Green technology and innovation have impacted a wide range of industries in recent years — from automobiles and construction to clothing and cosmetics — and this growing demand has led many mattress manufacturers to offer sustainable products as well.
However, terms like ‘green,’ ‘natural’ and ‘eco-friendly’ are often misused or exaggerated within the mattress industry. This trend, whereby companies use misleading terms to promote their products as natural or organic, is known as ‘greenwashing.’ To further complicate the issue, a regulatory body that fact-checks green claims for mattress makers has not yet been created, although certifications are available for certain mattress materials like foam, latex, and fabrics.
This guide will explore green mattress terminology, materials, and certifications, and also share our top-rated picks for the best eco-friendly/organic mattresses sold today.
What Is a Green Mattress?
A true green mattress features natural and/or organic materials in the cover, comfort layers, and support core. These materials include:
- Natural latex
- Plant-based polyfoam and memory foam
- Organic fibers like cotton and wool in the cover
- Fire socks made of wool, cotton, thistle, or Kevlar
Mattresses are never 100% natural or organic. Most green mattresses today range from 95% to 60% natural and/or organic. Additionally, ‘half-organic’ and ‘half-natural’ mattresses include some green components, but are not considered true green mattresses. Some brands use terms like ‘green’ and ‘eco-friendly’ to describe one component or stage of the mattress production process, even though the model as a whole is not primarily natural or organic. This is an example of the greenwashing trend detailed in the previous section.
Flammability Standards and Flame Retardants
In 2007, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) passed a new flammability standard that targeted mattresses. Under the current regulation, mattresses manufactured for sale in the U.S. must be flame- and fire-resistant. The law originally targeted the high number of annual deaths caused by fires in bed. However, many mattress manufacturers have turned to chemical flame retardants to address the issue — many of which pose a serious health risk to humans.
The most damaging fire retardants used in mattresses are polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, which have been linked to liver, thyroid, and neurodevelopmental problems. PBDEs are monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and have been banned in Maine and Washington state. Initially, mattresses were doused in PBDE-based retardant, but this method is now prohibited. However, some mattress foams are treated with PBDEs to make them more fire-resistant, and these may also pose similar health risks.
A true green mattress will not contain any chemical flame retardants. Most green models feature fire socks that act as flame barriers. Fire socks are usually made from silica, but some mattresses feature fire socks made from more natural materials like wool or thistle. Kevlar, a material that requires no chemical treatment, may also be used. In any case, a chemical-free fire sock is considered much greener and healthier for humans than any chemical flame retardant. Some mattresses do not utilize chemical treatments, nor do they feature a fire sock or flame barrier; because their mattress materials have a higher fuel load and take longer to burn, these manufacturers are able to meet state and federal flammability standards.
How can customers differentiate between green and non-green mattresses? Certifications that focus on human health and/or environmental impacts are one way to tell these products apart. Certifications are awarded to mattresses at different stages of production, and may focus on human health risks and/or environmental impacts. The most prominent certifications that focus on human health risk factors include the following:
- OEKO-TEX Standard 100: This is the standard certification from the International Association for Research and Testing in the Field of Textile and Leather Ecology, or OEKO-TEX, which consists of 18 independent research and testing institutes in Europe and Japan. This standard does not evaluate mattresses for being organic, but rather ensures the product has not exceeded emission limits for certain chemicals that pose a health risk to humans. These chemicals include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde, PBDEs and other flame retardants, and dyes that trigger allergies.
- CertiPUR-US: The CertiPUR-US certification tests for chemical emissions for polyurethane foam (polyfoam) used in mattress layers, as well as harmful materials like PBDEs and lead. It’s important to note that other certifying bodies, such as the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS), will not certify mattresses that contain any polyurethane foam (see below).
- Eco-Institut: The Eco-Institut is an independent certification organization based in Germany that evaluates textiles and building materials for hazardous emissions and chemical substances. Within the mattress industry, the Eco-Institut certification is most commonly associated with latex mattresses.
