Updated Summer 2020
This post started out with my journey to find the best mattress that suited my own extreme sensitivities. There are so many more options now. Still, many I don’t think are good enough.
We will look at my top picks for the best healthy spring mattresses (no latex or polyurethane) with price comparison (2020), all wool mattresses and other futons, and why I don’t use natural latex.
This also includes a look at more unusual options for those who don’t do well with any of those main categories, or who just want something simple.
Sofas and Furniture can now be found here.
I recommend all of the products here, some products have affiliate programs and some do not. Upon purchase, I earn a small commission through affiliate links at no extra cost to you.
First, a Quick Backgrounder on the Chemicals in Our Mattresses
Conventional Mattress Materials
Conventional mattresses are usually made of polyurethane foam or synthetic latex which offgas VOCs. It’s difficult to find out exactly which chemicals were used in a particular mattress.
The worst offenders are synthetic memory foams, 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 does minimize the amount of foam and therefore chemicals in it.
“Soy Foam” is polyurethane with some soy.
Flame Retardants Might be Added
Look for mattresses that specify no chemical flame retardants – I list them in this post. Sometimes boric acid is added but not disclosed. Newer flame retardants include Kevlar and silica which from what we know is safe.
Natural Latex can be a Problem
Most “natural” or non-toxic mattresses contain natural latex which I have major concerns about. I discuss that in the article as well as the top alternatives.
Some mattresses are also adding an antimicrobial agent which you would generally want to avoid, though there are some natural antimicrobials that might be okay for some people.
If you need assistance choosing the best non-toxic mattress for you and your health concerns, please contact me for a one on one consultation.
1. Non-Toxic Spring Mattresses
My top picks for a safe and healthy conventional feeling mattress are these five options below.
They don’t contain latex or polyurethane foam. These options don’t contain wool. I like wool, but the most sensitive are often looking to avoid this allergen trigger.
They are also free of flame retardants.
The Echo is made of GOTs certified cotton and Oeko-Tex certified wool with springs. No polyester here. It is $1,050 for a queen (firm).
For a proper spring mattress, this is the price to beat. They often run promotions, which I post the codes for here. The current black Friday/cyber Monday code is MCFHWINTER (125-175$ off).
The Naturepedic Chorus contains GOTS certified organic cotton, organic wool (with lower odor than many other brands), and polyester with springs. It’s $2,000 for a queen.
This is my top brand, as I like the construction, it’s high quality and it’s very well-liked and well-tolerated amongst many of the most sensitive.
In the kid’s mattress section they have one that comes in a full size that does not contain wool. For those who cannot tolerate wool, this is one of the top picks. This option is firm though! $1,600 directly through them.
You can also find some of their mattresses through Amazon, prices fluctuate.
Royal-Pedic makes a cotton spring mattress with no wool. The All Cotton line is not organic, the Natural Cotton line is organic but not certified.
They also offer options with wool.
This is known as a high-end and comfortable option, though like the others in this category they are firm.
It is around $3,000. You can find the All Cotton on Amazon, prices fluctuate over time.
Earthsake is a unique mattress. They make a hemp spring mattress with no cotton and no wool.
For those with sensitivities to cotton and wool, or who are in a humid environment, this may be a better choice.
A queen is $2,600.
The Futon Shop has a good variety of very affordable mattresses.
Those with springs and coils will be more comfortable than conventional futons.
You can choose ones without latex or soy foam (which is polyurethane).
Some of their mattresses use boric acid, and I have heard from some really sensitive folks that they have reacted to the flame retardant-free versions as well (possibly to the boric used nearby, they think). Though many others who are sensitive have done really well with this brand.
Their prices are fantastic starting at $575. (US only. They don’t ship to Canada).
2. Chemical-Free Wool Mattresses
Wool is a natural and healthy choice, as long as you are not allergic to it or sensitive to the lanolin odor of wool.
Many brands that use wool process and wash the wool leaving it with almost no odor. Others use a less processed batting that does have that telltale natural odor.
i. Shepards Dream 100% Wool Futon
When I was furnishing my tiny house I was extremely sensitive to toxins. I went with the purest and simplest option I could find, which is a 100% eco wool mattress from Shepard’s Dream.
It is a (relatively) economical choice at $1,585 for a queen. (I have the skinny version pictured).
It does have a wool smell but it is not super strong. It is 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.
Shepard’s Dream has offered a 10% discount to my readers, you can mention my name, Corinne Segura for the discount.
ii. Heartfelt Layered Wool Felt
For those with extreme sensitivities, a layered option that can be washed can be very functional. Heartfelt Collective sells wool felts that can be layered and washed.
