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Your Guide To Buying A Nontoxic Mattress: Best Materials, Labels + Brands

Emma Loewe
Author:
Updated on January 11, 2023
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
By Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us."
Image by mbg creative
Last updated on January 11, 2023
Our editors have independently chosen the products listed on this page. If you purchase something mentioned in this article, we may earn a small commission.

We're living in a heyday of mattresses, with hundreds of brands vying for our attention both in stores and online. In addition to claims of comfort and support, many mattresses are now marketed as 'non-toxic'—but what does that really mean, and is it important?

We spoke with Charlotte Vallaeys, a Consumer Reports senior policy analyst, and Tasha Stoiber, Ph.D., a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, to break down exactly what you need to know about low-toxicity mattresses. These two experts spend their days researching how the materials in our homes impact our health.

Below, learn more about materials to look for (and to avoid) in a mattress, which labels you can trust, and which brands are doing it right. Plus, find our picks for the best non-toxic mattresses of 2023.

Mattress materials to avoid & what to look for instead.

Avoid: polyurethane foam

Stoiber, an EWG senior scientist and co-author of the group's Healthy Living Home Guide, cautions against mattresses made from polyurethane foam for health and environmental reasons.

"The majority of mattresses on the market are made from polyurethane foam based on petroleum chemicals, so it can off-gas volatile organic compounds, which can cause respiratory irritation, skin irritation, etc.," she tells mbg.

Though more research still needs to be done, one study found that babies are particularly susceptible to these chemicals, and their cribs may be the source of up to 30 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that range the gamut from phenols (often used as antiseptics) to formaldehyde (a potential carcinogen found in glues and adhesives).

Even if you don't have a child, it's probably best to avoid these chemicals where you can, especially with something you use as often as a mattress.

Look for: 100% natural latex foam

Instead of synthetic polyurethane, look for mattresses made from natural materials like latex, wool, and cotton. The EWG's top choice is 100% natural latex foam, which is extracted from rubber trees and isn't treated with as many chemicals as polyurethane during manufacturing.

These days, the rise of direct-to-consumer models have made natural latex (a historically pricey option) slightly more affordable, but you need to ask a few questions to ensure you're getting the most bang for your buck.

"You have to be careful because some brands might say it's a latex mattress, but really it is made from synthetic latex. Or, only the top inch is latex and it has polyurethane underneath, so you need to find out the composition of the mattress and know what each layer is made of," Stoiber cautions.

The best nontoxic mattress certifications.

After researching 12 mattress labels to verify or dispel their health and sustainability claims, Vallaeys and Consumer Reports found mixed results: "There's a lot of variability when it comes to what the labels address," Vallaeys explains.

"Some of them address just one thing while others will address everything from the farms that grow the mattress materials to the factories where the mattress is made to the likelihood that a mattress will off-gas once you start using it."

Some of the more comprehensive, holistic labels are Oeko-Tex Standard 100 and Greenguard Gold, which set strict limits on VOCs, flame retardants, and dyes.

The winners, though, are the GOTS and GOLS labels, which signify 95-plus% certified organic textiles and latex, respectively. Mattresses with these labels also have a substantial list of banned substances and were made in a way that champions the environment.

"GOTS and GOLS were very comprehensive, all the way from the farm to the final product," Vallaeys says, and Stoiber echoed that the labels holds the most weight.

Our picks for the best non-toxic mattress brands of 2023:

Best for back and stomach sleepers: Birch Natural Mattress

Pros:

  • Organic, natural materials
  • Temperature regulating

Cons:

  • Too firm for some
Materials: Steel coilsOrganic woolOrganic cottonTalalay latexOrganic cashmere
Sizes available: TwinTwin XLFullQueenKingCalifornia King
Trial Period: 100 nights
Warranty: 25-year

Birch by Helix's natural foam and wool mattress also sneaks in a layer of individual steel coils for added support. It's firm but soft, making it ideal for back and stomach sleepers who don't want to sink into their bed at night. The design includes increased lumbar support, which is great for pack pain, and reinforced edges.

Birch is a New York-based company that sells a variety of mattresses, toppers, and pillows, so you can work with them to personalize your sleep setup. The mattress arrives compressed and rolled up in a box, and the brand recommends waiting one to two hours to let it fully expand. Thanks to the natural materials, there shouldn’t be any off-gassing smells. 

Best for couples: Avocado Green Mattress

Pros:

  • Organic & sustainably sourced materials
  • Minimal motion transfer
  • Great for stomach or back sleepers

Cons:

  • Only one firmness option
Materials: Steel coilsOrganic LatexOrganic woolOrganic cotton
Sizes available: TwinTwin XLFullQueenKingCalifornia King
Trial Period: 365 nights
Warranty: 25-year

Made from a combination of supportive steel coils, GOLS-certified organic latex, and GOTS-certified organic wool and cotton, this bed's unique wave design lends plenty of support and reduces motion transfer. It has also been endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association and is great for active people and back or stomach sleepers. Just note, it's on the firmer side, so it won't be the best choice for those who sleep on their sides.

Avocado is a carbon negative company, which means it voluntarily offsets more than 100% of its emissions. This bed arrives compressed and rolled in a box, but thanks to the natural and organic materials, you don’t need to worry about any weird smells while it expands.

