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Can a mattress really be organic?

Can a mattress really be organic?“Organic” has become a popular word used by manufacturers of different types of products to convey a sense of safety. If you read my blog, you know that I am a strong advocate for transparency in the marketplace so that consumers can help police it with their purchases, and so that we know whether we are paying extra money for something that is truly safe. Many mattress manufacturers claim that their mattresses are organic. But how do we know if they are? Can a mattress really be organic? After all, it is not something we can eat.


Let me walk you through this so that you are well prepared to buy the mattress of our dreams.


There is ONLY ONE organic certification that mattress companies can acquire for their organic products: GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard). But before we talk about it, let’s talk about other certifications you might have seen.


Sometimes a so-called organic mattress manufacturer may confuse you by presenting other certifications to you as proof that their mattresses are organic. These certifications include GreenGuard Gold and Oeko-Tex Standard 100. These certifications are laudable, but neither of these certifications indicates that a mattress is organic.


Let’s go over these two certifications.


Greenguard Gold certification measures various gas emissions against certain limits Greenguard established. If you go onto their website and type ‘mattress’ in their database search engine, you will see that many mattresses are Greenguard Gold certified, even if they have materials like PVC/vinyl covers, which I don’t recommend. While this certification is helpful to differentiate synthetic mattresses among themselves, it has nothing to do with a mattress being organic.


Neither is Oeko-Tex Standard 100 an organic standard. This standard regulates 100 toxic substances limiting and eliminating their use in the production process. Again, this is laudable, but certainly not the last word. There are over 80,000 chemicals being used to manufacture products in the U.S. these days, many of which have not been studied. There may well be chemicals used in a product certified to Oeko-Tex Standard 100 that are much worse than those identified by the standard.


Now let’s talk about three organic certifications for mattresses.


Two of these certifications play a role in considering mattresses. However, they certify components that go into making a mattress, not the mattress as a whole.


USDA/National Organic Program (NOP) certification provides a third-party assurance for raw materials such as latex sap or cotton grown organically. While this is a good certification to have, it would not preclude synthetic and harmful materials used along with materials that were grown organically.


Most natural mattresses contain natural latex foam, either with springs or without. GOLS (Global Organic Latex Standard) certifies natural latex to be organic. It is important to note that there are two types of latex foam: Dunlop and Talalay. Dunlop is denser and Talalay is softer and airy. Some manufacturers that use Talalay foam claim that its foam is as natural as Dunlop, In fact, they boast an Oeko-Tex 100 certificate for it (which if you remember has nothing to do with whether a product is organic). However, we do not know if Talalay foam is natural. What we do know is that there is no Talalay foam currently on the market that has been certified by GOLS (this has been confirmed with GOLS office directly).   Is it possible that Talalay foam does not meet GOLS requirements?


Thus, when shopping for latex mattresses, it is good to inquire if it is Talalay or Dunlop foam is used in the model you are interested in.


And now let’s talk about the only certification that indicates whether the entire mattress is organic.


The certification agency that certifies the whole mattress to be organic is called GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard). You might wonder how a mattress can be organic even if it has steel coils? Here is how they do it.


The first thing to understand is that when GOTS evaluates a mattress, it literally takes it apart component by component. Then everything will go into one of two piles.  Let’s call one pile the “main” pile.  This is where all the fibers go.  Then the second pile is the “accessories” pile.


The manufacturer has to decide what components are “accessories.”  Those components don’t count in the “main” pile.  The manufacturer will tell the certifier all the materials that are accessories and the certifier will either agree or will not.  If they agree, then all those materials do not have to be organic, but they do have to meet GOTS non-toxic requirements. Examples of approved accessories for mattresses include steel coils or waterproofing materials or materials used to meet Federal government flammability requirements.


So now we’re finished with the accessories pile.


The certifier will then look at the main pile that includes fibers. If 95% of the main pile is comprised of organic fibers, then GOTS will certify the mattress as organic. If between 70% – 94% of the main pile is made organic fibers, then the mattress is certified “Made With Organic.”


This is how a mattress can officially be called “organic.”

Can a mattress really be organic?

Here is one more thing you need to know. GOTS certifies both the facility where mattresses are made and the mattresses themselves. Technically, it is possible that a non-certified mattress is made in a GOTS-certified facility. So make sure that the mattress you are interested in buying is certified, not just the facility in which it was made.


I am happy to report that the mattress industry is more transparent with their certifications than others, including the cosmetic industry, with their heavy metal test reports. In other words, most mattress companies have a page on their website with a list of certifications they hold. When you look at the certifications, make sure that they are current and the model of the mattress you are considering is included in the certification.


What if the manufacturer tells you their mattresses are organic and even better than GOTS – certified? Well, yes, a GOTS certification might not be perfect but this is the only one we have. You will have to look at the specifics and use your knowledge of mattress materials to figure out if you can trust their obviously biased statement.


I hope this will make shopping easier. Let me know in the comments.


Are you in a process of buying a mattress? Whether you are at a loss as to which mattress is best for you or have already chosen a mattress and just need to make sure you are making the right decision, call me for a consultation. I am happy to help with this important long-term decision.


Are you curious what mattress I sleep on? Read about that mattress I chose for my son and my husband and me here and here.

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10 thoughts on “Can a mattress really be organic?”

  1. Hello
    Have you heard of ZenHaven bedding? We are considering buying a natural latex mattress from them. Also wondering if these mattresses hold up well.?

    1. Hi, Margaret! No, I have not heard of them. Normally, when natural latex is not certified by GOLS, it is hard to be sure that it is truly 100% natural without synthetic latex. Why did you decide to go for ZenHaven? ~Irina

  2. Hi Irina, thank you for this post. Will definitely look into an organic mattress when our current one needs replacing, unfortunately we bought it this year, and I do not thing the hubs will fall for buying another one just yet. Will the use of a mattress protector help in the meantime? And do you have any suggestions for safer pillows? Are feather and down pillows a good option? Would love to hear your take on this matter.

    1. Hi, Martie:

      I found that I personally need feathers/down in my pillow for it to give me enough support. Make sure that feathers/down comes from Canada or Europe – not from China though. Other safe materials for pillows are organic kapok, organic wool, and organic cotton. There are some pillows made with buckwheat – have not tried those yet. Have you checked with SOL if you can ship to you? They recently started making down pillows. Their down comes from Canada and is certified. Let me know what you think. ~Irina

  3. very informative as always!
    have you heard of eco-INSTITUT Certification (German)? I read that it certifies against VOC’s … wonder how reliable it is. Found some articles that say it’s very well respected.

    1. Hi, Natalia: The eco-INSTITUT program is not the highest standard. Please ask the company that carries Eco-INSTITUT mattresses you are considering, or just ask eco-INSTITUT for a copy of their standard, and see for yourself. There is nothing in the eco-INSTITUT standard that requires a material to be natural or organic. The eco-INSTITUT tests for a big list of chemicals, but the standard is not that difficult to achieve, and it has nothing to do with anything being natural or organic. ~Irina

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