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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The Best Organic Mattresses (and Toppers)

You’re going to be sleeping for roughly 23 years of your life on average, so it makes sense to give some thought to what you’re lying on. Unfortunately, mattresses often have questionable materials in them. Everything from formaldehyde and TCEP (a flame retardant) to phthalates can end up in nonorganic mattresses. How much these substances impact you isn't scientifically settled, but one way to avoid possible harm is to get a mattress made from natural, organic materials. As a bonus, these mattresses are usually less ecologically harmful. Most ecofriendly mattresses are made of a combination of wool, natural latex, and cotton. The construction is similar to conventional mattresses but without the chemicals.

Members of the WIRED Gear team have been testing mattresses for several years, and we have slept on every mattress on this list. We are always testing more, but these are our favorites right now. In general, we recommend hybrid mattresses with a core of individually wrapped springs because they feel more supportive and have better airflow, so they don't sleep as hot. You may also find our Best Mattresses guide helpful. All of the prices below are for queen-size models unless specified.

Updated August 2023: We've added the Saatva Zenhaven and Birch's new Luxe mattress. We also added new information about the lawsuit against Avocado. 

Table of ContentsThe Best Overall: Avocado Green MattressAnother Great Option: Birch LuxeBest Flippable Mattress: Saatva ZenhavenMore Affordable: Awara Natural Hybrid MattressBest for Kids: My Green Mattress KiwiBest for Side Sleepers: Birch Natural MattressBest Firm Mattress Topper: Organic Latex TopperBest Plush Mattress Topper: Alpaca Wool Mattress TopBest Organic BeddingWhat Do All Those Terms Mean?The Best Overall

Avocado Green Organic Hybrid Mattress$1,999 at Avocado Mattress

The Avocado Green hybrid mattress is the only mattress my wife and I agree on. She likes a soft mattress, and I prefer a firm one. This model somehow manages to be both without being too much of either. After nearly two years of sleeping on it, there's zero sagging or other issues.

There's a one-year trial, a 25-year warranty, and free shipping available on all Avocado mattresses. Like other mattress-in-a-box options, the Avocado arrives compressed. If you prefer a soft feel, there's a pillow-top option, or you can add a mattress topper, like the company's luxurious (and sustainable) Alpaca fur mattress topper (see below). 

The Avocado Green is 11 inches thick and made from organic latex, organic wool, and organic cotton. It's also not toxic. It contains no polyurethane, fire retardants, memory foam, or chemical adhesives, according to the company. A class action was filed earlier this year against Avocado alleging that the company's mattresses do in fact contain toxic chemicals, but the suit was dismissed and, according to court documents, “individual claims in the case had been ‘fully resolved.’” Beyond that the details will probably never be known, but I would argue that perfection is the enemy of “better,” and all the mattresses on this page use fewer chemicals than conventional mattresses, which remains a good thing for you and the ecological impact manufacturing incurs. 

Another Great Organic Mattress

Birch Luxe Natural Mattress$3,250 at Birch

The standard model from Birch has been our pick for side sleepers who want an organic mattress (see below). Birch's new higher-end Luxe model is, likewise, a great side-sleeping mattress—though its medium-firm feel and structured support should make it a solid pick for most sleeping styles. The Luxe is GOTS-certified organic and uses natural latex with no polyurethane-based foams.

This offering from Birch employs multiple layers of wool plus a layer of individually wrapped coils for support and cushioning. The Luxe adds a pillowy Euro top and an extra layer of blended cashmere, which gives it truly exceptional temperature regulation. The coils offer full lumbar support and are arranged to cradle your spine while maintaining a satisfyingly stiff edge on all four sides. WIRED reviewer Martin Cizmar's sleep rings have been spinning themselves closed during his month of testing this mattress. 

Best Flippable Mattress

Saatva Zenhaven Natural Latex Mattress$3,295 at Saatva

It's assumed that most mattress shoppers are selecting between soft and firm, or trying to find a middle ground acceptable to partners with different preferences. But what if your tastes change with the seasons or how achy your muscles are after a long, active day? The Zenhaven lets you choose a side.

Saatva's Zenhaven is made of organic latex protected by an organic wool liner and an organic cotton cover. The two sides, labeled Plush and Firm, don't vary as much as dedicated soft and firm mattresses, with the company claiming an 18 percent difference in the two, but it does offer a nice change of pace. Beyond that, the Zenhaven is pricey but extremely well built (and heavy—this is not a mattress-in-a-box). It has great edge support, sleeps neither hot nor cool, and will last you years.

