With all of the new green trends from organic food to organic bedding, it can be hard to tell which are worth going for and which are waste of money. Many people question whether they really gain anything by choosing more natural products, or if they should just stick with conventional options. Being a bed blog, we wanted to look at how natural and organic bedding might be beneficial to the average consumer. In this article we will consider the benefits of natural materials in sheets and mattresses.
Overview of Natural and Organic Bedding Materials
Shopping for organic bedding including mattress covers, sheets comforters and blankets will open the door to a vast array of choices. Fabrics created using natural fibers typically include cotton, bamboo, silk and wool in textiles, and latex and plant-based foams in mattresses.
Cotton is naturally breathable, soft material which offers excellent comfort in bedding products. Because of its popularity in textiles, cotton remains one of the most popular of fibers, comprising a considerable proportion of crops grown around the world. This is significant because cotton crops are currently responsible for 25% of insecticides and 10% of pesticides used internationally (Organic Trade Association). These chemicals affect the workers and water systems where they are used, as well as the end consumers. Organic cotton is grown using environmentally friendly, low-impact farming methods. To be considered organic, the material must be certified by valid, independent parties. Producing cotton organically can be expensive, which accounts for the higher cost. While the quantity of organic cotton grown is increasing, it still accounts for a very small percentage of the world’s overall cotton production.
Bamboo is a type of grass native to tropical areas and popular for a variety of reasons. It grows extremely quickly, with less water than cotton, requiring little to no fertilizers and pesticides. The material drapes well and feels closer to silk than most other natural products yet provides breathability parallel to cotton. It works to wick moisture away from the skin over 3 times faster than cotton, helping you sleep dry and cool. Bamboo is fairly new to the bedding market, but sheets and mattress textiles made of bamboo are growing in popularity with eco-conscious brands. You may also be familiar with bamboo fabrics under than name viscose rayon, which typically is often from bamboo pulp.
Natural silk is luxurious, with a lustrous sheen and feel that drapes beautifully, making it one of the most sought after fabrics. Rather than using thread count, silk is measured by weight using the term “momme”, with 20 to 28 momme being considered a medium weight. Pure silk is hypoallergenic, breathable, and moisture-wicking, and strong. Silk comes from insects, namely moth larvae who produce the material for cocoons making this a renewable and biodegradable product. To produce one pound of silk requires cocoons from about 2500 silkworms, accounting for the luxury price-tag of this material. However, producers may add chemicals during processing and some consumers may view the process as inhumane since the insects are often killed to harvest the cocoon.
Wool is another long-worn familiar fabric popular in clothing, blankets, mattress pads and even some mattresses. Wool comes from sheep, who are sheared (shaven) for their fur which is spun into yarn. Wool is excellent at regulating temperatures, wicking moisture, and is available in a variety of weights and textures. This material is also excellent at preventing mold, bacteria and other allergens, and is naturally flame-resistant. Natural wool is typically produced without any extra additives, while organic wool is produced from sheep fed organic diets and without added hormones or synthetic pesticides. Wool is a renewable resource naturally replenished by the sheep, long-lasting, and generally considered humane since the sheep is not harmed in the shearing process.
Latex used in bedding comes from one of two sources: trees or synthetic manufacture. 100% natural latex starts as latex milk derived from hevea brasiliensis, commonly called the rubber tree. Most latex today is grown on plantations in tropical areas, primarily in Asia. The process is considered eco-friendly and sustainable because the trees are tapped to harvest latex, similar to syrup in the sense that tree continues growing and living. The creation of natural latex foam requires very few additives and zero toxic chemicals. Because no petroleum or VOC products are used, latex is one of the most natural bedding materials currently on the market especially when combined with organic bedding textiles like cotton and wool. Our top pick for natural latex mattresses was Astrabeds in our recent retailer comparison, and the website also offers latex toppers and organic cotton sheets.
Another trend in the natural bedding sector proves plant-based foams which replace all or part of petroleum products in their production. Depending on the manufacturer, these may or may not be eco-friendly. Typically highly renewable sources are used like soy and castor beans for the plant component. Some brands manufacture their foams without toxic VOCs and pollution emissions that make traditional memory foam concerning. One example is plant-based memory foam mattresses from Amerisleep.com which also utilize bamboo blend covers.
Natural vs Synthetic Materials
Drawbacks of Natural and Organic Bedding Products
Prices. The primary drawback of organic bedding products is the higher than average costs consumers must pay. As organic products become more popular, they will become more affordable to produce but as of now growers tend to spend more on eco-friendly growing methods and certification processes which gets passed on to buyers.
Availability. Availability is another potential block of buying natural, as it can be hard to find truly eco-friendly products locally. However, demand is steadily increasing local options and the internet offers consumers an excellent resource for obtaining natural and organic bedding products. Read our article on benefits of buying a mattress online for helpful tips.
Benefits of Natural and Organic Bedding
When you opt for organic bedding products, the benefits to your family are numerous, from reducing chemical exposure to helping the planet. Your skin will be in direct contact especially with sheets and pillowcases, making it essential to use the safest material available. Allergy sufferers and those with sensitive skin may notice rashes or red areas on their faces or other body parts that come into contact with synthetic materials. Any chemicals that would be released by man-made mattresses and bedding pose a risk simply due to how much time we spend in bed each and every day.
Ease of Care. The benefits of natural and organic bedding include their ease of care. These materials have been used for generations and withstood the test of time. Cotton and bamboo bedding can both be machine washed for easy and frequent cleaning, important for those with allergies. Cotton, wool and latex all prove exceptionally more durable than synthetic counterparts.
Reduce Chemical Exposure. Throughout the past few decades as we have realized the negative side effects of filling our homes with chemicals, people have begun to seek out safer products. Organic sheets and bedding are particularly recommended for babies and children who are more vulnerable to chemicals in their environments. Organic bedding is considered hypoallergenic and has considerably less environmental impact than synthetics. In fact the root structure of organically raised bamboo helps stabilize the soil and prevent erosion. When it comes to mattresses, opting for natural latex and plant-based foams helps prevent toxic VOCs which off-gas and can have mental and physical side effects.
Feels Nice. So what does organic bedding feel like when you slip under the covers at night? Depending on your choice of fabric, thread count and weave, usually pretty good. Silk is well-known not only for its lustrous sheen, but also for its smoothness. Silk pillowcases have been recommended by beauticians for years to protect hair and help prevent wrinkles from sheets. Bamboo and high thread count organic cotton provide a welcoming softness that makes them irresistible and difficult to leave. And who has not spent a hot summer’s night relishing cool cotton sheets with their natural ability breathability.
Environmentally Sound. One of the biggest, but hardest to grasp, benefits of opting for natural and organic products is the benefits to the earth. By avoiding textiles that use non-renewable resources and pollute the environment during production and manufacturing, you limit the amount of toxins going into the ground, water, animals, and people. Pushing for eco-friendly products also helps workers, as a move away from toxic products can help limit the hundreds of thousands of cases of pesticide poisoning that occur each year (Environmental Justice Foundation).
Fortunately as demand continues to increase for organic bedding, more options are available and at more affordable prices. Silk, cotton, wool and bamboo fibers which have been certified organic are the best choices for organic sheets and mattress coverings. Choosing between synthetic polyester which is rough and pills the first time it is washed, and organic cotton or bamboo, which continues to provide a comfortable soft and smooth surface is not a difficult decision. The long and short-term benefits of natural and organic bedding makes it the only choice for health and eco-conscious consumers.