The following certifications focus primarily on environmental impacts:
- Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): The GOTS certification evaluates organic fibers, including both raw materials and their derivative products. In order to be GOTS certified, a mattress must be made with at least 95% materials that are certified as organic. Furthermore, the remaining 5% or less cannot contain certain materials, including polyfoam or formaldehyde.
- Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS): The GOLS, which evaluates latex products, is similar to the GOTS certification. In order to receive GOLS certification, the latex must be at least 95% organically produced. There are currently no prohibitions for materials that make up the remaining 5%. Natural latex may be GOTS and GOLS certified.
- GreenGuard and GreenGuard Gold: The GreenGuard certification is used to evaluated finished mattresses for VOC emissions. The GreenGuard Gold certification also tests mattresses for the same qualities, albeit with a stricter set of standards. GreenGuard and GreenGuard Gold certifications ensure minimal VOC emissions, but mattress buyers should be warned: the certifications do not guarantee against off-gassing odors when a mattress is removed from its packaging.
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic/National Organic Program (NOP): Although the USDA Organic label is most commonly associated with food, it can also be used to evaluate crops and agricultural materials used in mattresses and other consumer products. In these cases, the USDA Organic certification is used to evaluate raw materials, rather than their derivatives. For instance, let’s look at latex, which is processed using the sap of rubber trees. If latex earns a USDA Organic label, this means the rubber trees were grown using organic farming techniques and have not been treated with certain chemical pesticides; the final latex product may not actually be organic.
- OEKO-TEX MADE IN GREEN: This certification from OEKO-TEX focuses on sustainable processed used to create a product, as opposed to the OEKO-TEX Standard 100, which tests for harmful substances and emissions.
- Cradle to Cradle: Cradle to Cradle certification tests organic fibers and materials for a wide range of sustainable criteria, including carbon emissions, water conservation, and overall ecological impact. It is commonly used to evaluate latex, as well as organic materials used in mattress covers (such as organic cotton or organic wool).
- The Global Recycled Standard: This is the certification from Textile Exchange, an independent organization. The Global Recycled Standard ensures that a given material has been produced using environmentally healthy and sustainable practices.
This is not an exhaustive list, and some mattress models will display additional certifications. Be sure to research each certification listed to determine if it is independent and trustworthy.
Most mattress manufacturers will provide all current certifications for each model. This information is typically displayed on individual product pages, and may also be found in other areas of the brand’s website (such as FAQ and About Us sections).
What Types of Green Mattresses Are Available?
Beyond certifications, criteria for green, natural, and organic mattresses vary by specific mattress type. This section will look at green standards for for foam, innerspring, hybrid, and latex mattress models.
Foam: The term ‘foam’ mattress can refer to two different mattress materials:
- Standard Polyurethane foam, or ‘polyfoam,’ which has not been treated with chemicals for added softness and temperature response. This material is often found in base support core layers, but may also make up the comfort layer as well. Polyfoam mattresses tend to be low-priced and have below-average lifespans.
- Viscoelastic polyurethane foam, or ‘memory foam,’ which is treated with petrochemicals for exceptional softness. Memory foam reacts to the body temperature of sleepers; it becomes softer when it comes into contact with heat, and then cools and returns to its original shape when body heat is removed. Memory foam is typically used in the comfort layer, but usually not the support core (where standard polyfoam is used). In addition to all-foam mattresses, memory foam layers may also be found in other mattress types, such as hybrids and airbeds.
While polyfoam and memory foam mattresses are tested and certified to ensure they pose minimal risk to human health, it’s important to remember that mattress with any polyurethane components (including foams) are not eligible for the GOTS or GOLS certifications.
While polyfoam and memory foam are never 100% natural or organic, plant-based memory foam (or PLA for short) is considered a slightly greener alternative. This material is produced from plant-based oils, rather than petroleum and other chemicals.
Innersprings: Innerspring mattresses get their name from the steel coils that make up most of their support core. The comfort layers typically consist of at least one layer of polyfoam or memory foam; innersprings that feature more than two inches of memory foam are technically considered hybrids.
