We’ve been talking a lot about natural sleep here, and today we’re continuing our series with some easy steps we can take to create a non-toxic bedroom – or close to it!
Let’s face it. We spend one-third of our lives in our bedroom. Yet we don’t really give much thought to the toxins that may be lurking there day in and day out.
We clean up our diet. We clean up our health and beauty products. Even our household cleaners get a makeover to kick out all the nasties from our home.
But the last place we think to look is our bedroom. Or at least it was for me! So today we’re jumping right in and flipping the whole room upside down. Let’s take a look in every corner; in every nook and cranny; under the bed and behind the dresser; from top to bottom and in between.
How can we create a non-toxic bedroom?
A non-toxic bedroom is not impossible, but it can be really tough to achieve. So don’t let this list discourage you; instead, let’s stick to the baby steps approach that we love here at Nature’s Nurture, and try to tackle these steps one at a time.
Step 1: Improve Air Quality
Indoor air pollutants can wreak havoc on your overall health, but can have an especially strong effect during your sleep since the body (and the brain!) works extra hard at night to rid itself of toxins that buildup throughout the day. So the very first step to a non-toxic bedroom is to improve the air quality!
What are some sources of air pollutants?
- Air fresheners, including sprays, paraffin/soy candles, plug-ins, etc. that use artificial fragrances and release toxic gases into the air (make your own natural air fresheners)
- Laundry products that leave fragrances and build up on bedding and clothing (make your own natural laundry products)
- Household cleaners with toxic chemicals and fragrances (make your own natural cleaning products)
How can you improve indoor air quality?
- Use an air purifier like this one.
- Vacuuming (with a HEPA air filter) and dusting regularly.
- Add some air-purifying plants like the ones on this list.
- Use charcoal air filters like these.
- Switch to 100% beeswax candles like these.
Step 2: Reduce Electronics & Lighting
More specifically, electronics that emit electromagnetic fields – or EMFs. Everything in the natural world, including our bodies, produces EMFs; but the artificial EMFs produced by electronics are much more intense and can cause some serious health risks.
While the research is controversial, the World Health Organization claims,
it is clear that if electromagnetic fields do have an effect on cancer, then any increase in risk will be extremely small.
I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t make me feel any better about these possible health risks, so I’m erring on the side of caution and trying to reduce our exposure as much as I can, especially at night during our most vulnerable physical state – sleep!
We’ve also talked before about the effects of blue light exposure on melatonin levels and what it can do to our sleep quality; the same still applies when we’re trying to create a non-toxic bedroom.
Some simple rules for electronics and lighting in the bedroom
- Turn off the wifi either in your whole house, or at the very least, keep it out of your bedroom.
- Keep wireless and cordless devices out of the bedroom – no cellphones, laptops, baby monitors, etc.
- Any plugged-in electronics (like an alarm clock or a lamp) should be kept away from the bed. Better yet, use battery-operated ones instead. Please don’t charge your cellphone on your nightstand by your head all night.
- Leave some space between the wall and your bed.
- No screens (computer, phone, TV) at least one hour before bed to reduce your blue light exposure. Use an app like f.lux which gradually changes the color of your computer screen to match the time of day (bright during the day, and warmer at night). You could also get yourself a pair of blue light blocking glasses and wear those for an hour or two before bed each night.
- Use regular, soft light bulbs; no fluorescent lighting.
Step 3: Get a Better Mattress
Your mattress may very well be the most toxic item in your bedroom right now. It can also be the toughest one to switch out because of the cost factor, so here are some facts and tips to help you decide if this is high on your list for a non-toxic bedroom right now:
Why are conventional mattresses toxic?
By law, all mattresses sold in the US are required to withstand an open flame for 70 seconds. How do they do this? In order to pass the open flame test, mattress manufacturers spray their mattresses with a toxic cocktail of fire-retardant chemicals as the final step in their manufacturing process. Some of the fire-retardants that we know about include:
- Boric acid – can cause neurologic and reproductive damage.
- PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) – used in mattresses sold before 2004, but have since been phased out because of their toxicity.
- Formaldehyde – a known carcinogen which can cause respiratory-tract irritation.
- Antimony – a heavy metal that can cause heart and lung damage, and a possible carcinogen.
The treated foam used in most mattresses – hello, memory foam! – can be the biggest offender, and actually releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs), through off-gassing, which are then inhaled by you and me. VOCs are no joke and have been linked to respiratory conditions, like asthma, in both adults and children.
The topic of mattress toxicity is way too long and detailed for me to go into in this post, but I’ll be going much deeper in an upcoming post, so stay tuned for that. For now, just know that your mattress is a biggie when you’re trying to achieve a non-toxic bedroom.
What are your options for a non-toxic mattress?
The good news is that we have options! They each come with their pros and cons, as do most things in life, but one thing is the same with all of these options: they are not cheap. But again, like everything in life, you get what you pay for. And really, if you’re already in the market for a new mattress, some of these non-toxic options may not be too far out of your budget, so let’s take a look!
- Certified organic – These mattresses are usually certified by The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and use organic materials like cotton and latex foam. While this is the safest and most natural option, I’ve read a lot about how these materials can break down over time and just don’t last very long before becoming uncomfortable and needing to be replaced. I’ve also read that these organic materials are more prone to microbial growth and other issues.
- Wool – This one is a little confusing; some sources claim that wool is naturally flame resistant, so it doesn’t require chemicals to pass the open flame test. But I’ve also read other sources that claim this isn’t entirely true, and that they may in fact be sprayed with undisclosed chemicals. Wool is also known to become hard and packed down over time, so I’m not convinced this is a very comfortable option.
- Prescription bed – If you get a doctor’s prescription (an MD, DO, or chiropractor), you can actually purchase a regular mattress which has not been sprayed with fire retardant chemicals. This is probably your best option from this list if you’re able to do it.
- Non-toxic mattress like IntelliBED – This is actually the mattress I’ve been using for the past 6 months, and I’m really liking it so far, as it’s non-toxic AND it’s very comfortable and supportive. It’s not certified organic, mostly because some of the materials in the mattress, by their very nature, can’t be certified. But they’re all tested to be safe and non-toxic; they contain no PBDEs, no formaldehyde, and very low VOCs. Their patented intelliGEL does not off-gas, and it’s actually the same material used in hospitals for bedridden patients and burn victims to prevent bed sores and reduce pressure. I’ll be talking more about my experience with the intelliBED in a future post, so keep your eyes peeled for that one.
*And for the record, this post is NOT sponsored by intelliBED; however, I’m enjoying their mattress so much that I did sign up to become an affiliate of theirs – if you make a purchase (either online or by phone) and use my code: “Nature10” you’ll receive a 10% discount. 🙂 This is the exact mattress that I’m sleeping on.
Can’t replace your mattress right now?
A good quality, non-toxic mattress is understandably a large investment, so if it’s just not in your budget right now, you have a few other options to get a better night’s sleep and protect your health at the same time.
- Use a mattress topper – Stay away from those cheap foam toppers. Remember, treated foam is the worst offender when it comes to toxic chemicals that off-gas. Instead, opt for a non-toxic mattress topper, like this one from IntelliBED, or this one from Naturepedic made from organic cotton and latex.
- Cover your mattress – Again, stay away from vinyl covers, which can add even more chemical off-gassing. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a perfect solution for this, but the cover definitely has to be plastic to have any effect – low density, food-grade polyethylene is safe and non-toxic. Read this post for more info on your options here. The only downside to this option is it can be a bit noisy.
Step 4: Use Natural Fabrics (Bedding/curtains/rugs)
A non-toxic bedroom is not complete without some natural, non-toxic fabrics. Organic cotton is the best choice for your sheets and pillow cases. Cotton is one of the most highly sprayed crops, so organic is the only way to avoid those pesticides. Bamboo is also another great choice. Down comforters can also be highly allergenic, so wool is the safer choice for comforters and duvets.
