I’ve spent weeks researching mattresses, including a lot of reading on this fantastic site! Every time I think we’re close to a decision, I read something new that leaves my head spinning and me worrying that we’re going to make a regretful purchase. Here’s a [strike]brief [/strike] (brevity is apparently not my strong suit :-)) summary of the story:
I have a 1.5 year old child. While pregnant with him and researching baby furniture, mattresses, etc., I started finding out about things like fire retardant and other toxic chemicals in common consumer products. It freaked me out, to say the least. We’ve always tried to have a fairly “green” home - recycling, choosing environmentally friendly products, buying organic when possible, etc. The fact that I had unknowingly brought all sorts of toxic chemicals through many unexpected vehicles into our home was incredibly disturbing. We purchased the “safest” furniture, mattress, and bedding for my son that we could find. And as we can afford it and reach the end of life for our current adult furnishings, we are working to replace them with what we feel are better options.
The reason I’m on this site is we’re planning to purchase a new king size mattress in the next month or so. A purchase that’s been at least 8 months of research and nail-biting in the making. We’re in the Denver area, so we had the fortune to visit the oft-mentioned Natural Sleep Store (which we loved, for anyone in the Denver or Ft. Collins area - super knowledgeable, helpful, and patient staff) and try out a bunch of mattresses in person that seem to meet our criteria: no chemical fire retardants, no petroleum-based foams, and all natural/organic materials. We went to the store thinking we were purchasing the Savvy Rest brand. However, we then fell in love with the Green Sleep mattresses. Unfortunately, they are quite expensive and I think we were somewhat influenced by the amazingly soft-to-the-touch mattress cover (drool), which is going to be irrelevant once covered by a mattress cover and sheets. After doing more research on some of the store’s other brands, we’re planning to go back and revisit the Bella Sera brand. It looks to meet all of our requirements and its mattresses are significantly cheaper and more customizable than Green Sleep and its “swap out” policy is much less expensive if we need to change one of the layers to be softer/firmer after sleeping on it for a few weeks.
After reading a bunch of the posts on this forum throughout the last few months as well as articles linked to on “greenwashing,” I’m becoming increasingly concerned that I’m going to be duped and purchase something that isn’t nearly as clean/organic as I’m being lead to believe. For Bella Sera, specifically, the cotton is GOTS certified, the wool is certified by Oregon Tilth and free of polyester backing, and the latex has 3 different certifications: USDA organic certification, eco-Institute certification, and Oeko-Tex Certificate. That all seems to be legitimate, but am I missing anything?
Recognizing that the level of “greenness” is a personal preference/decision, based on what I’ve said we’re looking for in a mattress, I’d love any insight from those “in the know” regarding:
whether there are other questions I need to be asking to make sure we’re getting what we think we’re getting and
whether there are other brands we should be considering (preferably more in line with the Bella Sera or Savvy Rest pricing).
Thanks so much in advance for any help you can provide!
You are certainly doing some good research into a difficult and confusing subject where there are often no clear black and white answers to the question of “how safe is safe enough for me”.
You’ve probably read this already but post #2 here has some good information and a number of links to other sources and posts that can be helpful … although as you know the more you read the more you may find that answers can sometimes lead to more questions than anything else.
To answer your questions a little more specifically though …
USDA organic certification: This is a certification for agricultural or livestock products and not for products that are made from them. You can have a USDA organic orange or meat or raw latex or cotton for example (all of which are agricultural products) but if this is used to make another product then the USDA doesn’t certify it. As you can see in post #6 here … there are several companies that produce certified organic raw latex.
If an agricultural product is USDA certified by one of its certifying agencies then it can claim to be USDA organic certified. If a product only has some organic components then it can list the organic components on the label.
GOTS certified: This stands for Global Organic Textile Standard and is a worldwide standard different from the USDA standard and certifies textiles that are made from organic crops. If a fabric is GOTS certified then it can be labeled as “organic” in the US but not as USDA certified organic (see here). This gives consumers a way to know that a fabric is made from organic fibers even though the fabric itself isn’t an agricultural crop. There is also some good comments about GOTS certification in post #3 here.
