Organic Mattress Guide: What you Need to Know

If you are looking to buy an organic mattress we’ve put together this guide to help you navigate. Within, we include an industry overview and talk about many of the leading organic mattress manufacturers in the USA and Canada. Learn more about: 1) organic vs. conventional vs. green; 2) types available; 3) the need to physically test in a bedding showroom before buying; 4) why the layered/adjustable natural latex mattress is popular; 5) price range; 6) top organic manufacturers/brands.

Table of Contents (Hyperlinks below for navigation)

  • 1.Introduction
  • 2.Why Organic? Take a Look at the Conventional Mattress Industry Today
  • 3.Understanding Shades of Green
  • 4. Organic Mattress Terms and Ingredients
  • 5. Types of Organic Mattresses – 100% Natural Latex & Innerspring
  • 6. Trend: The Latex Layered mattresses
  • 7. Finding Luxury in Organic
  • 8. About the Organic Mattress Manufacturers included in Our Guide
  • 9. Do you Need to Test before Buying
  • 10.Organic Mattress Manufacturers
  • 11. Price Range
  • 12. Final Ramblings
  • Introduction

    Within the last 10-years a number of organic mattress manufacturers have joined the bedding industry to offer an alternative sleep surface free of chemicals and made with certified organic ingredients… The influence for a few of these manufacturers, including the owners of a few organic bedding showrooms likely came from two companies – (1) Green Sleep, based in Belgium (and now with a North American manufacturing facility in Canada) and (2) Sleeptek, based in Canada.

    On some level, these two pioneering companies paved the way for other “would be” mattress manufacturers to start their own organic manufacturing plants in the United States. Today, there are a number of organic mattress manufacturing plants in this country. Two that come to mind are OMI, Organic Mattress Inc., founded by Walter Bader in 2006 and located in Northern California with brand Organicpedic, and Organic Mattress Factory, founded by Cheryl Hahn and located in Norfolk, Virginia with brand Cozy Pure.

    In our organic mattress chart below, you will find a number of the key players producing quality organic mattresses. Not all are top to bottom manufacturers (like the above examples) where they do the quilting, sewing and construction in house. Some are assemblers where they source goods and have a warehouse/facility to assemble.

    However, for the sake of simplicity we’ll refer to each of the organic mattress producers in our guide as “manufacturers.” What’s similar among them all is that each one uses raw ingredients like certified organic cotton and wool and 100% natural latex rubber and/or innersprings in the construction of their mattresses. There is no use of chemical fire retardants to meet US flammability law. The fire retardant is actually organic wool which when placed in the covering/ticking fabric acts as a natural fire retardant.

    Why Organic? Take a Look at the Conventional Mattress Industry Today

    Organic mattress makers offer a sharp contrast from today’s “conventional” or “traditional” mattress manufacturers – who since the 1950’s have been using chemically derived polyurethane foam as an inexpensive comfort layer; and since the 1970’s have been using chemically derived fire retardants to meet flammability laws.

    In the USA, many of the chemicals used in today’s mattresses – whether to make memory foam, polyurethane foam or as a flame retardant, pose potential health risks to the consumer. One of the chemicals banned in Europe, and recently moved out of favor with US mattress makers is the chemical PBDE. This chemical, commonly used as a flame retardant, was particularly popular in treating polyurethane foam known to be  a highly combustible product. Reasons for banning this chemical include its persistence in the environment (much like PCBs) and its persistence in humans: Studies found high levels of this chemical in US mother’s breast milk.

    Unfortunately, there’s no way to know what toxic chemicals are in a traditional mattress. Producers of consumer products, including mattress manufacturers can claim trade secrets and proprietary blends which enables them to keep their list of chemical ingredients secretive. Also, and not so good for consumer: there is only a small list of chemicals currently regulated.

    Understanding Shades of Green…

    Consumer awareness and interest in “green” and “natural” products is growing, and with that interest brings an evolving marketplace. If you go to a bedding showroom for example, you may find that a number of mattress makers have begun producing many types of mattresses – they seem to go something like conventional, eco and organic.

