What to Look for in a Non-Toxic Mattress: Brands and Where to Buy

non-toxic mattress brands and where to buy

It seems crazy that something we spend one third of our lives on might be toxic. Yet while your mattress isn’t toxic in the sense that it’ll kill you  on contact (well, not likely anyways), it may have some less-than-desirable ingredients. Most people think of non-toxic mattresses for a new baby’s crib – but we deserve a chemical-free sleep too!

What’s in Conventional Mattresses

Most conventional mattresses are made with polyurethane foam. This is derived from petrochemicals and can offgas VOCs long after the product is brought into your home. If you have particular sensitivities, you may notice an increase in headaches or other reactions after sleeping on a new mattress.

Because synthetic foams are so flammable, they typically require a chemical flame retardant to meet safety standards. PBDEs were commonly used flame retardants that are now banned in Canada (though may still be in imported products). They are pervasive in the bodies of people and wildlife around the globe. These  can imitate thyroid hormones in our bodies and disrupt their activity. Though the effect of low doses is unknown, a CDC Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals indicates that effects on animal studies suggest “thyroid function impairment” and they’re on EWG’s Endocrine Disruptors Dirty Dozen.

As chemicals are banned, new ones take their place in the market without necessarily being proven safe. It often takes years of a product being in people’s homes before a substance will be deemed potentially dangerous and ultimately removed from production.

What to Look For in a Mattress

Natural fibres, such as cotton or wool, are naturally flame resistant and therefore typically do not contain flame retardant chemicals. While wool isn’t suitable for those with allergies, natural mattresses won’t offgas VOCs like conventional foam-filled products. In addition, many brands use certified organic materials, demonstrating commitment to the environment and further reducing potential exposure to chemicals.

You can also look for GREENGUARD certified products. These may contain synthetic chemicals, but the 3rd party certification demonstrates the product meets maximum emissions levels of certain chemicals. Here’s a list of common marketing terms used to make a mattress sound healthy, but don’t tell the whole story – be an informed consumer!

Non-Toxic Mattress Brands

Naturepedic is one of the most recommended non-toxic mattress brands. They feature certified organic cotton and latex rubber without use of chemical flame retardants. In addition to full-size, Naturepedic offers crib mattresses with high waterproofing performance without vinyl or PVCs (vinyl is a carcinogen and PVCs typically contain phthalates which are hormone disruptors).

Sleeptek is a Canadian company that uses certified organic cotton, latex rubber, and wool in their bedding products. They also use Canadian wood for their bed frames. (I have a shredded rubber pillow that I picked up from Organic Lifestyle and am loving how it retains its loft more than conventional pillows.)

Obasan mattresses are made in Ottawa with certified organic cotton, latex rubber, and wool. They offer custom designs for a comfy and healthy sleep.

There are a TONNE of new mattresses coming on the market that claim various forms of “green-ness”. Some are alright, but others are just plain green-washing. Make sure you do your research on their claims before you invest!

Where to Buy a Non-Toxic Mattress

Investing in a natural mattress is just that – an investment. They are more expensive than conventional mattresses, but might be one of the most important changes you can make in your home.

Organic Lifestyle is a Toronto-based online retailer of healthier products for your bedroom and home. I’ve been working with Dihan, the founder of Organic Lifestyle, for a little while now and love his approach to healthier homes as well as customer service (because I’m a customer too!).

EcoExistence and Soma Organic Mattresses have physical shops in the west end of Toronto as well as online collections of eco-friendly and healthier housewares.

No matter what mattress you choose, allow it to off-gas outside of it’s packaging and ideally in a well-ventilated area away from your living space for as long as possible. If a new mattress is in your future, do you research and have a look at your budget. Do what you can to start saving money to make a healthier mattress a reality. Your body will thank you later.


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Comments(12)

  1. Megan says

    Did you come across the Essentia brand when you were doing your research? They have a store in the beaches and claim to make their mattresses from “natural” memor foam with GOTS certified cotton covers.

    • Emma Rohmann says

      As a memory-foam alternative it’s a better bet, but as they state on their website, even natural foams contain chemicals. They claim to test all products for VOCs, though don’t carry a 3rd party certification for the foam itself. If you’re in love with memory foam, I would say this is a good option. And it’s made in Canada :).

  2. Katie says

    Hi, I just bought a sealy twin mattress from Costco for my 3 yr old, before I came across your post… how would I know if the materials used are safe in this one, or if it has flame retardants?? Do most ‘conventional’ big store mattresses contain harmful materials? Now I am worried…thx for your help

    • Emma Rohmann says

      Hi Katie,
      You can write to Sealy and ask whether the mattress you purchased contains chemical flame retardants. Most conventional foam-based mattresses do, unfortunately. Truth be told, my kid sleeps on a conventional mattress we got before really thinking about it. I’m planning to replace it this year – it’s an investment for sure! Feel free to email me (see the Contact Me tab at the top of my site) with questions and I should be able to answer you more quickly. You can also check out the Green Product Forum on Facebook to crowdsource answers :).
      Emma

    • ana says

      Katie I have contacted Simmons and Sealy as I too was worried about my family sleeping on conventional mattresses and they have stopped using flame retardants in mattresses prior to 2007 so if bought after that it should be ok in terms of formaldehyde. Big conventional brands are CertiPUR certified google it to see what they don’t use. It is better than in the past but unfortunately they are still laced with a number of questionable chemicals. I am currently looking to replace all our mattresses with safer options that won’t put us into debt. It makes me sick thinking about our safe sleeping places being toxic 🙁

  3. Eric Li says

    This post helps me avoid non toxic mattress. This week I am planning buy a new mattress. you save me. Thanks

  4. felicia says

    With someone who has latex allergies would these natural options be safe? Could latex be a problem?

    • Emma Rohmann says

      Hi Felicia,
      If it’s a contact allergy, you may be OK if they’re wrapped in a different material. I would reach out to the manufacturers. The Naturepedic mattresses are non-latex if you want to avoid it altogether. They’re spring-based with cotton fill. Hope this helps!

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