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Are Organic Mattresses Worth the Money? (Pros v Cons)

An organic mattress is a mattress that predominantly contains organic materials – as indicated by one or more certifications such as the USDA Organic Seal, the GOLS (Global Organic Latex Standard), or GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard).

The cost of acquiring these certifications and producing a mattress that contains organic materials means that organic mattresses are significantly more expensive than non-organic mattresses.

For example, whilst you may be able to buy a non-organic queen sized mattress for less than $1,000, you could quite easily pay up to $2,000 – $4,000 (or even more) for an organic queen sized mattress.

So is this extra cost justified?

An organic mattress is worth the money if you want to sleep on a mattress with less toxins, has less chance of irritating your skin or triggering allergies, sleeps cooler, is eco-friendly, is longer lasting, produces less odor (VOCs), and is better for sensitive sleepers like kids and the elderly.

However, there are a few drawbacks to buying an organic mattress that extend beyond the cost alone.

So I recommend that you read this article in full in order to get a better idea of the pros and cons of organic mattresses to help you make a more informed purchasing decision.

Because in addition to being ideal for side sleepers, many of the mattresses that I’ve picked out are also suitable for front, back, and combination sleepers – including couples, those with back pain, hip and shoulder pain, and warmer sleepers looking to sleep cool.

Organic Mattress Benefits v Drawbacks Infographic.

Are Organic Mattresses Worth the Money?

So first of all, why are organic mattresses more expensive than non-organic mattresses?

Organic mattresses are expensive because it takes more time, effort, and money to manufacturer the mattress in a way so that its parts can be certified as organic through reputable bodies like the USDA, GOLS (Global Organic Latex Standard), and GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard).

Some organic mattresses will be cheaper/more expensive than others because rather than being 100% organic, organic mattresses exist on a spectrum.

Where the most organic mattresses will typically have a GOTS certified cotton cover, GOLS certified latex foam layers (no springs, memory foam, or poly-foam), a non-toxic fire barrier made from wool, cotton, or thistle, and doesn’t include chemical adhesives to hold the mattress together.

Semi-organic mattresses contain both organic and non-organic materials; hybrid spring-latex mattresses are a good example of this – where the support core is made from steel springs and the upper comfort layers contain GOLS certified latex.

Mattresses that aren’t organic have no organic materials at all, and are typically made from poly-foam.

The less organic the mattress is, the cheaper it will tend to be – but you’ll not typically be able to avail of the benefits of a predominantly organic mattress that I’ve outlined below.

To find out if an organic mattress is worth the extra expense for you, consider the following pros and cons.

Benefits

As previously noted, organic mattresses exist on a spectrum – rather than following a binary ‘organic’ vs ‘non-organic’ logic.

Therefore, the more organic parts that your mattress contains, the greater the magnitude of the benefits listed below will tend to be.

1: Less Toxins – Better For Your Health

The biggest reason to buy a heavily organic mattress is that you’ll typically be exposed to significantly less toxins when compared to a less or completely non-organic mattress.

For example, the most toxic types of mattresses that you can buy are cheap poly-foam mattresses made overseas in places where regulations aren’t as strict.

This means that you could end up sleeping on a mattress that contains harmful substances like propylene oxide, toluene diisocyanate, styrene-butadiene, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), benzene, naphthalene, acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, and many more.

These chemicals can be released in small quantities from your mattress and inhaled through a phenomenon called ‘off-gassing’; where VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are released shortly after unboxing (producing that ‘new’ chemical smell) and can continue to be emitted over time – with body heat potentially expediting the release of VOCs [1].

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) says that VOC concentrations can be up to 10 times higher indoors and can result in numerous negative health effects such as airway irritation, headaches, dizziness, nausea; liver, kidney, and nervous system damage, and even cancer [2].

And as the video below explains, your skin can be in contact with these chemicals for up to 8 hours each night and because children tend to breathe faster than adults, they can end up inhaling these chemicals more rapidly.

Toxic Mattresses vs. Natural & Organic Mattresses – Is Your Mattress The Problem? (Gardner’s Mattress & More)

By choosing an organic mattress you can avoid many of these harmful chemicals.

Your best option is to look for a mattress that’s made from GOLS certified natural latex instead of poly-foam, since many of the toxins found in synthetic mattresses come from this petroleum based foam.

It’s very important that the mattress is GOLS certified because this means that the mattress must contain at least 95% certified organic material [3] and is not packed with synthetic latex (styrene-butadiene).

And if you can find the GOLS certificate from the mattress manufacturer, you can check that the certificate is still valid and find out the exact composition of the mattress.

For example, this certificate displays the different ratios of the organic content for some of Naturepedic’s mattresses – notice how the organic latex content differs but collectively meets the 95% organic threshold by the inclusion of other organic materials like wool and cotton.

However, although the GOLS certificate is a good guide, there’s no single ‘organic’ certification that clearly identifies which mattresses are organic.

So you’ll need to look out for the presence of one or more of the certifications listed in the table below.