GOLS certified: This is a new organic standard and applies specifically to latex because there wasn’t an organic latex standard for products made with organic raw latex prior to its existance. Before GOLS there was only latex foam “made with organic latex” but there was no certified “organic latex” cores. There are currently two companies that make GOLS certified latex sheets which are Latex Green and CoColatex, two that make GOLS certified toppers which are Richard Pieris Natural Foams (Arpico) and Naturepedic, and there are 6 companies which make organic latex mattresses that have a certified organic factory which are CoCo latex, Latex Green, Organic Mattresses Inc (OMI), Richard Pieris Natural Foams, Naturepedic, and Soaring Heart. All of these are 95% organic materials (5% of the materials used to make latex foam are the soaps, accelerators, foaming agents, curing agents, gelling agents, antioxidants and other substances that are used to make the foam). There are also other latex categories as well but there are not many that are certified. If you register at GOLS (which is free) you can see them all here because the listings of organic latex suppliers will change over time.
A simple way to think of these (GOTS and GOLS) is that they certify the entire production chain that uses USDA certified organic raw materials to to the manufacturing of the final certified product including any additional chemical inputs and fair trade and labor practices and the environmental impact of the manufacturing processes.
Oeko-Tex certification: This is a safety testing standard which tests for harmful substances that can leach out of a mattress and for harmful VOC’s … not organic farming methods. ADMIN NOTE:Removed 404 page link | Archived Footprint: oeko-tex.com/media/downloads/Factsheet_OETS_100_EN.pdf]Oeko-Tex certificatio
This is a safety testing standard which tests for harmful substances that can leach out of a mattress and for harmful VOC’s … not organic farming methods. All the latex you are likely to encounter is either Oeko-Tex certified or Eco-Institut certified. This is similar to CertiPur which is used for polyfoam and memory foam but has a more stringent testing protocol. you can see the testing protocols here. ADMIN NOTE:Removed 404 page link | Archived Footprint:oeko-tex.com/en/manufacturers/test_criteria/limit_values/limit_values.htm.
Eco-Institut certification: This is also a safety testing certification that tests for harmful substances and VOC’s. You can see their testing criteria here. They also test for durability, and for natural latex content (by declaration).
Greenguard Gold This is another safety testing standard that tests to ensure low levels for harmful VOC’s. They test a complete mattress rather than just individual components. Their testing criteria is here.
Cradle to Cradle is a newer certification that tests for harmful VOC’s and also for the environmental and social impacts of the production process so it’s a “safety” certification but also has some criteria that are similar to an organic certification as well. ADMIN NOTE:Removed 404 page link | Archived Footprint: .c2ccertified.org/
There is more information about C2C in post #13 here and the rest of the topic.
CertiPUR-US is another testing standard that tests for harmful substances and VOC’s but is used for polyurethane and memory foam materials (see post #12 here). It is sponsored by a group of foam manufacturers that make polyurethane foam rather than than being independent like the other three but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Their testing criteria are here.
In general terms … Oeko-Tex and Eco-institut and Greenguard Gold and CertiPUR are testing standards for safety and GOLS, GOTS, and USDA organic are certifications for organic farming methods and/or sustainable production methods and of course avoiding the use of harmful chemicals in agricultural practices while C2C has some of the criteria of both.
[quote]1. whether there are other questions I need to be asking to make sure we’re getting what we think we’re getting and
2. whether there are other brands we should be considering (preferably more in line with the Bella Sera or Savvy Rest pricing).[/quote]
If your concerns are more about safety then I think that testing standards such as Oeko-Tex and Eco-Institut are the most important elements but this is not so much about brands as it is about the materials that are used in many brands. All the latex you are likely to encounter (synthetic or natural or blended) has been tested for harmful substances and VOC’s and certified as “safe” by one of these so safety needn’t be a concern for most people regarding latex of any kind. The issues surrounding “green, organic, natural, sustainable, or ecofriendly” and many other vague terms that are related are a much more complex subject that is different from “safe” and really involves research into the specific issues that are important to each person on an individual level and into each material that is in a mattress. For most people … checking “safety” certifications or organic certifications would probably be enough and would be the limit of the research they were willing to do because more than this can involve some very complex research and still produce no easy or clear answers to the most important question of “how safe is safe enough for me?” and each person may have a different answer to this that they are comfortable with.
There are many brands of mattresses that use safe materials or latex and organic or natural fibers besides the ones you are looking at. Post #21 here has a list of online manufacturers that are members of this site and many of them carry many types and designs of latex mattresses … all of which are “safe”. Many of them carry latex mattresses that use organic certified latex or organic fabrics and fibers as well. I would also be aware that in terms of feel and performance that there is little to no difference between organic Dunlop and the same material that isn’t certified as organic but uses 100% natural latex (see post #6 here).
There is also more information about the differences between “safety” certifications and “organic” certifications in post #2 here.
