Changing Out Toxic Mattresses for Safe Ones

Our Lives on a Mattress

We spend a lot of our lives on a mattress. Children can spend 12-18 hours a day on a mattress, and adults spend 6-9 hours per day on one. For years, I’ve been bothered by the fact that I am lying on and breathing in fumes from something that I wasn’t sure was actually safe for me. Sure enough, most mattresses aren’t safe.

Mattress & Toxins

It is actually a law that all mattresses be treated in flame retardant. I haven’t gotten into too much detail about flame retardeant, but it is a scary and nasty combination of chemicals. The book, Slow Death by a Rubber Duck or the documentary, Stink have some really good information on flame retardant. Also, most mattresses are filled with all sorts of toxic chemicals. Here’s a short article on it if you want more information.

For years, I have wanted to replace all of our mattress: 2 twin beds, 1 queen bed, and a crib. But it was something we just couldn’t afford to do. I did start doing my research though. I’d guess I spent over 50 hours researching mattresses. It is a very deceptive marketing industry. Usually I don’t have a hard time wading through truth and lies when it comes to eco-friendly products. Not that I’m perfect, but I have developed a pretty good eye at picking out what is marketing tactics and what is truth, but mattress companies do an amazing job at being deceptive. I don’t like to use this word, but it felt sleazy. I felt like I couldn’t trust anyone, because everyone seemed like they were lieing. It was very difficult to figure out what the mattresses were truly made out of, because they didn’t have to disclose it.

Safe Options

I came to the conclusion that the safest mattresses were wool, horse hair, or pure rubber. Wool and horse hair were too expensive, but I was having a hard time finding a truly rubber mattress. Rubber comes from a rubber tree in tropical climates. It is kind of similar to our maple trees that we get maple syrup from. They tap the trees and the trees literally drip rubber into buckets. Often times they mix it with synthetic latex which is full of toxic chemicals to get a certain result. Temperapedic is one example of a company that does this.

We sold our house about a year ago and made a little money off of it. Most of it we planned on investing, but my husband and I agreed to spend some on getting everyone in our family safe mattresses. I finally found a company in Portland, Oregon that I felt really good about. It’s a small company called Mulligan Mattress, and every time I’ve called I’ve talked directly to the owner. He’s answered all my questions and has been super kind. I’ve felt like he’s been very open, because he doesn’t have anything to hide. They do not make any mattresses with flame retardeant. It’s something they simply don’t do. The mattresses are covered in organic unbleached cotton covers, and they can customize a mattress in firmness for you.

I will say rubber mattresses are more firm than what you’d find in a typical department store, but from what I understand, firmer is actually better for your back and most chiropractors recommend it. We bought our children each a twin mattress first. They were 6” mattresses and $700 each. Before I invested in getting a queen mattress, I wanted to test out the children’s. When our children’s mattresses arrived I was so happy with them. My husband and I both took a nap or two on them to make sure we liked them, and then we ordered ourself a queen one for $1,700. We love it. For a week or so, my body was a touch sore each morning I woke up, but now I’ve completely adjusted to the firmer bed, and I think it’s very comfortable. If someone doesn’t like the firmness, you could add a feather topped to the mattress. The mattresses didn’t smell when they arrived (which is a good sign of no chemicals!) either. They last for years even if the kids jump on them. They don’t need to be flipped either.

We still need to get a crib mattress from them which I plan on getting in the next couple of weeks. One thing about ordering from a place like Mulligans, is that you have to have a doctors note in order to legally get the mattress without flame retardant. Basically, if you purchase a new mattress from somewhere and you didn’t have to give them a doctor’s note, then that mattress is most likely toxic. The doctor’s note can be simple. My chiropractor wrote one up for me. All it said was that we did not smoke in bed so there was not a danger of us catching our mattress on fire. It was maybe 2-3 sentences at most.

It’s Worth the Investment

I highly recommend investing in a safe mattress for you and your family. It is #1 on my list of things to save up for if you want to detox your home. Like me, it might not be something you can purchase immediately since it is a higher dollar item, but start saving now. You and your children spend hours a day on it. If you don’t have money to switch out mattresses yet, something easier is to make sure your pillow is non-toxic. You can get a rubber pillow from Mulligans or feather, wool and cotton are other options. We’ve had problems with our cotton pillows getting lumpy. My husband and I have feather pillows, but an issue you run into with those is trying to find a company that can guarantee their feathers don’t come from live-plucked birds. IKEA is one company that has committed to providing down products with no live-plucked down so their pillows should be pretty good.

Wellness Mama has a great article on mattresses, and she’s found a company that she really trusts as well. Good luck on your mattress hunt, and be on your toes as you search for a safe one. There are some good companies out there, but they are few and far between.


  1. Monica on April 20, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    Wow Laura, your husband is pretty brave to support you in your ideas!!!

    • Monica on April 20, 2016 at 5:34 pm

      I mean Lauren!! Sorry!

  2. Christina on August 22, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    Hey Lauren, I’m finding this post so helpful! We are moving the girls into the same room and will be buying twin mattresses. Could you tell me why you chose these mattresses instead of the intellibed mattress? Thanks so much for letting me benefit from your research!!

    • Lauren Dahl on August 24, 2016 at 12:02 am

      Hi Christina! I hadn’t heard of intellibed until after I purchased from Mulligan’s. Wellness Mama has an article on why she chose Intellibed, and I really trust her research. So if she says it’s good, then I’m guessing they are great beds!

  3. Christina on September 29, 2016 at 6:43 pm

    Great! Thanks so much:)

  4. Tarah on October 28, 2016 at 10:44 pm

    Great information. Thanks for sharing. If finances weren’t in the equation (I know they almost always are but…) would you change and go with wool or horse hair? Or do you not think their not worth the investment? Partly wondering cause we need 2 twin mattresses, the kids have nothing at the moment. I’ve looked into wool. I know it’s an investment but didn’t know if it was a worthwhile one in your opinion.

    • Lauren Dahl on November 3, 2016 at 9:14 pm

      I’m actually not sure. I haven’t researched wool or horse hair too much because of the cost. I’d be hesitant on horse hair. I wonder if it is humanely taken from horses or how that works? I would feel comfortable going with wool. Those are great mattresses.

  5. Irina on November 2, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    My favorite mattress company, all of our kids sleep on their twin size mattresses and we are still saving up to get king size one for us. I love the quality and the look of them so much. Thank you for your beautiful blog. 😊

  6. Alicia on May 19, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    Thanks for sharing your research! I greatly appreciate it. So if one doesn’t have the money to buy something now, or even to start saving right now, are there any good like mattress covers or something that will contain the fumes a bit? Or what about I’m thinking of other countries where they sleep on some type of mat, cotton? Or something more like a futon mattress? Would something cotton or down be safe?

    • Lauren Dahl on May 27, 2018 at 4:37 pm

      I have a blog on DIY mattress covers using old wool blankets and “felting” them. That’s what I would do!

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