Latex Mattress Certifications: What Should You Look Out For?
Latex mattress certifications can be a boring subject and downright overwhelming, but it’s important to know some labels that can keep you safe.
There’s a good reason these standards are around, as some mattresses were found to contain harmful materials that can threaten a consumer’s health.
The average person spends about 1/3 of their life sleeping, and that’s a lot of time to spend snuggle up against your beds and mattresses. Babies and toddlers can even spend up to 20 hours in bed at a time.
Naturally, you should be concerned about what’s inside your mattresses, and if you are exposing yourself and your family to unneccessary risks.
However, figuring out whether a mattress is truly free of harmful materials can be a challenge – there are just too many manufacturers making various claims.
For example, the term “natural” itself has no definite meaning. There’s no standard behind it, so it’s impossible for you to tell exactly what’s inside, and if it’s really safe for you and your family.
Some mattresses also claim to be organic, but again, the term “organic” has no definite meaning as it does not specify the percentage of organic materials used in the product’s construction.
For a mattress to be truly organic, it should have at least 95 percent certified organic materials in it.
This is why certifications by independent organizations were born, and here’s what you need to know about the labels you’ll see, and more importantly – what they really mean to you.
Not All Latex Mattress Certifications Are Created Equal
Today we’ll look at a few popular certifications and standards that you will most likely come across during your purchase.
Some of these certifications are more stringent than others, so we’ll prioritize those first and then talk about others that add value to your purchase.
We’ll also make some recommendations for mattresses that meet each certification throughout this article.
- Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
- Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS)
- OEKO-TEX Standard 100
Less stringent certifications:
- GreenGuard and GreenGuard Gold
- USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP)
- Eco Institut
Before we delve into the details, let’s consider what constitutes a good certification.
When you are looking at a certification, it should be accurate, consistent and clear, providing a meaningful benefits to the consumers and the ecosystems.
It should also be independent and verified by a third-party that does not have any conflict of interest. It must be transparent, where the standards of certifications are publicly available.
While there are far more certifications than what we have listed here today, these are the most common and specific standards that will be helpful in making your buying decision.
The Best Latex Mattress Certifications
The GOTS and GOLS certifications take into account the harvesting, manufacturing and labeling process of organic textile and latex, respectively.
On the other hand, the OEKO-TEX Standard 100 takes care of the safety for textile and materials that come in contact with skin (such as bed linens and pillow casings).
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
GOTS is one of the most stringent and trusted labels in the industry concerning textile, including mattresses.
GOTS requires that at least 95 percent of the materials in the mattress be certified organic, and it prohibits the use of certain substances even for the other 5 percent, such as chemical flame retardants and polyurethane.
It is conferred by Control Union, which is a recognized certification body that certifies more than 2,000 texting processing facilities per year.
This label ensures the organic status of textiles from harvesting of the raw materials, environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing, all the way to labeling in order to provide credible assurance to the consumer.
It is internationally recognized as the toughest organic-textile standard because it goes far beyond than just verifying the materials used in a product. Even social factors and manufacturing process are taken into account.
A GOTS certified mattress ensures all the textiles used are at least 95% organic, safe and manufactured in an organically-controlled environment.
Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS)
GOLS is another certification by Control Union, which happens to be one of the most stringent and trusted labels in the industry concerning latex.
GOLS was introduced in 2012 as a way to certified organic latex, as there wasn’t a standardized label that can ease the doubts of consumers.
Under this label, it ensures that a mattress with latex is made of at least 95% organic latex, with restrictions on the other 5 percent of the mattress’s components.
This standard covers the requirements of processing, traceability, separation, identification, record keeping, quality control, environmental management, social compliance, labeling and distribution of processed and semi-processed final products, made from certified natural rubber latex of an organic origin.
While some mattresses are made of natural latex and synthetic (man-made) latex, GOLS ensures that at least 95% of the latex used in mattresses are not only natural, but organic (manufactured according to stringent guidelines) as well.
The ratio of natural and synthetic latex in a mattress often correlates to its price and quality. So it’s not surprising that mattresses with GOLS certifications tend to be more expensive than its counterparts.
OEKO-TEX Standard 100
The STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX is a worldwide consistent, independent testing and certification system for raw, semi-finished, and finished textile products at all processing levels, as well as accessory materials used.
Since its introduction in 1992, the central focus of the STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX has been the development of test criteria, limit values and test methods on a scientific basis.
While Oeko-TEX Standard 100 doesn’t ensure that a mattress’s fiber is produced organically, it does set limits for the emission of harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website, VOC can cause health effects such as ENT irritation, headache and nausea, damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system, and it is even suspected to cause cancer in humans.
