When it comes to mattresses, many of us will think little about ‘what lies beneath’. However, your choice of mattress may be the one step between a good night’s sleep and a bad one.
If you consider that many of us spend a third of our year sleeping, what you are sleeping on suddenly becomes really important.
Getting a good night’s sleep can determine whether the day will run smoothly or not. The phrase ‘woke up on the wrong side of the bed’ sums up how a bad night’s sleep-can affect anyone.
One thing that few people consider is that there are often a lot of plastics and strange chemcials found hidden within the humble mattress.
Flame retardants alone come with a health warning, and this is only the beginning.
What Are Flame Retardants Made Of?
Flame retardants can contain chlorine, bromine (the most common), nitrogen, phosphate and boron.
Flame retardants are toxic to humans and animals. This is worrying, since they can be found in the air, soil, food and water.
They come under different chemical groupings, including OFRs, TBBPA, HBCD and OPFRs and PBDE’s. These chemicals have been linked to a number of health implications that can affect brain development and hormone regulation.
It is a particular worry when concerning the development of children, who often come into close contact with carpets, upholstery and furniture. Often, these flame retardants are believed to be released into the atmosphere via air and dust. Flame retardants are also in our food and water.
In fact, flame retardants have been found in breast milk, in a study produced by Breast Cancer UK. And citizens in the US and the UK have been found to be carrying more flame retardant within bodily fluids than any other country. Some flame retardants have been banned in the US and Europe, but not within the UK.
Due to our lifestyle having changed since flame retardants were first introduced, they are no longer needed in such quantities. Many of us no longer smoke or cook on an exposed flame. Not to mention the percentage of smoke alarms within households, which is put at 95%.
What Other Toxins Lie Within Your Mattress?
Polyurethane is a chemical within a lot of mattresses, which is often found in memory foam. It has been used in most mattresses since the 1950’s/1960’s and some companies are advocating latex memory foam as a replacement.
The benefit of latex is that it can be made from natural sources. e.g. natural rubber. However, some people are allergic to latex.
The problem with polyurethane, aside from being synthetic, is the VOC’s it is potentially emitting whilst you sleep. VOC’s stand for volatile organic compounds. Research has found that the increased temperature whilst sleeping increases the release of VOC’s. VOC’s are linked to eye, nose and throat irritation, to organ damage.
In addition, polyurethane can contain the use of phthalates, which are believed to be endocrine disruptors. Oeko Tex certification, explained below, prohibits the use of phthalates.
Memory foam is therefore believed to be toxic, but it is still very much used in the UK.
Polyurethane isn’t so harmful when it is produced without the use of phthalates. However, polyurethane alone is thought to be harmful for children, who are more susceptible to the VOC’s released.
If polyurethane is not so worrying, flame retardants definitely are. As this study shows, chemicals within mattresses are susceptible to emission. Flame retardants have been found in the blood stream, and are therefore bio accumulative. This means they accumulate over time.
If this wasn’t enough, mattresses can also release formaldehyde, which has been linked to various cancers. Formaldehyde is often found in textiles and is often used as an adhesive, which can be found in mattresses. This is thought to be the most alarming compound when involving children.
Thankfully, the Oeko Tex certification prohibits the presence of formaldehyde, flame retardants, and phthalates. If a textile meets the standards, the certification can be found on textile labels.
Here’s a little more about Oeko Tex.
Oeko Tex Standard 100 Certification
Unfortunately, organic certification is not the final stamp on whether the new mattress is free from harmful chemicals. There is a final step in the process. This is a certification called Oeko Tex Standard 100.
As important as organic certification is, it does not take into consideration the final product. This is where Oeko Tex steps in. This is a certification that ensures over 100 harmful chemicals with health implications are not contained within the final product. Or, are certainly not present at the levels that would be deemed hazardous.
This means every fibre and particle of the final product is tested for harmful chemicals. This is including the buttons, the thread, the zip and any other segment that comes as part of the product sold.
Many everyday products are treated or come into contact with chemicals at the final stage of the manufacturing process, even after organic certification. This means you can have bought an organic product, but it is not necessarily chemical free. The Oeko Tex certification ensures the product is safe for humans before it makes its way to a distributor.
