The Matrix of Mattresses

Mattresses are quite a broad subject; no wonder it can seem overwhelming when shopping for one!   When you decide to replace your mattress, there are a number of factors that ergonomically narrow your choices (ie. being a side sleeper vs. a back sleeper, being a petite vs. heavy person, preferring soft vs. firm, etc.).  There might be a broad field left… but then if you narrow the choices again with materials, a few companies and mattresses should start to stand out.

For sure, you need to love the way your new mattress feels, as you will be spending a good amount of time recharging your body on it!  The best resource I’ve found to help narrow the choices is  The site has a good number of reviews and comparisons for major brands, and will get you headed in the right direction with a good old-fashioned quiz (don’t worry, “I don’t know” is a choice for a lot of the answers!) Most importantly to our purposes here, the question “what type of mattress do you prefer?” has an “eco-friendly” option.  Although I wasn’t sure what the website defines as eco-friendly, I went with that option and also gave them my email, because they can send significant coupons.  And, voila!  The top bed recommendations were indeed made from natural materials with certifications, and most came with $100-$300 off coupon codes.  When I read the review of each recommended mattress, I could see why I would like a certain mattress or not.

Why should I steer away from mattresses made with certain synthetic materials?

Synthetic memory foam and other polyurethane foam, and synthetic latex are most common materials that can produce harmful VOCs in offgas.  This report by the Sleep Foundation provides a good explanation of harmful materials in memory foam. Flame retardants and chemical coatings are also sources of VOCs, IF all the materials are disclosed (even the coatings may have hidden chemicals).

Here is some other helpful facts to consider:

  • There are five different types of mattresses: Innerspring, memory foam, hybrid (which uses a combination of innerspring and foam), air mattresses, and waterbeds (they’re still around!).
  • It’s very important to have proper support under your mattress, because placing it directly on the floor creates a moisture problem with no airflow to resolve it.  This is the perfect recipe for mold!  A boxspring and/or slat system are imperative to minimize mold.
  • Innerspring and hybrid mattresses provide body support while using less solid materials that can offgas.  
  • Allowing any new mattress to offgas in a separate, ventilated room for 3 or more days is advisable.  To prevent the VOCs from entering the rest of your home, you can neutralize them by using an Air Angel in the room with the mattress. 
  • If you are concerned about the type of foam used in a new mattress you are considering, go to Certipur-US to check the seller.  This organization certifies foams for safety regarding flame-retardants, heavy metals, formaldehyde, phthalates and VOCs.  

This review gives a lot of options for different materials with no VOCs and least allergy reactions: wool, natural latex, natural memory foam, non-toxic polyurethane, buckwheat hulls, cotton, kapok, and silk.

Other than VOCs and reactions to the materials themselves, some materials are naturally resistant to dust mites, a big allergen for many people.  

  • Natural latex is made from the sap of the rubber tree, which does not accommodate dust mites. It is also not an allergen concern, even for people who can’t wear latex gloves.
  • Foam mattresses are too dense for dust mites to live in, though they can live on the surface (another reason to protect the mattress with a cover)

Regardless of the material, if you choose to go “organic”, the best assurance of organic comes from certification by a standardized international organization like GOTS, Global Organic Textile Standard.  Their strict regulations from farm to market for labor, materials, animal husbandry and treatments (pesticides and genetics) are the gold standard for organic mattress materials.  GOLS is the equivalent for latex products.  OEKO-TEX is an organization with a number of certifications, the most relevant to mattresses being their Standard 100 (no harmful substances) and Made in Green (no harmful substances + manufactured in environmentally responsible facilities under socially responsible working conditions).  Here are some mattresses under these certifications:  

  • Plushbeds has a long list of certifications including GOTS, GOLS, Greenguard Gold, OEKO-TEX Standard 100, Rainforest Alliance and CertiPur-US. They offer natural latex and memory foam mattresses, the latter of which are CertiPUR and GREENGUARD Gold certified.  Plushbeds are made in the USA.
  • Birch mattresses have OEKO-TEX certification that no components are potentially toxic.  They are also Greenguard Gold certified, with a GOTS certified cotton layer.  
  • Winkbeds’ EcoCloud mattress is made with all-natural fibers such as natural latex and New Zealand wool, and organic cotton with GOTS certification. It also has an OEKO-TEX class 1 certification which means it is free from harmful chemicals.
  • MyGreenMattress beds are all sustainably sourced with certifications from GOLS, GOTS and Greenguard Gold.
  • Brentwood Home is a handcrafted mattress (made in the USA) which has a great budget option–the Cypress–which are CertiPur-US and Greenguard Gold certified.
  • Awara uses Rainforest Alliance certified latex and 100% organic certified wool from New Zealand, and has CertiPur-US certification.  These beds are manufactured in China, so they are a great budget-friendly option.  This company also gives you a full 365 trial period (longest in the industry). 
  • Avocado mattresses have certifications from GOLS, GOTS, Greenguard Gold and MADE-SAFE.  They also have a vegan-friendly option that replaces a wool layer with organic cotton. 

Shopping for a healthy mattress has never had so many choices, help to find the right one, and time to “sleep on it”!