What You Need to Know About So-Called “Green Mattresses”

This is a guest post by Rick Blanchard, an expert on sleep product materials and manufacturing for BestMattressReviews.com. His research covers the entire life cycle of mattresses and bedding, including production, wear over time, and disposal. Rick lives in Tarrytown, New York.

We welcomed this article because we will soon need to shop for a mattress. All the beds in our home have “hybrid futon” mattresses made in Ohio that we used to be able to purchase from a neighborhood shop at a reasonable price, but that company went out of business. One thing that initially attracted us to their mattresses was that they did not smell like chemicals, the way many brand-new mattresses do! We’re planning to buy a new mattress for our daughter when she moves to a different size bed, so we are pleased to learn about this resource for mattress shopping and get some info on the terminology.

The search for a “green” mattress is no easy task. The mattress industry has no clear or approved regulations or guidelines for terms like “organic”, “all-natural”, or “eco-friendly.” That means it’s up to you, the consumer, to know what to look for when you’re on the hunt for a new mattress.

What to Look for in a “Green” Mattress

You can’t rely on a retailer’s claim of an eco-friendly mattress. Keep in mind that even the greenest mattress will only be made of 60 to 90 percent organic or natural materials. However, you can learn about the materials that go into the mattress and the impact they may have on the environment.

Natural and/or organic materials and fibers are needed to make a green mattress. Mattresses have three basic layers: the cover, comfort layer, and support core. Environmentally friendly materials in these layers may include:

  • Natural Latex: Natural latex is made from the sap of the rubber tree. Of all your mattress options, natural latex is the most environmentally friendly as it is biodegradable. Be aware that synthetic latex may feel like the natural variety, but it’s derived from petrochemicals.
  • Plant-Based Polyfoam and Memory Foam: Plant-based foams are not completely chemical-free, but they’re more eco-friendly than the synthetic variety.
  • Organic Fibers: Organic cotton and wool covers are biodegradable and breathable for excellent comfort.
  • Fire Socks: A true green mattress will have a fire sock made of wool, cotton, thistle, or Kevlar. Most mattresses that don’t have fire socks have been chemically treated with flame retardants. There are a few mattresses on the market that are not treated with chemicals nor do they have a fire sock. The materials used to make these mattresses have a higher fuel load so they take longer to burn, which allows them to meet safety standards.

Check for the Right Certifications

There are many agencies and organizations that monitor the social and environmental responsibility of consumer goods and aspects of the mattress industry. Some test the raw products while others test the safety of the final product. Here are a few to watch for that can help you make a sound decision.

OEKO-TEX Standard 100: This group of 18 independent research and testing institutes in Europe and Japan monitors products for emissions of certain chemicals. Amongst the long list of chemicals they watch for are volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, flame retardants, and dyes. While they don’t check for natural or organic materials, an OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certification means the mattress won’t give off harmful emissions.

Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): GOTS tracks and evaluates organic fibers from the raw materials to the finished product. A mattress with a GOTS certification must be made of at least 95 percent certified organic material. That means you’re only going to find GOTS on natural latex mattresses.

Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS): GOLS monitors latex products. To receive this certification the product must be 95 percent organically produced.

The Global Recycled Standard: The Textile Exchange gives this certification to products that have been made with environmentally healthy and sustainable methods.

You may find other certifications on a mattress. Be sure you know what they mean before you buy to make sure you’re getting the eco-friendly product you want.

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