On a local level some of the better options I’m award of in the Denver area are listed in post #2 here. Rather than searching by brand I would research by materials and make your questions materials based such as asking “can you tell me the specifics of all the layers in your mattress?” so you can identify any materials that you would be concerned with or find questionable that don’t have a certification. Some quick website research and some phone calls will identify which retailers or manufacturers carry mattresses that match your criteria in terms of the materials they use in their mattresses.
Thanks so much for the thorough response. There were a couple of other options nearby (Haiku Designs, for one) that I hadn’t spent much time looking at previously. I’ll be making a few more trips to test out mattresses before making any decisions.
The advice to call and discuss the materials used in each layer was also very helpful. I’ll be spending some time on the phone later today. I forgot to mention it before, but one of our other requirements (in addition to the mattress having no fire retardant chemicals, being organic, etc.) is that the mattress has to be available to see in person within 60 miles or so. My husband is adamantly opposed to buying a mattress online, even though the prices are often lower and many have great/easy exchange policies. After over half a year of arguing, there’s no way I’m changing his mind :-). Unfortunately, that eliminates a LOT of options.
I’ll be doing further investigation into Bella Sera, Green Sleep, Haiku, and a few others. Out of curiosity, since I thought I’d made up my mind (yet again) to purchase the Bella Sera mattress before reading your response, have you heard any actual reviews of that company’s mattresses either on the forum or not? It seems less well known than some of the others, such as Savvy Rest and I’ve only found one or two reviews that seem legitimate.
Your husband is not much different from the majority of consumers that have great difficulty buying something as important as a mattress online and the large majority of mattress purchases are made locally. This is just part of each person’s personal value equation and there is certainly no “better or worse” in this. This of course means that the “best local value” is the “best” value for you.
There are no reviews of the Bella Sera on the forum although there are a few mentions of them that a forum search on Bella Sera (you can just click this) will bring up. I pay little attention to reviews though because the quality and value of a mattress depends on it’s suitablity for you (not someone else) and on the quality of the specific materials that are inside it (which is rarely mentioned in reviews). While reviews can certainly provide some insights about the knowledge or service of a business, they say little to nothing about the quality, value, or suitability of a mattress and reading reviews is among the worst ways to choose a mattress. You can read more about reviews in post #13 here.
There are many mentions of Savvy Rest on the forum and they tend to have a common theme which is “good quality but not such great value” and Green Sleep would be similar.
If you are shopping for a mattress locally … then the knowledge and experience of the retailer along with your ability to test the mattress objectively and carefully for PPP and knowing the type and quality of the materials is all you need to make an informed decision and find the best possible quality and value that is available locally. What other people may think of the mattress that is "perfect’ for you and that uses high quality materials with no weak links is not particularly meaningful.
You are looking at some good quality options in the Bella Sera, the Green Sleep, and Savvy Rest (and others) that use similar designs and materials (layered Dunlop latex mattresses that can be customized before and/or after a purchase) and the Haiku which uses talalay. The Haiku appears to use 100% natural Talalay which is also very high quality and more costly form of latex than 100% natural Dunlop although I would want to confirm that it is actually 100% natural because many of the Ecosleep mattresses (Ecosleep is the manufacturer) use blended Talalay. Testing for PPP is of course important but there are also some clear value differences between them and I would make careful value comparisons so that you don’t get swept away about a “story” about why one mattress may be so much more than another when the materials they use are similar type or quality and you don’t really feel much difference between them that would justify a much higher price. You have some good local value available if you make some good apples to apples comparisons in terms of PPP, suitability, and value.
The name of the manufacturer on the label doesn’t change the quality of the materials or how well you sleep on them but it may change the prices you pay for very similar mattresses.
Latex in all its forms is a high a quality product … no matter who puts it inside the cover … although of course the quality of the cover and the quilting materials used and how they affect the feel and performance of the mattress are also part of the value of the mattress.
Thanks for yet another very helpful and thorough reply. I was mostly interested in finding reviews to make sure people didn’t feel like they received bad customer service or have issues with the company itself. I agree with you that other people’s review of the quality, comfort, suitability, etc. would not be helpful. We’re visiting a few more stores in the coming weeks. I’ll update once we make a decision!
Thanks again - this was extremely valuable advice!
First of all. Thank you for all of the information you supply. I have read many of your articles, overviews and answers. I actually feel like I have information overload.
One of our main concerns is around the toxic materials used in mattresses to meet the fire barrier requirements. You have supplied a lot of information including this post on certifications. Even natural materials can be toxic if they are treated with toxic chemicals.
