Whether you’re moving into a new place or redecorating an old bedroom, a new mattress should be part of your decor changes. Nothing can turn your bedroom into a cozy cocoon like the right mattress. And organic mattresses are the best choice if you’re concerned about limiting your exposure to dangerous chemicals.
But it’s not as easy as buying a mattress just because it says “organic” or “natural” on the label. The term “natural” carries no regulatory weight — it doesn’t mean anything. And even the term “organic” on a mattress label could just mean that one component of the mattress meets those standards. In order to be labeled USDA organic, a mattress must be made with 95 percent certified organic materials, and without the use of harsh chemicals. Not very many mattresses meet those standards. Instead, you may want to look at the most stringent standards for mattress labels: the Global Organic Textiles Standard (GOTS) and the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS).
The Gold Standard for Organic Mattresses
When it comes to making sure that the organic mattress you’ve got your eye on really is organic, there’s no higher standard than GOTS and GOLS. Under GOTS, 95 percent of the textiles in the mattress must be organic, and some chemicals are specifically banned from appearing in the product at all, even in the remaining five percent of the mattress that is allowed to not be organic.
The GOLS is similar — 95 percent of the latex in a GOLS latex mattress must be natural, organic latex, and there are restrictions placed on the other five percent of the mattress contents aimed at ensuring that dangerous chemicals aren’t used in the mattress. A mattress that doesn’t contain any latex will only carry the GOTS label, but a latex mattress can carry both the GOLS label, certifying the latex as organic, and the GOTS label, certifying that the textiles used are also organic. If you’re going for a latex mattress, you want one with both the GOTS and the GOLS label. That way you’ll know that all components of the mattress are 95 percent organic.
Other Labels to Look For
The Oeko-Tex Standard 100 label doesn’t mean that a mattress is made with organic materials, but it can indicate that the mattress meets certain standards for volatile organic compound (VOC) emission. This label indicates that the mattress was made with materials that won’t emit VOCs, or will emit them in very limited quantities. That’s important for your indoor air quality and your family’s health, as well as for the health of the environment. The Oeko-Tex Standard 100 also bans the use of harsh dyes and other chemicals in the manufacturing process. If you can’t afford a GOTS- or GOLS-certified organic mattress, an Oeko-Tex Standard 100 is the next best thing.
You’ll also see a number of other certifications on mattress labels, such as CertiPUR-US, Greenguard, Greenguard Gold, and Organic Content Standard 100. These labels are meaningful to varying degrees, but knowing what they mean can be helpful if you’re shopping for an organic mattress but can’t afford a top-of-the-line certified organic model.
For example, CertiPUR-US labeling is used on mattresses that contain synthetic polyurethane made without the use of certain toxic substances, like polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants. The CertiPUR-US label means that a mattress doesn’t contain PBDEs, formaldehyde, or other VOCs. The Greenguard and Greenguard Gold standards both test the finished mattress for VOC emissions, with the Greenguard Gold being the higher standard. The Organic Content Standard 100 speaks only to the percentage of organic content in the mattress, not whether it contains hazardous chemicals or emits VOCs.
Innerspring or Foam?
With organic mattresses, as with traditional mattresses, you’ll have two basic types of mattress to choose from: innerspring and foam. Natural latex foam mattresses are chemical free, hypoallergenic, antifungal, and antibacterial. They combine the firm, body-hugging support of a memory foam mattress with the natural elasticity of latex, which keeps the mattress bouncy for its entire lifespan. You can buy organic innerspring mattresses made with recycled metal and organic textiles, or you can even choose hybrid mattresses that combine the innerspring design for support with the natural latex foam padding for softness and bounce.
Choosing a new mattress isn’t always easy, but you can’t go wrong with an organic one. Organic mattresses keep your home safe from chemicals, so you can rest easy — and isn’t that ultimately what’s most important?