Is Your Mattress Toxic? Here’s How to Find Out
Warning: Toxic chemicals may be lurking in your bed. Find out if you’re inadvertently putting yourself in danger every night—and learn which non-toxic mattresses are a safer option.
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What makes a mattress toxic?
You may think a mattress is a mattress, right? But if you’re buying a new mattress you should know that many mattresses are hiding a dark secret. Certain sleep surfaces are actually made with chemical components that could make you sick.
“Most mattresses typically contain polyurethane foam, which is made from petroleum chemicals,” explains Tasha Stoiber, PhD, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG). “This foam can off-gas, or emit, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are harmful to health and have been linked to respiratory irritation and nervous system harm.”
This is a particular concern in baby mattresses, notes Avinash Kar, a senior attorney and director of state health policy for the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which is why you’ll definitely want to seek out a non-toxic mattress for babies and kids. “Testing by the Getting Ready for Baby campaign shows the presence of several chemicals of concern in a number of mattresses tested, including toxic flame-retardant chemicals,” he says. “Flame-retardant chemicals are associated with adverse health effects ranging from cancer and reproductive harm to learning disabilities and interference with the normal operation of hormones, and children are especially vulnerable because they are still developing.” Since infants spend more time napping and sleeping, they’re around these harmful chemicals for longer periods, though these chemicals pose a risk to anyone who’s near them.
Note: Prices listed were accurate as of press time and reflect the cost for a queen-size mattress; pricing fluctuations may occur.
How do you know if your mattress is toxic?
Several states have banned flame-retardant chemicals in upholstered furniture, mattress foam, children’s mattresses, and other children’s products, but there are plenty of toxic mattresses still on the market. Common mattress components—including polyurethane foam, polyethylene foam, and the ever-popular memory foam—can all emit VOCs, which can be problematic.
Although a 2014 California law requires that most upholstered furniture carry a label disclosing whether it is made with flame-retardant chemicals, the requirement doesn’t extend to mattresses, unfortunately. Many products, including mattresses, may include warnings about the presence of carcinogens or chemicals that can cause reproductive harm, but not all manufacturers disclose this important information.
“The absence of warnings does not mean that the product does not contain chemicals of concern,” Kar explains. “Concerned consumers should follow up with the brands they are considering and ask them if the products contain any of the chemicals they are concerned about.” Did you know that these other things you touch every day might also be toxic?
The problem with “all-natural” mattresses
All-natural can be a misleading term because there’s no universal definition of this umbrella claim, Stoiber says. To determine if the mattress you’re considering is a safe option, you’ll need to dig deeper. The EWG suggests seeking out the following qualities:
Made with at least 95 percent organic cotton, wool, or natural latex
Certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) or Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS)
No added flame-retardant chemicals
For memory foam or polyurethane, certified low-VOC by an independent certification group such as Oeko-Tex Standard 100 or Greenguard Gold
No scents or chemical antimicrobial treatments
No glue or only water-based glue used in the construction
The benefits of sleeping on a natural, non-toxic mattress
While you might not notice the impact of sleeping on a toxic mattress immediately, the potential health consequences can be detrimental over time. “Many of the effects of toxic chemicals are long term, and unless the chemical causes acute reactions or allergies, you may not see immediate symptoms,” Kar says. “However, exposure to chemicals of concern that have been found in mattresses are associated with a range of adverse health effects, and greater exposure increases the chances of those health effects showing up later in life.”
And your choice of a non-toxic mattress doesn’t just benefit you. Purchasing one helps workers all along the supply chain avoid exposure to the chemicals, for starters. What’s more, toxic chemicals don’t end up in the environment and put people and wildlife further at risk when the products are discarded, Kar adds. Since most mattresses don’t easily biodegrade, they will continue to emit all of the chemicals mentioned above as they sit in a landfill.
The safest mattresses you can buy
“I would only purchase from a company that is transparent about the materials they use in and on their mattress,” Stoiber says. But with thousands of mattresses on the market, it can be a challenge to figure out which companies those are and which mattress is the right fit for you overall. After all, there’s more to consider when buying a mattress than just what it’s made out of—you also want it to be comfortable!
Lucky for you, we’ve done the hard work of sorting through the options to narrow them down to the best of the best for every type of sleeper. The following 17 non-toxic mattresses are honest about how they’re made and will help you rest easy. Buying your just-right mattress is one way to make your bed 10 times cozier.