Do you have any recommendations of what types of fire barriers are safe?
Could you tell me how the certification organizations that are funded? Are they truly independent?
We live in northern Wisconsin in a fairly remote area (about 80 miles south east of Superior). Do you have any recommendations for online or mattress suppliers in our area?
You’re very welcome! Avoid the temptation to delve too deeply down the “rabbit hole” of information overload and paralysis analysis. I recommend to read through the information and use it as a reference and not attempt to memorize items, but learn just enough to determine if any manufacturers and retailers you’re considering are knowledgeable.
Yes, if you sprayed a poison on a natural substance, it could create an unhealthy combination. Luckily, that is not normally how mattress flammability guidelines are met domestically.
There is a lot of misleading information in the industry about fire retardants and “chemicals” ranging from significant “fear mongering” on one side to completely minimizing fire retardants as an issue at all on the other. Like most issues that arouse strong feelings or controversy the most reliable and “accurate” information tends to be in between both polar extremes so there is “some truth” that “some mattresses” may use some chemicals that some people would find questionable or wish to avoid. Some people may also wish avoid certain types of synthetic foams or fabrics as well even if they have been tested for harmful substances and VOC’s and would be considered “safe enough” by most people.
There are also many people in the industry that IMO exaggerate the risk (usually in an effort to sell some very costly mattresses) and seem to believe (or at least want their customers to believe) that every mattress except for an “organic” mattress (however they define this) is somehow “loaded with chemicals” to prevent them from catching fire which is far from the truth but this type of misinformation tends to scare people and lead people down a rabbit hole of conflicting and misleading information … and of course is exaggerated and somewhat ridiculous.
There is also more about “safe” fire barriers in this article and post #2 here and the posts it links to at the end and there is more about purchasing a prescription mattresses that don’t have a fire barrier and don’t pass the fire regulations in post #4 here and the posts it links to.
The most common method used to pass the regulations in the mattress industry is the use of inherent, “non chemical” fire barrier fabrics that are either quilted into the cover or are wrapped around the inner materials of the mattress like a sock. Wool is also used as a flame retardant barrier, most often in mattresses using latex or those promoting a more “natural” advertising agenda.
No, I would have no knowledge of the finances of all of the various certifying laboratories and certification companies worldwide. Depending upon the standard being tested (GOLS, GOTS, USDA, 16 CFR part 1632 or 1633, Greenguard, etc.), an independent laboratory is usually approved by the group holding the standard as qualified to properly test for whatever standard is in question. Many laboratories do testing for many different organizations on a variety of products. You could visit the website for whatever standard about which you were curious to see a list of approved testing groups/laboratories, or contact them directly for that information as well.
Your largest number of options will probably be found by looking online and using the experience and expertise of the members listed in post #21 here who are all very experienced and knowledgeable and specialize in providing the type of help and guidance on the phone that can help you make good choices. There are a wide range of latex and memory foam and other options included in the choices there and I believe that all of them compete well with the best in the industry in terms of their quality, value, service, and transparency.
Without an actual town, and subject to confirming that any retailer or manufacturer on the list that you wish to visit is completely transparent ( see this article) and to making sure that any mattress you are considering meets the quality/value guidelines here … all I have investigated in your general vicinity are in and around the Minneapolis/St Paul area and are listed in post #2 here. If you are near Grand Rapids or Duluth then post #2 here may have some possibilities.
I wanted to thank you for doing so much to help people find what they are looking for in a mattress! After going through your website we finally settled on a latex mattress from My Green Mattress. We were very pleased with the customer service and the mattress. We initially ordered a king size 7" simple sleep. It is a very firm mattress but both my husband an I have found we are sleeping great on it. We have just ordered a queen size mattress for our guest room. One thing of note is that My Green Mattress also has an 8% military discount. Again thank you for all of the info!!!
Thank you for the update, and congratulations on your new mattresses! :cheer: You certainly chose something using good quality and durable materials, and as you are aware, My Green Mattress is a site member here, which means that I think highly of them.
I’m looking forward to future updates about your mattresses once you’ve had a chance to sleep upon them for a while longer.
Look for authentications like GOLS (Global Organic Latex Standard), GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), Greenguard GOLD, Oeko-Tex and Made Safe they are really organic and safe. Organic mattressesOrganic mattresses are widely preferred now which are made of natural materials like latex, wool, or cotton. Some brands you can go for are Avocado Green Mattress, Awara, Naturepedic, PlushBeds, Organic Mattress Factory, Brentwood Home. These are some of the brands that you can check out.