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How To Buy A Non-Toxic Mattress (And An Inexpensive Alternative)

Affiliate Disclosure | in Everything Else | by | with 106 Comments

Hey mamas! Boy did you have questions after I posted on a possible link between sheepskins, mattresses and SIDS. Today I’ve compiled the most common ones in Q&A form. If you’re going to skim, make sure to check out question #6 for a confession about what I put my babies to sleep on. Hope you find it helpful!

Question #1: What Should I Look For In A Mattress?

There are sooo many things to consider, so let’s start with some mattress shopping basics and work our way from there, okay?

How To Get Around Toxic Fire Retardents

All mattresses are required by law to contain fire-retardent materials unless you receive a prescription from a doctor. Unfortunately, the cheapest and most common way to make mattresses fire-retardent is to douse them in toxic chemicals. Fortunately, there are a few alternatives:

“Some organic mattresses pass fire standards by using wool since wool is a fiber with natural fire retardant properties. There are companies that use only pure wool for this purpose. But be aware that some companies use wool with chemical treatments added to boost the wool’s fire resistance” (source).

Unfortunately, as we discussed in the post on sheepskins and SIDS, naturally occurring elements in sheepskin (and therefore wool) are thought by some to create toxic sleeping conditions. Though I can’t say this definitively, I believe organic wool may be different. More on what I discovered about “naturally occurring” chemicals in wool later in this post.

Other workarounds include using hydrated silica or boric acid. I think the hydrated silica is fine, but I personally would avoid the boric acid. It’s a great natural way to deal with roaches, but it’s still roach killer!

Misleading “Natural” & “Organic” Product Labels

According to this article, “Just because a mattress is called organic does not mean that it’s non-toxic. It really depends on all the materials used. A mattress can be called organic if it contains any organic component such as an organic cotton filling or even just an organic cotton surface fabric. Some organic mattresses have organic cotton filling with a vinyl covering. These may be called organic mattresses, but because of the vinyl covering (and most likely chemical fire retardants), these mattresses are obviously not all that healthy. It’s important to check into all materials used, and it can be difficult to get full disclosure from the retailers or the manufacturer.” Here are a few other factors to consider:

#1: Wool covers are water-resistant but not 100% waterproof…

Which means that if there is cotton layer underneath the wool it could get wet and mildew. To get around this, either go with a naturally hypo-allergenic, anti-microbial and dust mite resistant natural latex mattress or consider an organic mattress with a waterproof layer made of low density, food-grade polyethylene.

“Environmental scientists agree that low density, food-grade polyethylene is the safest plastic available for waterproofing a crib mattress. It has a simple molecular structure and does not contain phthalates or other unsafe additives. Unlike the production of vinyl, dioxins and other toxic chemicals are not released into the environment during production of low density polyethylene . . . Strict independent testing confirms there are no phthalates or any toxic chemicals in this polyethylene.”(source)

#2: Natural rubber (latex) **may** contain proteins that are allergenic…

To some people and could theoretically cause anaphylactic shock. This company says that “As of yet, there have NOT been any reported cases of allergies to Pure Natural Latex (or Pure Natural Rubber) and the general incidence of latex allergy is low, less than 1% of the U.S. population. People that are allergic to latex are normally allergic to the type of latex used in making latex gloves (workers who wear latex gloves most of the day have a risk of less than 10%) which is closed cell structure latex.”

They also offer to send you a free test kit if you are considering a purchase. Also, it’s important to know “there is no such thing as 100% pure natural rubber latex. In order to make the natural rubber into a foam block, there has to be some chemical processing. Some natural latex does come close to pure, but there are many mattresses out there that are called natural latex that really are a blend of natural rubber and toxic chemicals. So if you want a latex mattress for your baby, you need to dig deep to find one that is as pure as possible.” (source)

Got it? NO????

That’s okay! Let’s start over.

First, check out company ratings in this buying guide (thank you Renee K for sharing this resource!). Though it’s specifically geared toward crib mattresses many of the companies reviewed also have adult-sized mattresses available. Once you’ve decided on a couple you’re interested, check them against the tips above to see if any red flags come up.

A few comments about the buying guide’s recommendations: Though boric acid is considered by some to have a low toxicity rating, I’m just not comfortable with using roach killer as a waterproofing agent. Also, antimony is listed as a “chemical of concern’ but arsenic and phosphorous are not. I would double check with manufacturers on whether they contain these two compounds before making a final decision on a purchase. Finally, I would avoid any mattresses that have un-waterproofed organic cotton rather than wool/latex as the surface material. It’s just too easy for it to accidentally get wet and mildew. Removable cotton pads/wool pads that can be washed are fine.

Speaking of removable moisture-absorbing covers, this is the most ridiculously cheap and easy option available just cover with a cotton sheet and you’re done! If you’re not familiar with wool, it has historically been used as a diaper cover because it is very antimicrobial. Unlike sheepskins, which should be washed only rarely, I’d go ahead and wash these often even though they won’t last as long to prevent the development of S. Brevicaulis. Wool requires special care when it come to washing, but if you follow these instructions you should be fine (make sure to put them in the dryer or hot sun to prevent mildew).

Note: Firm mattresses are typically recommended for babies, especially if they are being placed on their tummy to sleep because a soft mattress could interfere with breathing. Wool puddle pads and other pads are considered fine by most, but I’d personally make sure it’s not too “cushy” in there!