Best non-toxic mattress for couples: The DreamCloud Luxury Hybrid Mattress
Constructed with a mix of coils and foam, this hybrid mattress will keep couples with different mattress preferences happy. The targeted support coils will adapt to the shape of each individual’s body, promising personalized relief on any pain points. As a bonus, the cashmere topper is super plush and comfy. In terms of toxicity, you’re in the clear. The gel foam meets CertiPUR-US standards for content, emissions, and durability, and all DreamCloud mattresses are free of ozone-depleting compounds and flame retardants, as well as low in VOCs. Just make sure you don’t have these colors in your bedroom if you want a good night’s sleep.
Best non-toxic mattress for hot sleepers: Zoma Mattress
A cooling gel memory foam core and wicking material make this mattress a dream for those who tend to run hot while sleeping. It’s also beloved by athletes, since it has targeted three-zone support to ease pressure on often-achy body parts. Plus, this U.S.-made bed exceeds Clean Air Act standards and is CertiPUR-US certified, low in VOCs, and free of harmful chemicals. Next, find the best weighted blankets for toasty sleepers, travelers, kids, and more. (Yes, they exist!)
Best non-toxic mattress for do-gooders: Tuft & Needle Original Mattress
A graphite and ceramic gel component makes this mattress cooling, while breathable foam makes it comfy. Don’t love it? Returns are donated to charities such as housing programs for low-income individuals. This model has earned UL GREENGUARD GOLD certification to prove it meets the lowest emission standards and Intertek’s Clean Air Certification, and it’s also passed CertiPUR-US testing.
Best non-toxic mattress for toss-and-turn types: The Nectar Memory Foam Mattress
Voted the best overall mattress of 2020 by USA Today, this back-pain-friendly mattress ships efficiently inside a small box to reduce carbon emissions. It also meets CertiPUR-US standards for emissions and is tested by independent labs for durability and safety. Simply unroll it and set it on your bed frame, and it will be ready to sleep on within 24 hours.
Best non-toxic vegan mattress: Avocado Vegan Mattress
Many organic mattresses are made with wool, but not this certified organic cotton and latex hybrid mattress. This non-toxic mattress is so animal-friendly that it’s actually PETA-approved. It also meets all federal flammability standards. And did we mention that it’s super comfy? Great for back and stomach sleepers, as well as tall side sleepers, the Avocado boasts 1,414 individually tuned, tempered steel coils, artfully arranged in five ergonomic zones. One of our editors upgraded to a non-toxic mattress for better health. Read her Avocado Green mattress review.
Best non-toxic mattress that gives back: Awara Organic Luxury Hybrid Mattress
Buy this bed and plant 10 trees in the process! Don’t worry—you won’t have to do any of the hard work. Just order this fabulous plush-top, non-toxic mattress and Awara will get the tree-planting part sorted out through its partnership with Trees.org. And that’s not where the benefits stop. This hybrid sleeper boasts Rainforest Alliance and CertiPUR-US certifications and is free of lead, mercury, ozone depleters, and flame retardants. Plus, it’s really comfortable, with a breathable topper made of New Zealand wool, four inches of cooling natural Dunlop latex foam, and nine inches of contouring support from pocketed coils. Don’t miss these other great products that give back.
Best non-toxic children’s mattress: Naturepedic Chorus Organic Mattress
Parents rave about the Chorus as a stellar transition after a crib because it’s non-toxic and safe. Plus, it comes in a wide variety of sizes, from twin to California king. (Adults love it too.) Some organic mattresses are made with glues in their coils, but Naturepedics are made with absolutely no glues or adhesives. As a result, they’re UL/GREENGUARD certified, MADE SAFE certified non-toxic, and guaranteed to be formaldehyde-free. They’re also free of vapors, gases, and other components that might harm health. Find out the 14 surprising bedroom items you should have replaced by now—in your child’s bedroom and your own.
Best non-toxic mattress for stability: Eco Terra Hybrid Latex Mattress
Organic wool, organic cotton, and 100 percent natural latex make up this hybrid mattress. Also of note: It’s OEKO-TEX Standard 100-certified, GOTS organic, and OEKO-TEX certified. That’s a lot of technical jargon that basically means it’s non-toxic and as safe as they come. It also sleeps cool and distributes weight in a genius way that ensures one fussy sleeper won’t wake another.
Best non-toxic mattress for people with allergies: Under the Canopy Hybrid Organic Latex Mattress
Naturally hypoallergenic, this plant-based hybrid mattress features recycled steel coils, an organic latex layer, and an organic cotton and Joma wool pad. The quartz sand and silica exterior is both flame-resistant and allergy-friendly. While the organic latex itself is hypoallergenic, you can add on an organic allergen-barrier mattress cover, if desired, for extra protection. Reviewers also rave about its comfort, support, and breathability. If you suffer from allergies, you might also want to look into buying one of the best air purifiers on the market.
