According to Casper, its mattresses are made with ‘planet-friendly materials’. Is this true? Is Casper mattress non-toxic? Here’s a closer look at Casper mattresses.
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A closer look at Casper mattresses
Casper mattresses, the famous “bed in a box” brand, are all made with polyurethane foam. Some are hybrid foam and innerspring mattresses, but most are foam through and through, with a fiberglass fire sock and zippered synthetic cover.
Let’s focus on the positives first.
Casper wins some points with us because it uses:
- Only CertiPUR foam (which is slightly better than conventional polyfoam)
- Some recycled materials
- Compact packaging to minimize transport-associated emissions.
That’s it, folks.
Let’s dig in a bit more though, to show how Casper shapes up.
What is Casper foam made of?
Casper only uses CertiPUR-US® certified polyfoam. This means the foam is low VOC (volatile organic compounds) and free of:
- Ozone-depleting chemicals
- Regulated phthalates (not necessarily all phthalates)
- Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)
- Some of the most egregious flame retardants
- Mercury, lead, and other heavy metals.
Under CertiPUR standards, polyfoam is low VOC if it emits less than 0.5 parts per million. This is better than conventional foam, but the fact remains that a Casper mattress still off-gases VOCs.
CertiPUR certification doesn’t mean the foam is totally free of chemicals like styrene, benzene, toluene, and formaldehyde, just that levels of these are low.
Note, too, that CertiPUR standards are less rigorous than, say, the Ecolabel used in the European Union. CertiPUR products are only tested for 72 hours, while Ecolabel tests for 7 or 28 days, depending on the certification level. Limits for VOCs, including formaldehyde, toluene, styrene, and others are also much higher with CertiPUR compared to Ecolabel.
All in all, it’s nice that Casper uses CertiPUR foam but this foam is still:
- Polluting and hard to recycle
- A source of VOCs.
If facing a choice between uncertified polyfoam and CertiPUR foam, choose the latter to minimize exposure to VOCs and other chemicals. Don’t be fooled into thinking CertiPUR is eco-friendly or totally non-toxic though.
Casper isn’t averse to a little greenwashing. The company claims that its mattresses are “made with planet-friendly materials, and without harmful, and ozone-depleting chemicals.” Sorry (not sorry), Casper, but petroleum-based synthetic foam isn’t planet-friendly.
Casper also boasts about its use of “recycled polyester, upcycled cotton, rayon, and lycra” in its covers. Given that we don’t know the full composition of the covers (or any part of the Casper mattresses), it’s hard to determine the impact of this use of recycled and upcycled materials.
Rayon and Lycra are both synthetic, not eco-friendly, and are made with harsh chemicals and a lot of water and energy inputs. These materials are also not biodegradable and produce microplastic pollution.
Casper mattresses also feature things like “Polymer cooling gel’ and ‘gel pods’. The proprietary nature of these materials means we have no idea what’s in them.
Flame retardants in Casper mattresses
Casper mattresses contain fiberglass. The company notes that this is necessary for its mattresses to meet fire safety standards. Hardly surprising, given that polyfoam mattresses are basically solid gasoline, i.e., highly flammable.
The knit fire sock Casper uses is made with continuous filament (single-strand) fiberglass. The design means that the fiberglass shouldn’t fray or release particles under normal use conditions. However, at end-of-life, that fiberglass sock is impossible to recycle. This means it will end up in landfill or incinerated, where it poses an environmental health hazard.
Fiberglass production is also hazardous, releasing air pollutants such as styrene.
On the plus side, the fiberglass sock probably (but not definitely) means there aren’t other chemical flame retardants in a Casper mattress. Because the company reveals very little about its mattresses, though, we can’t say this for sure.
How long does a Casper mattress last?
Casper mattresses also pose another environmental concern: poor longevity. Not only does polyfoam degrade fast, but Casper mattresses are also made with a zipper.
Great! This must mean the Casper mattress is easy to clean and that you can move layers around to customize comfort, right?
Casper explicitly warns against undoing that zipper. It’s not there to allow you to move around layers to toggle comfort levels (like in the Botanical Bliss, for instance). Instead, it’s just a cheaper way of manufacturing a mattress, compared to stitching the sides and cover for a more robust, durable build.
Online reviews consistently note that Casper mattresses (like most polyfoam mattresses) need replacing right around the time the warranty expires, if not long before. This means you get 10 years at best out of a Casper mattress, after which it goes to a landfill or gets incinerated as it’s impossible to recycle.
If you’re a heavier adult or if your mattress regularly takes a beating (such as from kids jumping on it), don’t be surprised if it degrades even faster. Under these conditions, a Casper mattress (like other foam mattresses) will likely become lumpy, unsupportive, and uncomfortable after just a year or two.
Final thoughts on Casper mattresses
It should be pretty clear by now that the short answer to whether a Casper mattress is non-toxic is a resounding no.
Sure, Casper takes pains to use a slightly less awful polyfoam and some recycled materials. That hardly compensates, though, for the massive amounts of virgin synthetics and chemical inputs required to produce millions of pounds of polyfoam and thousands of short-lived, non-biodegradable mattresses every year.
What’s the alternative? For a genuinely eco-friendly and non-toxic mattress, check out our top picks here.