Mattresses & Bedding: Chemical-Free Options

First, a quick backgrounder on the Chemicals in our Mattresses

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. The worst offenders are synthetic memory foam, followed by polyurethane (though almost all polyurethane can meet CertiPUR certification which I discuss here), and then synthetic latex, which usually does not meet any green certifications on its own. Going with a spring mattress reduces the amount of foam and chemicals in it.

On top of that, flame retardants like TCPP, or newer chemicals are often added, and won't be listed anywhere in sight. Look for mattresses that specify no chemical flame retardants (see my post on flame retardants).

You also want to avoid mattresses that are stain resistant, as they contain harmful perfluorochemicals. Similarly, the chemical that makes sheets (and clothes) wrinkle-free releases formaldehyde. Some mattresses are also adding an antimicrobial agent which you want to avoid.

VOC-Free Organic Mattresses

Natural Latex

Update: Warning about natural latex (October, 2016). I am getting reports from several different people on problems with natural latex. My 3-inch piece of latex started to "melt" after about a year. Another one of my pillows became covered in grey mould after two years in low humidity. Others have noticed issues of disintegration and mould. Another blog reader has just written to me to tell me that her natural latex bed went mouldy on the underside even though it was on slats and it was not in high humidity. I have since seen many other cases of this on a forum. It is not clear if this is a defect (these were all different brands), or whether there is a certain condition that leads to the latex breaking down. Below is my original post about latex and other mattress materials. I still have a natural latex sofa and so far it is OK. I would strongly suggest not going with natural latex. I would not buy it again myself. If you do buy natural latex look closely at the warranty.

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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, and test for odours/sensitivities to make sure it is tolerable).


Almost all of the green mattress brands offer natural latex, you can even find this now at Costco and IKEA (with some synthetic latex in it).

These mattresses range from $800 to $5000. Two of the most affordable options in the $800 range are by The Futon Shop an Organic Textiles.

The most 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 could also add another 3 inch layer. You might want one side medium and one side soft to see which you like better. You will need to have a cover made.

People with MCS vary greatly in their ability to tolerate the natural smell of rubber and different brands work for different people. Here is a list of some of the ingredients that can be in natural latex. Essentia, which makes natural memory foam claims that the VOC levels of their foam (36 μg /m3) is about the same as that of natural latex. From my research, this is around the same levels as outdoor air. 

Memory Foam

The only non-toxic memory foam out there is Essentia - this is also natural latex based. They have tested the VOC levels which are 36 μg /m3. They claim that this is the same level as natural latex and this is the same as "background levels". (For reference GreenGaurd Gold levels are 220 μg /m3). As for background levels here is one study of background levels in houses in Germany. Here is a study showing outdoor levels of VOCs which are around the same level as this mattress claims are background levels. This mattress also contains the following essential oils - grapefruit seed, cone flower essence, and jasmine essence. I have tested a sample and it has a noticeable scent. Though I would not say it is flowery, it is a bit sweet. Test a sample before purchasing.


Shepard's Dream- My Mattress
Wool

I went with the purest and simplest option I could find which is a 100% wool mattress from Shepard's Dream. It is a (relatively) economical choice at $1200 for a queen (I have the skinny version pictured). It does have a wool scent and is very firm as it gets compacted with time. If you don't like firm mattresses I would recommend using a topper with it or using the thicker version. I would buy this again. Shepard's Dream has a referral program so if you are happy with it then you can refer others and get store credit. I would love to use their products again in the future so if you did find them through me I would love if you would mention my name (Corinne Segura).

Conventional Style Layered and Spring Mattresses (Without Latex)

The Futon Shop - has a good variety of mattresses, some with springs and coils will be more comfortable than conventional futons. Look for the ones without latex or soy foam (which is polyurethane). Their prices are fantastic starting at $300. (US only. They don't ship to Canada).

My Green Mattress - A cotton and wool with springs mattress is  $750 for a queen.

Naturepedic - Cotton and spring mattress. $1800 for a queen.

Organic Grace - Conventional style affordable organic mattresses. A queen without latex is $1800.

