Organic mattresses

I spend a good deal less time than I would like reclining in comfort on my bed. But I still rack up at least 45 hours a week. These, to me, are critical, replenishing hours. I like them to be unadulterated by both stress and toxic chemicals.

Sadly, the former cannot always be banished. The latter, on the other hand, I can control.

bed-box1

My kids all sleep on natural latex, organic mattresses, made right here in Ottawa. I have not yet bitten the bullet and sprung for such a mattress for myself, partly because my present mattress is not that old (its purchase directly preceded my more intense eco-conversion) and partly because it is very comfortable.

A word on replacing mattresses: please look to recycle rather than sending your old mattress to the dump. Mattress recycling is not mandatory in Ontario, though it is in parts of Canada (e.g. in the Vancouver area) and elsewhere. But it is certainly the right thing to do. Ninety five percent of a mattress can be recovered and reused.
See here for a list of recyclers in the US and Canada. Similar services operate in the UK and other countries: I suggest you use the powers of Google to find them.

If you end up replacing your mattress with a conventional one (i.e. if you ignore my advice!), and the company you buy from offers to take your old mattress away, do enquire where that mattress will end up. As far as I know, Sleep Country is the only big retailer in Canada that has made a public commitment to recycle or refurbish every mattress they collect.

obasan logo

But I digress. My kids’ mattresses come from a company called Obasan. It is Ottawa-based but has branches in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. The showroom here in Ottawa (on Colonnade Road) is lovely: blonde wood and fresh white bedding with no nasty off-gassing. It makes you want to buy everything.

The company website is very informative about where they source their materials (natural rubber from Malaysia, organic wool from Argentina, organic cotton from Peru and wood from Canada) and tells you about the customization option that is available for all their mattresses (so you can have an altogether different bed experience than your partner).

Obasan mattresses (and, indeed, other latex mattresses) should last 20-30 years. And when they do reach the end of their lives, they can, I am told, be composted (though I’d be interested to find out how long that would take and whether you could jam one into your home organic waste bin…..).

sheep

All Obasan products (they sell sheets, pillows and crib mattresses too) are guaranteed free from nasty chemicals. Felted wool is used in the mattresses, instead of chemicals, to ensure that they meet north American flame retardant standards. Conventional mattress makers typically use a class of chemicals called PBDEs to do this. However, these are soon to be phased out (as of 2013), here in Canada, due to recognition of their harmful effects.

This new ban serves to confirm what most us us probably suspected: sleeping on chemical-soaked mattresses night after night is not a great idea. Yet manufacturers continue to use them, not just as fire retardants, but also in the adhesives that they use. So, consider the Obasan option.

organic cotton

The company is great: small and personal. When I ordered the wrong length of mattress, they could not have been nicer about replacing it.

The downside, as usual, is price. Mattresses range between $1,599 (for the thinest twin) and $4,299 (for the thickest king size). This is one of those cases where, if you think of this as a 30-year investment, the price looks pretty good: just over $1 a week for the twin, assuming it lasts 30 years. Otherwise it can be daunting, though it is in line with other organic mattresses.

If you baulk, try Ikea instead. Ikea made a commitment way back in 1998 to phase out the use of PDBEs. Its Sultan mattress line, discussed here, is a lot easier on the pocket. The Ikea natural latex mattress is $499 for a twin and $999 for a king. It is, though, a compromise: made in Asia with a mixture of natural (85%) and synthetic latex (15%) it has polylactide fibre wadding instead of natural wool. (However, despite their scary-sounding name, these fibres are plant derived and don’t seem to be too evil.)

Last thing: Obasan has regular and quite generous sales, so, if you are on the fence, make sure you get on their mailing list to find out when the next event takes place. And, if you are wondering, within their delivery (as opposed to mail order) area, they do take old mattresses away for recycling.

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14 comments

  1. Peggy says:

    There must be something about Ottawa and the making of fine matresses. Broke the bank last year and bought a great all natural organic rubber matress with a sheep's wool topper from a company called Sueno, based in Ottawa.
    http://suenoorganic.com/main.aspx
    There is a small shop in Toronto that represents them if anyone is interested.

  2. Heidi Conrod says:

    Thanks for the post!!
    Good Morning Futons in Old Ottawa South sells hand made 100% cotton futon mattresses and rubber mattresses as well. Their prices are very reasonable.
    They also sell cotton and wool pillows.

  3. Laurie says:

    I also bought an all natural rubber and organic sheep’s wool mattress a couple of years ago and it is the best decision I have ever made. Both my husband and I agree it is hands down the best mattress either of us has ever slept on and it continues to be so. It is by a company called Natura. Their products are slightly less expensive than Obasan. They have good eco credentials, although not all of their products are 100% organic. Lots of choice at various price points. They distribute their products through many retailers across North America and even have a showroom in Cambridge, ON.

    My son sleeps on an natural bamboo mattress that he adores. It is made by Magniflex, an Italian company that distributes throughout North America. Their prices are very reasonable – under $1000 for a double.

  4. alex says:

    Hi Diana!
    Amazing article! Thank you!
    Peggy, Obasan and Sueno are both lines of products made by Sleeptek the mother company :) . Both lines are fully organic, the Obasan line being the premium and fully customizable one.

    Laurie, Natura uses a mixture of Natural and organic materials. They sure are a great alternative to a conventional mattress but they are not always using organic fibres only. As for bamboo fibres, they have to be soaked in chemicals in order for the firm bamboo fibres to become soft and pliable. Again, bamboo is a better alternative to polyester and nylon but it is not organic.

    Thanks again Diana for informing your readers about Green mattress alternatives!