A More Affordable Organic Mattress

Awara Natural Hybrid Mattress$1,399 at Awara

The Awara Mattress is also made from latex foam, organic wool, and individually wrapped springs. It wasn't as comfortable as the Birch, but it is significantly more affordable. Awara's mattress is supportive and bouncy, but the springs can be felt more readily than in other mattresses, while the edges are quite rigid. (A topper could help even things out.)

One win for Awara, according to WIRED reviewer Louryn Strampe: Unwrapping the vacuum-sealed mattress once it arrived resulted in little odor—significantly less than with other brands. There's not much motion transfer, and the soft mattress fabric didn't run too hot or too cold. For a hybrid mattress that's easier on the budget, this is a solid pick.

Best for Kids

My Green Mattress Kiwi Children's (Twin)$799 at My Green Mattress

My whole pursuit of an environmentally friendly mattress started with my kids. I care a lot more about what they're sleeping on than what I'm sleeping on. Still, as much as I love the Avocado Green mattress, it's not cheap. For my kids, I bought the more affordable Kiwi Mattress by My Green Mattress. The Kiwi is similar to the Avocado. It's a hybrid mattress with pocketed springs and natural materials: certified organic cotton, wool, and latex.

One nice twist that makes the Kiwi appealing for kids is the two-sided option. It costs a little more upfront but being able to flip it over extends its life, which is handy if your kids see think beds are actually trampolines in disguise.

My Green Mattress offers a 20-year warranty and a 120-night trial. The Kiwi is definitely a firmer mattress, but I think it's comfortable, and my children all say it's the most comfortable mattress they've slept on.

Good for Side Sleepers

Birch Natural Mattress (11-Inch)$1,699 at Birch

We still like the Avocado more, but this is a good alternative for side sleepers. WIRED reviewer Louryn Strampe says she sucks at sleeping. “I toss and turn all night. My blankets need to be arranged specifically. I can't deal with light, and I require a sound machine to run in the background. I didn't expect a mattress to change much, but this one from Birch pleasantly surprised me.” It's an eco-friendly mattress made by Helix, the maker of our other favorite bed.

The Birch is made of natural latex and wool, with individually wrapped coils that lend a plush and bouncy experience without feeling too squishy. It's great for stomach and side sleeping, and it's comfortable enough that Strampe could actually sleep on her back. A small, visible indented outline formed where she and her partner each slept, with a ridge between them, but after a year it was still bearable. If it's warm in your room at night or you're a hot sleeper, the Birch may not be for you.

Best Firm Mattress Topper

My Green Mattress Organic Latex Topper (Queen)$299 at My Green Mattress

A new mattress is a huge investment, and sometimes all you need is a little refresh for your existing one. If your current bed isn't sagging, you might be able to get a whole new feel just by adding a mattress topper like this organic latex topper from My Green Mattress.

This topper is two inches of certified organic latex wrapped in an organic cotton cover, with a zipper so you can remove the latex pad (though I am not sure why you'd want to). It's lightweight but does a good job of staying in place even without any straps to hold it down.

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This is a reasonably firm topper, compared to something like a down or wool topper, but it still contours nicely to your body and is comfortable even if you sleep on your side. Lying on my stomach or back, I don't even touch my actual mattress anymore with this on top. I do when I roll on my side, but just barely. All of which is to say, you can bring a whole new life to your bed without spending a fortune.

Best Plush Mattress Topper

Avocado Alpaca Wool Mattress Topper$1,329 at Avocado

This Alpaca wool topper is one of the softest things I've ever slept on. If you like being enveloped in a cocoon of fluffiness, this is the topper for you. It's not cheap, but put this on your mattress and you'll feel like you're in a five-star hotel. 

Avocado's Plush topper is made of baby Alpaca wool (that's a reference to the softest wool on the animal, not its age) with an organic cotton cover. It's about two inches thick, but in this case, you definitely do sink down to your mattress so it's more of a luxury add-on than a way to rejuvenate an older mattress. Avocado's return policy applies here as well, so you can try it and return it within the first 100 days.

My only gripe with the plush version is that it doesn't have straps (the standard does, but I haven't tested that). While it won't slide off—it stays in place, thanks to the cotton cover— the corners do sometimes get bunched up when you're changing sheets and need to be smoothed out.

Best Organic Bedding

It doesn't really make sense to spend $1,000 on an organic mattress, then buy nonorganic sheets that will rest directly against your skin. Here are some of our favorite organic sheets to top your new organic mattress.

