What is a Vegan Mattress? (Buying Guide)

As a vegan, you already know that veganism goes beyond just a plant based diet.

Because a truly vegan lifestyle looks to exclude as many elements related to the exploitation of animals for food, clothing, products, entertainment, or any other purpose as far as is practically possible.

In which case you may have started to wonder if your current mattress is vegan or not.

So what exactly is a vegan mattress?

A vegan mattress is made without animal-derived materials or materials that have touched animal products during manufacturing. Organic cotton and organic latex are vegan, and whilst poly-foam and memory foam could be considered vegan – they are not natural and can release toxic chemicals.

However, finding a true vegan mattress can be quite difficult.

Mainly due to the deceptive marketing and ambiguous labelling employed by some mattress manufacturers that’s designed to coerce you into buying without giving you the full picture.

However, even though some synthetic materials like poly-foam, memory foam, and synthetic latex could technically be labelled as ‘vegan’ since they aren’t derived from animals – they might not be the most healthy option for you because they’re not natural.

So in this vegan mattress buying guide, I’m going to walk you through the process of successfully identifying a vegan mattress that’s both free from animal products AND is better for your health.

Related: are organic mattresses worth the money?

What Makes a Mattress Vegan?

A true vegan mattress that’s beneficial for both the environment and your health is a mattress that’s free from animal products, didn’t come into contact with any animal products during the manufacturing process, and is also free from synthetic materials and toxic chemicals.

Here’s a more detailed explanation of what makes a mattress vegan:

1: No Animal Products

A mattress cannot be vegan if it is made from materials derived from animals.

The table below lists some of the most common materials found in mattresses currently on the market and if they are vegan or not.

Some of the materials listed can be natural, but you should also be aware that in some cases, synthetic alternatives or blends are available – which may mean that they are still vegan by the traditional definition, but may not be as good for your health due to toxic chemicals or synthetic fillers.

However in some instances, the inclusion of chemical fillers will likely have little negative impact on your health.

For example, whilst you might think that organic latex is natural, when the latex is present in a mattress, it contains a minimum of around 3-5% of chemical fillers.

This trace amount of chemical filler is unlikely to harm your health and without these fillers, the latex would be a runny mess and wouldn’t be able to take the solid form of a mattress.

However, synthetic latex mattresses (or synthetic blends) with a high content of synthetic styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) may be toxic due to the release of VOC (volatile organic compounds) [1].

I’ll talk more about latex in the upcoming sections.

Organic cottonYesYes
Organic latexPartialYes
Bamboo rayonPartialYes
Eucalyptus rayonPartialYes
Linen (flax)YesYes

2: No Toxic Chemicals

Some synthetic materials like polyester are considered vegan [2].

This means that some mattress manufacturers can get away with labelling their mattresses as vegan when they are made entirely out of memory foam and poly-foam variants.

The problem with this is that even though these materials aren’t made from animals, they can contain petrochemicals, chemical flame retardants, and other compounds that can contribute to a phenomenon called ‘off gassing’ – were potentially toxic VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are released into your sleeping space [3].

As the Environmental Protection Agency points out, the concentration of VOCs can be up to 10 times higher indoors, and inhaling these compounds can result in airway irritation, headaches, and fatigue; along with damage to the liver, kidney, and nervous system [4].

The video below goes into more detail in regards to the kind of toxins that you may find in your mattress and how off-gassing works.

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

The best way to avoid such issues is to look for an organic mattress that’s made mostly from natural materials and minimises chemical processing during manufacturing.

However, not all poly-foam and memory foam mattresses are bad.

If you want to buy a vegan mattress that’s only semi-organic or non-organic to keep costs down, then you should look for the following certifications to ensure that VOCs have been tested to meet acceptable levels and the finished product is free from the most harmful toxic chemicals like PBDEs and formaldehyde:

  • OEKO-TEX Standard 100 – ensures that the entire product has been labelled as ‘harmless in human ecological terms’ [5].
  • CertiPUR-US – indicates that the poly-foams used in the mattress do not contain certain harmful substances like formaldehyde and has minimal VOCs [6].
  • GREENGUARD and GREENGUARD Gold – these certifications mean that the mattress has been tested and has met strict guidelines for chemical emissions [7].

3: Lack of Contact With Animal Products

Even if a mattress is vegan – it’s possible that the vegan components came into contact with non-vegan materials during the manufacturing process.

Trying to find out if a mattress has been produced in a factory where there are no animal products present and that the components had no contact with non-vegan materials is admittedly very difficult to achieve.

If you want to make sure that your mattress is as close to being vegan as possible, your best course of action would be to contact the manufacturer directly and ask them about their manufacturing process in such regards.

But don’t be surprised if they are vague or somewhat evasive in their answers.

How to Find a Vegan Mattress in 4 Steps

Here’s the 4 step process that I recommend for finding a vegan mattress that’s also healthy for you.

1: Certified as Vegan and Organic

A mattress is vegan if it has been certified by Vegan Action (the Vegan Awareness Foundation) [8].

You can also look out for the ‘PETA Approved Vegan’ logo [9].

However, mattresses that are made from non-organic materials like petroleum can still be certified as vegan in some cases.

So if you want to make sure that you’re sleeping on a mattress that’s both vegan and healthy for you, then you need to find a vegan mattress that’s also organic (since an organic mattress alone is no sure indication that it’s also vegan).

Unfortunately, there’s no single certification that clearly indicates that a mattress is organic.

Instead, you need to look for a combination of certifications that confirm that certain components of the mattress are organic (or as organic as is practically possible).

There are many such certifications, but the ones that hold the most weight are as follows.

