This post may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click on the affiliate link and buy an item, I’ll receive commissions.

Can a Mattress Really Be Organic?

Written by Irina Webb

How important is your sleep to you?  There was a time when I could not care less about the surface on which I slept.  Even a bare floor would work for me.  Not anymore!  Like many of you, I am sure, I need my beauty sleep on a comfortable bed and a supportive pillow.  I did thorough research to find the healthy mattress that I have enjoyed for several years now.  And, yes, it is certified organic.  How can a mattress that has so many parts, including metal coils, be certified organic?  Let us find the answer to this question, as well as why it is important to choose an organic mattress in the first place.  Also, read on to see which brand, in my opinion, produces the best organic mattresses, and affordable ones, too.

Can a Mattress Really Be Organic. A picture of a healthy mattress.

Some “organic” products are not truly organic.

It seems that the word “organic” has become quite popular recently.  Indeed, manufacturers of different types of products use it to convey a certain sense of safety.  Even hair color products boast “organic” on their labels despite the fact that hair dyes cannot be organic – period.  To be precise, while they may contain organic ingredients, they cannot have an organic certification.  Why? 

In a nutshell, products can have an organic certification when at least 95% of their ingredients are certified organic individually.  In other words, an organic hair dye must be made from organic plant extracts, oils, and powders.  However, hair coloring products contain pigments, hair cuticle openers, such as ammonia, preservatives, surfactants, and emulsifiers.   These can never be organic because of their production process.  To learn more, please refer to my post Organic Hair Color: Buyer Beware!

In the same way, many mattress manufacturers claim that their products are organic.  Is there a way to know whether they truly are?  

I had to survey the whole industry to find an organic mattress.

Well, I have been researching this industry for years now, and can tell you that it is rather confusing.  If you read my blog regularly, you know that I am an advocate for transparency.  Hence, in search of a healthy mattress, I called every company I came across to get answers to my questions.  As a result, I had to face resistance, hostility, and even contempt. 

At first, I thought something was wrong with me and my questions.  But then I realized that those mattress company representatives either did not know the answers to my questions or had no certificates for their products to offer to me.  So, disdain was their defensive mechanism.  Luckily, the situation is slowly changing, and with more consumers asking questions, this change can happen much faster.  Therefore, I encourage you to be bold and express your interest both in product ingredients and in the production process.

For my research, I use a multi-step approach about which you can read more here.  Some of those steps involve surveying the whole industry and learning about manufacturing processes and ingredients.  For this, I read a lot of scientific literature and study chemical databases enumerated here

A healthy mattress is an organic mattress.

Why is an organic mattress the best choice in the first place? 

The answer may surprise you.  It is not just because you do not want any pesticide or herbicide residues in your bed.  You do not want flame retardant chemicals and potentially carcinogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in your bed either.  All those toxic materials off-gas or settle into the dust while you sleep, and you can inhale or ingest them.  Many of them are in polyurethane foam, a common material in conventional mattresses.  Please, read my post about polyurethane foam in furniture and why I recommend avoiding it.   

In the meantime, an organic certification guarantees that all the materials such as cotton, wool, and foam in your mattress are of natural and organic origin.  It also confirms that the entire supply chain is environmentally and socially responsible.  

Additionally, it prohibits the use of such harmful chemicals as heavy metals, aromatic solvents, and formaldehyde during the manufacturing process.  

So, now let us learn how to make sure that your organic mattress is truly organic.

It is important to understand what a mattress certification actually certifies.

To begin, there is one and ONLY ONE standard that certifies organic mattresses, and we will talk about it shortly.  The healthy mattress that I own is certified to this standard.

Meanwhile, let us look at the certifications which manufacturers may present to you to prove that their products are organic.  

For example, GreenGuard Gold and Oeko-Tex Standard 100, though laudable, have nothing to do with a product being organic or even natural.

And NOP USDA and GOLS certifications certify organic components that go into making a mattress, NOT the complete product.

GreenGuard Gold and Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certifications do NOT indicate that a product is organic.

First, Greenguard Gold measures various gas emissions against certain limits that Greenguard established.  If you type ‘mattress’ in their database search engine, you will see many mattresses that hold the Greenguard Gold certification.  However, quite a few of them use polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which I do not recommend.  I explain the potential harms of PVC in my post about PVC yoga mats, so you can learn more there.  Suffice it to say that vinyl chloride, the main ingredient in PVC, is a human carcinogen (source).  Should a healthy mattress contain PVC?  I do not think so.  In addition, even petroleum-based polyurethane foam mattresses can pass the Greenguard Gold standard.  So, it looks like the standard requirements for mattresses are not that strict. 

Second, the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 is not an organic standard either.  It regulates 100 toxic substances by limiting and eliminating their use in the production process.  Again, this is laudable, but certainly not the last word.  Indeed, US manufacturers use over 80,000 chemicals, many of which have no safety data.  So, there may be worse chemicals in products that hold this certification than those that the standard identifies as toxic.

In short, Greenguard Gold and Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certifications can help with differentiating synthetic mattresses among one another.  But neither of them indicates that a mattress is organic or natural, and, ultimately, safe. 

USDA and GOLS certify only some parts of a mattress that are organic.

For starters, the National Organic Program (NOP) is a federal regulatory program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) (source).   It develops and enforces national standards for organic agricultural products for sale in the US.   Thus, the USDA certification provides a third-party assurance for raw materials, such as latex sap or cotton, grown organically.  

