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Good questions to ask when shopping for a natural, organic latex mattress

 With all of the options out there, buying an organic or natural latex mattress can be a daunting task, and looking for chemical free organic mattresses can add another layer of complexity and confusion to the process. Here are a few questions to ask in your search for a quality organic latex mattress.

1. Are there organic certifications?

If buying organic is important, ask to see the certifications. You should be able to see them for organic cotton, organic wool (some wool is called organic when it’s only natural wool) and natural or organic latex. The organic certification for rubber is for the sap itself, the foam (end product) is not certified organic. If the latex is not certified organic, look for latex that is documented to be all natural.

2. Is there any part of the mattress that isn’t organic?

Companies can advertize that a mattress is organic if it uses only some organic materials. The only parts of the mattress that need to be non-organic or non-natural is the zipper, the thread (you wouldn’t want an organic cotton thread to be used in your mattress, it does not have enough strength), and the law label tags. Everything else, including various types of cotton (cotton on the bottom of the mattress, cotton on the alternative side of the quilting etc.) should be organic or natural. 

3. What kind of latex is used? Is it natural latex? What percentage is natural?

Rubber (latex) sap is liquid. It needs to have some sort of filler for it to set up and make latex foam. The process of making rubber foam is not very different from the process of baking a cake or a loaf of bread; you need liquid and solid ingredients. After the rubber sap is harvested, soda ash is added (4% – 9%) then it is whipped up into foam. At this point the foam is put into a pan or mold and it is baked. The percentage of natural latex included in the foam is important. Ideally, latex foam is made up of 91-96% natural latex sap, which can be just natural OR have an organic certification, and 4% – 9% soda ash. Keep in mind that if the latex is certified organic, it is just the latex serum that is certified, the end product (latex foam) is not certified organic.

Conventional mattress stores have been known to sell latex mattresses labeled “natural”, when in fact, the mattresses contain only a small percentage of natural latex. Blended latex contains some natural latex and some synthetic latex. Additionally, some conventional mattresses have a thin layer of natural latex or blended latex on top of a polyurethane foam core. Ask what percentage of natural latex is used to make the latex foam.

4. Can the cover be removed and washed?

Some covers are removable and some aren’t. With removable covers, it is tempting to take it off and wash it, but few can be washed successfully without shrinking. To protect your mattress, invest in an organic mattress pad. If there is a stain, spot cleaning is the safest way to clean your mattress casing. It can be helpful to have a removable cover so the mattress can be pulled apart, if necessary, when moving.

5. Is the mattress flippable? Should it be flipped?

Latex is quite resistant to body impressions so there really isn’t a need to flip the mattress, however, some companies do suggest flipping. Check with the manufacturer for recommendations.

6. Are any flame retardants used on the mattress?

Wool is a natural flame retardant, so most organic mattresses made with cotton and wool do not need flame retardants to pass the standards. If it is an all cotton mattress, it would need some sort of a flame retardant in order to pass. This could be something chemical, boric acid, or something silica based. It is always a good idea to ask the manufacturer how federal fire regulations are met.

7. Does the company manufacture non-organic mattresses?

Some manufacturers of organic mattresses also make non-organic mattresses. This matters to some people. Choose a company you trust, one you feel confident will not put materials that are not organic in your mattress.

8. Is there a shipping charge?

Latex is heavy and can cost quite a bit to ship. When shopping online, some mattresses look less expensive but carry a significant shipping charge of over one hundred or even two hundred dollars. Some mattresses ship for free.

9. What if I don’t like it? What is the return policy?

Make sure you know the manufacturer’s return/layer exchange policy before purchasing. A layer exchange allows you to change out a layer of different firmness if the original configuration is not to your liking.

10. Can the mattress be put on an existing boxspring?

Latex is heavy, and it’s floppy. The weight of the latex could bend or even collapse a boxspring intended for a lighter mattress like an innerspring. If you do want to put your new latex mattress on a box spring, make sure that your box spring is in good shape and check to make sure that it does not void the warranty of your new organic mattress. Ideally the mattress should have consistent support from head to toe, like that found on a platform bed or with a matching wood slat foundation.