Making your Bedroom a toxic-free Zzzzzone

Safe bedroom One of the more nudge-y habits that I am guilty of is sending my Nursery treatise to all expecting or new parents that I know. In fact, I don’t even have to know them that well. If I come off as pushy – if not down right presumptuous – I don’t care. That’s how important it is. The undeniable fact is, most recommendations that I would give for a child’s room are relevant to any bedroom.

We spend one third of our lives in our bedrooms so it just makes sense to make it as healthy (non-toxic) as possible.

The Mattress

The first item that I would advise one to address is the mattress. During my short tenure as a magazine Market Editor, I worked on no less than three mattress stories. Inevitably these stories would get pulled at the last minute. Not unlike the mattresses themselves, these stories were expensive and cumbersome. It was a lot of work getting the product in to shoot, conjoling manufacturers for cross cut sections (to expose the interior) and making sure that the market was represented. So why the last minute shelving of these stories? I suspected then what I know now – mattresses are potentially the single most “toxic” item in a bedroom. The commercial companies would or could not fully divulge what was in their product.

If you or your child sleep on a non-organic, commercial mattress, you are breathing in a multitude of toxic chemicals that may include PBDE’s (a fire retardant) that accumulate in humans and are known to cause irregular brain development in children. Since adults average 6 – 10 hours and children clock 10 – 16 sleep hours daily – nearly double the resting time of an adult – not to mention the body mass difference, natural fiber/organic material mattresses and chemical-free bedding should be an absolute priority. A 2011, multi-University study reported:

We tested 101 foam samples from baby products including nursing pillows, nap mats, and sleep positioners, and found that over 80% contained flame retardants at levels up to 12% of the weight of the foam.

Baby room For children’s mattresses, in addition to avoiding added chemicals, I suggest that you avoid metal coils to reduce conductivity of EMF’s (Electromagnetic Fields) responsible for “super-charging” bacteria created from urine, throw up and drool when combined with the plastics and chemicals that are common to commercial mattresses. These bacteria and toxins can negatively affect children’s immature immune and endocrine systems. In fact, recent studies support the belief that SIDS may be a side effect of such toxins.

Natural Fibers

Always use natural fiber toppers, protectors and bedding. Wool has terrific thermal properties, meaning, it breathes. Wool also wicks away moisture and is naturally fire retardant and anti-microbial. Both organic cotton and natural linen are chemical-free, highly durable natural fibers that can be washed frequently.

Floor Coverings

The natural fiber rule holds for floor coverings as well. Wall-to-wall carpet is a bad idea in general, but particularly illogical in a bedroom as it is the absolute, least environmentally friendly flooring option available. It is estimated that 3.5 billion tons of used, toxic wall-to-wall carpeting ends up in landfills every year. Wall-to-wall carpet quickly becomes a mold/bacteria magnet, as well as a dust and allergen trap. Even if the carpet is made from an all-natural fiber, most have some kind of stain treatment and/or synthetic, toxic backing.

Cleaning a wall-to-wall carpet thoroughly is tough, if not impossible. Once moisture is trapped between the carpet and flooring material, you’ve created a perfect breeding ground for mold and bacteria. The most widely available, least expensive wall-to-wall carpets are made with toxic petrochemicals containing formaldehyde, toluene and xylene, which off-gas for years – if not the lifespan of the carpet!

I get it though. A cozy carpet is something most of us desire in a bedroom. So why not choose a natural fiber area rug that can be removed periodically to be cleaned? In most cases, spot cleaning, vacuuming and a fresh air/sunbath will do the trick.


Speaking of sunlight, opening shades to allow in the disinfecting properties of UV light at least once a day, just as opening windows to allow for air exchange, can do wonders for keeping a bedroom fresh and healthy. A baby will use up nearly all of the oxygen in the room over the course of a night. This isn’t ideal for optimal brain development if the room isn’t well ventilated. By honoring light and fresh air you can also help to naturally regulate humidity. Improperly disinfected humidifiers and closed windows are a prescription for bacterial growth. And also remember, air-conditioners are heat exchangers, not air exchangers. AC filters should be cleaned regularly.


Furnishings have toxic properties as well. Finishes, paints, stains and the woods/materials themselves can contribute to an unhealthy atmosphere. Older furnishings will have generally off-gassed most of the offending toxins (with the exception of upholstered/foam pieces) but attention should be paid to new pieces being introduced to a room. You should insist on FSC certified woods, water-based/non-toxic finishes and adhesives, and no VOC paints. Formaldehyde (found in adhesives) is a common indoor pollutant as well as polyurethane (a sealant), a known carcinogen.

Note that formaldehyde off-gas tends to hover two feet off the ground, making babies, toddlers and pets particularly vulnerable.

As for furnishings containing foam, as with most upholstered goods, look for soy, natural latex or rubber foams. Keep in mind that latex/rubber is inherently natural and fire resistant, rendering flame-retardants unnecessary. Most other foams are petroleum-based (a hormone disruptor) and contain PBDE’s (fire retardants).


The last and most common mistakes made in the bedroom are electronics. EMF’s (Electromagnetic Fields) can disrupt the nervous system. In children, EMF’s have been linked with ADD, ADHD and sleep disorders. To help to reduce the effects of EMF’s, limit electrical appliances in the bedroom, including televisions, cellphones, wireless phones and opting for battery operated monitors and clocks. On demand electrical outlets can be installed in children’s rooms to reduce electrical flow further. Power down computers and cellphones and don’t rest any electronics on a nightstand near your head or close to a child’s bed or crib.

The Gift of a Toxic-free Slumber

For most of us, investing in a new mattress and furnishings is not a small commitment. It is an important one however. Most bedroom furnishings are durable and meant to last years, so calculate the price over time and weigh the benefits. Creating a peaceful, chemical-free haven will improve your health, sleep and piece of mind – things we all deserve.

8 Organic Mattress Companies that jGj recommends:


OMI Mattress 

Savvy Rest 


Bella Sera 

Green Sleep

Healthy Choice 


About the Author

Here at Jenny Green Jeans, by sharing success stories and easy-to- implement tips, I hope to inspire and empower you to continue to make sustainable choices in your life and watch how far the impact goes. Please contact me with any questions or suggestions you may have. Also visit the Green Design Goods store for my favorite environmentally sustainable products.

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