Looking to buy an eco friendly, non-toxic, all natural mattress? Beware of the brands trying to pull the proverbial wool over your eyes!
Many so called “natural mattresses” appear more natural than they actually are as companies cash in on increasing demand for natural mattress alternatives with little more than smoke and mirrors.
This article reveals the truth behind the most common misleading claims so you can find natural mattress alternatives that are truly better for you – and the environment.
Common Misleading Claims Made By The Mattress Industry
If you’ve been shopping around for a natural mattress you know how often you see claims like “made with 100% natural wool”, “Made With Organic Cotton” or “Made With Natural Latex” …and my favourite – “Made With Natural Memory Foam” & “Bio Foam”.
Surely a mattress with natural non-toxic materials like these can be trusted to be safe for you and the environment, right?
Well i guess that depends on how you measure safe – I researched just under 100 mattresses that made eco friendly or natural claims, and found they do use natural and non-toxic materials – but in most cases, only in minute quantities!
Using natural materials in small amounts let mattress makers slap natural and eco-friendly labels on otherwise pretty standard mattresses.
Sure, they tell you the mattress contains natural and non-toxic materials, but they aren’t telling you what else the mattress is made from.
The Truth – 9/10 Natural Mattresses Are More Synthetic Than Natural
I’ve done the research, contacted manufacturers and combed through the fine print – to understand exactly what’s inside every mattress I came across that’s made a green, non-toxic or natural claim.
I discovered most mattresses calling themselves green, eco friendly or natural are still made mostly of synthetics like polyester fills, synthetic fabrics, inferior latex blends and polyurethane foams (polyurethane by the way is highly flammable and needs to be treated with chemical fire retardants!)
My conclusion is this – any company which does not display or make easily available a complete list of materials has something to hide.
The fact is, you have no way of knowing what percentage of a mattress is made from natural and non-toxic materials just by looking at a label.
I’ve learnt to never take claims and labels at face value – you have to look well beyond the label and marketing sheen to uncover the truth! So how do you find a genuine natural mattress?
How To Tell If A Natural Mattress Is Genuine?
I’ve compiled a list of the best natural mattress options I’ve come across, made by responsible and ethical companies in the USA, and purchasable online direct from manufacturers. This list will serve you well, but there are still a few things you should know before you buy a natural mattres;
Equipping yourself with a basic understanding of the truth behind common claims and terminology used by the industry will put yourself in the best position to find and buy a genuine all natural, non-toxic and eco friendly mattress online. Let’s take a look…
Misleading Claims Used By The Mattress Industry
Here are three common misleading claims used by unscrupulous mattress makers to look out for;
1. “Made with Organic Cotton”
Admit it, any mattress with the label “Made with Organic Cotton” sounds pretty appealing to the average consumer. Who wouldn’t want a mattress made from organic cotton if they had the choice, and for good reason – regular cotton production is a highly polluting industry.
Large amounts of pesticides and herbicides are needed to grow regular cotton. Pesticides not only run off into water systems, but there is a huge concern about their impact on vulnerable bee populations. What’s more, residues from pesticides can be found on the finished product – meaning we are constantly being exposed to these chemicals throughout our lives.
Organic Cotton – Its All About Quantity
So there is merit to using organic cotton, but may become misleading when a mattress is called green or eco friendly because of it. Here’s why; My research showed that the “made with organic cotton” term often only refers to a mattresses outer cover or top layer of fabric – a very small percentage of the overall mattress. It’s highly likely that the mattress is also using polyester fabric on the sides and bottom – and using well as polyester fill for padding.
Does Minimul Use Of Organic Cotton In Mattresses Labeled “Made With Organic Cotton” Meet Expectations?
How much of a mattress would you expect to be made from organic cotton if it displayed a made with organic cotton label? And do you think it’s justified to call a mattress eco friendly just because a small amount of organic cotton is used?
I don’t think calling a mattress eco friendly for such little use of organic cotton matches most people’s expectations. In my opinion a genuine natural mattress should never use polyester fills for padding and should use organic cotton for all fabric components of the mattress.
An exception to the rule
In the case of hybrid pocket coil mattresses, polyester fabric can be found in minute quantities to encase the individual coils – this is still a genuine natural mattress in my book given it’s such a small percentage of the overall mattress.
What’s more, genuine natural mattress makers will be fully transparent to this fact. Giving us all the materials upfront allows us to make our own judgment calls, which I think makes all the difference.
2. “Made With Natural Latex”
When we see a mattress labeled “Made From Natural Latex” it sounds like a non-toxic and environmentally friendly mattress option. Latex is, after all, made from rubber, a natural material sourced from the rubber tree.