Some innersprings are labeled as green and may be produced using sustainable methods. However, in most cases, the springs and/or comfort layer materials are created using industrial processes that are not truly green.
Hybrids: Hybrids are designed to bridge the gap between all-foam/all-latex and innerspring mattresses. Technically speaking, a hybrid mattress has a coil-based support core and at least two inches of memory foam and/or latex in the comfort system. Most hybrids have pocketed coils, which are encased in cloth or fabric.
As with innerspring mattresses, hybrids typically have coil and/or comfort layer components that are produced using industrial processes. As a result, most should not be considered green or organic. However, they may have materials in the comfort layer or cover that have been certified as organic, such as natural latex, organic cotton, or organic wool.
Latex: Most green mattresses are categorized as latex models. Latex is a natural substance processed from rubber tree sap. Two types of processes are used to produce latex:
- The Dunlop Process requires rubber tree sap to be stirred, molded, and stem-baked. Dunlop latex tends to be heterogenous and somewhat bottom-heavy, with a lighter, frothier substance on top and sediment that accumulates on the bottom. As a result, it is commonly used in the support core of all-latex mattresses.
- Talalay Process requires the sap to be vacuum-sealed, then frozen and baked. Talalay latex is much lighter and more homogenous than Dunlop latex, and is typically used in the comfort layer of all-latex mattresses (as well as select hybrids).
In addition to the process, the latex used in mattress can also be categorized by its ratio of natural to synthetic components. The table below provides a detailed breakdown for the three most common latex types.
|Type of Latex||Source||Natural Latex Composition||Ingredients|
|Natural Latex||Rubber tree sap processed using the Talalay or Dunlop method||At least 95% ||Natural latex processed using a cure package, which is needed to produce latex foam.|
|Blended Latex||A combination of natural and synthetic latex||30% to 94% ||Natural latex and synthetic latex blended together.|
|Synthetic Latex (SBR)||Petroleum-based chemicals||0% ||All-synthetic latex with no natural components.|
Greenwashing is particularly common with latex mattresses. This is due to the fact that ‘100% natural’ or ‘100% organic’ latex is nonexistent; some chemical components are needed to produce latex foam. Nevertheless, some mattresses are sold as ‘all-natural,’ even if the latex used to create them is primarily synthetic.
Additionally, the USDA Organic label for latex mattresses evaluates the way the rubber trees are grown, not the process used to derive the latex from rubber tree sap; for this reason, a USDA Organic latex mattress may not be organic at all. The GOLS certification, which takes raw materials and derivatives into consideration, is considered the more accurate certification for organic latex mattresses.
Pros and Cons of a Green Mattress
Benefits of using a true green mattress include the following:
- Potential Health Benefits: Some mattresses made today use petrochemicals, adhesives, dyes, flame retardants, and other materials that may pose a risk to human health. Mattress models that meet the standards for green and/or organic certification are much less likely to contain materials that are harmful to humans.
- Reduced Environmental Impact: Today’s consumers are mindful of the relationship between industrial production and environmental degradation, as well as climate change. True green mattresses create a smaller environmental footprint in terms of both raw materials production and industrial processing.
- Above-average Lifespan: Natural products tend to last longer than synthetic materials. As a result, green and organic mattresses typically have longer product lifespans than mattresses designed with chemicals and manmade components. Additionally, latex is considered exceptionally durable; latex mattresses usually perform for at least eight years, which is longer than the average lifespan for all mattresses (which is generally six to seven years).
Drawbacks of using a green or organic mattress may include:
- High Price-point: True green mattresses can be quite expensive, and models that have received certifications (such as GOLS and GOTS) may be priced even higher. Obtaining certifications can be a costly process for mattress manufacturers, and the raw materials are typically more expensive than their synthetic counterparts. Customers should expect to spend at least $1,500 on a Queen-size green mattress.
- Narrow Selection: True green mattresses are less common than non-green models, leaving customers with fewer options than they may prefer. This is particularly true for mattress buyers who are looking for non-latex models, as well as those with specific firmness or thickness criteria.
