Whether you've been formally diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) or have simply taken note of your body's negative reaction to off-gassing from new vehicles, carpets, and other plastic-based or chemically-treated products, you may have trouble when it comes time to choose a new mattress. Because many mattresses are bleached, filled with polyester-based stuffing, or otherwise chemically processed, you may feel you're better off with your current mattress than a new one -- even if you're beginning to find it uncomfortable.
Fortunately, there are now a number of eco-friendly and fume-free options at some mattress stores that will provide you with a good (and safe) night's sleep. Read on to learn more about several types of mattresses specifically designed for those who are sensitive to chemicals and certain types of artificial materials.
Natural latex mattresses
Although the word "latex" may conjure up images of smelly, powdery hospital gloves, natural latex is one of the best mattress options for those who suffer from chemical sensitivity issues. Natural latex is made from the sap of the rubber tree (rather than derived from the petrochemicals contained within oil- or plastic-based mattresses) and gives off none of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause headaches, nausea, muscle weakness, and other issues for the chemically-sensitive individual.
Natural latex mattresses are similar in texture to the "memory foam" mattresses available from other retailers, but may be available at an even lower cost due to the minimal amount of processing required. These mattresses can wick away heat and sweat quickly, allowing you to enjoy a peaceful, comfortable night of sleep. And unlike most memory foam mattresses, which have a synthetic base and can take days or even weeks after delivery to fully unfold and off-gas, natural latex mattresses have no odor and can pop into a flat, wrinkle-free position almost immediately.
Natural latex mattresses are also fully recyclable, helping reduce the environmental burden of purchasing a new mattress every decade as recommended.
Organic cotton mattresses
Another type of mattress that may be a good option for those with chemical sensitivity is the organic cotton mattress. Cotton mattresses are made from unbleached, organic cotton that provides a soft, supportive sleeping surface without giving off any fumes. These mattresses are more similar in structure and feel to pillow-top or firm polyester mattresses, and can provide extra spinal and pelvic support as compared to similar polyester mattresses.
Like natural latex mattresses, organic cotton mattresses are completely recyclable (including the metal springs). When your mattress has reached the end of its usable life, it can be composted or recycled at a facility without adding any waste to landfills or chemical fumes to the environment.
Mattresses composed of organic wool (with a cotton upper layer or pillow top) are great for warmer climates. Although wool is often considered a cold-weather material when included in socks and sweaters, it is also uniquely suited to wick away sweat and other moisture while keeping the top layer of fabric dry and odor-free. Wool is also relatively lightweight, allowing you to flip or rotate your mattress with ease, ensuring even wear and a longer lifespan. And in addition to its other good qualities, wool is naturally flame-retardant -- making a wool mattress appropriate for even your child's room.
When purchasing an organic wool mattress, you may want to make sure the wool comes from a sustainable source. And because this wool is minimally processed, you'll want to avoid a wool mattress if you have any sensitivity to lanolin or other wool-based products. Even using a thick top sheet may not be enough to avoid lanolin exposure.