Savvy Rest - Check out their non-latex mattress for $2000. (Available through Resthouse in Canada)

Other Options:

Buckwheat:

This company will sell the organic cotton canvases and buckwheat hulls that you twist together yourself! (They don't deliver hull to Canada). A mattress topper or pad may be needed for comfort. Or, you could fill the canvas with organic cotton battingwool batt, or even recycled wool sweaters, and use the same twist system to make your own true DIY chemical-free mattress!

Futons:

Futons are more affordable and often don't use flame retardants. Look for organic cotton or wool filled. Another cool option is kapok fiber futon which they claim does not compact as much as cotton and wool (coupon code 1021 for 5% off). Avoid conventional cotton batting which still retains a lot of pesticide. Look out for antimicrobial and even added pesticide treatments.

Silk:

I have seen silk filled mattresses in the past, though they are hard to locate. May be good if you cannot tolerate cotton, wool, kapok or latex.

Camping:

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 there are the basic foam ones, this one being the most tolerable, and then there are the polyurethane self-inflating ones. I use this 10 cm one, the thickest one I could find.  I find it very comfortable. It takes a bit of time in the sun to offgas but many MCSers can use these  I used it after two days in the sun. After a week it was ideal for me. The general consensus for those with sore back or who need the most comfort is a Thermarest on top of a camping cot.

Another kind of camping mat is a polyester fiber mat.

Air bed: This phthalate and PVC-free TPU air bed comes highly recommended many extremely sensitive people. I found it offgaseed in 2 days.

These solutions can be used inside for those with trouble tolerating regular beds or they can be used in high moisture places like tents and simple trailers or emergency shelters.

 Pillows and Sheets


For pillows you generally want natural fibres like wool or organic cotton. Kapok, or buckwheat are also good options. Never use non-organic cotton batting as the bats retain a lot of pesticides. Organic cotton batting sometimes still retains a strong smell from the oils of the cotton plant. I use this organic cotton pillow with polyester filling, but it still needs to be washed or aired out before use. This pillow with organic cotton filling is GOTs certified (chemical-free). I have one and it did have a strong cotton oil smell at first which aired out quickly. It also has a zipper so you can wash the case or the cotton itself.

Coyuchi also makes organic sheets, pillows and other bedding that is made with the chemically sensitive person in mind. I highly recommend this company. They use natural dyes but the safest bet is always virgin fabric. If you react to the product you can return it. I've been really happy with all their products. (Also available on Amazon).

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. Almost all cotton that is not organic has a chemical added to it and smells bad. Look for GOTS certified fabrics which is the best certification for non-toxic textiles.

I use these GOTS certified organic sheets which needed one wash to get the smell out (probably the smell of cotton oils). I use these pillow cases.

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.)

Mattress Covers

If you have an old mattress and you want to block flame retardants from migrating out of the mattress, use a cover like Organic Lifestyle's Bed Bug Cover which is also waterproof and will protect you from dust mites and bedbugs. It has a pore size of zero. The polyurethane smells strong to me but after a lot of offgassing I found it to be good. Polyethylene covers are the least toxic but do not hold up very well after washing. There are polypropylene covers as well, they hold up a little longer than plain polyethylene. This cover is a mix of polyethylene and polypropylene and is reported to be very tolerable by someone very sensitive to plastic. They do not stop offgassing from foam or scents that a mattresses has picked up, unfortunately. If you do not have a choice but to use a offgassing or fragranced mattress and you want to block the smell you will have to cover it with Mylar and tape.

If you just want dust mite covers (that are not waterproof, and don't block flame retardants), I use these mattress and pillow protectors (non-organic but were good for me after one wash, I'm really happy with them as they have reduced my allergies).

Blankets


My bed with Coyuchi blankets
I use wool blankets from Coyuchi - the natural colour with indigo stripes. It does have a wool smell, so if you are sensitive to wool try their cotton blankets. I really like wool because it's hard for me to stay the right temperature at night without them and I slept with the window open when my house was new. The wool blankets were a super good investment in my case, as they stopped me from waking up through the night due to being too cold.

The wool blankets are difficult for me to wash so I also tried an organic cotton blanket (this is thick and takes a long time to dry) and polyester blanket (cheap! from Walmart or Amazon). Both needed one wash at least.



Bed Frames

A metal bed frame that is powder coated would be a great option. This one (pictured right) is only $90 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).
coyuchi.com

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 the slats are laminated. They claim the glues are non-volatile and non-polluting.