    A conventional mattress, as mentioned above, is largely synthetic. It doesn’t pretend to be an organic or a natural mattress. If we consider a conventional mattress to be on one end of the spectrum, and a 100% certified organic to be the other end of the spectrum, then that takes us to the middle where we run across words like “eco” and “natural.” This is where the consumer should be aware since these terms may be being used to attract a consumer who is looking for organic or chemical free but may not be getting it. Trust and greenwashing is a concern for anyone shopping for a natural, even organic mattress. See: How do you trust that your mattress is organic.

    While many of the manufacturers making “natural” or “eco” mattresses are transparently telling you the percentage of natural and synthetic in their latex blend, is this information giving you the whole picture? For example, Natura World makes a line of natural mattresses that use a blend of natural and synthetic latex– say 30% natural and 70% synthetic. If you don’t mind a chemical, but, “less chemical” mattress, as the above combination shows, then you’re getting exactly what you’d expect. It is better than a 100% synthetic product. However, if you think you’re buying a healthy, natural mattress with no chemicals, no off-gassing and no chemical fire retardant, you’re not. If you’re not sure, ask the salesperson or the manufacturer these questions.

    How Green is Your Mattress? 100% Polyurethane Foam Chemical Fire Retardant Synthetic /Natural Latex Blend 100% Natural Latex Fire Retardant = Organic Wool
    Conventional
    x
    x
    Natural/Eco/Green
    x
    x
    Organic
    x
    x

    Organic Mattress Terms and Ingredients

    Mattress Composition:

    COVERING FABRIC – This outer layer which surrounds the mattress is usually made of certified organic cotton and wool. Wool in this layer acts as a natural fire retardant and enables the mattress to pass Federal Fire Law 1633. Though wool is used in this part of the mattress to meet federal flammability standards, wool and cotton ticking also provide a level of comfort.
    Other terms for covering include: ticking, wrap or quilting. 

    PADDING – This layer provides insulation, support and comfort. It is often made with natural fibers like certified organic wool and/or cotton.

    CORE – This layer provides the support. As mentioned in Sleep Safe in a Toxic World, by Walter Bader, “the purpose of the supporting core is to hold the body in alignment by “pushing back” in response to the sleepers weight.” Latex, steel innerspring and/or a combination of both, are generally the components that make up an organic mattresses core.
    Other terms for core include: support layer.

    Organic Mattress 4 Key Raw Materials:
    1) CERTIFIED ORGANIC COTTON – To be labeled “Certified” the cotton must meet certain criteria including no artificial pesticides, fertilizer and grown on farmland free of synthetic chemicals for 3 years or more. This certification, which has to be done by a third party agency, provides assurance that this product is grown to organic standards. Watch out for misleading marketing terms such as: green cotton, natural cotton. Benefits to this fiber: offers unique softness for people with skin sensitivities, and  offers breathability and absorbancy which helps maximize air circulation and minimize perspiration.

    Benefits of Wool
    2) CERTIFIED ORGANIC WOOL – This chemical free, animal based fiber is considered to be one of nature’s best. Why? Many reasons…It’s breathable; wicks away moisture (most people loose approximately 1-pint of water each night); it’s a natural fire retardant; it’s renewable, it’s a natural insulator: cool in summer and warm in winter; and, it cradles pressure points with it’s cushioning capabilities.

    3) 100% NATURAL LATEX RUBBER –  This material is derived from the sap or “milk” of the rubber tree: Hevea brasiliensis, mostly grown along the equator.  Benefits to this product when used in an organic mattress include: long term resilience, high flexiblity in both hot and cold temperatures, produces no toxic gases, is resistant to dust mites, mold and mildew, is hypoallergenic, contours the body yet retains firmness to provide even long term support, breathes easily and wicks away moisture.

    4) INNERSPRINGS/COIL – Generally made from steel.

