Updated December 2019
Sofas and Furniture can now be found here.
This post started out with my journey to find the best mattress for my extreme sensitivities. There are so many more options now, but many I don’t think are good enough.
We are going to 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.
We are also going to look at more unusual options for those who don’t do well with any of those three categories or who want something simple.
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 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 does the amount of foam and therefore chemicals in it.
Flame Retardants Might be Added
Look for mattresses that specify no chemical flame retardants – I list them here in this post. Sometimes boric acid is added but not disclosed.
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 best alternatives.
Some mattresses are also adding an antimicrobial agent which you would generally want to avoid (there are some natural antimicrobials that might be OK).
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 – Top Picks
Without: Latex, Polyurethane, Flame Retardants, Wool
The Echo is made of GOTs certified cotton and Oeko-Tex certified wool with springs. No polyester here. It is $950 for a queen (firm).
For a proper spring mattress, this is the price to beat. They often have sales and I post discount codes for those here when I have them. You can also find them through Amazon, prices fluctuate.
The Chorus is the GOTS certified organic cotton, organic wool (with almost no smell), and polyester with springs $2000 for a queen.
This is my top brand, as I like the construction, it’s high quality and it’s a very well-liked and well-tolerated brand among the very sensitive.
Their kids mattresses, which come in queen sizes do not contain wool, for those who cannot tolerate wool (they are firm) for $1600 directly through them. You can also find them through Amazon, prices fluctuate.
A cotton spring mattress (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 to be a high-end and comfortable though like the others they are firm.
It is around $3000. You can find the All Cotton on Amazon, prices fluctuate over time.
Earthsake is a unique mattress. They make a hemp and spring mattress with no cotton, and no wool.
For those with sensitivities to cotton and wool or in a humid environment, this is a better choice.
A queen is $2600.
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).
Some of their mattresses use boric acid, and I have heard from a number of really sensitive folks that they have reacted to the flame retardant-free versions as well (possibly to the boric use nearby they think). Their prices are fantastic starting at $575. (US only. They don’t ship to Canada.)
2. Chemical-Free Wool Mattresses
i. Shepards Dream 100% Wool Futon
When I was furnishing my tiny house 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 $1585 for a queen. (I have the skinny version pictured).
It does have a wool smell but it is not super strong, and 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 $1900. 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 $1800.
Is Wool Chemical-Free?
When looking at wool qualifications you may want to know about various factors, depending on your sensitivities, such as the chemicals used to process the wool and if any flame retardants are used.
Certified organic wool is becoming common, this link explains what it means. If a company claims all-natural, pure or eco-wool, you will want to take a look at what they mean by that, it might be totally acceptable even if not certified.
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.
I have sourced the most affordable natural latex options. Make sure it is 100% natural latex, and test for odors/sensitivities to make sure it is tolerable. These mattresses range from $800 to $5000.
Almost all of the green mattress brands offer natural latex, you can even find this now at Costco and IKEA. They are easy to find.
I’m not a fan of natural latex, so I’m only going to touch on it briefly.
i. The Futon Shop
Some of the most affordable options in the $800 range are by The Futon Shop.
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.
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 many reports like this.
Melting, disintegration and visible mold on pillow, and on mattresses on slats in normal humidity, sometimes when brand new. Including two recent reports of a popular organic latex brand.
There are other cases of this on a forum and 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 I have seen, and they 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.
4. Natural Memory Foam
Most memory foam is polyurethane and it’s usually more toxic than your standard polyurethane foam, though they are not all the same. There is a range of chemicals added to produce memory foam for the different brands.
The only non-toxic memory foam out there is Essentia, which is natural latex-based. VOC levels 36 μg /m3.
I looked up “background VOC levels” and found this to be background levels (though everything ads up) – here is one study and here is another study to confirm this. Background levels of formaldehyde can be found here.
This mattress also contains essential oils – grapefruit seed, coneflower, and jasmine. I have 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.
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 taken apart and washed and refilled.
2. Cotton and Kapok Futons
Futons are more affordable and often don’t use flame retardants. Look for organic cotton or wool filled. Avoid conventional 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 though folks have reported that they sense the non-flame retardant versions might have cross-contamination of boric acid.
ii. Rawganique has 100% cotton futons as well as cotton and wool.
iii. Zafu kapok fiber futons are really cool. They don’t compact as much as cotton and wool batting. It has an organic cotton cover, eco wool and kapok fiber. This one is 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 are easier to find and you could build them up to make a mattress.
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.
5. Camping Beds Used 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 beds can be used inside regular housing for those wanting a simple solution or for those with trouble tolerating regular beds. Or they can be used in high moisture places 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. 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, you 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 kind of simple sleeping mat is a Nufoam polyester fiber mat.
This may be more tolerable than the camping pads that have polyurethane.
Plus polyester does much better with moisture than cotton, wool, and other natural materials.
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 to polyurethane foam (if Thermarest doesn’t work for you).
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
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 a lot of offgassing, I found it to be fine.
ii. Polyethylene Covers
Polyethylene covers are the least toxic but do not hold up very well after washing and are not usually marketed as mattress encasements. Some have used the Uhaul mattress encasements for temporary protection or disposable protection.
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 not stop the offgassing from foam or scents that a mattress has picked up, unfortunately.
2. Mattress Encasement to Fully Block Offgassing and Other Contaminants
Block Offgassing with Aluminised 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.
Discard as soon as aluminum flakes off.
The other option would be thick mylar bags (not the thin sheets).
3. Mattress Cover to Block Dust Mites
They are not organic but were good for me after one wash. I’m really happy with them as they have reduced my allergies.
Pillows & Sheets for the Chemically Sensitive
I’m not a fan of latex pillows for the reasons outlined in the mattress section.
Never use non-organic cotton batting as the batts retain a lot of the pesticide.
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 and wash it.
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. I use this organic cotton pillow with polyester filling, which needs to be washed or aired out before use.
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. (Some of their products are available on Amazon).
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 smells. Look for GOTS certified fabrics which is the best certification for non-toxic textiles.
In a high moisture environment like a trailer, I use all polyester sheets and pillowcases instead of cotton.
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 odors.)
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 difficult for me to wash, I like these Pendelton washable wool blankets a lot too.
2. Cotton Blankets
I also tried an organic cotton blanket (this is thick and takes a long time to dry) which I also really liked when I was very chemically sensitive.
3. Polyester Blankets
When less chemically sensitive, I have used polyester blankets for mold avoidance (cheap! from Walmart or Amazon).
Bed Frames for the Chemically Sensitive
A metal bed frame that is powder-coated is a great 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).
For cool wooden headboards and frames with zero-VOC finishes check out Coyuchi.
For something really simple and cheap this healthy Nomad Solid Hardwood Platform Bed (around a hundred for a twin) on Amazon 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 beds (with solid wood slats) and 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 on the left. 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 this Hypervent for airflow, though I have heard that that is not enough airflow in many situations.
Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist with 5 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.
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