You may think the “organic” mattress versus a “non-organic” mattress is some marketing trend.
After all, we never used to worry about the organic label in the old days.
But you’ve got to realize: In the old days, mattresses were made from natural materials like wool and cotton anyway. We also didn’t resort to synthetic chemicals and pesticides to grow these materials.
In stores and online, you can find plenty of mattresses with labels that read like buzzwords: “organic,” natural,” and “eco-friendly.”
These labels seem to tell you that you can expect improved health that other, non-natural mattresses don’t offer.
But is that true?
The fact is that many mattress manufacturers and brands use those words without actually adhering to the standards that make them legitimate.
An organic mattress can improve your health — but only if you know which materials are harmful and which features of a mattress truly support your overall health.
What is an Organic Mattress?
It’s easier to understand a “non-organic” mattress when you contrast it to an organic mattress. Right now, most mattresses on the market are technically non-organic — even if they claim to be partially “natural.”
Non-organic mattresses include chemicals like:
- Boric acid
- Polyvinylidene chloride
- Flame-retardant chemicals
Organic mattresses incorporate “natural” materials like organic cotton, down, feathers, wool (for fire safety), and a combination of natural latex. They don’t (or shouldn’t) contain GMO fibers, dyes, perfumes, or materials that use synthetic pesticides.
That’s a truly organic mattress.
Because of their all-natural, non-toxic materials, organic mattresses have several benefits like:
- Remain warm in the winter and cool in the summer
- Are naturally fire-resistant
- Are eco-friendly because the materials are biodegradable (reducing your carbon footprint!)
- Reduced risk for allergies due to phthalates and dyes
- “Motionless” transfer means you’re less likely to be disturbed when sleeping with a partner.
- No risk from inhaling toxins that can cause cancer, lung, and heart problems
What is the Healthiest Type of Mattress?
Many people think that memory foam is the gold standard for comfort, back support, and durability. They also like the price, which tends to be more affordable than options for certified organic mattresses.
But memory foam isn’t the healthiest type of mattress!
Non-organic memory foam mattresses that include polyurethane material experience a phenomenon called “off-gassing.”
When the processed polyurethane breaks down, it releases VOCs or volatile organic compounds throughout the mattress’s life. Not only do VOCs affect your overall health, but they also produce a very unpleasant smell.
Proponents of non-organic memory foam will say that this breakdown happens slowly, and plenty of other household items include VOCs to a certain extent.
But think about the fact that we spend over 200,000 hours in our lifetime sleeping.
Suddenly, breathing impure air every night can have cumulative harmful effects.
So let’s talk about how you can be sure that your mattress is healthy.
The GOTS and GOLS Standards for Healthy, Certified Organic Mattresses
A mattress is only as healthy as the sum of its parts. According to the USDA, this sum needs to be 95% organic materials (or more) and include a process without potentially harmful chemicals.
Even though the industry lacks regulation, there are global standards for organic mattresses.
Most of the time, labels like “Oeko-Tex Standard 100” for a top layer of latex only covers part of the mattress. That’s why you should look for two mattress labels that tell you how healthy your bed is:
GOTS and GOLS.
A mattress with a GOTS or a GOLS standard label is certified organic.
These distinctions make GOLS and GOTS mattresses the healthiest types available on the market today. GOTS tells you that 95% of the materials are organic, and the other 5% cannot include certain substances like chemical flame retardants and polyurethane.
GOLS also tells you that the mattress is 95% organic latex, and similar restrictions as the GOTS standard on the rest of the materials.
What Kind of Latex is Best for an Organic Mattress?
Speaking of organic latex, there are two types that are the best for your health:
- Dunlop — The gold standard for organic mattresses, the Dunlop process allows manufacturers to produce 100% certified organic latex
- Talalay — The second-best kind of latex, Talalay’s process does not allow for 100% natural latex development. That’s why Talalay products are a blend of natural and synthetic latex and allow for breathability and support. Keep in mind, however, that this means a Talalay mattress is not 100% organic. However, it could easily pass the GOTS standard, even if it doesn’t pass the GOLS standard.
As a frame of reference, Essentia mattresses use Dunlop Latex, made from hevea milk (rubber tree sap), besides organic essential oils and GOTS certified organic cotton materials.