When building a tiny house find a way to incorporate slats under your bed. I see too many tiny houses with the mattress on a solid floor. This is not a good solution if you want your bed to stay mould-free. This is my loft on the left. The slats are built right into the loft. It works great!
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45 comments:

  1. Corrine,

    Good info, if we can ever help out any of your east coast customer we would love to www.theorganicbedroom.com.

    If this posted twice my apologies...

    Joey

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Joey, lying on a Napure Air Mattress helps you discharge the static current while you are sleeping. This not only helps improve quality of sleep but also helps prevent static current from building up in the body. For detail review visit:
      http://kidbuxblog.com/floors-made-for-extra-durability/

      Delete
  2. Hi,Joe from Nest Bedding! Thanks for the link. So, here are some hopefully helpful comments.

    My friend Lynne makes the twist buckwheat mattress, but that $300 is for the covers only, you still have to buy the buckwheat and stuff them. They are very firm. The Shepherds Dream mattress is very nice and also very firm.

    Latex is a good option for those who like a little comfort as well as support. I have recently added USDA certified organic latex and talalay to my product selection.

    Thanks!
    Joe, Nest Bedding

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the info Joe! Look forward to checking out the samples from Nest Bedding!

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  3. Excellent ideas. I am worried about latex. I know everyone says it's non-toxic to MCSers, but latex gloves smell and there are so many people with latex allergies. I can say "well, I'm not allergic to latex" and not care, but that would be like my neighbor bathed in perfume and saying "well, I'm not allergic to perfume so why should I care about you?"

    I like the idea of the mattress pads piled on top of each other. Does anyone have personal experience with this. I like the idea they can be washed in a washing machine. Beds harbor all kinds of dust, dust mites, and maybe mold. It would be cool to be able to wash a bed!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, there's a big difference between natural latex and synthetic latex rubber. The natural one still does have a rubbery smell but it is dissipating with time. I don't believe that it is technically toxic though natural scents bother many people.

      I'm loving the all wool mattress, It's very firm but Im sleeping so much better than I was when I was breathing flame retardants all night.

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  4. Who did you use to make the custom latex cushions for the couch you had built?

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    Replies
    1. just re-sizing mattresses from nest bedding. will then get a dressmaker to sew the cushion covers.

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  5. l latex, or wool mattresses with cotton (or wool) covers are two great ... furniturecovers.blogspot.com

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  6. I would love to get a foam mattress. I think I will have to shop around. I want to get something that is free of chemicals. I'm sure there are some shops in my area that offer these. http://www.sureline.ca

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  7. Thank you for sharing! Very helpful information! I tend to wool mattresses (very simple and natural solution, and I always have more confidence in nature than in technology). My search shows that wool mattresses are very expensive, but I found an Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheHomeOfWool which I liked very much. Very affordable and trustworthy. I look for reviews. It would be great if someone could help!
    Best regards!

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  8. Gotta ask yourself why so many comments have been deleted by the administrator. Talk about lack of transparency.

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  9. Very informative information. This definitely helps us in our search for chemical free bed. Thank you.

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  10. Last I checked, Essentia added essential oil to their foam, which is problematic for many with MCS. The Clean Bedroom is no longer open, as of May 2016

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, I will update this.

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    2. The Clean Bedroom reopened last fall under new management.

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  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  12. I'm surprised at some of the inaccurate information on here. Essentia has a history of false advertising. I have a natural organic latex mattress from an online company with GOTS, Okeo-tek certification and it has absolutely no smell. True latex shouldn't have an odor. Nest Bedding has some quality control issues. If you do a thorough search on the internet you'll discover the problems. I'm also suspicious about the objectivity of people that review mattresses when they are getting free samples and a small commission. Too many bloggers are selling themselves out to the mattress industry and promoting false information based on questionable marketing tactics.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have sampled 4 different brands of natural latex (that is meant for bedding) and it all has the same rubber smell. If you are not super sensitive you may not smell this. I have MCS and this blog is written for people who have a heightened sense of smell as well. Essentia used to say they are zero-VOC - their levels are 36 μg /m3. The same as natural latex. If you ask most naural latex companies if they are zero-VOC they will also say that they are. I agree though Essentia should have stated this level and now they do which is an improvement. It is actually rare for a company to disclose the actual VOC level of a foam so I respect them for doing that and not just saying low-VOC. I don't believe there is any false information on this post, please be specific if there is false information. I received some samples from Nest and Essentia to tell people what kind of smell it has. Whether a company has an affiliate program or not only comes in after I have chosen the products that I recommend.