To make latex, rubber trees are tapped to extract a raw white liquid – similar to how a maple tree is tapped for syrup. This makes latex a renewable and sustainable resource since the tree doesn’t have to be cut down. What’s more, a rubber tree can be harvested for up to 30 years.
So it seems that a natural latex mattress is an all natural mattress option which is safe and non-toxic, and good for the environment, right? – Unfortunately not all natural latex mattresses use pure natural latex.
Blended Latex Vs 100% Natrual Latex
To make latex foam from natural rubber, the rubber needs to be processed – and exactly how it’s processed is the difference between a 100% natural product, and a more synthetic blended version.
Many ‘natural’ latex mattresses use blended latex – a mix of natural latex rubber with a high percentage of synthetic fillers and petrochemical additives – this makes the latex go a lot further and greatly reduces the cost. (and also the quality)
So unless otherwise stated, a mattress labeled as made with natural latex is likley made from inferior blended latex – and this is only half the story!
Many so called natural latex mattresses are using ‘natural’ blended latex in a thin top layer, with an even more inferior synthetic latex being used for base layers. From a natural eco friendly standpoint, synthetic latex is worse than blended latex – it has no natural latex rubber content at all, instead it’s made from styrene and a bunch of other petrochemicals. Read more about different types of latex found in mattresses here.
100% Natural Latex
100% Natural Latex on the other hand is the highest standard of latex foam available. To be called 100% natural it must contain a minimum of 95% raw natural rubber. (The best manufacturers use up to 97%) – The remaining percentage is made up of natural soaps and naturally derrived thickeners and stabilisers.
So if your looking to buy a genuine natural and non-toxic latex mattress – the only real choice is a mattresses made from “100% natural latex”. Make sure the words “100% natural” are used on the label, not just natural!
The fact that a mattress can be labelled as ‘Made With Natural Latex” and use blended latex which includes a large portion of petrochemical fillers is very misleading in my book. Most people would assume it’s an all natural product, and at the very least, would expect the entire mattress to be made from it – not just a thin top layer!
A Word Of Caution About 100% Narual Latex Mattresses
Even if a latex mattress is made from 100% natural latex, you still have to pay attention. Make sure 100% natural latex is used for the whole mattress – not just a thin top layer! Many brands are branding mattresses as using organic 100% natrual latex and only using it for a couple of inches on the top layer.
If your looking to buy a latex mattress I recommend learning more about latex foam in the dedicated article all about latex mattresses.
3. “Natural Memory Foam” & “Bio Foam”
Seeing a memory foam mattress labeled as “natural memory foam” or “bio foam” is another red flag to watch out for – these are not as natural as their names imply.
The scientific term for memory foam is visco-elastic polyurethane. As the name suggests, memory foam is polyurethane with various visco-elastic chemicals added to the mix – its these visco-elastic chemicals which give memory foam its ability to bounce back against pressure.
So if memory foam is essentially a modified polyurethane – then what is polyurethane made from? – and can it be natural?
Polyurethane is made from reacting two classes of petrochemicals; polyols and isocyanates, petrochemicals derived from oil and natural gas. (Reacting polyols with isocyanates produces highly toxic disocyanates in the process) So can these polyols and isocyanates be made form natural alternatives? Yes – but only in part.
Natural memory foam – or bio foam have a portion of the polyol content derived from plant based sources – like fermented corn or sugar alcohol. This percentage of plant based poll content is typically within the range of 20-50%. No foam manufacturer in the world is currently able to make polyurethane foam from 100% plant based polyols (2018) Read the dedicated article What’s In Memory Foam for more info.
If I was going to buy a memory foam mattress, sure I’d get one which uses a portion of plant based polyols – but don’t be fooled into thinking it is a natural eco friendly alternative. So called ‘natural memory foam’ is still mostly made from a cocktail of petrochemicals, just with some naturally derived ones as well.
Lavender & GreenTea Extracts
I find misleading a mattress labeled green or eco friendly because of a small amount of lavender or green tea extract added into the mix. Don’t be fooled into thinking these are safer eco friendly options. The mattress is still mostly made of a cocktail of petrochemicals derived from fossil fuels, even if it smells and looks pretty.
So there you have it – I’m sure you’ll never take natural and eco friendly claims made by mattress companies at face value again.
You’re now ready to shop online for a genuine non-toxic and natural mattress now you know what to look for – and the right questions to ask.
Use this knowledge to go forward and find your perfect natural mattress – or just visit my list of the best non-toxic natural mattresses here. Keep in mind these misleading claims are just the tip of the iceberg – I’ll keep adding more to this list every now and then. Happy Hunting!