  5. Hello Diana!

    As discussed over email with you I represent a company based in Edmonton Alberta named Sprout, we manufacture and sell mattresses using only natural components. Check out our site http://www.sproutsleep.com for more information.

    While not all of our fibres are organic we use all natural fills. We use Natural Latex cores, and then top them with layers of Natural uncarded cotton, natural wool, and natural silk. We do not add any chemical fire retardants or foam fillers as by using natural fills we can achieve the fire retardancy required by law.

    Our main strength, outside of using natural fibres, is our traditional manufacturing methods. We make all of our beds by hand, and all of our beds are hand tufted and flippable. With the same fills on the top of the core as the bottom, it ensures proper settling of all fills and allows you to gain a much longer life expectancy out of your mattress. The hand tufting helps to keep all inner components in place and will not allow any shifting to occur inside the mattress.

    And we manufacture everything in Edmonton, ab so it is all locally made, and hugely reduces our carbon footprint.

    Thanks Diana!

    • Diana says:

      This is a great help, Jabir, for those looking for quality mattresses in the western part of the country. Thanks.

  6. meenu says:

    http://www.mattressmakers.com/latex-mattresses
    Latex mattresses can be all-natural which appeals to health conscious or “green” buyers. Most latex mattress manufacturers / retailers have good reputations.

  7. Ryan says:

    Does anyone know where to find Natura mattresses in Ottawa, Ontario? Can’t find one using Google so far. Thanks!

  8. Cindy says:

    I too love Obasan. I have two of their queen toppers, one in cotton only and the other wool. When I decided to purchase a new foundation I ordered one from them. Unfortunately I’m becoming more sensitive to things and had a terrible time with the smell of the wool. Go figure, nice organic sheep’s wool makes me cough. Obasan felt horrible but couldn’t take it back, they sent me bags to bag it so I could still use it, but now I’m wondering if in fact it wasn’t the wool but the rubber inside the toppers. An expensive journey but not one I’m willing to give up on just yet. I do have a question, don’t have access to a yard so how could I air out the toppers and the foundation, any ideas would be great. I imagine one shouldn’t put any of them into direct sunlight, but not sure??? wish I could get them all organically cleaned, but where.

    • Rita says:

      Yes Cindy, the rubber inside may have had memory foam that is made from petroleum and that made me very sick recently. Almost every mattress that has foam, unless it’s pure rubber foam, has memory foam. I am allergic to latex gloves but don’t know how I would react to it inside of other products…sans touching my skin.
      Finding a healthy sleep system in the states, that is affordable has involved a great deal of research and many expensive broken promises. Sales persons will swear the “smells” and toxic odors will vanish in a couple of hours but they lie. I bought a memory foam a few years back that made me very ill and I ended up paying, $1500 just for the mattress while sleeping on a sofa for three years while smell never faded. If anyone can help me with some healthy affordable choices here on the lower 50 east coast, I’d be grateful.

      • Bob says:

        Hi Rita regarding your comment,
        “Yes Cindy, the rubber inside may have had memory foam that is made from petroleum and that made me very sick recently. Almost every mattress that has foam, unless it’s pure rubber foam, has memory foam.”

        To clarify Rita, there is no memory foam in rubber products of any kind and vice versa. Memory foam is an apple and rubber an orange. Both are very different from each other. Memory foam is all petroleum based as you mention while rubber can range from all-natural to completely synthetic. Obasan (Sleeptek) uses only certified pure natural rubber produced in the Dunlop method. While it is true that memory foam almost always comes with strong odors that can take up to 6 months to dissipate, some use masking agents to hide them. In either scenario polyeurethane foams in general take up to 10yrs to off-gass, while pure rubber does not have any chemical off-gassing at all. That being said, not everyone likes the natural smell of rubber even though it is quite mild. Folks with bad cases of MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivities) can take a few months to acclimate because their bodies have a hard time dealing with any new materials but most will find they can sleep with rubber products after a short period of time exposed to it.

        Regarding your search for pure clean bedding products, unfortunately there is no inexpensive solution. Certified materials cost multiples more than non-certified and thus the end price is much higher. If you find Obasan products out of reach Sleeptek’s more basic product lines like Sueno may be a better option. Doing a retailer search from the Sleeptek.ca website should show you some retailers in your area that you can contact for pricing. All materials are certified with no use of additives or treatments to any materials.
        Best of luck in your search Rita.
        Bob

    • Bob says:

      Hi Cindy,

      My name is Bob and I manage the Obasan Boutique. I’m sorry to hear you’ve been having a hard time acclimating to your products. If you could, please give me a call at our toll-free number and let me know what you have ordered and I’ll see if there are any other ideas that may help you with your sensitivities that may not have been tried yet. If you’ve purchased one of the all-wool toppers with no rubber inside then placing in direct sunlight is actually ideal for freshening it up. I can send you our newest care and maintenance tips if you send me your email.
      I look forward to hearing from you.
      Bob@Obasan.ca

  9. Jabir says:

    Hello All,

    There is also another Canadian Manufacturer of natural mattresses named Sprout. Based in Alberta we at Sprout pride on using only natural fills and avoid the use of any foams, fillers, chemical glues/dyes/etc that are used in common mattresses. Our beds are entirely handmade and hand tufted which allows you to hold all of your components firmly together and in place without having to use glues. The Sprout beds are flippable as well, as traditional mattresses have been in days past. The fills used are Talalay latex cores with natural wool, cotton and silk fills. No foam.

    Check out http://www.sproutsleep.com for more information. Or feel free to contact me at info@sproutsleep.com for more information.

    Thank You.
    Jabir
    info@sproutsleep.com

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