To put together what would come to about a conventional queen feel, it would cost about $1,900. But you may not need that many layers, or you can combine the woof felt layers with something else.
iii. Savvy Rest Wool Futon (Cotton Cover)
Savvy Rest makes a futon style organic GOTS cotton covered organic wool mattress for $1,800.
Is Wool Chemical-Free?
When looking at wool qualifications you may want to know various factors, depending on your sensitivities, such as the chemicals used to process the wool.
Certified organic wool is becoming more common, this link explains what that means. If a company claims all-natural, pure or eco-wool, you will want to take a look at what they mean by that.
Wool doesn’t need to be organic to be free of harmful chemicals.
3. Natural Latex Mattresses
There are plenty of options for natural latex mattresses made in US and Canada. In fact, when looking for non-toxic beds, it’s difficult to avoid natural latex.
Make sure it is 100% natural latex and has GOLS certification. And test for odors/sensitivities to make sure it is tolerable.
These mattresses range from $800 to $5,000.
Almost all of the green mattress brands offer natural latex, you can even find this now at Costco and IKEA.
These are the most affordable options.
i. The Futon Shop
Some of the most affordable natural latex options are by The Futon Shop.
Many of their latex options are paired with wool. Some are paired only with coconut coir or with hemp and coconut coir. Others include PLA and cotton.
The simple options start at $800 for a queen.
ii. Topper from Amazon
The most economical option is to buy a 3-inch piece of latex. For around $200 (plus tax and shipping) you can get 3″ natural latex from Amazon (queen). I find that 3 inches is very comfortable to sleep on.
It won’t have a cover, but for $400 you can get 6 inches of latex.
iii. IKEA MAUSUND
This non-toxic IKEA mattress is 85% natural latex and 15% synthetic latex with wool wadding. If I was going to go with natural latex I would go with a large established brand like IKEA if not the super simple topper from Amazon.
You will want to check this out in person to make sure the odor of the natural latex and the synthetic latex works for you.
$900 USD for a queen in the US. $1,100 for a queen in Canada.
If you want to go with a more purist natural latex bed, Avocado is the best in this category.
It’s 100% GOTS organic certified cotton & wool and 100% natural GOLS certified latex.
Avocado goes all the way on healthy natural latex, with the top organic certifications, no adhesives between the layers of latex (only on the top layer), and silica or wool as the flame-resistant barrier.
A queen is $1,400.
Awara beats Avocado in price but it falls slightly short in eco cred. It uses glues in the construction, and the latex isn’t GOLS certified.
Still, those are not dealbreakers for most people in the grand scheme of things. This slightly more affordable option still meets most of the marks for a safe and healthy mattress.
The flame retardant is natural silica, and the top layer is organic cotton and organic wool.
A queen is $1,200 plus is there often a $300 off deal for new customers.
Is Natural Latex Mold-Prone?
After one of my pillows became covered in grey mold after two years in low humidity, in a new, non-moldy house I started looking into this. Over the years I have seen many reports like this.
I have seen melting, disintegration, and visible mold on pillows and on mattresses that were on slats in normal humidity, sometimes even when brand new. Including two recent reports of a popular organic latex brand.
There are other cases of this on a forum, many private messages from people writing to me, and reports in Facebook groups.
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 or going moldy.
I have not seen the companies address the problem. The companies continue to claim that latex is mold resistant and that each of these cases is unusual.
I would not buy it again myself. If you do buy natural latex look closely at the warranty – it’s unlikely it covers mold. If you already have one in your house, please open it up to check on the latex layer.
Does Natural Latex Offgas?
Folks 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, about the same as that of natural latex. From my research, this is around the same levels as outdoor air – but it is not 0 VOC or 0 offgassing.
There have been dramatically different odors from different brands and even from the same brand over time. So you may want to check out more than one option.
4. Natural Memory Foam
Most memory foam is made of polyurethane and it’s usually more toxic than your standard polyurethane foam, though they are not all the same.
There are a range of chemicals added to produce polyurethane memory foam for different brands.
The only non-toxic memory foam out there is Essentia, which is natural latex-based. The VOC levels are extremely low, 36 μg /m3.
Background levels of formaldehyde can be found here.
This mattres contains essential oils – grapefruit seed, coneflower, and jasmine. I tested a sample and it has a noticeable scent. Though I would not say it is flowery, it is a bit sweet.
It contains Kevlar as a flame retardant.
5. Non-Toxic Polyurethane?
I would consider polyurethane in some situations. I personally would consider this material over memory foam (of any type), and usually over natural latex.
It does offgas a little bit, but for some folks who are less sensitive, this could still be considered non-toxic, especially if you give it some time to offgas.
If you have serious back or neck problems and need something with more cushion than the firm cotton and wool options, you may want to consider polyurethane.
This is the least expensive mattress type, so for some people, this is the only option.
