Beware of Mattresses

As a recognized leader crafting healthy, American hardwood furniture, we are frequently asked by customers if we can recommend a mattress to go with our bed frames.

The short answer is yes, to a point. Please understand there is a limitless amount of options in the marketplace and one size does not fit all. Keep in mind, we do not know if you prefer soft or firm support, are allergic to certain materials, or have specific design needs. We are happy to provide our thoughts and what to look for. We are also happy to share our experience with some quality manufacturers to consider.

Mattress Types

Generally, mattresses can be grouped into three types:

  • Inner coil mattresses which have been traditionally used with boxsprings.
  • Bladder filled mattresses are basically a bag filled with air, water, horse hair or other materials.
  • Foam mattresses which can be made from rubber or petro-chemicals.

While most of these types of mattresses (with exception of a water bladder) will work fine on a Dapwood’s bed frame/slat system, there are two items to be aware of.

If you decide to use a mattress along with a boxspring, the overall height of the bed will be relatively high. For some people, they will find it difficult to get in and out of bed. Additionally, the extra height may hide a good portion of the headboard. If incorporating a boxspring is your preference, please let us know the combined mattress and boxspring thickness so we can raise the headboard and/or lower the platform to optimize your frame height and showcase the wood’s natural beauty.

The other item to be aware of is some manufacturers have a maximum support slat spacing recommendation for a mattress warranty. Most common spacing is 3-4″, 1.5-2″ and .25″-solid. Regardless of spacing specifications, Dapwood has a solution. (Note that we do not recommend solid platforms (e.g. plywood sheet) as we believe it is important that the underside of mattress has adequate air-flow/circulation.)

Mattress Core Material

While each mattress type has pluses and minuses, the mattress materials is what we believe to be most important.

Inner coils are individual springs tied together to provide complete body support. While metal springs are generally regarded as an inert material, some concerns have been raised in recent years that that the metal coil springs can act as an antenna and draw Electro Magnetic Radiation (EMR) to your sleeping surface. EMR, commonly attributed to cell phones, WiFi, microwave ovens, building wiring among and natural cosmic radiation is believed by some to be absorbed into the human body and cause numerous health problems. Consumers who believe they have a sensitivity to EMR should do their research on effects of electro-magnetic radiation before deciding on purchasing a mattress or boxspring with metal coil spring technology.

Natural fillers like Kapok Seed, horse hair, feathers and straw are used by some boutique mattress makers. While natural, these materials may not provide stable long term support as they can break down or compress over time.

Latex core technology has become highly popular in the last decade challenging the position traditionally enjoyed by coil spring mattresses. Advances in foam technology, coupled with ability to compress and ship via small package carriers has opened new manufacturing opportunities for overseas factories. For many a mattress arriving at your front door is much easier than going to a store.

Latex mattresses fall into two subcategories:

  • Natural rubber is derived from the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) processed with Talalay or Dunlop methods which use molds, heat, vacuum pumps, etc to create a stable rubber product. These latex cores are typically called “Natural and Organic”. More on this term below.
  • Polyurethane foams use petro-chemicals to create the foam layers with the same Talalay or Dunlop methods. Polyurethane foams may also use some natural rubber along with the polyurethane. Polyurethane foam contains a multitude of chemicals, suspected toxins and VOCs. Because of these properties, consumers should be mindful of potential risks when exposed to, not only off-gassing of these chemicals, but also dust particles that can slough off and possibly be inhaled while sleeping.

Keep in mind that “Natural” has NO agreed to or regulated definition and “Organic” is a term used in the United States for foods that have gone through a certification process. Latex is not a food! In reality, “Natural and Organic” has NO meaning. For the most part, we believe that mattress manufacturers are NOT trying to be deceptive. Manufacturing with imported materials is a complex situation. For example- How much non-latex feed stock is OK? Is that by volume or weight? Can plantations use pesticides and herbicides to control pests? Do factories need to be 100% free of possible contaminants? What about the import fumigation process and its effect on the product? Then there is the costs associated with meeting these requirements. Are consumers willing to pay more?

To try and address these complex issues, there is The International Association for Research and Testing in the Field of Textile and Leather Ecology (Oeko-Tex) which is based in Switzerland. The OEKO-TEX Standard 100 would be appropriate for latex mattress materials but it is rarely used in the United States.

This leaves the consumer with the responsibility of asking potential mattress manufacturers what really goes into the mattress. Do they have a simple ingredient list, have no idea or try to dance around the question?

Cover Material

Most mattresses, whether inner coil, latex or bladder, utilize a textile cover to protect the expensive inner mattress core. Mattress covers can range from natural materials like cotton and wool to man-made synthetic materials. Some covers are “pillow tops” while others are a simple cover. Many options exist.

Fire Retardants

When smoking in bed was more common than it is today, manufacturers were required to include fire/flame retardants. Most commonly used were Borates which have health concerns.

Today, mattresses are not required by law to have fire retardants. It is not illegal for mattresses to be sold without fire retardant chemicals. The decision to add fire retardant chemicals is at the manufacturers discretion.

However, in the United States, mattresses are required to pass the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) flammability test (16CFR Part 1633). Makers can use borates or other high tech chemicals in order to pass this test. Other manufacturers interested in providing customers with healthy products use wool and natural latex since these materials are natural fire retardants.

Be sure you know how your potential mattress was able to pass CPSC’s flammability test.


Because of long-term chemical exposure concerns, Dapwood believes that there is only one prudent choice when it comes to selecting a mattress. Look for a mattresses with either inner coil or 100% natural latex foam core technology coupled with a natural cotton or wool cover. Keep in mind that wool and cotton are natural textiles that make healthy options so long as the materials are not highly processed or use toxic chemicals in its growing cycle or importation.

With all of that said, Dapwood customers report high satisfaction and confidence in manufacturers including NaturePedic, Avocado and Savvy Rest. Additionally, many cities are home to boutique mattress makers which offer healthy options.

In short, do your homework. Read the label. Ask questions. Insist on safe materials that are toxin free. Don’t be a victim of slick advertising, cheap prices and glitzy packaging. You and your families health is too important to spend one third of your life in a potentially dangerous sleep environment.