Organic/Healthy Latex Recommendation

Thanks for your help regarding our daughter’s Naturepedic twin mattress! Now, we need help in deciding what is best for us. My husband and I want to buy a latex mattress because of issues with off-gassing in traditional mattresses. We would like the mattress to be as natural, healthy and cheap as possible. A problem is that we live in the middle of nowhere… Florence, AL and I have not been able to locate any companies that sell latex within a reasonable driving distance for testing purposes. Therefore, wherever we buy from online should have an easy/inexpensive return or exchange policy.

We had a latex mattress when we lived in France so we are familiar with the feel of latex, but we’re a little clueless about firmness levels and other options. When we bought our mattress there, we bought one that was labeled as “medium-firm”. I know that is pretty vague, but that is the only information we have about the mattress. We assume it was a natural/synthetic blend, but it was purchased from an eco-friendly furniture store so I don’t know for sure. Regardless, the mattress was fine for my husband, but felt a little too firm for me.

My husband is 5’11", 185lbs., side/back sleeper.

I’m 5’4", 112lbs., side/back sleeper.

From reading about latex mattresses on your wonderful website, I have determined (I think) that we want 100% Natural Dunlop or 100% Natural Talalay or a combination of the two. We would like to avoid synthetics and flame retardant chemicals so a mattress cover made of organic cotton and wool would probably be best. My questions for you are:

  1. How deep should the mattress be to provide an adequate amount of support for the two of us?

  2. What firmness levels would you recommend?

  3. The companies that I have looked at that have an organic cotton/wool cover option do not mention the materials being “certified organic”. How do I know that it is 100% organic cotton and wool? I’m just skeptical of tricky wording. Sometimes companies advertise something as organic just because it’s partially organic so I just want to know exactly what I’m buying before I buy it.

  4. Will a wool layer in the cover affect the feel of the mattress?

  5. If a latex mattress does not have wool as the fire protectant, what is used instead?

  6. Can we use our existing box spring underneath the mattress?

  7. What companies would you suggest we buy from for having the best quality/lowest price/easy return? Big request, I’m sure.

Hi kll4,

Well … I just broke the first rule of posting in a forum which is to always save a post before submitting it. I had lost my connection and timed out and when I clicked submit … I lost a long 2 hour post. We’ll see if I can “redo” it in a little less time :slight_smile:

You’re right that “medium-firm” can have many meanings. Some people will “rate” a mattress based on the firmness of the deeper support layers. Some will rate it based on the firmness of the upper comfort layers. Some will rate it based on an overall subjective fel. To make matters worse … different people with different weights, body shapes, and sleeping positions will rate the same mattress differently depending on how they interact with the different layers of the mattress. This is why it’s so important to decide on your own personal definition of what is soft and what is firm. Only personal testing can really define how a mattress performs and feels for any individual. Of course mattress “ratings” can be a guideline if enough different people rate the same mattress the same way but even then you may be the exception.

This too would be difficult to know without more details and it could also easily have been a single 6" layer of 100% natural Dunlop latex. Thinner mattresses are more common in Europe than they are here.

These would both make good choices but I think it’s probably a good idea to first clarify in your own mind if you are looking for “safe” … for “natural” or for “organic”. All of these have different meanings and they are all used (or misused) in many different ways in the descriptions of mattresses and the materials they contain. For example … 100% natural latex may not be any “safer” than a blended version and both may be certified for harmful substances and offgassing to the same degree yet one may include a significant percentage of SBR (synthetic) latex. In the case of Talalay … blended has the same “safety” level as 100% natural and is generally considered to be better value and in some cases has better durability and is more pressure relieving than the 100% natural. In the case of Dunlop … it’s the other way around and 100% natural can have better performance and durability even though both of them are also safe. 100% natural in this case comes with a performance improvement.

The reason is in the different densities and cell structure of the different types of latex and how they wear and soften differently. There’s more about this here and there’s some more technical information (and some reference links) in post #2 here and also in post #2 here. Of course … if a natural product for it’s own sake or for the sake of being more biodegradeable or sustainable is the most important consideration (over performance and price) … then staying with a 100% natural version of either type would be the way to go.

[quote]Regardless, the mattress was fine for my husband, but felt a little too firm for me.
My husband is 5’11", 185lbs., side/back sleeper.
I’m 5’4", 112lbs., side/back sleeper.[/quote]

There are some weight/height/body shape guidelines here and some sleeping position guidelines here which can act as a good starting point. There is also some information in the overview here and in the pages that lead from it that talk about how all the different layers interact together and how different types of construction can be just as important as the layers themselves.