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    2. I am now checking out Nest Bedding and realizing they have completely changed their products since I wrote this post. They used to sell simple natural latex with covers. I will update this post regarding Nest.

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    3. May i ask which online company you chose...i am hunting for a company i can trust and am so confused!

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    4. I used Shepards Dream for an all wool mattress and Coyuchi for blankets. The Amazon pillow I listed is what I use for a pillow. Simple GOTS organic sheets are from Amazon as well.

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  13. Replies
    1. I have wooden bed slats custom built into the loft area. I'll post a pic in this blog post.

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  14. How to buy it ?. I found this site it reputable? There are here
    https://latexmattresstoppershq.com/
    Have you trust its? are You help me?

    ReplyDelete
  15. This is great information, and pretty much the same conclusions I reached after years of research and bad choices (like a latex rubber mattress to which I reacted.) Now I am in Italy and the choices are different. I am trying to decide between a solid natural wool mattress with cotton cover (they do not use antiflame treatments with wool, thankfully) or a traditional mattress which has springs in the center and about 2 inches of wool surrounding them on all sides. I'll see if I can send you a picture. Since Baubiologie started in Germany, I wonder if they have similar choices there and have any discussion in your classes on this kind of traditional mattress?

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    1. Springs with cotton is good. Building Biologists are against springs because of possible EMF issues. I am no concerned about that. I think you would have to be extremely sensitive to EMFs for that to be on your radar. 100% wool is good and yes it is very compact. I use a 3inch wool mattress and it's FIRM. Sometimes my arms fall asleep but not enough for me to change it! It's find on wooden slats if you don't mind super firm. But something springy is a good idea. A topper can help but then again I'm not for any type of foam.

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  16. For me the best option is the natural lattex mattress and especially when it comes buing a kids mattress! I bought recently a kids mattress from Coco-mat brand which is all metal free and made only with top natural materials, with no chemicals included (like the memorry foam mattresses) and it offers great body suuport. you could check their website and make a review for this brand, i would really like to see what you think about it! https://www.coco-mat.com/store/us_en/children-mattresses

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    Replies
    1. I don't recommend these. The reason is in the post. Please read the post before posting ads.

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  17. I am a Sr w/ severe MCS ( detergent on other's clothing bothers me) as well as all petroleum & usual cleaning & body care products. A foam mattress in the 90 started the MCS. A wool or futon mattress is too firm. what choice or choices do I have? Aren't mattress toppers foam? Help.

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    Replies
    1. You can find all the options in this post. I would go for a spring mattress from the ones I mention.

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  18. Hi Corinne. A quick mention that I have had natural latex mattresses for about a decade, both purchased through Organic Grace and I have had no detectable issues. We have toppers and then a layer of wool protection and on slats etc. I'm starting to think about replacing them despite no detectable issues, just because spores and bugs do tend to accumulate over time. Our pillows which we adore are from European Sleepworks and I've given their mattresses a try-out and will probably purchase there. They are pricey but I have a better feeling than I do about the other natural latex options around here. Btw I love the feel of inner spring but have come across too many studies like this: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/left-sided-cancer-blame-your-bed-and-tv/

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  19. Replies
    1. That is polyurethane. Quite misleading.

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  20. Hi! Thanks so much for the great info!! Is there a reason you didn't look at Rubio Moocoat?

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  21. Is it possible to get a shaped foam pillow for those with neck problems and MCS,
    needing the support shape up under the neck?

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  22. No answers coming my way????

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you don't find one on Google you may have to try and custom make it.

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  23. Hi Corinne! You wrote "Poplar wood on the interior too (should have used maple)." Why would you prefer maple over poplar? (I ask because I'm chemically sensitive, and am looking at a new Dapwood bed that has poplar slats). Is poplar prone to mold? Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. It's fine for a bed. It's just hard to work with when you are building anything.

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