Soft Cotton Sheets

Brooklinen Organic Cotton Sheets$229 at Brooklinen

These are the best organic cotton sheets I've tested. They're soft, but not overly silky, which is a feeling I don't care for (if you do, check out the Avocado sheets below). The Brooklinen organic cotton sheets are made from Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)-certified organic cotton. They're also Oeko-Tex certified, which means they're tested for and do not contain any known toxic chemicals. The 300 thread count makes this plenty crisp and soft but isn't so tight that you end up sleeping hot. These are a great choice for summer or if, like me, you sleep on the warm side even in winter.

For a Silk-Like Feel

Avocado Organic Cotton Sheets$229 at Avocado (Queen)

These 600-count sheets are like sleeping on silk or satin. Somehow they are actually 100 percent GOTS-certified organic cotton from India. The only potential issue here is that, because they are such a dense weave, they sleep a little warmer than what you might be used to. Avocado also has a 400-count version I have not tested, but that might be a better pick for warm sleepers.

Linen Sheets

Avocado Organic Linen Sheets$499 at Avocado (Queen)

Linen sheets are a potential heirloom purchase—well-cared-for linen will last years if not decades. That said, if you are used to 600-count cotton like the sheets above, linen sheets are, well, different. They're rougher, though they get softer with every wash (cold water, mild detergent, cool or hang dry). What doesn't change is their weight. If you like heavy covers, these are the sheets for you. Linen is also more breathable and cooler than other fabrics, making it a good choice for those who sleep hot. It's also durable. Avocado's organic linen sheets are some of the heaviest I've tried and will likely last you many years. The bottom sheet is fitted (sometimes linen sheet sets are both flat), and there's a matching duvet cover ($439).

What Do All Those Terms Mean?

Mattresses are large, and testing them is time- and space-consuming. There's just no way for us to test them all. To help you make sense of the often bewildering world of organic mattresses, here are some terms and certifications to know.

The big name in organic cotton certification is the Global Organic Textile Standard, generally abbreviated as GOTS. It looks not just at how the cotton is grown and processed but also at ecological and social criteria, and it uses third parties to independently verify that standards are being met. If you're curious, you can read version 6 of the standard online.

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Our top pick, Avocado Green Mattress, our favorite kids' mattress, My Green Mattress, and the Birch Natural are all GOTS certified. Awara is not. But cotton is not the end of the story for these mattresses, which usually also contain latex, which has its own certifications like GOTS. In fact, the latex certification is called Global Organic Latex Standard and is more or less the same as GOTS, but for latex instead of cotton. Again, the goal of GOLS is to look at the entire supply chain, not just the finished product. Avocado and My Green Mattress are the only ones in this guide certified by GOLS and GOTS.

While we especially like the big-picture approach of GOTS and GOLS, there are other certifications that test the finished product. Awara organic mattresses are independently tested by OEKO-Tex, which certifies that an item is “tested for harmful substances and that the article, therefore, is harmless for human health." Another thing to look for is the Greenguard Gold certification and UL Environment's Formaldehyde Free label, which both certify that there are no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or formaldehyde in your mattress. 

Another term you might see shopping for organic mattresses is “needle-tufted.” This means the mattress is sewn rather than glued (assuming it's 100 percent needle-tufted). Since needle-tufted mattresses use no adhesives, you don't need to worry about VOCs. 

Organic? Like Organic Organic?

Avocado Green Mattress was facing a lawsuit earlier this year alleging that the company's latex is not really toxin-free. Avocado defended its claims, and the lawsuit was eventually dismissed. But it raises a legitimate question: how does anyone know these companies living up to their claims? 

As noted above, there are independent standards that have to be met in some cases, but in the particular case of GOLS, the latex certification, the fine print says “organically grown natural rubber latex”. Unfortunately, while it's great that the rubber trees are grown without harmful chemicals, that doesn't mean those weren't added somewhere in the process that transforms rubber tree sap into something you can sleep on. It's a safe bet that just about any industrial process is going to have a detrimental effect on its source material. How detrimental and what that means for you is often difficult to know. As Avocado notes in its defense, “The finished foam is ≥95 percent certified organic latex, the highest possible standard. The remaining 5 percent represents the essential processing agents—required for any manufacturer to make latex foam suitable for use in mattresses and pillows—that are common to latex and that are permitted by organic standards and environmentally conscious manufacturing practices.”

In the end, it seems that while perfection may not be achievable, these mattresses are still much better for you, and the planet, than conventionally manufactured mattresses.

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