect your home from fire hazards, but later studies found that PBDE is a dangerous chemical. It’s now banned in the US and other countries, but several items in your home might still have this toxic chemical.
Sleeping on PBDE for years and years can cause a build-up in your tissues, which is reported to contribute to reproductive, thyroid, and neurodevelopmental problems.
Harmful Chemicals in Memory Foam
Memory foam has become a popular mattress material in the last decade, but it is often made with Propylene oxide and Toluene Diisocyanate. The CDC has reported that these chemicals increased the risk of tumors in mice and rats, and recommends staying away from them.
Ongoing research is still being done about how these chemicals impact humans, but many people choose not to take the risk and purchase a non-toxic mattress instead.
To read about other chemicals in mattresses that contribute to off-gassing, check out this article.
Non-Toxic Mattress Guide
Now that you’re convinced that you need a non-toxic mattress, how do you choose one? Since non-toxic products are becoming trendy across almost every industry, it can be easy to be fooled by greenwashing.
Look for the following certifications and materials when picking a new mattress so you can feel confident that it’s the best non-toxic choice.
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
The GOTS certification ensures that at least 95% of the materials are certified organic. In addition, certain chemicals, like flame retardants, are not allowed to make up the remaining five percent.
Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS)
This standard is from the same agency as the GOTS standard, but it applies to natural latex mattresses. Like GOTS, it has strict requirements that ensure that the mattresses are made from primarily natural materials and restrict toxic chemicals.
Oeko-Tex Standard 100
This certification requires that no flame retardants and dyes can be used in a mattress. It also has a strict limit for the amount of VOCs that be emitted, which cuts down on other harmful chemicals as well. Look for this certification on wool mattresses.
Greenguard gold also sets limits on VOC emissions and other chemicals. Keep in mind that Greenguard Gold is a higher standard than just plain Greenguard.
Organic Cotton Standard 100
This one guarantees that some of the materials are certified organic. However, it does not have any requirements on VOC emissions.
Materials to Look for
If the certifications aren’t clear enough, you can look at the mattress materials instead and prioritize natural and organic options.
Try to find a mattress made with these materials:
- Organic cotton
- Natural latex foam
- Plant-based memory foam
You can also look for organic dyes. Focusing on natural materials is not only better for your health, but it’s a great eco-friendly choice as well.
Best Non-Toxic Mattress Brands
Several brands claiming to be non-toxic have surfaced in the last few years. The good news about that is that there are more options than ever, so finding a non-toxic mattress isn’t as difficult as it once was.
The bad news is that they’re not all the same quality or as clean as they claim. Since not all brands are created equally, so you should still evaluate their standards, materials, and certifications.
Here are some popular non-toxic mattresses:
- My Green Mattress
- Plush Beds
- Soaring Heart
- Avocado Green
- Brentwood Home
Most non-toxic mattresses are a hybrid of organic cotton and natural latex made from rubber tree sap. Read this Saatva latex mattress review here to learn about how natural latex performs.
Non-Toxic Mattresses and the Environment
Another reason to prioritize a non-toxic option when you’re mattress shopping is that it is much better for the environment. Harmful chemicals like formaldehyde, toluene, and other VOCs negatively impact air quality. Their emissions aren’t just bad for breathing—they also contribute to pollution.
The materials in toxic mattresses also require more resources to produce than the natural materials in organic mattresses, so choosing a non-toxic mattress reduces your carbon footprint.
A new mattress is a big investment, but you will feel great about investing in one that’s better for your health and the planet.
How to Get Rid of an Old Mattress
Now that you’ve decided to get a new non-toxic mattress, what do you do with your old one? Dragging it out to the curb should be your absolute last resort, as that will just send it to a landfill, which is terrible for the environment.
If the mattress that you’re replacing is still in good condition, the most eco-friendly way to get rid of it is by donating or selling it. Not all donation sites accept used mattresses, so you might need to call around to ask first. If you want to sell it, try listing it on the Facebook Marketplace or another app that’s based on location.
If your mattress doesn’t have any life left in it, you should try to recycle it. Recycling mattresses is tricky since they’re made of so many different materials, but it’s still possible.
If you’re industrial, you can take the mattress apart yourself and either recycle or reuse the materials. Old textiles can be converted to new projects, and you could save the wood for firewood.
If you don’t want to go through the trouble of taking the mattress apart yourself, you can find a recycling center that will take it. They’re able to break down the old mattress and reuse every part. For example, old metal springs are melted and converted to new metal parts.
To find a mattress recycler near you, use Earth 911 to search in your area.
Sleep Sounder on a Non-toxic Mattress
Your bed can be your safe haven again with a non-toxic mattress. Once you make the switch, you’ll never lose sleep worrying about VOCs or flame retardants again.
Investing in a non-toxic mattress made from organic materials like cotton and natural latex will be a great investment into your health and the health of the planet. But you don’t have to sacrifice luxury to make a better choice. There are several non-toxic mattresses from green brands with great reviews at every price point.
For more tips and resources on innovative products, check out the rest of the blog.