These certifications are not exhaustive, but they are the ones that tend to carry the most weight.

Ideally, you’ll want a ‘home run’ where all of the certificates are present in a mattress that contains latex and cotton.

CertificationAssurance
USDA Organic95% certified organic ingredients [4].
Arpico Certified Organic LatexAggregate that can include several certifications like Oeko-Tex 100 Class 1, LGA, SATRA, ECO Institute, ISPA, and SSA [5].
Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS)Contains 95% of certified organic raw material [6].
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)Made from at least 70% certified organic natural fibres [7].

In the case of semi-organic and non-organic mattresses, you’ll want to look for the certifications in the table below to ensure that the non-organic components meet safety standards – especially if the mattress contains poly-foam.

CertificationAssurance
CertiPUR-US®Foams are free from certain toxic substances and VOCs are limited to less than 0.5 parts per million [8].
OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100Every component has been tested for harmful substances and is ‘harmless in human ecological terms’ [9].
GREENGUARDProducts designed for indoor use meet strict guidelines for chemical emissions [10].

2: Good For Certain Allergies and Sensitive Skin

Mattresses made with GOLS certified latex and GOTS certified cotton are likely to be better for you if you have asthma, sensitive skin, or allergies that are triggered by dust mites and ambient allergens like pollen.

This is because organic latex is considered to be ‘hypoallergenic’ and is less likely to cause skin irritation and trigger allergies in most people when compared to poly-foam mattresses that have more chemicals in them.

(However, if you have a latex allergy then you’ll need to check to ensure that the manufacturer has removed the latex proteins – namely hevein [11] – that are known to cause latex allergies [12]).

Similarly, an organic cotton cover is less likely to irritate your skin like a polyester cover might – since a polyester allergy (textile dermatitis) can cause rashes, hives, itching, and even more severe reactions like swelling, breathing difficulties, and chest pain [13].

Organic latex may help if you have an allergy to dust mites when the hevein protein IS present in the final mattress because the hevein protein has been shown to display anti-microbial properties [14] that may help to inhibit the dust mite’s ability to survive in the mattress, in addition to inhibiting mold growth which may help to combat breathing in allergy-inducing spores.

So just to clarify, if you have a latex allergy then you’ll want to AVOID choosing an organic mattress with natural latex that includes the hevein protein.

But if you DON’T have a latex allergy but you DO have a dust mite allergy and/or a problem with mold spores then choosing an organic mattress with latex that DOES include the hevein protein may be beneficial.

Keep in mind that less than 1% of the US population has a latex allergy [15] but always check with your doctor first if you are unsure so that you can be tested for the specific proteins that you are allergic to because you can die from anaphylaxis if you have a reaction to the latex [16].

Once you know exactly what you’re allergic to, you should ask the manufacturer if those allergens are present in the mattress.

3: Sleeps Cooler

Organic mattresses tend to sleep cooler than non-organic mattresses because they often contain organic cotton and latex.

Cotton covers tend to be breathable and encourage airflow, whilst the pinhole core of the latex layers expels the warm air inside the mattress and replaces it with cooler ambient air to help regulate your temperature as you move around during the night.

The video below visualises this process.

EB Latex Mattresses Are Breathable (European Bedding)

Semi-organic mattresses with a latex top layer and a spring core are perhaps the most breathable and cooling mattresses of all because air can flow more easily through the spring core when compared to an all-foam design.

This contrasts with all-foam memory foam mattresses which in addition to being non-organic and potentially toxic, are the worst mattresses for sleeping cool in.

This is because whilst the all-foam core impedes airflow, the memory foam in the upper comfort layers relies on absorbing your body heat so that the foam can adjust to your individual body shape – which can result in you overheating.

However, not all memory foam mattresses are bad.

Some of the better foam mattresses like the Puffy Original and the Nolah mattresses use proprietary memory foam alternatives that are more breathable and are able to better regulate your temperature through a better design that promotes heat dissipation.

4: Better for the Environment

Organic mattresses can be better for the environment when the raw materials are sourced and processed responsibly.

Since organic farming processes minimise or eliminate certain harmful chemicals, pesticides, and herbicides that can otherwise harm the environment; whilst sustainable farming practices can help to minimise the eco-footprint.

Plus the biodegradable nature of the materials used in an organic mattress makes it easier to recycle your mattress.

Below are some of the certifications that indicate that the mattress was manufactured in a more eco-friendly way.

  • Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).
  • Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS).
  • USDA – National Organic Program.
  • MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX®.
  • Cradle to Cradle.
  • The Global Recycled Standard.
  • Rainforest Alliance Certified.
  • Organic Exchange Certification.
  • Forest Stewartship Council.

5: Longer Lasting

Organic mattresses tend to last longer than non-organic mattresses because the natural materials tend to be more durable.

For example, mattresses made with a high natural latex content tend to last around 8-12 years, whilst regular spring mattresses last around 5-7 years on average.

Mattresses made from cheap poly-foams with a density value of less than 1.8 PCF are typically the least durable because the foams tend to degrade faster under repeated compression when compared to natural latex and higher density memory foams.