Good organic bedding brands include Coyuchi, Earthsake, Boll & Branch, and others. Apartment Therapy has a great list of organic bedding sources as well.
Curtains and rugs are also treated and sprayed with flame retardants, so either remove them from your room completely, or source natural, organic fabrics instead.
Step 5: Use Non-Toxic Paint
If you’re thinking of painting your room, make sure to use a zero-VOC paint (not low-VOC!) for a truly non-toxic bedroom. VOCs, as we learned before, are volatile organic compounds that off-gas into the air, and have been linked to asthma in both adults and children. Look also for the Green Seal certification to ensure your paint is free from other nasties like carcinogens, reproductive toxins, and ozone depleting compounds.
Pure Living Space has a great guide to safe non-toxic paints, including which brands to look into.
Step 6: Choose Safer Furniture
The wood furniture in your bedroom – bed frame, nightstands, dressers, chairs, etc. – may be made out of particle board or medium-density fibreboard (MDF), both of which are fairly inexpensive and very durable. Unfortunately, they both also use formaldehyde in their manufacturing process, which can off-gas for years.
Furnish your non-toxic bedroom with furniture made from solid wood; shop around at furniture stores, flea markets, garage sales, or second hand stores. Glass and metal are also a great, practical choice for tables and desks since they won’t off-gas at all.
Step 7: Keep the Shoes Out!
Are you still wearing shoes inside the house? Or worse, your bedroom? The results are back on this one, and it doesn’t look good.
Your shoes, while very useful and practical for outside use, are actually harboring all kinds of bacteria, toxins, and other nasties that get tracked into your home. Things like pesticides, tar, gasoline, and…fecal matter. Yep, been in a public restroom lately? You’ve probably got poop on your shoes. And you know what’s passed along through poop?
E.coli bacteria… Ewww.
So do yourself a favor, and take your shoes off at the door. If you absolutely must have something on your feet, keep a pair of slippers near the door, or even a special pair of shoes that are only worn inside. Whatever you have to do, just please stop wearing your shoes inside the house. And definitely keep those things out of your non-toxic bedroom!
Final Thoughts On a Non-Toxic Bedroom
This was a monster post, I know. It’s one of the longest posts I’ve ever written, and if you’ve read this far – my hat’s off to you!
Here’s the thing…I don’t like to write these “doom and gloom” type posts. And I really don’t want this post to make you feel like “I have no control, and everything is going to poison me, and what’s the friggin point anymore, because we’re all doomed?!”
I know that feeling. I hate that feeling. And I definitely don’t want you having that feeling.
Instead, let’s look at the information in this post as a positive thing. Something to enlighten ourselves with. Something to refer to when we’re ready to take the next step on our journey to a non-toxic bedroom.
Because you know what? I’ll tell you a secret…
I haven’t done every single thing on this list yet. I’m working my way through it with baby steps just like you. And honestly, I’m not sure I’ll ever cover every single one of these steps, and that’s ok.
It’s about the journey, not the destination, right? So just start on your journey, and go from there. 🙂
Are you working towards a non-toxic bedroom? Do you have any other tips for creating a non-toxic bedroom?
Interesting post and some good tips. However, I wouldn’t recommend plants in the bedroom. I’ve tried that, only to find out that it gave me a severe allergy to different kinds of mould, which always lurk in potting soil or on plants. Since I’ve eliminated anything that mould could grow on from the bedroom, my coughing fits at night have gotten better, but I’m still struggling with the cross-allergies it caused with food. I can’t eat or drink anything fermented anymore, for instance. And mould doesn’t only affect previously allergic people like me, anyone eventually reacts to the toxins that mould spores emit.
Hey Tina, I haven’t read this before, but I see how this might make sense. Thanks for sharing your insight. Definitely worth further research. Crazy that it caused food allergies, too! But glad you’re at least feeling better. 🙂
Great post, Sarah! So glad you’re sharing this important information. Everyone who reads it should be sleeping better tonight!
Thanks, Susannah! It was a beast to write, but so important!