USDA Organic95% certified organic ingredients [10].
Arpico Certified Organic LatexAggregate including several certifications such as Oeko-Tex 100 Class 1, LGA, SATRA, ECO Institute, ISPA, and SSA [11].
Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS)Contains 95% of certified organic raw material [12].
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)Made from a minimum of 70% certified organic natural fibres [13].

2: Plant-Based Cover and Filling

When it comes to choosing the actual materials for your mattress, the first thing to consider is the cover and the surrounding fibers that are used as fillers and layers.

GOTS certified organic cotton is likely the best type of cover because this material is soft and breathable, whilst the certification ensures that the growing and harvesting of the cotton was done in a more environmentally friendly way when compared to the harvesting of regular cotton – which is typically a very wasteful process and uses many pesticides.

It’s also a good idea to look for a cover that can be zipped off and machine washed – which makes it much easier to clean your mattress cover.

Beyond the cover, you need to pay close attention to the filling and barrier layers because it’s here that many organic mattresses contain wool.

Vegan alternatives can include 100% GOTS certified organic batting, coconut fibers, palm fiber, hemp, and others.

3: Certified Organic Latex Layers

When it comes to choosing the layers for a vegan mattress your options are either synthetic materials or natural latex.

And since synthetic materials carry the risk of off-gassing, your best option is natural latex.

However, identifying a mattress that’s genuinely made from natural latex can be quite difficult because manufacturers usually blend synthetic latex with the natural latex to help keep their costs down.

The problem with this is that synthetic latex can contain chemicals like styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) which can release VOCs too.

So you need to look for natural latex that has been Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) certified because this ensures that the product has been made with at least 95% organic materials.

Interestingly, it’s actually impossible to find a mattress that’s made from latex that’s 100% natural – 95% to 97% is the most amount of natural latex that a mattress can contain.

This is because you can’t turn the rubber sap into foam without the use of curing agents during the vulcanization process.

These small amounts of trace chemicals are unlikely to cause negative health effects in such low quantities.

A very small number of people (less than 1% in the US) have an allergy to natural latex.

If this describes you, then take a look at my list of the best hypoallergenic and anti-allergy mattresses – where you’ll find that the Beausommet from Essentia is made from latex that doesn’t contain the proteins that typically trigger latex allergies.

4: Wool and Chemical Free Fire Barrier

The last step is to check that the fire barrier is made from a vegan substance like thistle or other plant based materials.

Because many organic mattresses will often use wool as part of their fire barrier to meet federal flammability standards.

You should avoid mattresses that use hazardous chemicals like boric acid, antimony, decabromodiphenyl oxide, or PBDEs.

Similarly, you should avoid mattresses that contain fiberglass in the fire barrier because some people have found that upon unzipping their mattress cover, their room was flooded with particles that caused allergic reactions (see the video below for a real life example).

Family Forced to Leave Home Over Fiberglass Mattress Cover (azfamily)

Vegan Mattress FAQs

Here are the answers to some common questions related to vegan mattresses.

What’s the Difference Between Vegan and Organic Mattresses?

A vegan mattress is made from non-animal based products – which could include synthetic materials, whilst an organic mattress doesn’t contain (or minimises) synthetic materials but may contain non-vegan materials like wool (in reality, many organic mattresses are semi-organic and contain materials like steel for the springs).

Is Memory Foam Vegan?

Memory foam is technically vegan because it doesn’t contain any animal products. However, memory foam isn’t organic and may include chemicals that may produce toxic off-gassing of VOCs – look for the OEKO-TEX®, CertiPUR-US®, and GREENGUARD certifications to ensure that VOCs are kept to an acceptable level and that certain toxic chemicals like formaldehyde and PBDEs are absent.

True Vegan Mattresses Are Rare

Finding a truly vegan mattress that’s also organic, absent from synthetic foams, and is therefore better for your health is quite a challenge.

Here’s a summary of what you need to look out for:

  • Certified as vegan by Vegan Action or has the PETA Approved Vegan logo.
  • Has several organic certifications like USDA Organic, GOLS, and GOTS.
  • Absence of hidden animal products like wool.
  • Organic materials only – no synthetic materials like poly-foams.
  • The cover and filling is made from GOTS certified organic cotton or other plant based fibers.
  • The layers are made from GOLS certified organic latex.
  • The fire barrier is made from plant based materials like thistle – no fiberglass, PBDEs, or toxic chemicals.

Sources and References

[1] EWG – Healthy Home Guide: Healthiest Mattresses. Accessed 30/6/20.

[2] The Compassionate Closet – Cruelty-Free Fabric Guide. Accessed 30/6/20.

[3] WebMD – Is Your Mattress Releasing Toxins While You Sleep? Accessed 30/6/20.

[4] EPA – Volatile Organic Compounds’ Impact on Indoor Air Quality. Accessed 30/6/20.

[5] OEKO-TEX® – STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX. Accessed 30/6/20.

[6] CertiPUR-US® – Certification. Accessed 30/6/20.

[7] GREENGUARD – GREENGUARD Certification Program. Accessed 30/6/20.

[8] Vegan.org – Certification. Accessed 30/6/20.

[9] PETA – ‘PETA-Approved Vegan’ Logo. Accessed 30/6/20.

[10] USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) – Organic Labels Explained. Accessed 30/6/20.

[11] Arpico Latex Foam – Quality Standards. Accessed 30/6/20.

[12] Control Union Certifications – GOLS (Global Organic Latex Standard). Accessed 30/6/20.

[13] Control Union – Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). Accessed 30/6/20.

Image Attribution and Licencing

Main mage: ‘Young Couple’s Bedroom’ by Katarzyna Bialasiewicz (Getty Images) – used with permission under the terms of Canva’s One Design Use License Agreement.