Question #2: I Can’t Invest In A New Mattress Right Now. Is There A More Affordable Option Available?

Yes, you can wrap your current mattress (or your baby’s crib mattress) in a low density, food-grade polyethylene cover (commonly called the Babesafe cover). It’s fairly inexpensive, and as I mentioned earlier “food-grade polyethylene is the safest plastic available for waterproofing a crib mattress [or other mattress]. It has a simple molecular structure and does not contain phthalates or other unsafe additives. Unlike the production of vinyl, dioxins and other toxic chemicals are not released into the environment during production of low density polyethylene . . . Strict independent testing confirms there are no phthalates or any toxic chemicals in this polyethylene.” (source). It’s also really easy to use:

Downsides: According to reports it’s pretty noisy, so if you’re the type to sneak out of bed after your littles fall asleep (like Daddypotamus and I do every night) be warned! Also, keep in mind that polyethylene is not breathable – you’ll probably want to add a washable cotton mattress pad over the cover if it’s going on an adult bed. A cotton sheet is all that is recommended for crib bedding so that the sleeping surface is firm rather than squishy).

Where to buy: You can Google “low density, food-grade polyethylene mattress cover” to find the best prices on the crib versions, but the only manufacturer of adult-sized covers I am aware of can be found here.

Question #3: If I can’t afford a new non-toxic mattress should I replace my old one with a conventional mattress?

I probably wouldn’t. Though it’s less likely to contain fungus and bacteria, the “new” smell it comes with means it’s off-gassing tons of chemicals into the air. I’d just wrap my old mattress and start saving for a better one down the road.

Question #4: Why Do Lambskins Contain Arsenic, Antimony and Phophorous?

I thought it was kind of odd that sheepskins would naturally contain such toxic ingredients so I looked into it. Surprise surprise! They are actually dipped in a slew of chemicals including arsenic to control ticks and fleas.

“The majority of former sheep dips investigated to date are contaminated with persistent dip chemicals at levels that are hazardous to humans, livestock and the environment. Arsenic and the organochlorine pesticide dieldrin are the two main contaminants found at sheep dips sites.

Other organochlorine pesticides that have been found at sheep dips sites in New Zealand are lindane, DDT, aldrin and endrin. Long term exposure to organochlorine pesticides can affect the central nervous system and can cause liver damage in humans and animals. Arsenic is a known human carcinogen and is very toxic to humans and animals” (Source: Sheep Dip Factsheet).

I haven’t yet been able to confirm this regarding antimony and phosphorous, but I wouldn’t be surprised if excessive levels are really contaminants from industrial practices.

Question #5: So, is there something we can do to kill out the S. Brevicaulis fungus?

I’m no lover of things like Lysol, but it does kill out a ton of different things like this. What is out there that parents can safely use on their mattresses to control S. Brevicaulis?

Unfortunately, it appears that this fungus likes to eat chemicals so it’s possible that anything you spray on it will just feed it :( The good news is that mattress wrapping does seem to be very effective at dealing with gasses right on the sleeping surface.

Question #6: So what about co-sleeping?

My son has peed on our mattress before (a couple times) but we have an allergen cover now. How serious do you think this toxic mattress issue is?

I slept with both of my babies on a chemical-laden memory foam mattress that Daddypotamus and I purchased before we knew better, and most of my friends did the same. Personally, I think toxic mattresses are most likely to have an effect if other factors are present – a vaccine reaction, serious illness, underdeveloped neurology with respect to breathing patterns, etc.

Now that we know better we will do better, but if covers weren’t available and we couldn’t afford a new mattress I would still bedshare. Babies and their mothers are deeply linked in an emotional AND physiological sense, and I believe this connection reduces the risk of SIDS – more on why soon!

Photo credit 1, photo credit 2, photo credit 3, photo credit 4


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106 Responses to How To Buy A Non-Toxic Mattress (And An Inexpensive Alternative)

  1. kristen says:

    OR you can just fold a couple big organic cotton blankets, cover with a wool puddle pad (or sweater) and a sheet and lay them on the floor! And then you can just throw the whole thing in the wash whenever you want. i think this is the easiest, safest, and cheapest option out there. or you could just use a hammock…

  2. Liz says:

    Hi Heather! Great article (and awesome blog, by the way! I’m a huge fan).
    I have one question – now that I’ve formed a plan to “fix” our mattresses, what do you recommend for pillows? We have cheap department store pillows, and before I invest in something better, I’d love to hear your recommendations. Thanks!

    • Heather says:

      Ahhh, I’m glad you liked it! It was super long, I know! Latex pillows are often recommended since they’re antimicrobial and pillows tend to get exposed to moisture. Though I haven’t researched buckwwheat and a few other options listed here (, they might be worth looking into. Though certain natural fabrics and fillers may be susceptible to mildew, I think this is less of a concern for adults unless they drool a lot :) Plus, wool can be cleaned and set in the sun, which is very antimicrobial. You might find a mattress company you like from the buying guide I mentioned and see what they recommend :)

    • Aimee says:

      We made pillows out of wool (got it from a friend/farmer, cleaned and dried it, then stuffed our waterproof pillow covers with it) a few years ago and they are still doing great! My husband recently got a buckwheat pillow and he really enjoys that too.

