Hi Phoenix,

I was hoping to get some advice. I fell in love with the icomfort refined and can purchase it for 2200 (usually 3k+). My biggest concern is the toxicity of the mattress. Serta’s website states they don’t use non-approved toxic chemicals but I am highly suspect of our regulatory system. Would you please provide me with some guidance on this, how long the mattress will likely last, alternatives, and any other information you think is relevant. Thanks sooo much!


Hi paul ponomarenko,

The first thing I would suggest is reading this article which will help you avoid the types of traps and pitfalls that you are heading towards.

While you didn’t mention the size you were considering or which “refined” model (there are 3) … I wouldn’t consider any of them or for that matter any of the mattresses made by major manufacturers even for a significant discount over what you are paying. Even the cheapest and lowest quality materials (such as many used in the iComfort lineup which you can see in post #11 here) can feel good in the highly managed environment of a mattress showroom. Lower quality materials don’t last though and in real life … the subjective ideas of comfort that most people use to buy a mattress (when they are told to just lie on mattresses and pick the one that “feels best”) don’t translate into meeting real life needs and preferences in the long term. Warranties are next to useless for either predicting how long a mattress will last because the real reason people need to replace a mattress is the loss of comfort or support when the materials soften and degrade and this isn’t covered in a mattress warranty. Warranty exclusions also make sure that most warranty claims are rejected.

Serta is right that they don’t use “non approved” chemicals but this is only part of the story and as you mention there are many levels of “saftey” that may be important to many people besides just the ones that are 'approve" by regulatory agencies. Many of the current safety levels and regulations have more to do with political influence than they do with actual safety. There is a great in depth article here for example that exposes some of the issues connected with fire retardancy issues and the chemicals used. While Serta uses materials that many people consider “safe” and have been certified by various certifying agencies (such as Oeko-Tex, CertiPur and others) … it can also be more difficult to find any specifics about the materials that are more in the “gray areas” of safety and in this you are completely subject to the willingness of the manufacturer to provide you with the level of detail you may need. what some people consider to be safe may still be harmful to others with chemical sensitivities that are outside the norm for the majority of the population.

The fireblocker system used by Serta in their iComfort mattresses doesn’t disclose the details of any chemicals used. If it is an inherent cellulosic fiber that includes silica then it is likely to be fine. If it is cotton impregnated with Boric Acid … then it may also be OK (although there is some controversy about this but there are forms of Boric acid that have similar toxicity levels to table salt). If they use “approved” foams or other materials that contain other chemicals that are unknown or not disclosed … then even though they may be “approved” … each person would need to decide for themselves if this is “safe enough” for them. this can involve some time consuming and frustrating research. This article includes the three types of fire retardancy methods that I tend to prefer (and two of them more than the third).

In general … the “best” first step in shopping for a mattress is to put your initial efforts into finding better outlets and only then begin looking for a mattress that suits your needs and preferences. Most people do this the other way around (the mattress is primary and the outlet is secondary) and that leaves them very vulnerable to the types of marketing strategies that replace meaningful information about the quality and types of materials used with marketing information that may “sound good” but has no real substance and is designed to help boost profit margins more than help educate consumers.

If you let me know the city or zip code where you live … I’d be happy to let you know of any factory direct outlets or better sleep shops or other options I’m aware of in your area.

In the meantime … I would personally stay far away from the iComfort line, chain stores, other major brand mattresses, and any outlet that isn’t able or willing to provide accurate and meaningful information about their mattresses.