- Limited Company History: Mattresses made with traditional, non-green materials have a longer track record. Green and organic materials, on the other hand, have a more limited history on the market. Additionally, a sizable percentage of online-only mattress brands have been in business for five years or less, meaning that the long-term durability of their mattress models has not been accurately evaluated.
Now that we have covered pros and cons of green mattresses, let’s look at some important considerations for shoppers who are comparing different green mattress brands and models.
- Certifications: As we’ve discussed above, a true green mattress should be certified by one of the leading certification organizations. A mattress that is sold as organic latex, for instance, should display the GOLS certification; those that do not display this certification may not be true organic latex models. Remember: mattresses may receive more than one certification and still be considered green, but customers should question the mattress companies that make green claims without citing any of the certifications listed above. Additionally, customers should research brands to ensure their certifications are currently valid and up-to-date, as some display the certification logo even though their certified status has lapsed.
- Model Description: How a mattress manufacturer describes a given mattress can be very telling. Terms like ‘green’ and ‘eco-friendly’ are not directly linked to any recognized certification or standard. If a company uses general terms like these without mentioning any specific certifications, then customers may want to research that brand further to ensure they are up to snuff.
- Quality of Materials: Material quality is key for mattress performance as a whole, and can also be used to assess how green a particular mattress model is. Some mattress brands disguise low-quality materials by referring to mattress construction in vague terms. Mattress shoppers can evaluate material quality using the following strategies:
- Read the specs: Some mattress brands are much more detailed and transparent about their mattress specifications than others. For example, mattresses with foam layers should include the density, indentation load deflection, and thickness of each individual layer. Innersprings should list the type of coils used, as well as the coil gauge. Latex mattresses should include the process and type of latex used. As a general rule, consumers should be wary of companies that do not make this information easily accessible.
- Comfort layer thickness: Generally, mattress comfort layers that are less than two inches thick will begin to sag and develop indentations much sooner than comfort layers that are at least two inches thick. Sagging and indentations can contribute to mattress degradation, so it’s important to measure the comfort layer to help ensure the mattress will have a decent lifespan.
- Weak layers: Let’s say a mattress has two layers of natural latex in the comfort system and all specs are included, but the model also has a foam layer in the support core for which details specs aren’t disclosed. This may indicate that the foam layer is relatively thin and/or weak, and that it may reduce the overall lifespan of the mattress. Be sure to inquire about all individual layers and components.
- Fire barrier: As we mentioned above, green mattresses should never include chemical flame retardants or chemical-treated flame barriers. They should have a flame barrier made of materials like wool, cotton, thistle, or Kevlar. Alternatively, if they do not contain chemical flame retardants or a flame barrier, the manufacturer must meet all state and federal flammability standards.
- Company History: A mattress brand with a relatively limited company history isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker. However, a mattress that has only been on the market for two to three years has not been evaluated for long-term durability and performance. Customers should proceed with caution when it comes to mattresses with an unknown lifespan.
- Value: As stated above, green mattresses can be quite expensive. However, more important than the price-point is the overall value of the mattress. Does the mattress offer a comfortable, supportive sleep surface that will — in most cases — satisfy owners for at least six to seven years? Is the mattress a better choice for customers than a cheaper model? The price-points for green mattresses can be intimidating for first-time buyers, but many of these models are considered high-value because they outperform less expensive models in different areas.
- Free Shipping: Some — but not all — mattress brands offer free shipping for customers in the lower 48 states; deliveries to Alaska or Hawaii almost always incur shipping charges to some degree. However, purchasers are urged to read the fine print, as some brands do not disclose their shipping rates until the point of purchase.
- Sleep Trial and Returns: A large number of mattress brands offer sleep trials for first-time customers. These sleep trials allow buyers to test out their mattress for a pre-agreed period, and then return and/or exchange their mattress before the trial period ends. However, not all sleep trials are created equal — and below you’ll find a list of factors to watch out for:
- Trial length: Some sleep trials extend as long as one year in length, while others span less than 30 nights. Keep in mind that some mattresses require several weeks to break in.
