Purchasing a latex mattress involves much research as consumers navigate the various formulations and materials in the market. These types of beds are considered one of the best options available in terms of owner satisfaction, durability and healthiness. When shopping for the best mattress, one of the aspects you will likely compare is the mattress cover. With natural latex mattress options, they are usually made of cotton, which can be either organic or conventional. Given our long-lasting relationship with and fondness for cotton, we tend to see it as preferable and benign, and often find that there is no benefit to organic fabrics since we aren’t eating them, after all. However, non-organic cotton actually has some significant affects on both the environment and people that should be understood when selecting a mattress, especially if you are concerned about chemicals or eco-friendliness.
Latex Mattress Cover Options
There are three main textiles you will see on latex mattresses: wool, cotton, and organic cotton. Synthetic or blended beds may use poly-blend covers, though most all latex and especially all-natural latex mattresses feature one of these materials. Wool is most often used under the cover for padding, moisture-wicking, and fire resistance. Cotton is typically the primary fabric used in the cover. If you have been shopping for latex beds, you likely have seen some brands promoting organic cotton covers, and you may be wondering what the big deal is. In this article, we will talk about how organic cotton differs from standard in substantive terms.
Benefits of Cotton in General
There is a reason cotton remains the most popular fabric: it feels good and proves durable. Cotton has a smooth, cool touch that is unmatched among other textiles. It does not feel rough or scratchy, trap heat, or have tendencies to pill like others. The natural fibers allow for breathability and moisture wicking, making it ideal for use in mattress covers. Both conventional and organic cotton can deliver on comfort, but there are some important differences.
The Organic Difference
If you are looking for a latex mattress, there is a good chance that one of your priorities is healthier and/or more natural products. Natural latex mattresses offer numerous benefits in this regard, requiring minimal processing, no toxic chemicals, and minimal environmental impact compared to other types of beds. However, what you put on top of the bed can alter these benefits. Let’s look at how conventionally grown cotton and organic cotton differ.
1) Conventional Cotton Harms the Environment
The label of organic refers to no usage of pesticides or synthetic chemicals during the growth process of a crop, as well as the implementation of ecologically sound farming practices. While pesticides keep pests away, they often have an adverse effect on the crop, the soil, and surround flora and fauna. Synthetic pesticides and fertilizers often rely on petroleum derivatives, which add to the chemical impact and use up non-renewable resources.
Organically grown produce continues gaining popularity, but many overlook organic labels on non-food items. Cotton, being a crop as well, can also be grown organically. However, only small percentage of cotton worldwide currently is. This is a problem, because cotton production alone accounts for 25% of all insecticides and 10% of all pesticides used around the world, despite accounting for only 2.5% of crops (OTA). Studies have shown that at least 1/4 of a pound of pesticides will be used to produce the equivalent of cotton used to make a single t-shirt. In 2003 in the United States alone, the USDA found that over 55 million pounds of pesticides and 2 billion pounds of synthetic fertilizer where applied to cotton crops.
Pesticides harm the environment by eroding and leaching minerals from soil, damaging natural ecosystems, and lingering for decades in soil and water. The chemicals eventually seep into the ground from the fields and make their way into groundwater; this in turn will most definitely contaminate drinking water, and eventually end up in the food chain. In 1999, the USGS found pesticides in 90% of water and fish samples and 50% of water wells. Shifting towards organically produced cotton reduces the impact of these hazards as demand for chemically treated cotton decreases.
2) Conventional Cotton Can Harm You
The harsh chemical and pesticides used on conventional cotton not only affect the environment negatively, they have the potential to affect a person’s health as well. When you sleep, you mattress is essentially right next to your body for eight hours a day. Seven of the fifteen types of common cotton pesticides are possible carcinogens (cancer causers), classed from possible to known. Other side effects include nausea, fatigue, headaches, and other neurological issues. While these are of greatest concern in farm workers and populations nearby farms, residual pesticides find their way into water, food, and your home.
3) The Cost of Organics
One of the biggest objections people have to organic products is the cost versus benefits dilemma. It is true that organically grown products come at a higher premium, because the methods of farming cost more (in materials and more labor) and organic products are produced at a much smaller scale than conventional. As organic items continue to enjoy growth, the price difference will continue to decrease, and even now the difference in cost between a latex mattress with an organic cotton cover and one with conventional cotton actually proves fairly minimal (see our comparison below). You, as a consumer, will have to weigh the financial costs of organic cotton with personal and environmental costs of conventional cotton.
Cover Options and Your Latex Mattress
As you can see, conventional cotton holds implications that many people interested in buying latex may find undesirable. Using conventional cotton introduces a host chemicals into your mattress and home, affecting the earth and your family (not to mention the people who live near growing fields). If you are looking for a natural and healthy product, conventional cotton detracts from the benefits of latex mattress. Organic cotton, on the other hand, keeps the end product clean, healthy, and eco-friendly with minimal additional costs, but several advantages.
When shopping for a latex mattress, you should always check into any “organic” claims. Make sure the retailer can tell you who certified the product and exactly what components of the mattress are organic. Some of the most trusted organic certification bodies include the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Oregon Tilth Certified Organic (OTCO). The two you are most likely to see in applied to latex mattresses are GOTS and OTCO. Remember, green is big money currently and sometimes claims can be deceptive. Always know what you are buying.
Latex Mattress Brands with Organic Cotton Covers
Here are retailers of natural latex mattresses which have organic cotton covers (and make certification information available). We compiled the latex type, covers, certifications, starting price for queen size, and the average review scores (based on reviews on retailer and third party sites). We only listed the brands for which we could locate certification information on their websites (about 7 other brands in our preliminary search claimed organic cotton, but did not appear to provide certification info on product pages or info pages). Among the four listed below, two, Astrabeds and Habitat, stand out for their more affordable prices, however Astrabeds organic latex mattresses offer an advantage over non-organic options at similar or higher prices, and reviews maintained a slight edge.
|Brand||Cover Material||Latex Type||Certifications||Entry Price/Queen||Reviews|
|Astrabeds (all)||Organic Cotton and Organic Wool||100% Organic Dunlop||GOLS-certified latex, OCS-certified cotton, Eco-Institute VOCs||$1799||94% satisfactory|
|Bella Sera (all-latex)||Organic Cotton and Wool||100% Natural Dunlop||OTCO wool and GOTS cotton||$2500||No Data|
|Habitat Furnishings (all latex)||Organic Cotton and Natural Wool||100% Natural Dunlop & Talalay||OTCO/GOTS-certified organic cotton||$1599||90% satisfactory|
|Savvy Rest (organic line)||Organic Cotton and Wool||100% Natural Dunlop & Talalay||OTCO/GOTS-certified organic cotton and wool||$2109||80% satisfactory|
If you are investing in a natural latex mattress, the safest and most responsible choice would be to pair it with an organic cotton cover. While much of the comfort benefits are similar, organic cotton reduces your impact on the environment, supports organic initiatives, and reduces chemical hazards in your home. While price is a consideration for most shoppers, the internet allows you to choose from a wide variety of brands and beds, meaning you can get a healthy latex mattress with organic cotton for prices not much higher than mid-range conventional mattresses.