What to Look for in an Organic Mattress

There are a lot of good reasons to opt for an organic mattress.

Not only are they far more ecologically friendly than any other kind of mattress, but they can also prevent the risk of inhaling any kind of toxic chemicals while you’re trying to sleep.

They’re about as natural and earth-oriented as you can get when it comes to mattresses, so it’s no wonder organic mattress sales have been booming in recent years.

But what does “organic” really mean in this context?

And if you see a product accredited with all these certifications, how many actually matter, and how many are just marketing hype?

There’s a lot of tricky info to sift through, which is why we put together this easy guide.

Enjoy!

What Is an ‘Organic Mattress’?Image: sunlight streaming over a gorgeous meadow

Just like with food, there’s a lot of wiggle room for companies to decide what they want to mean when they use the word “organic.”

Although mattress manufacturers do have to get through some federal regulations in order to market themselves this way, the organic label doesn’t necessarily mean that much on its own.

Companies might call themselves natural, but include all kinds of chemicals in their construction!

Because of this, it’s really important to know what you’re doing when it comes to organic mattresses.

The last thing you want is to purchase a product, only to find out later that it wasn’t quite as natural or eco-conscious as you thought!

Most Organic Mattresses Are Latex or Wool

That said, there are some general characteristics you can expect out of pretty much any mattress trying to market itself as “organic.”

Most organic mattresses are made with naturally-harvested latex, which mostly comes from rubber tree plantations in Southeast Asia.

This latex is then cast into molds and basically baked into the mattress you see today.

Latex mattresses will typically have upper layers of stuffing made from either cotton or wool.

There are also some all-natural mattresses made with just wool, although most of these are hard to come by and can’t be produced on the same scale as latex products.

In general, I wouldn’t recommend wool mattresses for most sleepers.

They’re usually much, much more expensive than latex mattresses, and especially if the manufacturer doesn’t know what they’re doing, your wool might tend to migrate away from where you sleep, resulting in an indentation in the middle of your bed.

It can also sometimes bunch up into uncomfortable clumps.

Most shoppers will do just fine with a nice latex mattress (and if you’re looking for suggestions, we recommend the Zenhaven or Spindle)!

What About ‘Vegan’ Mattresses?

If you’re looking to take your organic mattress shopping to the next level, you might want to consider getting a so-called “vegan” mattress.

These are mattresses (typically latex) that refuse to include any kind of animal product in their construction techniques.

It’s important to watch out for if you have strong moral objections to purchasing anything made with animal products, since so many latex mattresses end up using wool from New Zealand sheep.

Of course, most mattresses are “vegan” by this definition – it’s just that the memory foam products in the store down the street probably aren’t as environmentally conscious as you’d like.

So if you’re looking for a product that’s both all-natural and “cruelty-free,” but sure to look for “vegan” somewhere in its description!

Some ‘Natural’ Mattresses Are Liars

Now, if you’re new to the mattress market and are just casually looking around at the products out there, you might come across a number of suspiciously inexpensive products marketing themselves as ‘natural.

Don’t be fooled! 

Latex mattress manufacturers are legally allowed to market themselves as ‘natural’ so long as some amount of the latex in them comes from a tree. 

So you might think you’re getting a totally organic mattress, but instead end up with something pumped full of artificial latex!

Because of this, you always want to double-check to be sure your mattress is labeled 100% natural, and not just ‘natural’ by itself.

100% natural means that all the latex in your product came from an actual, living plant – rather than some industrial plant in China!

Image: setting sun shines through the forestDunlop vs Talalay Latex

When it comes to 100% natural latex, meanwhile, there are two main construction techniques: the Dunlop method, and the Talalay method.

The Dunlop method is the simpler, cheaper, and more environmentally-friendly one.

After latex has been harvested from a bunch of rubber trees, it’s poured into a cast and then baked – and that’s about it.

In the Talalay method, meanwhile, the cast is only filled up halfway.

It’s then sealed and vacuum expanded until the empty space is filled up.

It’s then flash frozen, pumped full of CO2 until gels, and only then is baked just like the Dunlop.

This involves more energy overall, however, Talalay mattresses tend to be a bit bouncier and more durable than their counterparts.