  3. Dove says:

    We bought a Naturepedic mattress for our daughter… it is pricey but in our minds WELL worth it, we bought a lot of her other things on discount or were given them so we used the savings for her mattress. She is 11 months and it is in excellent shape (we sometimes co-sleep or use a bassinet) so I don’t see why it won’t last through several more babies!

  4. Kelsey says:

    I have a question about mattress wrapping. On the BabeSafe website is says not to use any blanket type sleeper with a mattress wrap, do you know why? My babies have always slept in Sleepsacks and sleep so well with them. It also says not to put on any type of mattress pad, but I can’t think of a reason why these things wouldn’t be okay to use with a mattress wrapper….

    • Heather says:

      Not sure why they would say that about sleeper sacks, except maybe because some are treated with chemical fire retardents (or used to be, I haven’t looked at them in a long time). Regarding mattress pads, it’s probably because infant sleeping surfaces are supposed to be firm rather than squishy. I’d personally be fine with using an organic washable pad as long as it wasn’t too thick :)

      • Paul says:

        Thank you for all the information on this website. I am looking for a non-toxic, non-wool mattress for my 12 year old son. He wants a gel foam type. I am at a loss after weeks of internet searching and store shopping. This should not be so difficult. Any information would be appreciated.

        • Susi says:

          You can contact us under

          We supply everything from nautral pillows, to sheets to wool moisture pads and off course also mattress. I have to say, Gel foam type is not what we sell as it is a chemical product. We well only natural solutions because… we sleep a 1/3 or lifetime and there has to be a place for our body to regenerate and rest without getting triggered by toxins.

          We have not all our products on the website because we find that eveyr customer is unique and has special requests. We work with several suppliers and find the solution which fits you best.

          Hope that helps.

  5. Marykay says:

    Has anyone else had trouble finding the crib sized mattress cover? I googled as described but the first 3 pages have come back with more info on why it is safe and new mattresses with this kind of cover but no covers by themselves. I will look more extensively later but was wondering if anyone else was having the problem or knows of a good source that sells them

    • Marykay says:

      Nevermind, when I googled babysafe covers I got a bunch of results :)

      • Heather says:

        Okay, good! Sorry about that, MaryKay! I didn’t do any research on pricing or retailers so I didn’t want to make a specific recommendation, but I wasn’t trying to make things unnecessarily difficult! Glad you figured it out :)

    • Susi says:

      Hello Marykay,

      after reading this website comments for a while I decided to get into action.
      I designed a complete mattress cover which is a very tight woven certified organic cotton (so tight it also works as a dustmight cover).
      With that one you can cover a mattress completely. With a Crib mattress it would come with an enevelope shape. IN a twin size with a zipper.

      Is that what you are looking for, a complete engasing of your mattress?

      You can contact me under


  6. This is such a helpful post! Since we’ve been taking baby steps toward a less toxic-lifestyle I’ve sort of let that huge ol’ mattress just sink into the back of my mind. This makes it seem so doable! Thanks again for your great research. :)

  7. Jennifer says:

    You’ve got to be kidding me! You make everything from scratch including fermenting AND you still find time to lay with them while they go to sleep? You need to teach me how to be that efficient.

    • Heather says:

      Uhhhh, it’s not pretty sometimes. We’re adding homeschooling in a few weeks and I’m shaking in my boots about it!

      • Jennifer says:

        I want to homeschool too but i’m not sure that I can do it. Really…. I can hardly make most of our meals from scratch and i’m not doing all of the extras (sprouting, ferments, etc). I don’t know if i will ever find the time.

      • Beverly says:

        You’re going to LOVE it. Homeschooling affords Mommy-time to get things done while they “own” their education that you & they (their personality needs steer) set up… interspersed with you popping in intermittently to access that they’re on track. I homeschooled one of each gender and loved it!

  8. Lori says:

    Do you have recommendations for good mattresses? Thanks!

    • Heather says:

      Not specifically, Lori, but the buying guide I linked to is a great place to start if you’re shopping for one!

      • Melinda says:

        Crib mattresses without either chemicals of concern or allergens:
        + Vivetique
        + White Lotus
        + Naturepedic

        Crib mattresses w/o chemicals of concern, but use some materials that MAY be allergenic:
        + Land and Sky
        + Natural Mat
        + Organic Mattresses, I nc.
        + Pure R est
        + Savvy R est
        + Shepherd’s D ream
        + Sleeptek
        + Soaring Heart Natural B ed Company
        + Suite Sleep
        + Vivetique (other models)
        + White Lotus (other models)

        Great article! But, I take issue with your claim that “low density, food-grade polyethylene” is safe. Professor Fredrick S. Vom Saal, a professor of biology at the University of Missouri, recommends only using plastic items made with number 2 (high-density polyethylene) or 5 (polypropylene). (Items made with LDPE are number 4.) Me, I wouldn’t put plastic anything on my kid’s bed!

  9. caroline says:

    Hi Heather, So I guest posted at Kelly the Kitchen Kop for Thursday, one day after you posted this! Can you believe the coincidence! It was just meant to be :) I will be sure to link this post to those readers asking for answers! Thanks

  10. Rose says:

    Wow I find it strange that so many of the blogs I review are on this topic. BUT good thing because we’re having a huge problem with my son’s eczema being esp. itchy at night suddenly. I suspect it’s the new mattress… we’ll it’s actually a used mattress but new to him.

