When shopping for a new mattress, you'll notice the phrase 'CertiPUR-US', and accompanying logo, cropping up. Every model in our best mattress US guide has a CertiPUR-US accreditation. But what exactly does it mean, and is it important? Let us explain...
What does a CertiPUR-US certification mean?
CertiPUR-US is a certification given to flexible polyurethane foams – the kind frequently found in mattresses and other furniture – in the US. It confirms they meet certain safety and environmental standards. In order to gain a CertiPUR-US certification, the product must undergo rigorous testing. Specifically, in order to be CertiPUR certified, a foam must be made without:
- Ozone depleters
- PBDEs or certain Tris flame retardants (TCEP, TDBPP, TDCPP, TEPA)
- Mercury, lead and other heavy metals
- Phthalates regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
It must also have low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) emissions for indoor air quality (less than 0.5 parts per million). We'll explain more about each of these, and what they mean for your mattress, below.
A CertiPUR-US certification does not mean the foam in your mattress is chemical-free, eco-friendly, or hypoallergenic. It might be some of these things, but that's not what CertiPUR-US tests for.
Is a CertiPUR-US certification important for mattresses?
First up, let us reiterate that CertiPUR-US only certifies foam – it does not certify entire products or companies. So a certification only applies to the foam inside your mattress, not the whole thing.
A CertiPUR-US certification is mainly there for peace of mind, and we'd consider it an indication of a more reputable brand. The vast majority of our recommended mattresses are made with foam that is CertiPUR-US certified. That goes for all of the large, reputable bed companies, and most of the best cheap mattresses too.
There are some exceptions. For example, Emma's US mattress range is CertiPUR-US certified, while its UK range is not. IKEA mattresses (even those sold in the US) do not appear to be CertiPUR-US certified.
Much of that is likely to do with where the company operates. This is a US certification, so mattress brands that aren't US-based are unlikely less likely to come with a CertiPUR-US certification. However, it is a global standard and an increasing number of foam producers in other countries certify their foams, especially if they are selling to the US market. There's also a separate Europe-based CertiPUR certification.
How can you tell if a mattress is CertiPUR-US certified?
There are a few things to look for. Often, you'll find it in the description on the mattress brand's site, possibly accompanied by the logo shown below. You can also find a list of participating brands on the CertiPUR-US site. If the mattress has no mention of CertiPUR-US on its website, and it's not included in CertiPUR-US's list, we'd assume the foam is not certified.
Who gives out CertiPUR-US certifications?
The CertiPUR-US program is run by a nonprofit organization. Products are analyzed by independent, accredited testing laboratories.
Certified foams must be certified twice in the first year and then each year afterwards. In addition, the company performs random testing to make sure companies remain in compliance. (Find the complete Technical Guidelines here.)
What defines a CertiPUR-US foam?
Let's take a closer look at the elements that make up a CertiPUR-US certified foam, and why they're important for your mattress purchase.
- Made without ozone depleters
The ozone layer provides a barrier that protects the earth from too much ultraviolet radiation from the sun. In 1987, the Montreal Protocol required that industries eliminate ozone-depleting CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) by the year 2000, although in some parts of the world, CFCs are still used in foam manufacture.
A CertiPUR-US certification ensures no CFCs or other ozone depleters have been used in the manufacturing process, which means your mattress isn't actively harming the environment in this way. That's not to say it's a wholly environmentally friendly product, but it's one element to look for.
- Made without certain flame retardants
In the past, certain chemicals (PBDEs and Tris flame retardants TCEP, TDBPP, TDCPP and TEPA) have been used as flame retardants in foams. Those listed have negative environmental or medical effects.
- Low VOC emissions
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are a major part of air pollution. You might not expect it, certain household products emit VOCs, which can affect indoor air quality. To get a CertiPUR-US stamp of approval, the foam must have low VOC emissions for indoor air quality (less than 0.5 parts per million).
- Made without mercury, lead and other heavy metals
Exposure to certain heavy metals, such as mercury and lead, can be dangerous to your health, which is why they're commonly tested for in home products. Although you wouldn't expect to find them in the foam manufacture process, a CertiPUR-US certification process can detect even traces of heavy metals.
- Made without formaldehyde
Formaldehyde can cause poor indoor air quality. It's not typically used in foam manufacture, but it's tested for anyway.
- Made without specific phthalates
Phthalates are used as a softening agent in the manufacturing process for certain consumer products. There are eight specific toxic phthalates that are banned in products for children, under the 2009 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. A CertiPUR-US certification confirms the foam doesn't use these phthalates, either.
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Ruth Hamilton is a Sleep Editor and and Certified Sleep Science Coach who is qualified to offer advice on what mattress will suit you best, plus tips on how to improve your sleep habits. She was acting Sleep Editor on Tom's Guide for a year, and has now moved across to our sister site TechRadar. Ruth has tested more mattresses than her small flat can handle and will talk at length about them to anyone who shows even a passing interest, and has had to implement a one-in-one-out pillow policy for fear of getting smothered by them in the night. As well as following all the industry trends and advancements in the mattress and bedding world, she regularly speaks to other sleep experts to delve into the science behind a great night's sleep, and offer you advice to help you get there.