The OEKO-TEX tests for harmful substances are fundamentally based on the respective purpose of the textiles and materials. The more intensive the skin contact of a product and the more sensitive the skin, the stricter the human-ecological requirements that need to be complied with.
For bed linens, the OEKO-TEX Standard 100 Product Class I is applied, which is the most stringent product class in their 4 classes hierarchy.
An OEKO-TEX Standard 100 Class I certified mattress means it is safe for even babies and toddlers up to 3 years of age.
Latex Mattress Certifications That Add Value
While the following certifications are not as stringent as the ones above, they add value and credibility to the mattress you are about to purchase.
They are somewhat meaningful since most of them address certain components only, and are more limited than the labels above.
Still, they can be good labels to look out for if you are concerned with particular harmful substances (e.g. flame retardants or VOCs). Keep in mind that none of these address the sourcing of organic raw materials like GOTS and GOLS do.
CertiPUR-US is one of the most common certifications you will come across, as many manufacturers undergo their testing standards.
However, CertiPUR-US applies only to the polyurethane foam (commonly known as PU foam) used in mattresses. PU foams are usually used as core and support layer at the bottom of mattresses.
While other standards such as GOLS prohibits this foam altogether, CertiPUR-US bans certain substances that are present in many foams and requires testing for formaldehyde and other chemicals.
CertiPUR tests for harmful emissions, content and durability, with parameters including VOCs, phthalates, ozone depleters, toxic metals, formaldehyde, methylene chloride and PBDEs.
A review of CertiPUR’s limit values for emissions and content testing reveals them to be overall similar to OEKO-TEX’s – in many cases the same, in others a bit weaker, in a few slightly stronger.
It does not simulate effects of ingestion or skin contact, so it’s tests are different and not quite as comprehensive compared to OEKO-TEX.
GreenGuard and GreenGuard Gold
The GreenGuard certification focuses on VOCs emissions into indoor air, and serves as a standard for low emission of VOCs.
This standard does not take into account the materials used and manufacturing processes of a mattress. There are 2 types of certifications, i.e. GreenGuard certification and GreenGuard Gold certification.
The more stringent Gold standard includes health based criteria for additional chemicals and also requires lower total VOCs emission levels to ensure that the products are acceptable for use in environments such as schools and healthcare facilities.
If you worry about off-gassing and release of harmful VOCs into your house, a mattress with GreenGuard or GreenGuard Gold certifications will be a good choice.
USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture allows companies to claim that a mattress is organic if the natural fibers it contains were cultivated according to guidelines of USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP).
While latex (a processed product) itself is not certifiable by USDA’s NOP organic standards, a USDA “organic” label on mattresses signifies that the raw fiber used to make a textile comes from an organic crop according to USDA Organic standards.
However, to earn NOP certification of a finished textile product, the textile must fully meet the crop/livestock production standard, which is challenging for many textiles because these standards were written for crops and, for example, certain dyes and other treatments are not addressed in the regulation and therefore not allowed.
Manufacturers cannot use the “organic” seal of USDA NOP to imply that a final finished product is certified organic.
An “organic” label by NOP simply means that the raw materials used for production of the mattress are organic. NOP does not take into account the manufacturing process of a product.
The Eco Institut located in Cologne, Germany is an established organization responsible for testing products to determine their pollutants and emissions.
It has more than 25 years of experience testing products for trace amounts and even residues of hazardous chemicals as well as the testing of emissions or off-gassing created by the products.
In that sense, the Eco Institute certification quite similar to CertiPUR-US standards, but they have differing values in allowable values in each harmful material.
Eco Institute certified mattresses do not contain even trace amounts of hazardous chemicals and will not produce foul, unhealthy off-gassing in your home.
Which Labels Should I Go For?
Ideally, you should be getting a mattress that fulfills either GOTS, GOLS or OEKO-TEX Standard 100 since they are the safest and most reliable certifications.
However, mattresses that meet these standards, especially GOLS will have higher price points as they use at least 95% natural and organic latex in the mattresses’ construction.
If you are planning to use your mattress for at least a few years, this should prove to be a worthwhile investment as natural latex is much more resilient than hybrid and synthetic latex.
A family with young kids and toddlers at home should get a latex mattress that is certified by OEKO-TEX and CertiPUR-US to ensure safe bedding materials for kids and minimal off-gassing.
On the other hand, if budget is a huge deciding factor, you should look for a mattress that has at least CertiPUR-US label.
Most good latex mattresses on the market are certified by CertiPUR-US, so finding one within your budget shouldn’t be too much of a problem.