  11. wendi says:

    We have a memory foam on top of our matress right now.
    I knew the info of older matresses(before 2007) were better which thankfully my son’s matress is then.
    But our memory foam I can ask my mom how old it is but if its before 2007 would it be ok?
    I’m thinking not and that either way we need to get a cover.

    Below the memory foam we have an old matress..

    Thanks for your help!

    • Heather says:

      Our mattress is a memory foam that was made before 2007 as well. Though I can’t say I think it was a good purchase knowing what I know now, we’re choosing to keep it, cover it, and save up for a better one later :)

  12. wendi says:

    How loud are the covers? I read a review saying they were quite loud.. Going to see if my husband will even go for it.. Also.. If baby matress is before 2007 would you still get a cover for it?
    Thanks for your help!

    • Heather says:

      Hi Wendi! I’m no expert, but I imagine that some would say even though mattresses manufactured before 2007 have fewer chemicals they could still be considered toxic. Also, it seems that S. Brevicaulis becomes more established over time, so that might another thing to consider about older mattresses.

  13. Erin says:

    so should we not get a mattress that is, say, natural latex surrounded by organic wool and then organic cotton? or do we just need to avoid wool? so much information for my brain to take in…and should a mattress be not waterproof or waterproof? if we get something like natural latex surrounded by wool and cotton, we still need a waterproof cover, right? so why should a mattress not be waterproof itself? i read that somewhere else i think – but i am so exhausted right now and have read so much i start getting a little foggy in the head :-) i so appreciate your research and sharing it all with us! sorry for all the questions :-) maybe if i re-read in the morning, my brain will handle it all better :-)

  14. So interested by this! I had previously thought I would do a mattress wrap for the future kiddos – but am not sure I could handle the noise (had never thought about that before!). Looks like I need to start saving up for a good quality truly organic mattress now :)

  15. Nicole Sherwood says:

    UhOh, I am confused. I have an older crib mattress (I am not sure how old), and that is what I am starting with. What should I use? Would a Babesafe mattress cover, and a mattress cover from Swaddlebees do the trick? We will be cloth diapering. Thanks in advance for an replies!

  16. Crystie says:

    I saw this on Daily Grommet and thought of this post. Alpaca pillows: “inhospitable to dust mites, and it’s naturally fire retardant without the need for chemicals. Alpaca is also great for allergy-prone sleepers.” Though these pillows are definitely not cheap. However, if someone wanted to know about another material for pillows or mattresses and DIY, here’s an idea.

  17. […] better we will do better, so I’m saving my pennies to buy a non-toxic mattress using this shopping guide. In the meantime, though, I’m using the inexpensive wrap option at the end of the guide. […]

  18. Mary Beth says:

    I found a great company to buy mattresses from and thought I would share. I looked around a bunch and this is what I ended up getting. I learned a lot from them too – like for instance when you buy a latex mattress apparently after they tap the tree overseas, they need to put 19 chemicals in it (including arsenic) to keep it in liquid form until it gets to the factory to form it. This company gets the latex from the tree and then has it formed within 2 days so that they don’t have to add all the chemicals (so the latex is organic too). None of the mattresses have any chemicals in them, they are naturally fire retardant. They use high quality organic cotton and wool (apparently the quality affects fire retardant properties). They also don’t encase the whole mattress – they keep the thick wool topper out of the mattress so you can take it off and air it in the sun, etc. They last 20 years or more, so you can replace just the topper if you want instead of the whole mattress after you have had it a while. Super mattresses, and super comfy! Like it so much I wanted to share!
    They also have pillows-haven’t tried them yet but have some on order…..

  19. susi says:

    Check out this comparison
    We sleep 1/3 of our lifetime, kids even more..
    I recommend, research, save up, cosleep and when you buy a mattress for your kiddo, think about the size. We recommend a TWIN XL because then… they can take it to university!
    A certified organic latex mattress with certified organic cotton and untreated wool in the cover does the trick. have all a great sleep and if you have questions, email us we love to support you. Susi

  20. Christina Smith says:

    This new find today made me think of your mattress post.

  21. JanineB says:

    Hello Heather,
    Thanks again so much for all your great advice on this blog!
    So I have already bought a used Polyurethane foam mattress for our crib, with apperently “potentially cancer-causingchemicals, and may emit harmful “VOCs” .”
    Do you think one can wash these out, as i can wash the mattress and it’s a few years old anyway. Should I get a mattress crib cover made out of polyethylene instead or simply a better mattress? Any ideas?
    Also, do you know by any chance if the adult mattress covers protect from mold? Our mattress is so old- I wonder sometimes if there could be mold in it?! Yuck…
    Thanks for your help!

    • Susi says:

      If you have a used crib mattress, you might be interested in this article.

      Chemicals in the Crib

      Regarding febreeze or mold. Hard to get rid of that smell or bacterias.
      You could cover the mattress with a custom made dustmite fabric (certified organic) but I also agree with the others, it does not guarantee that the offgasing stopps.

      Overall, if you don’t have a severe latex allergy, I always recommend 100% natural or certified organic latex, covered with certified organic cotton and as the fire retardant the certified organic wool in the top layer.

      ANother really important part in general,
      1) air your mattress for at least half a day. Don’t make the bed. A healthy way of making your bed in the morning is just fold the blanket over the end so the blanket AND Mattress can airdry. That way you allow moisture to dry.
      Air your house once a day for 15 – 20 minutes. Meaning open all windows. That will not open exchange the air, it also put’s oxygen in your air and helps with the heating bill. Ultimately you remove any kind of mold spores, illness bacteria etc, offgasing from furniture from you indoor environment.
      Imagine you have a bowl of water and add some fresh water drops… it will never be fresh.
      Same thing with air. Just opening a little window.. does not do the job.