All of this can have many more variables and be more complex than most people realize and my “best” recommendation is to first put your efforts into finding manufacturers or outlets that are already “experts” in all of this and will give you the guidance, ask you the questions, and give you the advice that is specific to the mattresses they make or sell that can help you make the best choices. While the guidelines can be good starting points, local testing either as a guideline for an online purchase or with the intent to purchase locally is far more accurate than “theory at a distance” that only deals with averages. Finding better outlets is a much more effective first step than trying to “design” a mattress based on specs.

The most common types of construction (but by no means the only options) are a 6" + 2" or a 6" + 3" layering. There are also many people wh do very well on a single 6" layer because latex can be both soft with initial compression and then get firmer fater with deeper compression. The advantage of a thicker mattress (or layers) is that they can be more adaptable to differene heights and weights and sleeping positions and have a greater range 0f compression. this can be particularly helpful with greater weights. Thicker mattresses also allow for design variations that can’t be accommodated in thinner versions. Unless you are looking for a version of custom building that requires the zoning possibilities of a thicker mattress (and the budget increase that goes with it) … then 8" to 9" of latex will likely be where the combination of flexibility and budget where most people fall.

So there isn’t any right or wrong here … only what provides what I call PPP (Pressure relief, Posture and alignment, and Preferences) that is suitable for each person.

I would suggest going by the general guidelines I linked to earlier and then modifying it with either your own personal testing on mattresses with known constructions or with the guidance of the manufacturers or outlets you are considering (online or local) that are specific to the layering, materials, and components of their mattresses.

I don’t blame you for being skeptical because “tricky wording”, misinformation, and lack of accurate knowledge is all over the internet. In general there are several levels of “organic” certifications. This can be the raw materials (such as the liquid latex that comes from the rubber tree), the layer of foam that is made from it, or the mattress itself. All of these have to be certified as organic for the final product to be labelled organic. In the same way … a ticking/quilting can use organic materials without the final product being certified as organic. In general … it is normally enough for most people who are looking at organic materials that the materials themselves are organic whether or not the final product is but that is up to each individual to decide.

In many cases … an organic certification has no benefits at all except for adding cost to a product that has all the same materials or levels of purity as an organic counterpart except it doesn’t have the certification. For example … the Woolgatherers carding mill produces wool batting that is superior to many organic equivalents and yet it is not certified as organic. They also make a more expensive organic version for those who want the “certification”. Even the use of the term “organic” in the US is regulated and much more complex than this (for example textiles that are certified as organic by GOTS can be called organic but not USDA certified organic).

Like with many things … the best assurance of getting accurate unbiased information is the integrity and knowledge of the outlets you are dealing with. Even here you will find conflicting opinions but they will generally be resolved by knowing there are no 100% accurate answers to very complex questions and that different people will weight different pieces of the puzzle differently. These types of people will tend to tell you the different factors involved and then tell you their opinions based on the evidence that they believe carries the most weight without implying that other opinions that are just as carefully formulated are “wrong” (unless of course they really are factually wrong).

Yes … to different degrees. How much it affects it will depend on the softness and type of materials below the wool and on the thickness and density of the wool as well. Wool that is used as a fire barrier is densified and is not as “fluffy” as wool that is used in toppers but it is also thinner and the fabrics it is quilted to also have different degrees of stretchiness which will also have an affect on the layers below it. The ticking (cover) material that affects the mattress the least is generally a stretch knit unquilted cover but then another type of fire barrier needs to be used.

There is more about this in the bottom of this article but generally an inherent viscose/silica material would be the next choice. Just to put things in perspective as well … there are forms of Boric acid that have a similar degree of toxicity as table salt. My personal preference would be the inherent materials though.

Post #2 here should help with this one.

My goal is always to help people with “how” to make the best decisions and help them get to choices between “good and good”. This article will help with avoiding most of the traps and pitfalls of mattress shopping and this article will help to identify the qualities of the better outlets.There are a couple of lists that are centered on Huntsville which may help a bit. They are post #4 here, and post #4 here, and I amalgamated these in post #2 here. This will give you some ideas of what may be available in your area.

For an online purchase … you have quite a few great options which are listed in post #21 here (all of them are are invited members here which means I consider them to be among the best of the best in the country and they all offer the forum members a discount or bonus with a mattress purchase which is generally 5%). While they all make mattresses with different combinations of features and in different budget ranges … they are all great quality and value.

I did take a quick look online in Florence and there was nothing that stood out as a great option besides what was mentioned in the Huntsville threads.

Whew … that didn’t take quite as long as the first one :slight_smile:

Hope that helps