Two of the most important features to consider when choosing new bedding are what material the bedding is made of and how that material is made. But it’s also important to take into consideration where those materials come from and how they’re processed or treated. After all, “organic,” “fair trade,” and “sustainable” probably aren’t the first words you think of when contemplating bed sheets or blankets, but bedding with these and other designations can very much bet worth seeking out for a variety of reasons.
What Is Organic Bedding?
On the most obvious level, organic bedding is bedding that’s made from organic materials, but while that simple statement is true, it’s only half the picture. Organic bedding encompasses a wide array of items – from sheets and blankets to comforters, pillows, and even mattresses – all of which are made from different types of materials that adhere to different standards. Reputable manufacturers will prominently display their organic certifications, but often there are several of them, and the technical jargon can be difficult to parse. This is particularly true because organic certifications encompass all stages of production, from the raw material to the final product.
Generally speaking, though, organic bedding is made from organically grown natural fibers, is biodegradable, and uses only natural or non-toxic dyes. The fabric is also generally lighter and more breathable, better at wicking away moisture, hypoallergenic, and free from chemical treatments. Any given type of organic bedding can have half a dozen individual certifications, but less important than the letter of the guidelines they follow is the spirit of the restrictions and what particular issues they seek to address. Which ones are worth seeking out will depend a bit on what’s most important for you.
Perhaps the most practical reason to seek out organic bedding is that it’s designed to be hypoallergenic. This particularly applies to the filling in pillows, comforters, and mattresses where typical quality materials (like goose down) can cause problems for people with allergies, but includes sheets as well. Not only are the materials used grown and processed to be safe for those with allergies, but many manufacturers also go out of their way to make sure their factory conditions keep the bedding as free from potential irritants as possible, by banning the use of scents and workers from smoking households.
Reduced Chemical Exposure
Similarly, organic bedding is exposed to far fewer chemicals at all stages of production than typical bedding. That includes pesticides and antibiotics for the source plants and animals, but also many chemical treatments that are typically applied to the finished product. Both natural and synthetic sheets can be fumigated, particularly if they’re imported, and often chemicals are applied to reduce wrinkling, add strength, prevent shrinkage, or even improve the cloth’s ability to take color. These treatments are widely used and ostensibly safe, but organic bedding provides a chemical-free alternative for those concerned about exposure to chemicals or offgassing.
Of course, many organic certifications have a purely environmental bent, concerned less with the final product and more with how it comes to be. These regulations often apply primarily to the raw materials: limiting the type and amount of pesticides that can be used on cotton, banning antibiotics from the feed of wool-producing sheep, and ensuring that materials like bamboo or natural latex are harvested sustainably. That said, they can also apply to the efficiency of and the conditions in the factories where the bedding is made: reducing the amount of water or electricity used during production, or limiting carbon emissions or chemical use. If you’re primarily concerned about buying eco-friendly products, these are the sorts of certifications you should keep an eye out for.
Last but not least are the certifications that apply primarily to the treatment of the people involved in producing the bedding, rather than the materials or the final product. Fair trade is one of the most common of these certifications, which ensures that farmers (primarily those in other countries) are fairly compensated for their products, that their growing practices are environmentally sound, and that they have fair living and working conditions. You can also find bedding labeled as sweatshop free and, more rarely, Made in USA. It’s arguable whether or not these regulations have an appreciable impact on the final quality of the bedding, but they’re worth looking for if you want your purchases to be socially conscious.
The term “organic bedding” covers a lot of ground, but whether you’re concerned about the quality of your bedding, the materials that go into it, or just how it’s made, it’s worth taking the time to look at what certifications your bedding meets before you buy.