      I had a long conversation with a super nice guy from Health Canada. Our house was full of mold and he said that airing your house the right way is one of the simplest, cheapest ways to improve your inddoor air.

      Let me know if you need any help to find covers.


  22. Steph says:

    I know this is an article from a few months ago, but thought I would ask my question anyway. We were recently gifted a used mattress from a family friend for our toddler girls, who evidentally puts febreeze things in their fans all over their house. We have had this mattress for 3 days and the febreeze smell has permeated through a mattress pad & 2 sets of sheets, and my girls smell like febreeze when they wake up. I desperately have wanted and even more so now to purchase a good quality, non-toxic mattress for them & eventually us as well, but our budget is such that as of right now it would be really difficult to afford. I am sitting here in tears (pregnant & emotional! ;)) thinking of putting them to bed again tonight in that bed. Does anyone know if the food-grade polyethylene cover discussed above would trap the chemicals & smell of febreeze? I am hoping that if it supposedly traps the off-gassing of conventional mattresses, the chemicals in febreeze would be included as well! I am desperate, until I can convince my husband we need to purchase them a new mattress!

    Thank you!

    • Heather says:

      Steph, I am so sorry I don’t have better news but the mattress wraps discussed in this post don’t wrap all the way around the mattress. The under part is still exposed, so though according to the proponents of mattress wrapping it would affect the quality if the air they were breathing while sleeping a certain amount would still make it into the environment. :(

  23. paul says:

    can you recommend a non-toxic, non wool matress? I want to purchase a queen for my son. This should not be so difficult.

    • Susi says:

      Contact us and I can explain what options you have.
      We carry certified organic rubber latex mattresses with certified organic cotton and wool cover.
      BUT you have the option to have NO wool in the cover if you wish.
      Just give a call and I am happy to help you or guide you in the right direction.

      Susi 778 426 4270 check out our testimonials

  24. JanineB says:

    Thank you Susi, that is helpful. It seems like such a tricky subject, but I have just ordered covers for both baby and our mattress and will make sure for plenty of good air in the house (just have to convince hubby that it’s not a total waste of energy to air out the house every day ;) )
    So glad to know of this blog for well researched information!!!

  25. poppins says:

    Heather, or Anyone Else,
    I recently bought a mattress for my kids from Natura thinking they were chemical free. Now I am concerned they are inhaling toxins while they sleep. Especially worried about what they call a “natural cotton fire barrier”. Does anyone have good information on decoding a mattress labels? Some help would be REALLY appreciated.
    This is the mattress label:
    These are their organic certifications, not sure whether they are actually good:

  26. Susi says:

    Hello Poppins,

    hopefully this helps you a little. Have you talked to Natura direct?

    We carry a wide range of bedding products, researched tons and we are the main rep for Inbed organics.
    One question I have, does our kids mattress smell?

    Hope this helps you a little. Be persistant and talk to the supplier direct. Usually all the suppliers are very open to give you as much info as possible (one exception is Essentia, they are not very open to share details)


  27. Pam says:

    Thanks for this info. I am beginning the process of shopping for a natural mattress and would like to find a twin XL for my 22 year old son. Need a chemical free, non allergenic one, and I am stumped… I found your blog while googling for a natural mattress, and I’m so glad to find it. Great info here.

  28. jen says:

    Great article! We spend so much time in bed I feel this is truly important. My plan is to get an organic cotton futon (can have a wool core or be all cotton) that has no flame retardants. You can buy one without the flame retardants if you get a prescription from your doctor first (this is for California, not sure about laws in other states). I’m sure there are other futon companies who do this but this one is near me so I am planning to order from them. My current futon smelled awful when I got it but my doctor at the time would not write me the prescription. My new doctor said no problem :-) I bet you could get them to make a custom size that would fit a crib. I don’t have kids so this one is adult sized:

    • Susi McMillan says:

      Make sure you ask them what organic cotton means for them. Ultimately dirt is organic.
      Honeslty a queen size futon for $ 170 can not be certified organic cotton.
      Cotton will attract dust mites while wool will not.

      You should be able to buy products without flame retardants. When we sell certified organic rubber latex mattresses to US customers, they have to sign a waiver. Our flame retardant is the certified organic wool layer in the mattress cover.

      Futons are great if you like to sleep on a real firm base. Good luck and it looks like you have to deal with other issues like we in Canada. Never heard that you need a prescription for a non toxic bed. Very interesting. Thank you for sharing

  29. […] sleeping on air mattresses, so this is an area we haven’t yet explored.  However, I did find this wonderful post on purchasing a non-toxic […]

  30. Dawn says:

    Ok, so this is actually related to cloth diapering but I am wondering if organic wool covers or better since they don’t have the laminated polyester or PULs (which could have flame retardants and who knows what else offgassing) or is the wool worse since it could release toxic nerve gas….help!!! What is a mama to do?!?!!! Should I be using 100% organic cotton and changing her every hour the good ole fashioned way?