Best non-toxic pillow-top mattress: Brentwood Home Oceano Luxury Hybrid Mattress
Built nine layers strong, this pillow-top mattress features CertiPUR-US certified cooling gel memory foam with BioFoam, silk fibers, GOTS organic certified cotton and wool, and sustainably sourced plant-based Tencel fibers from eucalyptus trees. It’s free of flame-retardants, too. One fan raves, “Not too soft, not too hard. I never feel [my partner] moving around at night. I don’t sweat at night anymore either. This mattress is AMAZING.”
Best non-toxic mattress for side sleepers: Bear Pro Mattress
This mattress is responsive and absorbs motion, so you can flip from side to side without potentially disturbing your partner. It’s also made with a copper-infused foam cover that’s naturally antiviral and antibacterial, plus a core made with CertiPUR-US certified foams (free of heavy metals, ozone depleters, or formaldehyde) that will combat the sweaty sleeps. In case you were wondering, this is what your sleeping position says about your personality.
Biggest fan favorite: Birch Living Natural Organic Mattress
With more than 1,000 five-star reviews on BirchLiving.com, this mattress is home-sleeper tested and approved. “I feel like I’m sleeping in a fancy hotel bed…every single night! I fall asleep much faster now because it’s so comfortable,” one fan says. “I also love that it’s made of sustainable materials.” Its birch cover is constructed with organic cotton that’s GOTS certified; it’s free of polyurethane-based foams, plastics, and harsh chemicals; and it’s built on a base of naturally fire-retardant wool. The natural Talalay latex filling is built with OEKO-TEX, eco-INSTITUT, and Rainforest Alliance certified materials to reduce stress. Put some organic cotton sheets on it to really get a great night’s sleep.
Most durable non-toxic mattress: PlushBeds Botanical Bliss Organic Latex Mattress
Plush is right: Each mattress features about 10 pounds of organic New Zealand wool (about three times as much as the typical non-toxic mattress) for ample support and breathability. It’s made with zero chemicals and all organic materials, including GOLS certified organic latex and GOTS certified organic cotton and wool. Guaranteed to last a whopping 25-plus years, this firm latex mattress is about as hypoallergenic as they come. Speaking of amazing deals, these 30 Amazon products have lifetime warranties.
Best non-toxic mattress for people with back pain: Luma Mattress
If you’re looking for the best mattress for back pain, look no further than the Luma mattress. You’ll find only 100 percent natural products—including Talalay latex derived from tree sap—in this chemical-free, OEKO-TEX and eco-INSTITUT tested mattress. Choose from an 11-inch-thick pocket coil or foam support system to cradle every angle of your back and spine. Ahhh…
Best non-toxic mattress that comes with full-service setup: Saatva Zenhaven
Each side of this sustainably sourced natural latex, organic cotton, and New Zealand wool mattress offers a different “comfort option” and support level. It comes with free white-glove delivery, so you can relax as the staff delivers and sets up your new mattress—and takes away your old one. All Saatva mattresses meet the OEKO-TEX Standard 100 criteria, and the wool in this model offers a naturally flame-retardant barrier, rather than one created by chemical sprays. By the way, here’s how to clean a mattress—and how often you should.
Best non-toxic coil-spring mattress: Happsy Organic Mattress
With ample coil-spring support (for a bit more bounce than foam) and an optional foam pillow top, this plush mattress is cloud-like. It’s also certified organic and assembled with no harmful adhesives, and all of the materials are sustainably harvested and environmentally friendly. This organic cotton, wool, and latex mattress meets all GOTS limits too. Of course, there’s more to the perfect bed than the right mattress. Here’s how often you should be washing your bedsheets and why it’s important.
Best non-toxic mattress for people with hip pain: WinkBeds The EcoCloud
Reviewers rave about this easy-conforming, even-pressure-distributing, and springy natural latex mattress as a boon for achey hips and backs. WinkBeds promises that the Talalay latex is naturally antimicrobial, hypoallergenic, and dust-mite resistant, and all parts are certified by OEKO-TEX Class 1, GOTS, and the Rainforest Alliance. Next, check out the sleep products Amazon shoppers can’t stop buying.
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- Tasha Stoiber, PhD, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group
- Avinash Kar, a senior attorney and director of state health policy for the National Resources Defense Council
- The National Sleep Foundation: “Best Organic Mattresses”
- Environmental Working Group: “Healthy Home Guide: Mattresses”
- Environmental Working Group: “California Makes it Law: Label Toxic Flame Retardants in Furniture”