- Mandatory break-in: Because some mattresses need more time to acclimate, mattress manufacturers may impose a mandatory break-in period that requires buyers to test out their bed for at least a certain number of nights before they can return it as part of the sleep trial. Most mandatory break-in periods are 30 nights in length.
- Returns and exchanges allowed: Some mattress manufacturers allow customers to return their mattress in exchange for a full or partial refund, while others allow customers to exchange their mattress for a model of a different size or firmness rating. Some manufacturers allow both returns and exchanges. Customers should read the fine print to determine what is and isn’t allowed.
- Extra fees: When returning or exchanging a mattress as part of a sleep trial, some mattress manufacturers agree to cover costs associated with shipping the mattress from the owner’s residence to a company facility. In other cases, the customer will be responsible for these costs.
- Warranty: A mattress warranty guarantees that the product will not be defective for as long as the warranty is valid, which is typically 10 years or longer. There are two types of warranty coverage:
- Nonprorated: With the exception of some shipping and handling charges, the mattress owner will not be responsible for paying any extra fees to have their defective mattress repaired or replaced.
- Prorated: In addition to shipping and handling costs, the mattress owner must pay a percentage of the original product price in order to have a defective mattress repaired or replaced. This percentage often increases with each year of ownership — and people who are near the end of their warranty may end up paying a large chunk of the original price-point.
- The bottom line: warranties that are entirely nonprorated ultimately cost mattress owners much less than warranties that are partially or primarily prorated.
- Verified Reviews: Customers should research individual mattress models beyond the customer reviews listed on product pages. Many brands will only list positive reviews, or sort their reviews so that the positive ones are displayed before negative ones.
Best Organic Mattress: Brands and Models
Now that we’ve discussed the important terms and considerations associated with green and organic mattresses, let’s look at the top-rated green mattress models. The tables below list 10 of the leading green mattresses sold today. All customer satisfaction ratings are generated through authentic customer reviews obtained from verified sources.
|Model||Green Mattress||Stratami||Tea Leaf Supreme||EOS Tri-Lux||Hybrid Latex|
|Mattress Type||Hybrid||Latex||Plant-based memory foam||Latex||Hybrid|
|Comfort Layer||2″ to 4″ Natural Dunlop latex|
Organic Joma wool
|3″ Organic latex||1″ PLA memory foam|
3″ PLA memory foam
|Organic wool batting|
3″ Organic latex
|3″ Talalay latex (28 ILD)|
|Support Core||1″ Natural Dunlop latex|
8″ Pocketed coils
|5″ Organic Dunlop latex||8″ HD Polyfoam||3″ Organic latex (2 layers)||8″ Pocketed coils|
1″ HD Polyfoam (1.8 PCF)
|Cover||100% Organic cotton||100% Organic cotton||Hemp blend||100% Organic cotton||Wool and cotton blend|
|Flame Barrier Material||Silica and New Zealand wool||Kevlar||Organic cotton treated with non-PBDE materials||No flame barrier or fire sock|
No chemical treatments
|Green Certifications||GreenGuard Gold|
GOTS (organic cotton)
OEKO-TEX Standard 100 (Joma wool)
OEKO-TEX Standard 100
OEKO-TEX Standard 100 (cover)
|Shipping Costs (Continental U.S.)||$99.00 ||Free||Free||Free||Free|
|Sleep Trial||100 nights|
No mandatory break-in
No mandatory break-in
|‘Lifetime Comfort Guarantee’|
|Return or Exchange Fees for Customers||None||Transportation fees (9% of original price)||10% of original price||Shipping and handling fees||25% of original price (before 30 nights)|
No fees (30 to 100 nights)
50% of original price (exchanges after 100 nights)
|Warranty Length||25 years|