I would consider IKEA polyurethane beds. They don’t use flame retardants in the foam. Just go as simple as you can.
The MINNESUND for $100 is the least expensive. But for a little more you can add springs and reduce the amount of foam even more. The HASVÅG is $179.
I may use the aluminized tarps to sequester the offgassing, if needed.
ii. Purple Mattress
The Purple Hybrid mattress is made of a non-toxic plastic grid and minimal polyurethane.
The Purple Hybrid with coils really minimizes the amount of foam used while keeping the comfort level high.
Moderately sensitive folks have done well with this brand so I certainly would consider it myself.
The Purple Hybrid Mattress, which you can buy from their website, is $1,700 for a queen.
Alternative Beds for the Chemically Sensitive
1. Buckwheat Hull Beds
Open Your Eyes Bedding sells organic cotton canvases and buckwheat hulls that you twist together yourself!
A mattress topper or pad may be needed for comfort.
What I like about this is it can be totally customized, as well as taken apart, washed and refilled.
2. Cotton and Kapok Futons
Futons are more affordable than regular mattresses and often don’t use flame retardants. Look for organic cotton or wool filled. Avoid conventional (non-organic) cotton batting which still retains a lot of pesticide.
Look out for antimicrobial and even added pesticide treatments.
i. The Futon Shop is an obvious option for very affordable futons that many sensitive folks do well with. Starting at about $300.
ii. Rawganique has 100% organic cotton futons as well as cotton and wool. The company focuses on reducing chemical processing as much as possible.
iii. Zafu kapok fiber futons are really cool. They don’t compact as much as cotton and wool batting. They have an organic cotton cover, with eco wool and kapok fiber. This brand came recommended by sensitive folks.
3. Silk Mattresses
I have seen silk-filled mattresses in the past, though they are hard to locate. They may be good if you cannot tolerate cotton, wool, kapok or latex.
Silk mattress toppers or pads are easier to find, and you could build them up to make a mattress.
This silk comforter from Allergy Buyers Club has a silk encasement (not cotton).
You can find them on Amazon or Allergy Buyers Club.
4. Cotton Sleeping Mat
This organic cotton mat by Dream Designs in Canada is thin but may be enough for some people who need a simple solution. It was recommended by someone extremely sensitive.
The futon companies above also make simple sleeping mats.
A organic cotton hammock is a simple option that does work well for some folks.
A good brand that is clean and healthy is La Siesta. Try the undyed organic cotton if you want the purist option.
A metal hammock stand works well with many models (no trees necessary).
6. Camping Beds to Use Indoors
i. Camping Cots
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.
ii. Camping Pads/Mats
Camping mats can be used inside regular housing for those wanting a simple solution, or for those with trouble tolerating regular beds.
They may also be needed high moisture locations like tents, trailers/RVs, and shelters.
a. Closed Cell Camping Mat
For sleeping pads, the most basic type is closed-cell foam.
This aluminized Thermarest is considered the most tolerable of the camping mats. I found it really good and very easy to clean.
They have non aluminized versions as well.
b. Open Cell Polyurethane Self Inflating Mat
I use the most deluxe Thermarest – the 10 cm thick Mondoking (it has polyurethane it in). 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.
Setting up a camping cot inside
The general consensus for those with sore backs or who need the most comfort is a Thermarest on top of a camping cot.
Though with the MondoKing, most people likely don’t need a camping cot under it (though I would raise it or put a waterproof cover on it).
Thermarest claims to be flame retardant free.
iii. Polyester Fill Mat
Another type of simple sleeping mat is a Nufoam polyester fiber mat.
This may be more tolerable than the camping pads that have polyurethane foam in them.
Plus polyester does much better with moisture than cotton, wool, and other natural fibers.
This is ideal for an RV.
a. TPU Airbed
This phthalate and PVC-free TPU air bed by Lightspeed comes highly recommended by many chemically sensitive folks.
This is the alternative to PVC and foam mats.
I found it offgassed in 2 days. Which is faster than many types of beds with more material inside.
b. Polyester Airbed
Another PVC-free airbed is this polyester bed from Intex. Some tolerate the polyester better than TPU.
Mattress Covers to Seal in Toxins
1. Seal in Flame Retardants, Dust Mites, & Mold Spores
i. Polyurethane Lined 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 as well.
Another good use for this cover is when you are moving a mattress into a high humidity environment like a trailer, or you have to put a mattress on a flat surface like the floor for a while.
The polyurethane did have an odor to me but after some offgassing, I found it to be fine.
ii. Polyethylene Covers
Polyethylene covers are the least toxic plastic cover but they do not hold up very well after washing and are not usually marketed as mattress encasements.
