Baby/Kid Gear
What’s an “Organic” Crib Mattress, Anyway?

What’s an “Organic” Crib Mattress, Anyway?

January 28, 2023

Originally published on January 28, 2023. Updated on August 10, 2023.

By Megan Boyle, Editorial Director

Parents searching for crib mattresses want the safest option they can afford. Many are attracted to labels claiming that products are “eco-friendly,” “natural,” “certified” or “organic,” to protect their infant. But what do the labels really mean?

It’s difficult to judge the materials in mattresses that are marketed as “eco-friendly” or “natural.” These mattresses may use some organic cotton in the cover or plant-based polyurethane foam to justify these claims, but the mattress as a whole may still contain harmful additives such as fire retardants or release chemical fumes – a process known as “off-gassing.”

What about “organic?” Compared to conventional cotton or wool, certified-organic fibers are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has jurisdiction over this term and sets requirements that must be met to label food products as “organic.” But USDA “organic” can also apply to agricultural crops like cotton and rubber, and products from livestock like wool, if the facilities and products were cultivated according to the guidelines of USDA’s National Organic Program.

However, mattresses are not food. The Global Organic Textile Standard, or GOTS, is the only certification that applies to organic mattresses. To earn the “organic” label, the product must be composed of 95 percent third-party certified raw materials. Or a mattress can be labeled as “made with organic materials” if at least 70 percent of the fibers used were organically grown. GOTS bans the use of polyurethane foam and hazardous chemicals, including fire retardants and formaldehyde based-glues in all certified products. The GOTS certification also requires manufacturers to provide fair working conditions and wages, and requires other practices to limit environmental impacts.

A GOTS certified organic mattress will contain fewer harmful chemicals and release fewer fumes – benefits that many parents feel justify the choice. That’s why GOTS recently won a civil lawsuit and filed a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to ban companies from inaccurately labeling mattresses with the GOTS logo. The actions follow what GOTS calls “widespread inaccurate and misleading use of the term ‘organic’ by U.S. companies and marketers in connection with textile products.”

Read more tips on finding a crib mattress with fewer chemicals on the Healthy Child Healthy World blog.