Tips For Buying Affordable and Chemical-Free Mattresses
Have you ever thought about the mattress you are sleeping on and how it may effect your health? Did you ever wonder how the production and disposal of your mattress might effect the Earth and people you don’t even know?
When I first started looking for eco-friendly, healthy mattress options, I winced. So expensive! But, I did not give up. Stay tuned for the unique and wholesome options that I have discovered. I will be using full-sized mattresses as my examples.
What’s in a typical mattress that we should avoid?
Many conventional mattresses contain polyurethane foam, styrofoam and polyester. These materials are all made from petroleum. Drilling for oil and refining it so it can be made into products , such as mattresses, is very toxic to the environment and the people who live by these refineries. Polyurethane foam, for example, emits volatile organic compounds that can cause respiratory problems and skin irritation.
The next thing to look out for are flame retardants. Legally, mattresses are required to have these. So, while our bed might not burn down in the rare case of a fire, we are instead subjecting ourselves to another risk: toxic chemicals that may lead to health issues over time. If your mattress is from before 2004, it was likely treated with PentaBDE, a member of the polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) family of flame retardants. PentaBDE is now known to be toxic to the liver, thyroid, and nervous system.
For mattresses from 2004 or later, Ryan Trainer, executive vice president of the International Sleep Products Association, an industry group, says most companies use “various types of barrier fabrics”. On the safer end, there is cotton treated with boric acid or rayon treated with silica. On the more toxic side of things, bed companies use fire-resistant materials such as modacrylic fiber (which contains antimony oxide, a carcinogen) and melamine resin (which contains formaldehyde).
Also, let’s not forget the bigger picture: as a general rule of thumb, any product that is toxic to our health is also toxic to manufacture and dispose of. Just think about the people who live near the factories that make conventional mattresses. What are they breathing in? We are all interconnected. We share the same atoms of all the animals, plants, soil and water, so what’s not good for us is also not good for the planet.
What about soy memory foam, you might be asking? First of all, you will want to make sure it is 100% soy (and not mixed with petroleum-based foam). While soy memory foam may be safer in your home, it may also be made from GMO soy. GMO crops are heavily sprayed with the herbicide, Round Up Ready. They are genetically designed to be able to withstand these heavy sprays without dying. GMO crops are also fed with artificial fertilizers. Neither of these are good for the environment that sustains us, nor the people who live near or work on these industrial farms.
The Most Affordable Eco-friendly, Natural Mattresses
So, if you want to avoid flame retardants and sleep on truly natural sustainable materials, what can you do? Organic mattress companies have found a simple way to fireproof; they wrap their bedding in a layer of wool, which is naturally fire-resistant. However, full-sized organic mattresses encased in wool generally start around $1599, which is still pricey to me.
Allergic to wool or lead a vegan lifestyle? There are sustainable mattresses made of organic cotton and natural latex. With a doctor’s prescription you can purchase a mattress without fire retardants.
So, here are the exciting affordable options you have been waiting for (drumroll). The first one may be my favorite and is also the most expensive of these affordable options: $1068. It is a short, easy DIY project of inserting a 6 inch natural latex core inside of an organic cotton cover with wool batting. Vegan options are also available. This particular version has no flame retardants because only whole mattresses are legally required to have flame retardants– not parts that you put together yourself.
Getting an organic futon mattress is another more affordable option. I found a full-sized on made with wool and organic cotton for $809.37. I chose this one because I like softer mattresses.
And then, for those of you who are truly crafty and hands on (and also like firmer mattresses), you can make your own mattress with buckwheat hulls for about $400. There is a DIY kit sold online. Or you can get them ready-made for about $500. While this may all sound strange, hulls have been used for hundreds of years to fill pillows, mats and futons in Europe and Asia. You could combine this option with a 3 inch natural latex core for a softer feel.
Also, another DIY homemade option, that is old-fashioned and rustic, involves making a mattress stuffed with straw. People have been sleeping comfortably on straw mattresses for ages.
I, personally, am excited to try one or more of these options when I am ready to replace my current mattress. Perhaps, I will start with a buckwheat hull pillow for the fun of it to see how I enjoy that texture for sleeping. I look forward to the delicious feeling of sleeping on something truly wholesome that nurtures my body and soul. Ahhhhh, the beauty of living in harmony with the Earth.