    Types of Organic Mattresses

    Most of today’s organic mattresses are made with a supportive core using one of the following: (1) 100% natural latex, (2) innersprings, (3) a combination of both natural latex and innersprings, or (4) a combination of organic cotton and innersprings. Take a look at our manufacturers guide and you will notice that a number of the manufacturers listed make both coil spring and latex mattresses. However, natural latex dominates this market. According to Kim James, of OMI, which manufactures the brand, Organicpedic: “latex is more popular than innerspring, 25:1. Latex is naturally dust-mite resistant, prevents motion transfer and sleeps cool.”

    In speaking with the owner of the Organic Mattress Store located in Pennsylvania, I was reminded of why some people prefer an all rubber mattress while others prefer coil. Coil, I thought, is a part of our DNA culturally. Though that preference may be changing, some individuals as she explained, still prefer the springiness of a traditional innerspring mattress. People who are attracted to the fact that latex resists motion transfer but still prefer an innerspring mattress, can choose a coil mattress designed with individual coils, which acts similarly. Still, coils are made of metal and for some the electromagnetic frequency, EMF, of metal is unappealing.

    Organic wool mattresses are also available, and a company called Shepherd’s Dream, based in Northern California is worth checking out if you are interested in wool bedding. For those with chemical sensitivities and/or allergies, a cotton mattress made with certified organic cotton in the covering fabric, requires a prescription from a medical doctor or doctor of chiropractic: This type of mattress does not use wool in the covering fabric, which acts as the flame retardant.

    The cost of manufacturing an apples to apples example of an organic innerspring mattress and a natural latex mattress will likely reflect that the coil mattress is less expensive to produce. This savings can benefit the budget conscious consumer who finds the organic innerspring mattress to be both a comfortable and more affordable option.

    Trends: The Layered Mattress Made with 100% Natural Latex

    This type of organic mattress is growing in popularity probably because it is adjustable and affordable. Out of the 9 organic mattress manufacturers listed in our guide, 6 offer a customizable layered mattress system. This system is unique and is made with – 2, 3 or 4 separate natural latex layers of your chosen firmness.  Layer thickness varies but  2″ thickness, 3″ thickness, 4″ thickness and 6″ thickness are most common. To make it easier to understand, let’s look at Savvy Rest’s Serenity mattress 3-3-3.  This mattress is made with 3 separate 3″ layers of natural latex. When you buy you can choose your preferred firmness. At home you can rearrange the layers to make the mattress firmer or softer, as you wish. Latex layers are encased in a removable, organic cotton zippered cover.

    For couples individual customization is also an option by buying split layers rather than solid layers.  This option, generally available for queen and king size, allows each of you to adjust your side to your individual comfort. Also, considering the fact that a 6” thick queen size natural dunlop latex mattress weighs close to 120 pounds, having split layers will make it easier to move.

    About the layered construction: Though each manufacture provides a unique mattress what is common with adjustable layers is that you choose your level of firmness: extra firm, firm, medium, soft, extra soft. Another thing in common among manufacturers is that the bottom layer(s) provide the support and the top layer(s) provide the comfort. Most manufacturers we reviewed recommend using a firm to medium firm bottom layer with customized top layer(s) to desired comfort, support and firmness.

    Layers, also called plates, may be made using the talalay or dunlop process depending upon what the manufacturer offers. Some manufacturers use only dunlop (Green Sleep’s Vimala and Sleeptek’s Oasis 6+2), others use only talalay (Organicpedic’s DUO and The 81), while others offer you a choice of dunlop or talalay (Savvvy Rest’s Serenity and Tranquility).

    Finding Luxury in an Organic Mattress

    It’s well known that a supportive mattress is important for back support and good spinal health. Most mattresses are constructed with a supportive base and have comfort layers or padding closest to your body.

    With an organic mattress, the consumer doesn’t have to worry that he/she is sacrificing comfort for health. Manufacturers have come up with clever ways to add layers of plushness to their mattresses, depending upon personal preference. Royal-pedic, for example, recommends a 2” or 5” pillow top topper for its’ organic coil mattress for extra comfort. Others build in sculpted latex, pillow top.

    About the Organic Mattress Manufacturers in Our Guide:

    It’s important to have confidence and trust in the manufacturers and sources we buy from. In writing this guide I made sure that each of the listed manufacturers met standard “organic mattress” criteria; and with that you will find that each uses some or all of the raw materials below. As stated earlier, wool fiber is the material used as a fire retardant to pass federal and state flammability laws… Passing this law is required by US mattress manufacturers and those selling mattresses in this country.