It is good to bear in mind however, that Oeko Tex certification does not mean 100% natural fibres. Synthetic materials are accepted by Oeko Tex; they only ensure the safety of the materials used. An organic or natural mattress isn’t necessarily safer than a synthetic one.
What you can be ensured of with Oeko Tex is the safety of the final product. The certification bears varying degrees of standards according to how much contact the product makes with the skin, and if its intended use is with babies. This certification is therefore particularly important when buying for children.
How Do I Check for Oeko Tex Certification?
The certification has to be updated every year by Oeko Tex third party testers, and therefore it is important to check if the product is still valid.
Oeko Tex have a facility on their website where the label number can be checked. If a certification is out of date by even a day, the product will not be valid.
What to Do in Place of Oeko Tex Certification?
There are other alternatives to Oeko Tex certification. Not all non-toxic mattresses will bear the certification, although it is certainly a good reference.
There are materials that are naturally fire retardant, such as wool. Other materials that are natural and often organically produced are natural latex and cotton, as well as wool. However, it is important to note that despite claims, latex is not naturally fire resistant. It has been found to be resistant to heat to a certain degree, but to what degree is questionable.
And so, where to buy these non-toxic mattresses?
Where to Buy Non-Toxic Mattresses in the UK
When pursuing your non-toxic mattress, it is also important to remember that most mattresses contain springs. Springs are usually not made of natural materials and this may be one of many features not explained in your search.
Thankfully, Cottonsafe below, uses latex for their springs.
1. Cottonsafe Mattresses
Cottonsafe is the market leader in non-toxic mattresses and the immediate go-to.
Their mattresses have been made with the stringent UK fire safety regulations in mind. Cottonsafe were worried about the implications of coating every mattress in chemicals, and so have come up with mattresses flame retardant free and naturally so.
This means Cottonsafe have been clever enough to use the natural fire-retardant wool, to pass UK fire regulations. All of their mattresses are 100% fire retardant free.
They use a high degree of wool within their products, as well as other natural materials (natural latex, hemp, silk, and cotton), and have been awarded with a patented mattress cover. This means the cover they use is made of organic cotton and British wool, and is 100% fire safe. It is also biodegradable and recyclable.
Although their mattresses are not made of 100% natural materials, they are 100% recyclable. This means there are man-made materials within some of the products.
Cottonsafe are extremely transparent so you will always be well aware of any man-made material they do use. Polyester does feature in some of the products, but it is not to a large degree, and it is recycled polyester.
Cottonsafe are a family owned UK business, and they are paving the way for natural fire-retardant safe products. Although most of the wool used is not organic, they explain this is for good reason.
British wool meets their commitment to standards, is free range, and even organic wool must be dipped. You can read more about this here.
There are no additional chemicals added to the British wool they use.
Yes, Cottonsafe is not Oeko Tex Certified, but that is because they stipulate there are over 700 chemicals used in the mattress industry. Oeko Tex only certify the non-use of 300 of those. Cottonsafe go beyond Oeko Tex.
Cottonsafe provides the ultimate non-toxic mattress, and at affordable prices.
2. Una Non-Toxic Mattress
The Una non-toxic mattress is another great alternative in non-toxic mattress shopping.
This time, the mattress is made from cotton and wool, but also natural latex. Natural organic latex provides most of the beds’ composition, and also means it is naturally hypoallergenic. Latex is often used in mattresses as an alternative to memory foam, which contains the worrying use of polyurethane. Natural latex is the best alternative.
Una’s latex provides maximum comfort and can even be adapted to your liking! Una has come up with a way to alternate the firmness of your liking.
They offer the option to customise the firmness level with varying latex layers! This means you and your partner can choose a different layering order in the one bed. This can be arranged differently as the layers come separate! Read more about it here.
The company does cite there are no fire retardants used in their mattresses, they use natural carbon within the latex to make it fire retardant safe.
Una do mention the organic wool and cotton cover is naturally fire retardant as well. This is from the use of wool which is naturally fire retardant.