|Customer Satisfaction Rating||79% (678 customer reviews)||77% (435 customer reviews)||78% (412 customer reviews)||76% (1,247 customer reviews)||79% (423 customer reviews)|
|Tuck Review||Avocado||Essentia||Keetsa Memory Foam||Naturepedic||Nest Bedding|
|Brand||Plushbeds||Saatva||Sleep on Latex||Spindle||Zenhaven by Saatva|
|Model||Botanical Bliss Collection||Saatva Mattress||Pure Green Natural Latex Mattress||Natural Latex Mattress||Zenhaven Mattress|
Split Queen, King and Cal King
|Comfort Layer||1″ Organic New Zealand wool|
2″ to 6″ Natural Talalay latex
|5/8″ PLA Polyfoam|
3/8″ Memory foam
2 1/2″ Polyfoam
4″ Pocketed microcoils
|No comfort layer (7″)|
2″ Natural Dunlop latex
|3″ Natural Dunlop latex (2 layers)||Each side: 1 1/2″ Natural Talalay latex|
Organic Joma wool
|Support Core||6″ Organic Dunlop latex||4″ to 7″ Bonnell coils from recycled steel (13-gauge)||6″ Natural Dunlop latex||3″ Natural Dunlop latex||6″ Natural Talalay latex|
|Cover||100% Organic cotton||Organic Cotton Blend||1″ Organic cotton and organic New Zealand wool||Organic cotton with natural wool batting||100% Organic cotton|
|Flame Barrier Material||Organic New Zealand wool||Thistle||Organic New Zealand wool||Wool||Organic New Zealand wool|
OEKO-TEX Standard 100
|CertiPUR-US (Memory foam)||OEKO-TEX|
|OEKO-TEX Standard 100|
|OEKO-TEX Standard 100|
|Price (Queen)||$1,699.00 (9″)|
|$999.00||$899.00 to $1,029.00 (7″)|
$999.00 to $1,199.00 (9″)
|Shipping Costs (Continental U.S.)||Free||$99 In-home delivery||Free||Free||Starts at $99.00|
|Sleep Trial||100 nights|
No mandatory break-in
No mandatory break-in
Customers may swap out one latex layer within 365 nights
|Return or Exchange Fees for Customers||$99||None||None||$199.99||None|
|Warranty Length||25 years|
Customers may swap out latex layers for approx. $250.00 apiece
|Customer Satisfaction Rating||79% (548 Customer reviews)||76% (1,078 Customer Reviews)||85% (233 Customer Reviews)||78% (188 Customer Reviews)||80% (924 Customer reviews)|
|Tuck Review||Plushbeds||Saatva||Sleep on Latex||Spindle||Zenhaven|
As you browse and compare different green mattress brands and models, here is a final checklist to help you choose the mattress that’s best for you.
- Has the mattress earned certifications from the GOTS, GOLS, the USDA, and other certifying bodies that evaluate mattresses for environmental impact?
- Has the mattress been certified by OEKO-TEX, CertiPUR-US, Eco-Institut, or other certifying bodies that evaluate materials for human health risks?
- Are all mattress certifications current and up-to-date?
- Does the mattress manufacturer use vague terms like ‘green’ or ‘eco-friendly’ that are not linked to any official certification?
- If the mattress is made with latex, is the latex natural, blended, or synthetic?
- If the mattress is constructed with foam layers, are any of these layers made from plant-based foam (PLA)?
- If the mattress is a foam, innerspring, or hybrid model, then what materials or processes are used to ensure it is a green model?
- Does the manufacturer explicitly state that there are no chemical flame retardants in the mattress?
- What material is used to make the flame barrier (wool, silica, Kevlar, thistle, etc.)?
- If the mattress does not have a flame barrier or chemical flame retardants, has the manufacturer met all state and federal flammability standards?
Mattress Brands and Models
- What materials are used to make the cover, comfort layer, and support core?
- How thick is the comfort layer?
- Does the mattress manufacturer disclose specifications for each individual layer?
- What sizes are available?
- How thick is the mattress?
- How much does the mattress cost in the desired size?
- Is shipping free for the mattress?
- What is the sleep trial length, and is there a mandatory break-in period?
- Will the owner be responsible for any shipping or handling fees if they choose to return or exchange their mattress during the sleep trial?
- What is the warranty length? Is it fully nonprorated, or partially or primarily prorated?