When choosing a mattress that contains latex, it’s important that you choose one with as little synthetic latex as possible because the fillers can lessen the quality of the latex and reduce the durability of the mattress.

6: Less Odor

Organic mattresses are less likely to smell of chemicals than non-organic mattresses.

This is because mattresses that contain poly-foams, adhesives, glues, dyes, or have fire barriers soaked in chemicals are more likely to produce the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that leads to the unpleasant ‘off-gassing’ smell when the mattress is new and can contribute to allergic reactions, skin irritation, and the other health issues discussed earlier.

Conversely, organic mattresses with a high natural latex content tend to have very little odor or emit a faint smell of vanilla.

In the case of semi-organic and non-organic mattresses, you should look for certifications that indicate that the VOC levels have been tested to meet acceptable standards and that certain toxic chemicals are absent.

The main certifications to look for include:

  • CertiPUR-US®.
  • OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100.
  • GREENGUARD.

7: Better for Kids and the Elderly

Organic mattresses can be better for sensitive individuals like children and the elderly because the lack of chemicals and VOCs means that their nervous and immune systems are less likely to be compromised by being exposed to allergens and irritants for long periods.

Drawbacks

Before you go ahead and buy an organic mattress, you’ll need to consider the following points.

1: Higher Cost

Organic mattresses cost more than non-organic mattresses and semi-organic mattresses.

You can expect to pay up to $2,000 or significantly more for a high quality queen sized organic mattress.

However, this cost could be justified based on the benefits listed in the previous section.

2: Latex and Wool Allergies

Although organic mattresses are generally better for people with allergies than mattresses made from synthetic foams and non-organic components – it’s still possible to have an allergic reaction to an organic mattress.

The two biggest issues being reactions to latex and wool – two materials that are often present in organic mattresses.

As mentioned earlier, around 1% of the population have a latex allergy which can cause potentially life threatening reactions to the proteins found in natural latex.

One way around this is to go for a mattress made from synthetic latex rather than natural latex.

However, synthetic latex is not organic and can contribute to VOC emissions – look for the CertiPUR-US®, OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100, and GREENGUARD certifications to ensure that VOCs are kept to acceptable levels and certain toxins are absent.

If you are allergic to wool then going for a vegan mattress could be the answer.

3: Green-Washing Claims

One of the most challenging things when shopping for an organic mattress is finding a manufacturer that’s telling the truth.

Because due to the lack of regulations, terms like ‘organic’, ‘natural’, ‘green’, and ‘eco-friendly’ can be used in misleading ways to coerce you into buying a mattress that doesn’t meet these definitions fully.

To combat these ‘green-washing’ claims, look for the USDA, GOLS, GOTS, and Arpico certifications to prove that the relevant components of the mattress are certified as organic.

Or if that sounds like too much work, then check out my list of the best organic mattresses to save you bunch of time and effort.

4: Less Choice

When you factor out the manufacturers that are using green-washing claims, there’s actually not that many organic mattresses to choose from.

Plus you’ll probably be forced to shop online for an organic mattress since many brick-and-mortar retailers don’t stock them.

So have a look at my list of the top organic mattresses to narrow down your search more efficiently.

Conclusion: Organic Mattresses Are Worth It

Personally, I think that it’s worth paying a bit more to buy an organic mattress.

Because organic mattresses are typically a lot better for your heath due to their lack of toxins and VOCs, are less likely to cause an allergic reaction, sleep cooler, and typically last longer than cheaper non-organic mattresses.

So if you’d rather not breathe in lung-fulls of toxic chemicals each night and want to guard against common allergies whilst making a more eco-conscious purchasing decision, then going for an organic mattress could be the right move.


Sources and References

[1] WebMD – Is Your Mattress Releasing Toxins While You Sleep? Accessed 27/6/20.

[2] EPA – Volatile Organic Compounds’ Impact on Indoor Air Quality. Accessed 27/6/20.

[3], [6] Control Union Certifications – GOLS (Global Organic Latex Standard). Accessed 27/6/20.

[4] USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) – Organic Labels Explained. Accessed 27/6/20.

[5] Arpico Latex Foam – Quality Standards. Accessed 27/6/20.

[7] Control Union – Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). Accessed 27/6/20.

[8] CertiPUR-US® – Certification. Accessed 27/6/20.

[9] OEKO-TEX® – STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX. Accessed 27/6/20.

[10] GREENGUARD – GREENGUARD Certification Program. Accessed 27/6/20.

[11] The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology – Hevein-Like Protein Domains as a Possible Cause for Allergen Cross-Reactivity Between Latex and Banana. Accessed 27/6/20.

[12], [15] Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America – Latex Allergy. Accessed 27/6/20.

[13] Healthline – Polyester Allergy. Accessed 27/6/20.

[14] PubMed – Antimicrobial Activity of a Protein Purified From the Latex of Hevea Brasiliensis on Oral Microorganisms. Accessed 27/6/20.

[16] Mayo Clinic – Latex Allergy. Accessed 27/6/20.

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