  31. […] This is an item that I would research well before purchasing. There is much information on line about what to look for in a crib mattress to protect your baby — some folks use a mattress cover that prevents any fumes from reaching baby.  Read more about making the crib mattress baby safe here. […]

  32. Brianne says:

    I have read this post so many times. Every time I am motivated to find a solution for myself (just me, no kids) and every time I become frustrated until I close all my internet windows in a rage and go open a bottle of wine. I’m about to go open the wine…

    Why must this be so difficult?!?!?!

    Thanks for the research and effort that went into this. I just needed to take a moment to vent with a community that gets why this is frustrating. One day I’ll be patient enough to find myself a less toxic mattress. Probably. :)

    • I understand. I recommend you start with ” I deserve spending money on myself, I deserve sleeping on a healthy mattress” pick one and don’t look back. The one you picked will be the perfect one.

      I am also one of these procrastinators who would like to pick the absolute best option, until I realized… the longer I wait…. the less benefit I have.

      Please don’t feel affended if I make some assuptions here and honelsty bottle of wine is sometimes a great solution, short term.

      Here a good article WHY a healthy mattress is a good idea.

  33. Mary Beth says:

    I did a lot of research and ended up getting my mattresses from Soaring Heart Natural Bed Company. Their website is if you want to check them out. I called them with lots of questions and they were great with getting me the info I needed.

  34. Celine says:

    What type/brand of mattresses would you Heather ideally save up for? My husband and I are newlyweds and about to move into our first house. We are bed buying and I would like something that is safe for our future children to co-sleep on. I have been doing a lot of research but am a little lost in the frey . . .

    • Kathy says:

      There is a very reasonably priced chemical free mattress for kids on a site called Look at the Pure Echo.
      They have good reviews and high referrals from the mattress underground.

      • Kate says:

        Yes! We have two Pure Echo Mattresses in our home and LOVE them. I love that my kids sleep on a safe mattress that is affordable! The twins are $494 with free shipping.

  35. laura says:

    as many others, i am totally frustrated after beginning my research on mattresses! we are beginning to transition our daughter to her own bed/room and, at almost four and sleeping in a king size bed with us for so long, thought it smarter to go ahead and get her a twin size to last her years. alas, this is one other thing that is in the category of ‘healthy living for those who have means’. with all due respect to those commenting ‘just do it….you deserve to spend the money on yourself’, etc….where there is no money, there is no money. (and there are only so many tax refunds a year….ONE! lol) if what is true about the polyethylene covers being loud (and by that description, i assume in the kind of ‘crunchy’ way), there’s no way my daughter, OR myself for that matter, will be able to deal with that. so what options are we left with? honestly, i’m not seeing an affordable option for someone in our tax bracket, if you will. ” save up ” and so on….yes. but no, really, we get by on a shoe string so i can stay home with my daughter. will i just have to swallow putting her to sleep on a crap mattress, try not to think about it all night long as she breathes in nasty chemicals, and stop doing research because that’s when i realize how many of these healthier options are for people who can afford them? sorry, end of rant! i appreciate this article and, especially, how well researched it is! just may have to lay this one down for a while, i guess.

    • Heather says:

      Laura, it is really frustrating. The good news is that California is considering amending it’s fire safety requirements so that many of these toxic chemical would no longer have to be used. (Studies show they don’t work anyway!) If that happens, there will be much more affordable options available.

    • Hello Laura, I think you are not the only one who is frustrated. We sell the products and also we had to save up for quite a while to change our kids and ourselves to a natural latex mattress.

      I can only tell you what we did because there is no golden rule what is best.
      We started with the pillows for our kids and got very low ones so the neck curve is not streched too much. Also airing the house is a 0$ affordable support. And then.. lot’s of wool blankets (second hand store) hot washed so they get felted as a barrier layer to the mattress.

      I can only say, start in steps and try to not feel guilty. We all do as best as we can.

  36. […] good option, although, as Mommypotamus explains in another article on the mattress situation (read it here), you have to be diligent in determining how “natural” your rubber latex mattress […]

  37. chris says:

    we used a babesafe cover years ago but for the list kid we bought a Serendipity cover from I think we got it on amazon but they also have a website. We had a few questions and sent an email to Jay the owner. He answered within a day and even talked us through installation on a co sleeper.

  38. Jared says:

    Great info. When should someone really consider buying or splurging on a new mattress instead of going with a topper?

    • Hello Jared,

      a topper is always just a thin layer on top of the old mattress. Having a non toxic topper makes it possible that your child is not in direct contact with any harmful materials like fire retardants but the off gasing from the mattress will still happen.
      Depending what mattress you have.
      Toppers are intend to soften the sleep experience. They usually come in a soft density.

      In my opinion, toppers are expensive too and if your kids don’t like to sleep on a super soft mattress, I rather invest in a new mattress with no topper. You will have them for a long time and the possibilty of any off gasing in gone.

      In the meantime, air the bedroom proper so the harmful air is exchanged with a fresh one from outside. SEE post Jan 14 2013.

      You are welcome to contact me direct and we can talk.


  39. […]  Mattresses – they off gas chemicals and flame retardants for years.  Check out Mommypotamus’s  article on How to Buy a Non-Toxic Mattress . […]

  40. […] “How To Buy A Non-Toxic Mattress (And An Inexpensive Alternative).” By Heather, 15 August 2012. […]

  41. […] How To Buy A Non-Toxic Mattress – The Mommypotamus […]

  42. […] better we will do better, so I’m saving my pennies to buy a non-toxic mattress using this shopping guide. In the meantime, though, I’m using the inexpensive wrap option at the end of the guide. […]

  43. […] are some ways to mediate the potential toxicity of the mattress. Fellow bloggers have covered it here and here. However, I found only one company that produced a cover that was tested and known to […]

  44. Becca says:

    Here is an inexpensive DIY futon mattress. It is not for babies (as is too soft).