    Materials in the Mattress:

    Certified Organic Cotton
    Certified Organic Wool, or Pure Wool
    100% Natural Latex Rubber
    Innerspring/Coils
    Wool = Fire Retardant

    About: I physically tested at least 1 or 2 mattress models made by most of the organic mattress manufacturers listed below. In doing so, I went to various bedding showrooms, one located 5 miles from my home in San Francisco, A Happy Planet, another located 10 miles away, Ergo Sleep Systems, and another located 35 miles away, Reclaim Home. I found that each of the showrooms offered excellent customer service, and was impressed by speaking with the store owners to hear of the good and solid relationship between themselves and the dealers/manufacturer they represented.

    I admit part of my research was personal… I am looking to replace my 10-year old conventional mattress with an organic one. But, would I have researched this so thoroughly for myself? No.

    Do you Need to Test Before Buying?

    If you’re fortunate and live close enough to a bedding showroom or two that carries organic mattresses you can test the waters of different sleep surfaces. Living in a remote area, this may not be possible. The reality though is that you can buy online, and the obvious advantage — is that you have more choice. But what about physically testing?

    There are some in the bedding industry who believe that the way the average person tests a mattress – to lie on it for 10 minutes in a showroom is not a realistic representation like sleeping on it night after night. And though this may be true for some, blog post, there are advantages to physically testing and physically seeing the quality of such an important purchase; one that you may have for 20 years.

    Advantages:

    If you are starting a family, knowing a local showroom that carries one of the trusted organic mattress brands can make it convenient for you to go from crib to twin and larger. Brands like Royal-pedic, Savvy Rest, Organicpedic, WJ Southard, Green Sleep, Sleeptek are trusted brands. Of course, there are other organic brands that we haven’t covered and I imagine as time goes by new brands will come to market. But, whichever brand you’re considering, it’s recommended that you stick to the criteria above. In short, doing your due diligence will insure that your mattress is genuinely organic.

    You probably already know that buying an organic mattress isn’t a one size fits all project, and that what may feel supportive and comfortable to you can be experienced as too soft or too firm for another. This is where trying out a number of surfaces is essential. It’s also essential because when’s the last time you bought a new mattress? How about an organic one?

    If you haven’t gone mattress shopping in over a decade, as I hadn’t, you may be surprised to find that the sleep surface you thought would be most comfortable isn’t quite right. For example, I tried Savvy Rest’s Serenity mattress, which is made with three 3-inch interchangeable layers made of 100% natural latex. One combination I tried consisted of a firm dunlop base layer, medium talalay middle layer, and of soft talalay top layer. This turned out to be too soft, as validated by the store owner. As a side sleeper, my hips and shoulders were sinking too deeply into the mattress which caused my spine to not be straight.

    Another advantage of being able to visit a showroom is to be able to have “a look under the hood.” Being able to visit these showrooms gave me a chance to observe first hand some of the subtle nuances of manufacturers and their displayed models. For example, I was impressed that Sleeptek used a cotton mesh cover for each of its latex layers for the Oasis 6 + 2. Organicpedic does the same for its Duo mattress. This is not the case for most adjustable layered mattresses.

    Organic Mattress Manufacturers
    (chart coming soon!)
    Cozy Pure
    Green Sleep
    Natura World
    Organicpedic
    Pure Rest
    Royal-Pedic
    Savvy Rest
    Sleeptek
    WJ Southard

Price Range

You can expect to spend between $2000 to $5000 for a queen size organic mattress. If you are looking for a more affordable option consider an organic wool mattress. Also take a look at the layered mattresses offered by a number of the organic mattress manufacturers. You can buy one between $2000 to $3000. Brands that tend to have a higher price tag but offer great quality are Royal-pedic, Organicpedic and Green Sleep. Also, some brands, like Royal-pedic and Natura World produce both organic and conventional mattresses, so keep that in mind.

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