Conventional mattresses are usually made of polyurethane foam or synthetic latex which generally off-gas VOCs. It's difficult to find out exactly which chemicals were used in a particular mattress. On top of that, flame retardants like PBDEs, chlorinated Tris, or newer chemicals are often added, and won't be listed anywhere in sight. Couches, curtains and pillows also frequently contain flame retardants.
You also want to avoid mattresses, curtains and upholstery that are stain resistant, as they contain harmful perfluorochemicals. Similarly, the chemical that makes sheets (and clothes) wrinkle-free releases formaldehyde.
With furniture you want to avoid: plywood, paneling, particleboard, fiberboard, and any furniture and cabinets which contain chemicals including formaldehyde. (More about kitchen cabinetry and countertops in: A Non-Toxic Kitchen). Stay away from wood that has been treated with conventional stains, paints or varathane as these are noxious chemicals.
VOC-Free Organic Mattresses
There are plenty of options for natural latex mattresses made in US and Canada. I have sourced the most affordable ones. (Make sure it is 100% natural latex, claims zero-VOCs, and test for odours/sensitivities to make sure nothing was added to it).
My top pick for an affordable non-toxic mattress is from Nest Bedding. You can get a 6-inch piece of latex for $650 and a mattress cover for $250 (queen size, plus tax and shipping from the US). I was able to test a couple samples - they do have a natural rubber smell, but it didn't cause me to feel sick. The smell dissipates with time but does not go away. An organic mattress cover would block some of the scent.
A slightly more economical option is to buy a 3-inch piece of latex. For $299 (plus tax and shipping) you can get 3" natural latex from Amazon (queen). I find that 3 inches is very comfortable to sleep on. You will need to have a cover made.
Another good option is a 100% wool mattress from Shepard's Dream (California). It is a (relatively) economical choice at $1200 for a queen (skinny version pictured). This is the mattress I use and it does have a wool scent and is very firm as it gets compacted with time.
Conventional Style Layered and Spring Mattresses
Check out The Clean Bedroom which has a complete collection of natural mattresses from spring to latex and wool. The site has a good range of options and great brands that you can compare. A queen spring mattress can be found for $1700. Multilayer latex options are more expensive.
Organic Grace also has some conventional style affordable organic mattresses to compare. A queen starts at $1350.
This company will sell the organic cotton canvasses and buckwheat hulls that you twist together yourself (300$ for the canvass)! They don't seem to guarantee that the buckwheat is organic so I would source the hull yourself (they don't deliver hull to Canada). A mattress topper or pad would likely be needed for comfort. Or, you could fill the canvass with Organic Cotton Batting, wool batt, or even recycled wool sweaters, and use the same twist system to make your own true DIY chemical-free mattress!
Futons are often affordable and often don't use flame retardants - but look for organic cotton or wool filled.
I have seen silk filled mattresses (which seem to be more affordable in the UK) if you cannot tolerate cotton, wool or latex.
Or for a quick and easy solution maybe a camping cot will do! Let it offgas a bit first. The plus side is there is not much to offgas there, so some time in the sun should do it. For sleeping pads this one is tolerable for sensitive people after a bit of offgassing. Most camping pads and air mattresses are very toxic and take a long time to offgas. Though this phthalate and PVC-free TPU bed comes recommended.
Pillows and Sheets
Coyuchi also makes organic sheets, pillows and other bedding that is made with the chemically sensitive person in mind and I highly recommend this company. The safest bet is always virgin fabric but they do use natural dyes. If you react to the product you can return it. I've been really happy with all their products.
Cotton that has been processed into fabric (sheets, pillow cases etc) no longer contains pesticides in theory. But stay away from permanent pressed finish (wrinkle-free finish), and make sure the dyes are steadfast or all natural. I find that a lot of cotton that is not organic has a chemical added to it and smells horrible.
NB (While we are on the topic of chemical-free fabrics here is a guide to buying chemical-free clothing or removing "sizing" chemicals and other harmful odours.)
|My bed with Coyuchi Blankets|
A metal bed frame that is powder coated would be a great option. This one (pictured right) is only $116 for a twin on Amazon.
Or, if you can tolerate the natural smell of wood, go with a solid wood bed frame, with solid slats (not laminated), finished with a natural finish.
For wood frames check out Organic Grace which has simple frames for $780 (queen, ships from the US).
For cool wooden headboards and frames with zero-VOC finishes check out Coyuchi (pictured below)
For something really simple and cheap this healthy Nomad Solid Hardwood Platform Bed ($124 for a twin) on Amazon is made of low odour poplar with solid slats.
IKEA sells solid wood frames but beware the slats are laminated and the glues will be toxic.