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The Hippie’s Guide to Buying a Mattress (Non-toxic, Organic, Natural)

non toxic mattress organic mattress

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Some things in life are harder than you’d think at first glance. Puppies are one example. Shopping for a non-toxic mattress is most certainly another.

Some mattress buyers nerd out over edge support, breathability, and firmness. I definitely care about comfort, but after reading about all the toxins that find their way into our mattresses, I care more about the materials that go into making my mattress.

This is a “scratch my own itch” post to the extreme. After realizing that that “new mattress smell” I used to love is really just petroleum laden memory foam off-gassing bad stuff into my bedroom, and potentially my bloodstream, I went on a nerd quest to find the best non-toxic mattresses on the market for 2020.

Before we get into the winning mattress, as well as other options at different price points, a word on the importance of certifications. The police aren’t tasked with testing the materials in mattresses to make sure they are nontoxic and natural. The flame retardants, petroleum based foam, glues and plastics that make their way into mattresses are just part of the business. These common synthetic materials are cheap and help big players protect their margins, so the only way (absent sending foam samples to Duke University for testing) to know what is in your mattress is to rely on certifying bodies. Private certifications are the best way to do due diligence on brands to see whether they are paying attention to the quality of how they build their mattress (or other textile product).

Important mattress certifications

There are a lot of certifications to look at, but the 4 most important to mattresses in my view are:

  1. GOTS – setting the standard for organic, clean textiles
  2. GOLS – setting standard for organic, clean latex products
  3. Greenguard Gold – guarantees very high standards on emissions and lack of harmful substances
  4. Oeko-Tex – heightened testing for harmful substances, sustainable manufacturing

For a full rundown on mattress certifications, see this post.

Best Materials for natural mattresses

In addition to the big certifications, another common sense way to find high quality, nontoxic mattresses is to simply look at the materials the mattress is made from / with. Borrowing from this post on our sister site, LeafScore, we like the following materials for mattresses:

  1. Kapok
  2. Organic wool (GOTS certified)
  3. Organic cotton (GOTS certified)
  4. Natural latex (GOLS certified)
  5. Hemp

Organic mattresses comparison

BrandProduct linkMetalCertificationsPrimary Ingredients
EssentiaView ProductNGOTS, GOLSOrganic; organic latex, natural memory foam (made from Hevea milk mixture)
PlushBedsView ProductNGOTS, GOLSOrganic; natural latex, organic New Zealand wool
Avocado Green MattressView ProductYGOTSOrganic; natural latex, steel coils
MyGreenMattressView on AmazonYGOTS, GOLSOrganic; natural latex, eco-wool, organic cotton, metal coils
Loom and LeafView ProductNCertiPUR-USSynthetic; "bio-foam" (made from soy and corn plus petroleum), organic cotton
SaatvaView ProductYCertiPUR-USSynthetic; natural thistle barrier, recycled steel, organic cotton
Tuft and NeedleView on AmazonNCertiPUR-US, Oeko-TexSynthetic; petroleum-based foam, proprietary adaptive foam

Our Top Picks for Organic Mattresses

PlushBeds Botanical Bliss (Overall Winner)

Synthetic Materials: None

Primary Materials: Organic Cotton, Organic Latex, Organic Wool

Biggest Selling Point: Top of the line materials at an affordable price point

Mattress Type: Plant Based Foam

To cut straight to the chase, I ended up choosing the PlushBed Botanical Bliss Organic Mattress (View on PlushBeds).

If you decide to buy a PlushBeds mattress, use coupon code GENE50 for an extra $50 off your purchase.

The Botanical Bliss is a 100% organic mattress, made with all natural materials, but at half the cost of luxury brands like Essentia. Yet, despite the cost savings, PlushBeds boasts all the same green bells and whistles that any top of the line organic mattress offers. PlushBeds offers 100% organic latex as well as GreenGuard Gold certification, which fewer than 1% of products receive. PlushBeds uses zero chemical flame retardants, opting for all organic New Zealand wool instead. I sleep on this mattress every night and am more than happy with the comfort as well. If there was one downside, part of the reason PlushBeds can offer the Botanical Bliss at the price point they can is that the mattress requires some assembly. When you receive the order, the organic cotton / wool cover, and the organic latex that goes inside that cover, come in separate boxes. From there, you will need to recruit a friend to put the mattress together. It’s an easy process that ultimately saves you somewhere between $2,000 and $4,000 dollars.

The PlushBeds representative I spoke with told us they are the largest importer of organic latex in the U.S., which allows them a superior quality control to other brands. She also touted purchasing directly from the manufacturer and cutting out the middle man — if PlushBeds were sold in stores, they’d easily be at least 50% more in price.

Another cool feature, she says, is mattresses are custom made. Mattresses are made to fit your body type and sleeping pattern after you order, so they also aren’t sitting around in a warehouse somewhere waiting to be purchased (an added benefit for those concerned with mold in mattresses). There are 100-night money-back guarantees on any PlushBeds mattress, plus a 25-year warranty.

Essentia (Luxury organic)

Synthetic Materials: None

Primary Materials: Organic Cotton, Organic Latex, Organic Wool

Biggest Selling Point: Luxury

Mattress Type: Plant Based Foam

Essentia (View on Essentia’s website) is another great option. Like Plushbeds, which is our top overall choice, Essentia uses organic latex, sourced from rubber trees in Indonesia. Our focus here is mainly materials, but Essentia wins high marks for comfort and quality as well. Here is what they have to say on their website about material sourcing:

Essentia’s patented natural memory foam starts with Hevea milk that is mixed with other essential natural and organic ingredients that once combined help to achieve the distinctive feel and properties found only in Essentia.