On the one hand, it is a good certification for a healthy mattress to have.  But on the other hand, it does not preclude the use of synthetic and harmful materials along with organic ones.  In other words, the USDA organic certification does not guarantee that all materials in your mattress are organic.  It certifies only parts, not the entire item. 

Next, the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) certifies natural latex to be organic.  Most natural mattresses, with or without springs, contain natural latex foam.  

It is important to note that there are two types of latex foam: Dunlop and Talalay.  Dunlop is denser, and Talalay is softer and airier.  As of today, there is no Talalay foam on the market that has GOLS certification.  Some manufacturers may boast an Oeko-Tex 100 certificate for their Talalay foam.  But, as you remember, Oeko-Tex 100 certification has nothing to do with a product being organic.  

In sum, GOLS certifies only Dunlop latex foam to be organic.  Therefore, it is good to inquire which type of foam is used in the model you are interested in.

GOTS certification indicates that the entire product is organic.

There is only one organic certification that can prove that the entire product is organic.  Namely, it is the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification, and my healthy mattress has it.  (Sneak peek: it is Naturepedic.  Read on to find out what makes it special and how to find an affordable version.)

To verify that the company holds a GOTS certification, type their name into GOTS public database

You might wonder how a mattress can be organic even if it has steel coils?  Here is how they do it.

First, they disassemble the product part by part compiling the “main” pile for fibers and the “accessories” pile.  It is up to the manufacturer to decide which components are accessories.  The materials that the certifier agreed to accept as accessories do not have to be organic.  Yet, they do have to meet GOTS non-toxic requirements.  Some examples of approved accessories include steel coils, waterproofing materials, and materials that meet Federal government flammability requirements (e.g., wool). 

Then, the certifier examines the fibers in the “main” pile.  If 95% of them are organic, GOTS certifies the entire mattress as organic.  If there are 70 – 94% of organic fibers, the product is certified as “made with organic.” 

And this is how a healthy mattress officially becomes “organic.”

Make sure that the product has GOTS certification, not just the manufacturing facility.

Another important thing you need to know is that GOTS certifies not only products, but also manufacturing facilities.  

So, technically, it is possible for a non-certified mattress to be made at a GOTS-certified facility.  Therefore, confirm that it is the product that is certified, not just the facility where it was made.

Alternatively, it is granted that a GOTS-certified product is made in a GOTS-certified facility.  Remember to check on the GOTS website that the model you are buying is in the GOTS database

And if the manufacturer insists that their organic certification is even better than GOTS, use your knowledge to figure out if you can trust their statement.

My suggestions for healthy mattress options

We sleep on Naturepedic GOTS-certified organic mattresses which use organic cotton and wool and are super comfortable.   In fact, they come in different degrees of firmness, and you can even select dual firmness as we did.  While my husband uses the firmer side, I use a much softer surface because I weigh less.  In my Best Organic Mattress Review, you can learn in detail why it is a mattress to consider.  (Click here to get a 15% discount code.)

In addition, when our son grew out of his crib, we bought him a Naturepedic organic kids mattress.  It is made of safe and hypoallergenic materials, such as organic cotton, non-GMO sugarcane PLA, and has stainless steel coils.  Plus, it has a waterproof side made from one of the safest kinds of plastic, polyethylene.  My son loves it, and I have peace of mind that he sleeps on a healthy mattress.  (Click here to get a code for 15% off.)

And, of course, Naturepedic has many models of GOTS-certified organic crib mattresses.  If you are looking for one, please read my posts about the organic crib mattress and  solid wood cribs.  (Click here to get a code for a discount.)

Happsy is a budget-friendly GOTS-certified option

Here is more good news!  Without sacrificing the quality of the materials, Naturepedic created a more affordable GOTS-certified Happsy mattress

It is more affordable because, first, it comes only in medium firmness (which you can adjust with a topper).  And second, Happsy sells online only saving on numerous retail expenses. 

As for comfort, since Happsy has coils, I believe it is more comfortable than any mattress without coils as such.  Here is a full review of this affordable non-toxic mattress.  (Click here to get a discount code for Happsy.)

Summary about finding a truly organic mattress

First and foremost, it is important to remember that a healthy mattress is an organic mattress.  Second, you want an entire mattress to be certified organic, not just its parts.  Third, among the certifications that a company may possess, you want to see GOTS the most.  GOTS organic certification is a guarantee that the product is non-toxic and is made at a toxic-free facility. 

Further, my suggestions for GOTS-certified organic mattresses are Naturepedic and Happsy, both of which have generous discount codes for you.  My family and friends sleep on Naturepedic mattresses.

Ultimately, I am happy to report that the mattress industry is more transparent with their certifications than other industries.  For example, there is confusion around heavy metal test reports in the cosmetic industry.  (Read my posts about heavy metals in makeup and non-toxic makeup review to learn more.)  However, when you see certificates on a mattress company website, make sure that they are current.  Also, confirm that the mattress model you are considering is included in the certification.

If you are in the process of buying a mattress and need help, contact me for a consultation.  I am happy to help you with this important long-term decision. 

In addition, I invite you to visit my shop that abounds in healthy product options of all kinds (e.g., makeup).  Finally, join the Savvy Consumer Circle to become a part of savvy consumer community and have fun shopping healthy.

12 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

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top