Newbie with mattress question

My husband and I are really needing a new mattress but we want to stay clear of as many chemicals as possible, and my husband wants to avoid any metal, for medical reasons. My head spins when I try to walk my way through everything I need to learn about in choosing a new bed. Can you help limit my choices, given my ideals? I need decent support for my back but my husband can sleep on almost anything, except the floor or an air mattress :S We are both mid 50’s, tall, and not featherweights, but not obese. This is the second time I’ve tried to educate myself on beds and I’m still overwhelmed; we’ve always just taken leftover beds from others. I need something different. We don’t have lots of money but I do know we will be paying for what we get. It appears that it may be the case with mattresses that once educated, you may get what you pay for, but there does seem to be a lot of games being played with the natural and green bedding industry. We can build a frame ourselves if need be (or one of our sons can), out of wood, if that will suffice for supporting the mattress. Currently our bed is a no-name, sagging boxspring and mattress with a cotton futon on top for some “support”. Any and all help would be appreciated. We live in southwestern Wisconsin. Thank you ever so much.

Hi lark,

Avoiding chemicals in a mattress is a very complex subject and depends on the specifics of which chemicals you wish to avoid and the degree you wish to avoid them. Many people who say they want to avoid chemicals are really looking for something that they consider to be “safe” and this can be a different subject completely because all chemicals are not unsafe or the cause of health issues. There is more information in post #4 here about the types of materials that most people would consider “safe” in a mattress.

Post #2 here and the posts it links to also includes more detailed information that may help you answer the question of “how safe is safe enough for me?” because this question can have a very different answer for different people and there are often no black and white answers available with the degree of certainty that many people would really prefer. The complexity of this information can also leave many people susceptible to some rather uninformed claims where people use the “fear of chemicals” or synthetic materials of all types to sell products which may be no safer than many other alternatives.

In general … those who are looking to avoid chemicals will tend to look at innersprings, latex, and natural fibers such as wool. You have eliminated innersprings (most likely out of a concern for electromagnetic field or EMF issues) so that would leave latex and natural fibers. Some people would be fine with synthetic or blended latex which is tested for VOC’s and harmful substances with the same testing protocol as natural latex while others will only consider natural latex because they believe it’s safer although I haven’t seen any evidence to support this. In both cases there are some chemicals used to foam the latex and even organic latex is only about 95% latex with the rest being gelling agents, curing agents, soaps, accelerators, foaming agents, and other ingredients used to make the latex (see post #6 here and post #2 here for more about organic latex)

If you are OK with the safety of these (and most latex has been tested to OekoTex standards for VOC’s and harmful substances) then you could include latex in your list of materials that you are comfortable with. Otherwise you are limited to natural fibers which would limit you mostly to wool and cotton mattresses.

The other main issue of concern with chemicals is fire retardant materials and for those who want to reduce any risk of these then wool, viscose/silica fire barriers or with a prescription no fire barrier at all are generally the preference. There is more in post #2 here.

Once you have decided on which materials are “safe enough” for you … then it will be much easier to find a mattress that uses those specific materials.

The foundation post here includes sources to many good foundation options and also includes links to posts from two of the members here that include instructions for building a foundation and a platform bed.

I’m not sure where exactly you are in southwest Wisconsin but post #4 here includes the manufacturers I’m aware of in and around Dubuque and Cedar Rapids and post #5 here has some of the better options in and around Madison, WI. Once you know which materials you are comfortable with then you will need to call them to make sure they can make a mattress that uses the materials you prefer and either no fire barrier or a fire barrier you are comfortable with.