I have used the Uhaul mattress encasements for temporary protection from contamination or if I need to put a mattress on the floor in a hurry. These are disposable (not washable).
iii. Polypropylene Covers
There are polypropylene covers as well, they hold up a little longer than plain polyethylene. This All in One cover is a mix of polyethylene and polypropylene and is reported to be very tolerable by someone very sensitive to plastic.
They do slow down offgassing somewhat, from the foam or secondary scents, but usually these VOCs soak into the plastic layer, so it’s not a permanent solution.
2. Mattress Encasement to Fully Block Offgassing and Other Contaminants
Block Offgassing with Aluminized Tarps
If you do not have a choice but to use a mattress that is offgassing or fragranced and you want to block the odors/chemicals, you can use aluminized tarps and tape.
I have used these to sequester many beds, especially when traveling.
Discard as soon as the aluminum flakes off, or face the aluminum down.
The other option would be thick mylar bags (not the thin sheets).
3. Mattress Cover to Block Dust Mites
That brand is not organic but they were good for me after one wash. I’m really happy with them as they have reduced my allergies and the price is a steal.
For organic cotton versions, I like these pillow covers. These are still reasonably priced. A full organic cotton mattress encasement is going to cost more. The Solus brand is priced well at around $100.
Barrier cloth can also work here.
Pillows & Sheets for the Chemically Sensitive
Organic Pillow Fills
When I was highly sensitive I needed to open pillows up and wash the cotton.
Organic cotton batting sometimes still retains a strong smell from the oils of the cotton plant. Some of them have a zipper, so you can pull out the cotton batting easily.
Never use non-organic cotton batting, if you are avoiding chemicals, as the batts retain a lot of the pesticide.
This silk pillow from Allergy Buyers Club is very pure, as some silk is coated in a surprising amount of chemicals.
I’m not a fan of latex pillows for the reasons outlined in the mattress section.
Synthetic Pillow Fill
I like the Purple pillow, which is made of a type of flexible plastic grid that some very sensitive folks have reported to be safe and tolerable. I really like that it’s cleanable.
I do like polyester as well, even though it’s not natural, because it’s more moisture-resistant than cotton. I don’t find it very toxic, though sometimes it has chemical residue on it.
I use this polyester filled pillow, which needs to be washed or aired out before use. Polyester is also referred to as “down alternative”.
I highly recommend this company. They use natural dyes but the safest bet is always virgin (undyed) fabric. 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, pillowcases, 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 that smells. Look for GOTS or OEKO-TEX certified fabrics which is the best certification for non-toxic textiles.
I use GOTS certified sheets which usually need one wash to get the smell out (probably the smell of cotton oils). I use these affordable organic pillowcases.
In a high moisture environment like a trailer, I use all polyester sheets and pillowcases instead of cotton.
1. Wool Blankets
I use wool blankets from Coyuchi – the natural color 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 at the right temperature at night without them. The wool blankets were a super good investment in my case, as they stopped me from waking up throughout the night due to being too cold.
The wool blankets were a little difficult for me to wash though, I like these Pendelton washable wool blankets a lot too.
2. Cotton Blankets
These are thick and take a long time to dry. Though I used to lug them everywhere with me while traveling.
Others more sensitive than me have really liked the blankets from Organics and More.
3. Polyester Blankets
When I became less chemically sensitive, I used polyester blankets for mold avoidance.
They are cheap! from Walmart or Amazon).
If you are chemically sensitive you can try to wash out the odor.
Bed Frames for the Chemically Sensitive
A metal bed frame that is powder-coated is a very safe option. This metal bed is inexpensive for a twin (Amazon).
Or, if you can tolerate the natural smell of wood, go with a solid wood bed frame, with solid slats (not laminated slats), finished with a natural finish.
For wood frames check out Organic Grace which has simple frames for $780 (queen, ships from the US).
Savvy Rest makes a simple wood bed frame that can be finished in linseed oil, AFM finishes or can be left unfinished. It’s $800 for a queen.
For something really simple and cheap this healthy Nomad Solid Hardwood Platform Bed (around 250 for a queen) on Amazon. It is made of low odor poplar with solid slats.
IKEA sells solid wood frames but the slats are laminated. They claim the glues are “non-volatile and non-polluting”.
The post on furniture contains a longer list of companies making solid wood furniture with non-toxic finishes.
How to Prevent Mold in Mattresses
In any house or trailer, tiny or big, make sure your mattress can breathe underneath (slats or box springs are used for a reason). Only certain types of beds like an air mattress may be able to go straight on the floor.
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 mold-free.
The picture above is my loft. The slats are built right into the loft. It works great!
When camping, I do think a waterproof cover is the best idea, in a trailer you may be able to use something simple like this Hypervent for airflow, though I have heard that this does not create enough airflow in many situations.
Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist Practitioner with 6 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.
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