They’re also of uniform firmness throughout – unlike Dunlop latex, which actually tends to be slightly firmer on the bottom than on the top thanks to the settling that takes place before it’s been baked.

Talalay feels more buoyant than its counterpart, while Dunlop is pleasantly springy.

Mattress Certifications to Look For

Alright, now that you know what you’re getting into, here are a couple of the most meaningful certifications to look out for when shopping for your organic mattress!

The Global Organic Latex Standard

When it comes to certifications, you’re unlikely to find anything more stringent than the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS).

Very few mattress manufacturers can actually live up to the demands of this certification, because it takes into account not only the environmental impacts of the manufacturing supply line, but also the social impacts.

GOLS accredited mattresses contain at least 95% certified organic raw materials, and all the materials included in your product must be fair trade.

 This holds mattress manufacturers accountable for every step in their production process, which is what makes this such a powerful certification.

GOLS-certified latex is very difficult to come by, and because of what this certification means, it’s always going to be a little bit pricier than other kinds of latex.

But, as many latex aficionados will tell you, it might just be worth it.

The Global Textile Standard

Related to the GOLS, another certification mattresses can attain is the Global Textile Standard (GOTS).

This is similar in its goals to the GOLS, but instead of focusing on latex, it hones in on the fabric used to make your mattress.

So while the latex in your mattress might be perfectly good, unless the thing is GOTS certified, you can’t know what really went into producing its ticking

Image: cross-legged girl sits with her arms outstretched on an outcrop, overlooking a gray infinity of mist-wreathed foothillsThe GreenGuard Gold Certification

Another nice accolade to look for in your next latex mattress is the GreenGuard Gold Certification.

This certification is primarily focused on emissions, which you’ll find in pretty much any memory foam product or most latex mattresses that have been treated with artificial chemicals.

It ensures that your mattress isn’t giving off any volatile organic compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde, phthalates, etc.

VOCs are the big concern here, since these mean you won’t have to deal with any kind of nasty-smelling off gassing when you first get your mattress.

While off gassing is primarily just known for its unpleasant scent, rather than any potential health issues, if you’re taking the time to get an all-natural mattress, you might as well do it right!

The Okeo-Tex Standard 100

Another meaningful organic mattress accreditation is the Okeo-Tex Standard 100.

This industry standard is primarily based around keeping harmful chemicals out of your mattress, and they are serious about checking this stuff.

They’re primarily concerned with aspects of your mattress likely to come in contact with the skin – so everything from fabric and threads to linings and prints.

This is an especially useful certification if you have especially sensitive skin or are worried about any possible toxicity in your mattress.

Keep in mind, however, that the Okeo-Tex Standard 100 is concerned only with your personal health.

It does not mean your mattress contains truly organic materials, that these materials were harvested in an environmentally-friendly fashion, or that this is a socially responsible product.

The Eco-INSTITUT Certification

Finally, the last of the major organic mattress certifications comes to us from the German-based eco-INSTITUT.

Like GreenGuard, the eco-INSTITUT is concerned with any kind of volatile, potentially toxic compounds your mattress might be giving off.

There is no legally-enforced standard for the kinds of things latex manufacturers are allowed to put inside their products, so private organizations like these have had to take the helm.

They have a look at companies’ products privately, and come up with accurate, unbiased results that ensure maximum satisfaction on the consumer’s part!

The CertiPUR-US Certification

You’re not super likely to come across this certification if you’re looking for a completely organic mattress, but if you do see it for whatever reason, CertiPUR-US is a certificate for polyurethane foams.

It’s not a super difficult qualification to achieve (pretty much any respectable polyfoam manufacturer is going to be CertiPUR certified), but it tells you that the foam used producing your mattress is made without a number of harmful chemicals.

To be clear, though, no polyfoam is anywhere near as natural or environmentally friendly as organic latex.

Some of the sketchier mattress manufacturers might try to sneak some of this product into your mattress since it’s ridiculously cheap, and that just means you’re getting scammed.

Conclusion

Hopefully, you’re now feeling a little bit more prepared to take on the confusing world of organic mattress certifications.

I hope this was helpful!

Let us know in the comments below if you have any questions, and always remember how important your sleep is.

Happy shopping, sleepyheads – and pleasant dreams!