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How to find a mattress with fewer harmful chemicals

You know that chemical smell you sometimes get with a new mattress? Consumer Reports warns .. it's because of volatile organic compounds and they can be bad news for you as well as the environment.

You know that smell that sometimes comes from a new rug or worse -- a new mattress. It’s often from chemicals used in the manufacturing process. But Consumer Reports says you can find mattresses made without as many potentially harmful chemicals -- you just need to know what to look for.

Finding a mattress – without harmful chemicals

When you’re online shopping for a new mattress, you’re likely to come across the term “off gassing.”

“Off-gassing is basically that chemical smell you get when you cut into the packaging around a new mattress. What you’re actually smelling are volatile organic compounds -- or VOCs -- and they come from solvents used in the manufacturing process,” explained Consumer Reports Home Editor Paul Hope.

Hope says you can choose a mattress with fewer VOCS. Begin by looking at the labeling.

When you’re online shopping for a new mattress, you’re likely to come across the term “off gassing.” (Provided by Consumer Reports)

“Don’t be fooled by a mattress that’s labeled natural, there’s no formal certification for what natural means. And a mattress can also be labeled organic even if it only has a small amount of organic material,” Hope added.

Consumer Reports says a reliable label is the Global Organic Textile Standard, or GOTS. It requires the materials used in a mattress to contain a minimum amount of certified organic materials and ensures that no hazardous chemical flame retardants and polyurethane foam were used to make it.

You’ll find a similar standard for latex mattresses with the GOLS label, or Global Organic Latex Standard.

But labels don’t matter if your mattress isn’t comfortable. That’s why Consumer Reports performs tests that include determining how well a mattress supports different sized sleepers in different positions.

If you like a mattress on the firmer side, the Avocado Green for $1,600 (certified by GOLS and GOTS) does a great job keeping a sleeper’s spine aligned no matter their size.

My Green Mattress Natural Escape for $1,500 (also certified by GOTS and GOLS) is another very good option for all types and sizes of sleepers.

If you prefer a softer mattress, consider the Birch by Helix Natural Mattress for $1,299 (GOTS). Its support is just so-so for large or tall side sleepers, but CR’s tests found it fits the bill for everyone else.

Top-tested bed sheets

Consumer Reports says when it comes to shopping for sheets, ditch the synthetic polyester and opt for cotton. However, you don’t need to spend a fortune for a higher thread count. Testing has found that it doesn’t necessarily mean better durability.

CONSUMER REPORTS: Best & Worst Sheets

Consumer Reports testers put sheets through strength tests -- pushing fabrics and seams to their limits. They also check depths to see if the fitted sheets actually, you know, fit.

Consumer Reports says when it comes to shopping for sheets, ditch the synthetic polyester and opt for cotton. (Provided by Consumer Reports)

Then they wash and dry them -- 25 times -- to replicate a years’ worth of laundering to see if the sheets still fit the mattresses and to make sure the fabrics hold up after all that washing and drying.

Four of the best sheets from their tests include: