Eco Options in Mattresses and Covers

SleepingIn recent years there have been studies and news stories about the danger inherent in our bed mattresses. Conventional mattresses contain toxic chemicals which leach out into the air over time (off-gassing).

Mattresses today are required by law to have fire retardant materials in them to allow consumers more time to get out of their homes in the even that there is a mattress fire. While that is the goal, the exposure that consumers may have to fire retardant materials in the mattress may be leading to the same potentially lethal outcome.

Boric acid, a household product often used to kill roaches is now being added to some mattresses to help them pass the government’s flammability test. Other chemicals being used include antimony trioxide a flame retardant chemical which has been dubbed by consumer groups as a “probable carcinogen.”

The alternative to these toxic mattresses are natural or organic mattresses and covers.

Eco-friendly mattress suppliers offer mattresses that use materials that are often renewable, all natural and not toxic to humans. There are two general mattress constructions that are popular today – coil inner spring and rubber mattresses.

The coil inner spring mattress consists of metal coils wrapped in organic wool. The natural wool acts as a fire retardant and regulates body temperature. By the way, organic wool is produced without the use of hormones or pesticides and is a sustainable resource.

Surrounding the organic wool is organic cotton which serves to make the mattress softer.

The other popular option for eco friendly consumers is the natural rubber mattress. These mattresses have a core made of a rubber (a completely renewable resource) that acts much like a memory foam mattress. You get great support and you’re not likely to feel any movement from the person next to you. Wrapped around the rubber core is usually a layer of organic wool which serves as a fire retardant and to regulate moisture.

For your young infant there are also natural crib mattresses. Make sure to choose a mattress made with organic cotton filling. Also pay attention to the substances used in the mattress cover that will be beneath your child. Many crib mattresses are covered in materials made with highly toxic vinyl/PVC. An environmentally friendly alternative to toxic vinyl/PVC is Polyethylene. This environmentally friendly plastic is used throughout the food packaging industry for its non-toxic properties and its recyclability.

Conventional mattresses have that awful off-gassing property which puts us at great risk of being exposed to potential carcinogens over a long period of time. Organic mattresses are made of products that are natural, often renewable and aid in repelling dust mites (which can’t survive in many of the materials used like rubber and wool). Remember our beds and bedrooms are where we spend a good deal of our time so investigate your eco-friendly mattress options carefully.

You can read more from Tiffany at her blog about Green Parenting, where she writes about green family living, parenting, natural health, safe children’s products, and homeschooling. Subscribe to her blog here.

Original post written for 5 Minutes for Going Green.

8 Responses to Eco Options in Mattresses and Covers
  1. jason
    September 10, 2008 | 7:10 pm

    beware: not all latex is created equal.

    There are to ways to process Latex… Dunlop process & Talalay process. Dunlop is natural, whereas in the Talalay process, chemicals are almost always added.

    Always ask if it’s 100% natural Dunlop latex.


  2. Jennifer (The Smart Mama)
    September 10, 2008 | 9:49 pm

    Actually, you can get 100% natural latex manufactured using the Talalay process. Natural latex – what you want – is made from the sap of the rubber tree. Traditionally, it was manufactured using the Dunlop process. One problem with the Dunlop process is that it is difficult to produce long-lasting soft latex. So, blended latex was created – blended latex blends together natural and synthetic latex using the Dunlop process. But, synthetic latex is man made from chemicals and petroleum. There is also the Talalay process. The Talalay manufacturing process produces long lasting latex in a range of firmness. Most Talalay latex is blended latex or all synthetic latex. However, 100% natural latex manufactured using the Talalay process exists. If a retailer tells you that a mattress is 100% Talalay latex, and you want it to be all natural latex, then you need to confirm that it is 100% natural latex produced with the Talalay process. Generally, talalay is available in more firmness grades, and dunlop is heavier and more durable. Talalay is generally softer than dunlop.

  3. Capitol Web
    September 11, 2008 | 10:41 pm

    Does anyone know of a good online retailer for organic mattresses? I worry about this since I’m afraid of some knock-off company telling me it’s all good baby, only to discover that the product I got isn’t exactly organic.

    Does anyone have a company they have bought from before and had a high level of trust?

  4. jason
    September 12, 2008 | 9:14 am

    Not too much is 100% certified organic out there. No latex is certified organic. Here are a couple of fairly renowned vendors, including the company i work for, who have natural mattresses.

    The lease expensive way to go is a spring mattress that has organic batting (padded filler) covered in organic fabrics.

  5. jason
    September 12, 2008 | 9:58 am


    100% natural Talalay does exists but 99% of the Talalay sold in the U.S. is not natural. Most vendors don’t know what they’re selling. All the big brand names are using synthetics or blends to cut costs and vendors are non the wiser.

    Latex is rubber. It’s like a tire unless processed and even when process it’s still firm. They have to poke holes through it to make it softer.

    Bottom line don’t go with big brand name latex mattresses. Little vendors know what they’re selling because they buy directly from suppliers or manufacturers. Find a company you can trust, a company that is open about their products.

  6. CindY
    September 22, 2008 | 2:59 am

    Did you know that natural latex very frequently causes ALLERGIES?
    That something is “natural” does not mean it is safe or healthy.

  7. jason
    September 22, 2008 | 8:34 am

    Latex used in mattress are stripped of the proteins which cause the allergies.

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