With Una you are receiving organic, as it is certified GOTS, as well as using certified organic latex. This means it is more planet friendly because it is produced with minimal chemicals, but it is not necessarily ‘carbon negative’ as it states on the website. It is also not Oeko Tex certified. This does not however make it non-toxic, as Oeko Tex is not the end-game in non-toxicity.
The Una mattress is a truly fantastic alternative to the regular synthetic mattress. Nevertheless, it would benefit from more transparency likened to the Cottonsafe mattress.
3. Marcapiuma Double 100% Latex Mattress
This has got to be up there with some of the best. 100% latex, which largely navigates the issue of using other materials.
The Marcapiuma uses Oeko Tex certified latex, which means less need to consider other materials. This has to be one of the more environmentally friendly on the list.
Latex is more environmentally friendly because it can be naturally produced, using natural rubber. This avoids the speculation over polyurethane, and formaldehyde..
A more transparent product, it has been designed with the 7 acupressure points in mind, to alleviate aches and pains associated with poorly constructed beds. Many customers comment on the improvement of their back and joint pain.
This product is made in Italy and comes vacuum packed, another result for the environment. EU regulations are not as strict as the UK for fire retardants.
This may mean the product adheres by EU rules and therefore avoids harmful chemicals, but it will not adhere to UK fire regulations if the latex does not contain natural carbon.
Nevertheless, you are buying a quality product that will hopefully last a lifetime, and it comes with a 10-year warranty.
One of the more expensive on the list, we think this is one of the better choices in non-toxic mattresses.
4. Evergreenweb EU Double Mattress
The raw materials used in the mattress have been Oeko Tex tested, and they have used a type of polyurethane that is gentle on the environment and you.
The company is reasonably transparent about the materials used, which also consist of cotton and polyester. Even though there are environmental issues with both these materials, it has been Oeko Tex certified so the mattress is ‘harmful chemical free’.
Even though the product cites being flame retardant to a low hazard, Oeko Tex does not allow for any flame retardants in the final product.
There has been a lot of thought that has gone into the design of this mattress and it even comes vacuum packed and rolled up, from Italy. A win-win on all fronts environmental.
As an added bonus, you will receive two free memory foam pillows.
For the price and the specs, this is a mattress well worth the asking price.
5. Alvi Crib Mattress
This is a lovely little mattress for a young one just entering the world. What a fantastic way to begin life, with a mattress that is caring and supportive in every way.
Alvi have engineered this mattress to support the development of the spine. It has several layers and even though it does contain a high percentage of polyester, it is Oeko certified.
Including 100% organic cotton, this little gem also uses Tencel, which is a highly sustainable fabric.
Very handy for parents, the cover is also washable too, and can be tumble dried.
With both care and innovation in mind, Alvi have provided a tool to find the mattress that best suits your child’s age.
Soft, nurturing and innovative-what more could you want.
6. Homylink Single Mattress
The Homylink mattress is Oeko Certified so you can rest assured there are no chemicals involved in the final production of this mattress.
It is flame resistant, which is mandatory under UK regulation but with Oeko certification, these retardants are not health inflicting.
Ergonomic and orthopaedic, this mattress has been designed with comfort and support at the forefront. In fact, many customers report the improvement of back pain.
The Homylink mattress is not the most transparent with materials, but it is Oeko Certified which goes a long way. It also comes vacuum packed, which makes it a more environmentally friendly delivery.
An extremely affordable mattress that looks to support the environment as well.
In conclusion, the best natural mattress in the UK, that is non-toxic, has to be the See the range on CottonsafeNaturalMattress.co.uk.
It simply surpasses all other presumably non-toxic mattresses and paves the way for what a non-toxic mattress must consist of.
Its use of natural materials to make a product naturally fire resistant, is innovative and also committed towards a sustainable future. Most importantly, the materials used are transparent so you can truly rest at night.
However, if your budget does not stretch that far, we recommend the See price and reviews on Amazon.co.uk, which is made in Italy and is Oeko certified.
An advocate for natural health and food is thy medicine, Karen has been on an alternative health journey for the last 20 years. A newly yoga devotee, she is also passionate about reducing waste and impact upon the planet.