  45. […] your baby is in your bed or his own, opt for a non-toxic mattress if you can afford it. Mommypotamus has a great post on what to look for in such a mattress, plus an inexpensive alternative. (Thanks, Heather, for such great […]

  46. Leah says:

    So, for those of us that probably have toxic mattresses due to budget and not knowing better at the time of purchase…ummm that’s us….you would best recommend to wrap our mattresses to prevent out-gassing? For a crib mattress, I could simply purchase a babesafe cover and then put on a cotton sheet over top and voila!? As for adult beds or mattresses other than crib-sized, you would recommend wrapping with something similar and then putting a cotton mattress cover over top for better comfort/less noise? I’m new to all this;)
    I get so sick to my stomach as I continue to realize how bad everything is for us. It is so overwhelming and I don’t even know where to start sometimes. I wish there was a priority list out there somewhere that said: start here….;) I think food is at the top of our list right now and that is quite the transition in and of itself.

    • Heather says:

      I am not an expert, but that sounds like a good plan to me. I would also like to add that I did not have this info when my two older children were little. They both slept with us and are fine. I think there are often additional factors.

  47. Raleigh says:

    Great article, one thing I would point out is you mention boric acid. It is really a safe alternative for those on a budget. Boron is actually naturally occurring. It is in ground water, fruits……. For it to be toxic in anyway the amount of exposure needed would almost be unachievable unless you worked in a mine with no protective equipment. The fact it is used as a roach killer sounds bad but in reality it is actually a very healthy way to kill roaches. USDA Certified organic farms are allowed to use it in barns and other areas as a roach killer. Great article but I wish someone would spend a little time to actually research versus just saying it is a roach killer. It is also a supplement, has been known to reduce risk of breast and prostate cancer….. but again the amount need for either a positive or negative impact will certainly not be achieved on the very limited exposure (which by the way the toxicity of boric acid is about the same as table salt) one will get from a mattress.

  48. Sara says:

    Hi Heather,
    I love your cleaning e-book but what you said about boric acid has me concerned! My midwives and others have told me it’s safe to use even while pregnant for vaginal itching as it seems to balance the pH even in tiny amts when inserted in a capsule. But now I’m worried that maybe it can hurt my child since I’m nursing and I did this while pregnant before too! Should I not in the future? It seems to be the only thing that helps me with the occasional vaginal itching/pH imbalance. Do you have other suggestions of things that work as well?
    Thank you!!!

    • Heather says:

      Hi Sara, I personally wouldn’t be too concerned. I did several things when I was pregnant with my first that I found out later I wasn’t “supposed” to. Because I am cautious I avoid things I am not certain either way about – that’s the case with boric acid. I personally avoid it, but I can’t say what anyone else should do. As for alternative recommendations, I’m sorry but I don’t of about any at the moment.

  49. Tara says:

    Heather, Did you ever look into specific brands of mattresses? I’m wondering what you would buy, if you were buying a new mattress. I am trying to find a guest bed, and that’s a bit challenging, because I want it to be non-toxic (it’ll be in our home all the time, even when guests aren’t sleeping on it!) but also not $2000-$3000, since it won’t be used all the time. And if we were to get a new mattress for ourselves, I wouldn’t be able to decide, since it’s a bit overwhelming looking at all the brands – and then all the various models within each brand.

    • Tara says:

      Also, interested in finding a good toddler mattress (for the price, it’ll end up being an “entire childhood – until leaving home” mattress!). Any suggestions?

  50. Hello Tara,

    suggestion for a toddler mattress… go with a Twin. That is a mattress which can move with the child once they go to university. We had one customer who knew already that his son will be very tall and he ordered the twin XL straight away.
    All the real 100% natural latex mattresses or also our certified organic latex mattresses have their price.
    You need the harvest from over 2.000 trees to make one good mattress.
    Make sure you look for dunlop for the mattress.
    I suggest medium firm density. Over the years, that is what people picked and were happy with.

    We represent inbed organic mattresses
    Any questions…. contact us.

  51. Hey Heather, Great article. I own a small organic mattress store in Raleigh NC ( We obviously specialize in organic as well as natural products. We feel as if the biggest enemies are polyurethane foams and chemical Flame Retardants although there are a lot of other things that should be examined. Having 4 kids myself the subject of children’s mattresses is something I have gone the extra mile to learn about. We also get the fact that for many people with Kids- price is a concern and we have gone the extra mile to offer a wide range of products. Should you readers ever have any questions or would like info feel free to have them reach out to me (


  52. Clare says:

    I’ve only just become aware of this toxic mattress and especially toxic lambskin baby rug theory…many say proof is that SIDS increases with each additional child because the fungus builds up and in poor families because they by second-hand matresses, so my question is, why aren’t there more cases of SIDS in nurseries and with childminders (who also often buy second-hand)? Surely their mattresses are used by many different children over many years??? My thanks to anyone who can reply.