The Health Impact of the Toxins Found In Non-Organic Mattresses
Mattresses can improve your health simply by choosing to exclude these major toxic chemicals. Using organic materials doesn’t only mean superior processing methods. It also calls for the total elimination of common petrochemicals, heavy metals, and flame retardant chemicals.
Just take a look at some of the most common chemicals found in non-organic mattresses:
Memory Foam Chemicals
You may have trouble even pronouncing these chemicals:
- Methyl chloride — Can contribute to health issues like reproductive damage, liver damage, and brain damage
- Formaldehyde — Known carcinogen and can aggravate autoimmune conditions
- Melamine resin — Contains formaldehyde
- Naphthalene — Found in mothballs, contributes to autoimmune issues)
Synthetic Latex Chemicals
It’s not as bad, but these chemical inclusions may aggravate sensitive individuals:
- Metallic oxides — non-toxic
- Diphenyl diisocyanate — Ongoing studies suggest there may be connections to problems breathing, asthma, or pulmonary tumors
- Chloroprene — Could increase the risk of cancer, insomnia, hair loss, liver dysfunction, and immune system disorders.
Flame Retardant Chemicals
Even if your mattress is a memory foam mattress or synthetic latex, it could still include these harmful chemicals.
Make sure to look for the GOLS or GOTS standards that specifically ban the inclusion of these chemicals in the leftover 5% of material make-up!
- Boric acid — A common household cleaner that shows clear effects on reproductive health, especially for men
- Formaldehyde — A carcinogen
- PBDEs (Polybrominated diphenyl ethers) — Poses a risk to the endocrine system (hormonal function) and fetal health
- Phthalates (Firemaster 550) — A known hormone and endocrine disruptor
- Chlorinated tris (TDCPP) — Can cause health issues like slowed development in children, reproductive functions of the body, and long-term carcinogenic effects
Five Benefits of an Organic Mattress for Your Health
When you pick a mattress free of these chemicals, what you have is a pathway to better health, improved sleep, proper postural support, and smart temperature-sensitive technology.
Both the materials and the process of manufacturing a mattress matter if you need to improve your health, so make sure to look for the right labels.
Here are just five health improvements you can expect with a non-toxic mattress:
1) Comfort Supports Postural and Body Alignment
Organic mattresses are created from natural latex, which provides a soft, and firm cushion for the body. It supports multiple sleep positions without the issue of sagging in the middle. It also does not release any VOCs due to off-gassing, as many memory foam mattresses are prone to do.
2) Hypoallergenic Properties Keep Your Sleep Uninterrupted
You won’t find toxic substances that can trigger allergic and respiratory issues in an organic mattress.
Instead, these mattresses are hypoallergenic, which means that they’re unlikely to exacerbate breathing problems and allergies you may already have. This is good news for sufferers of respiratory-related sleep apnea and insomnia.
3) Non-Toxic Materials Preserve Long-Term Health
By merely eliminating harsh chemicals, you significantly reduce your chance for exposure to long-term liver damage, kidney damage, autoimmune triggered conditions, and cancers. Organic cotton, for example, doesn’t call for cultivation through pesticides and synthetic dyes.
4) Temperature Control Resists Night Sweats
Using organic wool and cotton in organic mattresses give you access to a “natural” kind of temperature control. This means no extreme heat resulting in night sweats and no pulling up the covers because you’re suddenly too cold. Your mattress remains comfortable throughout the night.
5) Moisture Wicking Material Ensures that Your Mattress Remains Mite-Free
Organic materials and a chemical-free production process ensure that your mattress is not an attractor and trapper of dust mites. Instead, these mattresses are mold-resistant, anti-microbial, and moisture-wicking.
If eco-friendly mattress materials already provide us with so many benefits of nature, why do mattress manufacturers resort to using synthetic and chemical additions?
That’s a good question.
It comes down to how easy (and cheap) it is to mass-produce these non-organic mattresses. It also depends on how informed you are when you’re mattress-shopping.
With the right information on your side, you can make a better choice for your overall health. You now know that “organic” is not a one-size-fits-all term.
At Essentia, we focus on two key aspects of healthy mattresses: the materials and the manufacturing process.
Browse our line of world-class, certified organic memory foam mattresses and learn more about our production process, which we developed to support your optimal health.