Most people are fortunate enough to have a bed. But the bedding industry is full of chemicals and animal products, from cotton treated with toxic chemicals to duvets made from duck down, and mattresses made with wool. There are many choices for sustainable bed linen, so let’s look at the best ones, when it’s time to either treat yourself or replace existing bed linen.
This post deals with bed linen for older children and adults. As baby bed linen is very important for safety grounds (to try to prevent crib death etc), see the separate post on tips for a natural nursery.
Most bed linen sets consist of sheets (flat or fitted), a duvet with a cover and pillows with pillow cases. All of these sit on a mattress with springs on a bed base, and there are also alternative types of bedding like futons, that roll out to make a flat bed with no mattress, and there are also sofa-beds that pull out at night. Then you have any extras like blankets and throws.
The best types of bed linen to choose are made from organic cotton (the fibres last longer as they are not treated with chemicals), hemp (a naturally organic plant that is warm in winter and cool in summer) and linen (a crumpled fabric made from locally-grown flax).
La Redoute is an online store that’s not all organic, but its organic cotton bedding range is beautifully designed and very affordable, compared to most brands (think around £30 for a set as opposed to £100). You’ll likely have to recycle any plastic packaging it comes in, but at least this company is making sustainable bedding affordable for everyone, not just for the elite few. Here are just a few of the gorgeous designs to choose from:
Panda Bedding offers a nice range of bedding sets (300 thread count comparable to luxury Egyptian cotton) made from sustainable bamboo, along with a Cloud Bamboo Duvet that is soft and light, with a matching memory foam topper (with washable cover) and mattress cover.
Choosing a Sustainable Mattress
Choosing a sustainable vegan mattress is difficult, as most plant-based fibres like latex are highly flammable, so by law have to be covered in fire-retardant chemicals. Cottonsafe Mattress is the first certified vegan mattress that is free from these, but has to be made with polyester to naturally be flame-retardant and meet fire regulation laws.
A mattress is a big investment, so it pays to use a good mattress cover to protect against wear and tear, and stains. This means your mattress will last a longer longer and it will also be easy to sell later on if wished. If you intend to donate a mattress at end of life, this is also a good idea, as most charities will not accept mattresses with stains. Likewise, you may wish to use pillow protectors, again for longer life.
If you need to clean your mattress, use a natural enzyme cleaner and let it sit for 15 minutes, then blot and wipe with a cold damp cloth. To remove odours, cover with baking soda and let it sit for 24 hours ideally, then use a vacuum cleaner to remove the powder, and air-dry before adding your bedding. It’s best to sit the mattress near an open window, so sunlight can dry the mattress out faster, to prevent mould and mildew.
Organic bedlinen has no chemical fire retardents, so never smoke indoors and fit tested smoke alarms on each floor. Use hot water bottles over electric blanekts, and use a real alarm over a clock radio. Use oil-filled radiators (not fan heaters, these disperse too much heat at once).
Don’t charge laptops or phones on bed, nor burn candles in bedrooms (see candle safety tips and avoid scented candles near pets – never use essential oils if pets sleep on your bed, they can harm their livers). Have a fire escape plan (buy escape ladders (also for pets & babies).
Bedding for Incontinence
If you are incontinent (or care for someone who is), it can be stressful to keep bedding fresh and clean. Obviously sometimes you may need plastic coatings if the problem is severe. But you could try bamboo bedding (above) as it’s naturally anti-bacterial and easy to wash (including the duvets).
Natracare and Earthwise Girls both offer washable incontinence pads. These are breathable with no plastic, so less likely to smell and also more comfortable, especially in warmer weather. It’s advised to reduce night-time drinks (especially caffeine and alcohol) near bedtime, to help reduce accidents.
Choose a Circular Bed
Vel eYou Bed is a new style of bed. A circular bed is designed to last a lifetime. So if the springs go or you want a new headboard, you just buy parts, rather than a whole new bed. Made without glue, it uses Poqquet spring technology, with individually sealed springs in perforated pouches. Change the style of your bed or softness of your mattress, without changing the whole bed itself.