Part of the “other essential natural and organic ingredients” is an organic cotton sleeve that wraps around the mattress to keep the foam in place. Essentia also boasts a ton of certifications, including GOTS, GOLS and my favorite GreenGuard Gold.

Buy an Essentia mattress

This is a great product, known for both nontoxic materials and comfort, that is 100% organic. However, at between $4,000 and 8,000 for a King, Essentia won’t be in the budget for most households, which is why we recommend Plushbeds at the ultimate winner below. In fact, when I stopped in to the Santa Monica Essentia showroom, the sales representative conceded that from an eco-friendly standpoint, there is virtually no difference between the materials in a PlushBed Botanical Bliss and the materials in an Essentia mattress, what you’re really looking at are differences in comfort, and after laying on a few Essentia models this afternoon, I can say that I find the PlushBed equally as comfortable. This is not a knock on Essentia, they are a great company, however, my favorite mattress in the showroom would have run almost $8,000 with taxes. I bought my PlushBeds Botanical Bliss mattress for about $1,800. Not a hard decision.

Avocado Green Mattress (Vegan friendly)

Synthetic Materials: None

Primary Materials: Organic Cotton, Organic Latex, Organic Wool

Biggest Selling Point: 100% organic and Vegan options

Mattress Type: Metal Spring

Avocado Green Mattress is another company to consider for your all-natural bedroom. Organic cotton, organic latex, organic wool and a ton of eco-certifications. Mattresses are made to order in California and come in a convenient box (similar to the Casper and Leesa model, but greener).

One of the additional selling points here is that Avocado Mattress makes an all Vegan line of mattresses. This is much appreciated by the Vegans on our team at Gene Food and our sister site, LeafScore.com, because the top organic green brands, like PlushBeds, often use wool covers which makes them a no-go for Vegans.

However, if you want the wool as a flame retardant, there is no obligation your mattress be Vegan. Avocado also boasts GreenGuard Gold certification as does PlushBeds.

MyGreenMattress (Good Budget Option)

Synthetic Materials: None

Primary Materials: Organic Cotton, Organic Latex, Organic Wool

Biggest Selling Point: 100% organic mattress at a lower price point

Mattress Type: Metal Spring and Foam

My Green Mattress is an affordable, organic foam option that boasts GOTS certified wool and cotton as well as GOLS certified latex.

The mattresses are made to order in the USA and give shoppers the option of both foam and spring mattresses. My Green Mattress is at the same price point as Casper and Leesa, so it would seem this product is a good alternative to both of those options as they use synthetic foams with very few eco-certifications. Having said that, this line is not my first choice. There are a number of rumblings on Amazon about mattresses being delivered that have a moldy smell.

Loom and Leaf (Hybrid)

Synthetic Materials: Petroleum based bio-foam mix

Primary Materials: Organic Cotton, Bio-foam mixture of corn/ soy/ synthetics

Biggest Selling Point: Greener option than Casper, Leesa, Tuft and Needle at similar price point

Mattress Type: Synthetic foam

Loom and Leaf is Saatva’s memory foam line of mattresses (no metal), which I recommend for a few reasons. First, they’re using a “bio-foam” made from soy and corn in addition to petroleum. Loom and Leaf reps claim this reduces gassing issues associated with traditional memory foam. They add: “Most memory foam mattresses, you get that offensive smell, you have to air it out a few days — we allow our foam to settle in the factories. It’s ready for immediate use as soon as you get it.”

Buy a Loom and Leaf mattress

Another selling point is Loom and Leaf’s 100% organic cotton cover. Yes, you have synthetic memory foam and some gel underneath, but you’re encasing those materials with real, organic cotton, which I like. It’s hypoallergenic, antimicrobial, and antifungal. “It really is a healthier sleep,” the Loom and Leaf rep says, “a healthier mattress.”

So, from a materials standpoint, you have upgraded memory foam combined with an organic cover and a price tag similar to that of a Casper or Leesa, both of which are 100% synthetic and that offer only CertiPUR-US foam as their only eco-friendly selling point.

In my view, Loom and Leaf is a clear winner over Casper, Leesa, and a tie with Tuft and Needle, with the main variable being cost. At about $1,500 for a King, Loom and Leaf is more expensive than any of the other “Big Three,” but as we will see, the truly price-sensitive hippies can go lower than a Casper or Leesa — and still get a great mattress.

Popular Synthetic Mattresses

In this category, you have three big players:

  1. Tuft and Needle
  2. Casper
  3. Leesa

Because these mattresses all use petroleum based memory foam, they don’t fit with the other mattresses listed in this post which are organic and use natural materials.

Despite some checkered reviews on Amazon, My Green Mattress probably beats all these products based on its materials and certifications.

However, if you are trying to decide whether Leesa, Casper or Tuft and Needle is more eco-friendly, we opt for Tuft and Needle based on its greater commitment to the certification process.

Tuft and Needle carries Oeko-Tex and Certi-PUR certifications. It’s exterior cover is Oeko-Tex certified, whereas Casper and Leesa mattresses carry only Certi-PUR certification, which is not one of the certifications we are all that impressed by, even though it’s better than nothing. Certi-PUR certification is the bare minimum, Tuft and Needle goes a step further at a slightly lower price point.

John O'Connor

John O'Connor is the founder of Gene Food, host of the Gene Food Podcast and a health coach trained at Duke's Integrative Medicine Program. Read his full bio here.

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