  53. Clare says:

    Sorry, another question from me!… your blog is great and has already answered so many questions for me but…relating to question 4 about how the chemicals get into sheepskins – if it’s only from the dipping, does that mean that “organic” sheepskins don’t contain the toxic chemicals?

  54. Mindy W says:

    Hi Heather,
    I think i’ve read this post about 10 times now…and I’m still trying to figure out what to do! I’m curious if you can expand on a statement at the very beginning of the post…”Other workarounds include using hydrated silica or boric acid. I think the hydrated silica is fine” I found a mattress producer (Johnathan Stevens, based out of Grand Rapids, MI) that claims to use silica filled rayon fiber as their flame retardant. They say it is chemical free and non-toxic. Would this qualify as what you are referring to in the above statement? And if so, would you think I’d still need a mattress wrap, or would my kids be safe from toxins/off-gassing with this mattress? I’m literally at my wits end with all this (and certainly can’t afford the organic options discussed above), so any help would be SO appreciated!! Thanks and God bless you for ALL you do for your readers!! :)

    • Heather says:

      Hi Mindy, if the mattress is truly non-toxic I personally wouldn’t feel compelled to add a wrap cover. That is, unless wetting the bed might be an issue for one of your little ones. I actually have a new, non-toxic bed scheduled for arrival this week which I will be reviewing in July, so if you haven’t made a decision by then you m might want to stop by for an update. Mine will be coming with a non-noisy, non-toxic cover to keep moisture out of the bed and extend it’s life.

      • Mindy W says:

        Thank you so much for your response, Heather! I’m feeling pretty good about the mattress after a conversation with the companies sales manager on the topic. I would still like to protect the mattresses from fluids (you never know with kids!) What should I look for in a waterproof mattress cover? What plastics are safe? Is there a specific one you could recommend? Any tips are GREATLY appreciated!! :) Thank you again, you are a blessing!! :)

      • Jennifer says:

        Oh, this is great news! My husband and I are expecting our 3rd and our queen size just seems too small when just two extra pile in there in the night! We are saving for a new organic mattress this Christmas. I am eager to find out your recommendation!!

  55. Mindy W says:

    PS I mean a “traditional” mattress cover…obviously I know you recommend the wraps you link to! I was hoping to be able to use a traditional style waterproof mattress cover that wouldn’t be quite so noisy and one that I can wash! Thanks! :)

  56. Mindy W says:

    I’m wondering if you think this would be a good option? It’s made of polyethylene, like the wraps. Though I’m not sure the difference between this and low density food grade polyethylene? Thanks again :)

  57. […] This article has some great information and references for avoiding chemicals in mattresses and bedding. […]

  58. Julie says:

    Hi Heather!
    Did you write a review for the bed that you bought in June? May I ask which one you ended up buying? I’m trying to find a safe option for my husband and me…and I might buy a new infant bed or wrap the one we have. I’d love to know what brand/model of bed you think is safe! Thanks in advance!!

    • Tara says:

      I’ve been wanting to know the same thing, Heather! Would love to hear about your new mattress and what you might recommend for a toddler/child bed.

  59. […] Over the past few years we’ve heard more and more about the chemicals used in mattresses, like petroleum, flame retardants and plastics. As a result these treated mattresses have been linked to allergies, chronic illnesses and insomnia. If your kids are having trouble sleeping, it may be time to switch to a non-toxic mattress. Need more help? We love this mattress shopping guide from Mommypotamus. […]

  60. You’ve taught me a lot with your guide. Thanks for the useful links.

  61. […] when I wrote about my ideal mattress criteria, I was mostly looking for a non-toxic solution. When I finally found one I wanted to try, […]

  62. Lauren says:

    Hi all, I purchased a mattress today from The Futon Shop ( and I’m thrilled so I wanted to share my find. They are a San Francisco based company, and have a farm to bed motto and the mattresses are made in the USA! They have a wide variety of options, and I found a futon mattress for daily use that is 100% organic and chemical-free that was under $650 for a queen size! There website seemed too good to be true, so I went to the Sacramento show room and everything the salesman talked about mirrored this post, including his own opinions on ‘natural’ retardants like borate, and the soy-based options they sell. I think the showrooms are only in Caliornia, but they ship nationwide. My bed will arrive next weekend, and I’m so happy to not inhale chemicals anymore while we sleep :) Thanks for your post, Mommypotamus!

  63. heather says:

    Hello! I apologize if this has already been asked and answered :) If you recommend a mattress pad for an adult bed, would you opt for an organic one? Also, if I get the polyethylene mattress cover, then a mattress pad, then cover it with sheet, will that be too hot? I’m concerned because i know baby being too hot is a risk factor for SIDS. Want to do the best with this knowledge I’ve gratefully learned from you :) Would love your opinion!

  64. Princess says:

    Hi Heather! Thank you for this great blog entry! I just have to share this site where I get the best organic baby bedding for my kids,
    The brand carries several crib pads, mattress pads, sheets, etc that are all organically handcrafted and non toxic! The products are just amazing, I share it to my family and friends.

  65. Jennifer says:

    I am curious if anyone has found a 100% organic cotton mattress pad/topper that also is 100% cotton fill? Let me just say that this has been very hard to find….and I have been searching like crazy. We purchased 5 mil polyethelene covers for our son’s twin bed and for our king bed and a Halo 5 mil cover for our daughters crib. Now, I’m looking for cotton toppers to reduce noise and add breathability for sleeping comfort.

    HELP please!

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