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Best hybrid: Brentwood Hybrid Latex Mattress

Pros:

  • Carbon-negative company, made in the USA
  • GOLS organic latex and GOTS organic certified wool
  • Limited motion transfer
Materials: Organic LatexOrganic wool
Sizes available: TwinTwin XLFullQueenKingSplit KingCalifornia King
Trial Period: 365 nights
Warranty: 25-year

Made from GOLS organic latex and GOTS organic certified wool, this hybrid mattress uses recycled denim in its base. for extra breathability. The Los Angeles-based company, owned by Avocado brands, is also striving to reduce its emissions and become carbon negative. This involves calculating a product's full spectrum of emissions and offsetting them through tree plantings and investments in renewable energy.

It ships in a box via FedEx, or (for an additional fee) you can schedule delivery (within a four-hour window). With this add-on, the brand will send a team to set up your new mattress. As a bonus, the delivery team will even remove your old mattress, along with the foundation and/or box spring (depending on the brand and location).

Best budget: Sleep On Latex Pure Green Organic Latex Mattress

Pros:

  • Packaged in recyclable paper
  • Less expensive
  • Organic materials

Cons:

  • Thinner mattress
Materials: Organic LatexOrganic woolOrganic cotton
Sizes available: TwinTwin XLFullQueenKingCalifornia King
Trial Period: 100 nights
Warranty: 10-year

This organic latex mattress is certified safe and nontoxic by just about every standard out there, including GOTS, GOLS, Oeko-Tex, and Greenguard Gold. Available in both medium and firm, each mattress is hand sewn in Sleep On Latex's factory in Illinois. It's one of the most affordable mattresses on the market, but doesn't skimp on quality or comfort. It's on the thinner side (8 inches), but includes a thick layer of supportive latex foam as the base.

This mattress ships same-day from SleepOnLatex’s Chicago warehouse and is available direct or via Amazon—but be mindful that the warranty and return policy might vary depending on where you buy it. It will arrive compressed and rolled in a box, and packed in completely recyclable paper.

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Best for snoring: PlushBeds Botanical Bliss Organic Latex Mattress

Pros:

  • Good for snorers
  • Customizable height & softness
  • Eco-friendly, organic materials

Cons:

  • Expensive
Materials: GOLS-certified Dunlop latex
Sizes available: TwinTwin XLFullQueenKingSplit KingCalifornia King
Trial Period: 100 nights
Warranty: Lifetime

Another organic latex foam option, this mattress is available in three height: 9, 10, or 12 inches. For further customization, you can select either medium, medium-firm, or a dual-firmness design (i.e., two different firmness options on each side of the mattress).

The GOLS-certified Dunlop latex provides a more bouncy and responsive feel than a memory foam mattress. This is a good pick for snorers, because it works with any adjustable base, including the brand's own models.

Best for side sleepers: Nest Bedding Certified Organic Hybrid Latex

Pros:

  • Made with organic and natural materials
  • Two firmness options

Cons:

  • Shipping can take a long time (made to order)
Materials: Natural latexOrganic woolOrganic cotton
Sizes available: TwinTwin XLFullQueenKingCalifornia King
Trial Period: 365 nights
Warranty: Lifetime

This mattress is made with GOLS-certified organic latex, GOTS-certified organic cotton, and GOTS-certified organic wool. It comes in three firmness options, with soft plush being a great option for side sleepers. If you aren't happy with the firmness, the company makes it easy to trade in your mattress for a new model: simply unzip from its reusable cover and they'll send you another one to try out. Once you're happy with your mattress, you can rest easy knowing it has a lifetime warranty.

Each mattress is made to order and then compressed and rolled up in a box to ship.

*This bed is currently sold out, but find more options for side sleepers here.

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Best for hot sleepers: Harvest Green Original

Materials: Steel coilsNatural latexOrganic woolOrganic cotton
Sizes available: TwinTwin XLFullQueenKingCalifornia King
Trial Period: 100 nights
Warranty: 25-year

This GOLS-certified organic natural latex mattress also contains a layer of organic wool insulation to help regulate your temperature as you rest. Plus, it's naturally moisture-wicking to help sweaty sleepers rest easier. It's a hybrid mattress, so it has coils, too, which provide additional support and minimize motion transfer.

The mattress will either be compressed and rolled in a box for free delivery, or you can select a white glove delivery service for a flat fee of $199 per order. With this option, the company will hand-deliver your mattress (but it may still be boxed). The delivery team will also take your old mattress and install the new one in your room for you.

Other things to look for in a safe mattress.

While mattress layer materials are important to pay attention to, you'll also want to look into what's holding your mattress together: Opt for water-based glues over synthetic solvent-based ones, which can pollute the air.

Finally, make sure that your mattress has absolutely zero chemical flame retardants. A handful of states are now in the process of banning flame retardants, but until this is the norm, keep an eye out for this unsafe1 (and ineffective) additive.

The bottom line.

Mattresses made from natural latex foam tend to be the best nontoxic option (bonus points if they are GOLS certified). While mattresses made from this material tend to be a bit pricier, they are worthy of the investment. Top them with some breathable, natural sheets, and consider your sleep sanctuary set.

Meet The Experts

Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us."