This article was written to bring awareness and education to the dangers of mattresses containing fiberglass. Think of the place in your home that you’re supposed to feel the safest. For some, it may be the couch; others the kitchen, or even the bathtub. But for the vast majority of people, it’s the bed.
It’s where you go to recoup after an exhausting day, where you curl up for a Sunday afternoon nap, and where you can finally let down all your defenses and relax.
Recently, though, there have been several reports that have suggested that many beds may be more dangerous than most people realize.
And the culprit is fiberglass inner mattress covers.
This helpful guide examines the hazards of inner mattress covers made with fiberglass, how to spot and deal with such mattresses, the best types of safe fiberglass-free mattress alternatives, and much more.
Table of Contents
- What Is Fiberglass?
- Why is Fiberglass Dangerous In the Inner Covers of Mattresses?
- Fiberglass Mattresses in the News
- Why Is Fiberglass Used in Some Mattress Inner Covers?
- Why Do Mattresses Need a Fire Retardant Anyway?
- Are All Mattress Covers Flammable?
- How Do You Spot the Warning Signs of a Fiberglass Mattress Cover?
- How Do You Determine What’s in Your Current Mattress?
- Do Fiberglass-Free Mattress Covers Exist?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- About the Author of this Important Article
- Consumer Products Safety Commission Open Flame Standard Test
What Is Fiberglass?
So, what is fiberglass?
Well, fiberglass is a type of composite material made by reinforcing plastic with glass fibers. It’s lightweight, durable, weather-resistant, and exceptionally easy to mold into a variety of shapes.
One of the most popular uses for a type of fiberglass is for insulation.
Have you ever seen that pink, cotton candy-looking fluff stuck to the walls of your attic? That’s fiberglass.
Some mattress makers use fiberglass as a cost-effective fire retardant in the inner covers of certain designs of mattresses (more on that later).
However, doing so can lead to plenty of hazards too.
Why is Fiberglass Dangerous In the Inner Covers of Mattresses
If you own a mattress, there’s a chance the inner cover contains fiberglass. If so, you’re running the risk of exposing yourself and your family to this abrasive material.
The inner cover may be manufactured with fiberglass to prevent highly flammable mattresses (usually memory foam) from catching fire. When removing the decorative zippered outer cover to wash it, the fiberglass particles can potentially get dislodged from the inner cover and launched into the surrounding environment.
These particles can land on furniture, become embedded in clothing or carpeting, and even be sucked up into your HVAC system, spreading to the rest of the home.
While fiberglass is not currently rated as a carcinogen for humans, it poses plenty of other hazards to your health.
- Skin Irritation – Accidentally rubbing against home fiberglass insulation can irritate the skin. Itching, blistering, and the formation of rashes are all possible as the tiny shards of glass are embedded in the skin.
- Eyes, Nose, & Throat Irritation – Some fiberglass shards are so tiny that they can be suspended in the air. This, of course, can irritate your nose and throat (coughing, sneezing, soreness, etc.) as well as red and irritated eyes.
- Aggravating Other Conditions – Inhaling fiberglass can make other underlying conditions worse. Asthma and bronchitis, for example, can both be aggravated by exposure to fiberglass.
Beyond the health hazards, there are also the financial costs.
Experts recommend only using a professional cleaner to get your home back to normal. And cleaning up a house exposed to airborne fiberglass can cost anywhere from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars.
Plus, there’s no guarantee your insurance company will cover the costs.
Fiberglass Mattresses in the News
In recent years, several reports of families coping with the devastating damage the mattress cover in their mattress caused them.
One case, in particular, that’s garnered national coverage occurred in St. Louis.
Just have a look at this video titled “The danger lurking in your mattress.”
“It’s a living nightmare, horrible and through the whole house… Kitchen table, kitchen chairs, countertops, dishes… Now the furnace, air conditioner, everything in the house is contaminated… Everything is destroyed. You never would have thought by taking off a cover you would destroy thousands upon thousands of dollars and your whole life.”
There are plenty of other cases across the country too.
The culprits seem to be low-cost memory foam mattresses from manufacturer Zinus.
Zinus mattresses are widely available and sold at Walmart, Target, Home Depot, and Amazon.
However, some claim that other mattress companies also produce similarly dangerous products.
Why Is Fiberglass Used in Some Mattress Inner Covers?
Fiberglass is used in the inner mattress cover because it acts as an inexpensive and effective fire retardant.
If a mattress were to catch fire, the fiberglass particles would melt rather than go up in flames. This melting would create a barrier between the fire and the mattress materials underneath the inner cover, helping to prevent the entire bed from catching fire which could possibly lead to the home burning down.
Some companies use chemicals as flame retardants rather than fiberglass. But research has shown that exposure to some of these chemicals (like organohalogen flame retardants or OFRs) can lead to serious health effects.
There are also chemical-free and fiberglass-free mattresses available. These mattresses offer all the protection of chemical and fiberglass mattresses while keeping you safe from exposure to harmful materials.
Consider a fiberglass-free mattress.
Why Do Mattresses Need a Fire Retardant Anyway?
In the first place, it’s the law.
According to the 2007 Standard for the Flammability (Open Flame) of Mattress Sets from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, mattresses must meet the federal safety standard for open-flame fire resistance.
A 2002 government report found that an estimated 20,800 fires were attributed to mattress fires each year. These fires cause 2,200 injuries, 380 fatalities, and $104 million in property loss.
In 2007, the new standard of flammability in mattresses that caught fire helped give families more time to escape safely before their home fires burn out of control.
You can see below the difference between a conventional mattress and a CPSC-compliant mattress when exposed to just 3 minutes of an open flame.
Fact. a fire-resistant mattress can save your life. (source)
Are All Mattress Covers Flammable?
Unfortunately, not every inner cover of every mattress can prevent fires completely. And as a result, all mattress covers are, to some degree, flammable.
However, many mattress covers can slow the spread of fire and reduce the likelihood of injury or death occurring.
These are called FR socks, and they encase the inner core of the mattress.
Are Mattresses Flammable?
Similar to mattress covers, yes, all mattresses are flammable to some degree.
Different types of mattresses are more flammable than others, though.
Slowing the spread of fire is especially important with polyurethane memory foam mattresses. This type of mattress is highly flammable on its own unless it’s coated with flame retardants.
That being said, some flame retardant chemicals have been linked to cancer, hormonal changes, and fertility problems.
How Do You Spot the Warning Signs of a Fiberglass Mattress Inner Cover?
So, now that you know why a fiberglass mattress inner over should be avoided. Let’s look at some of the less obvious warning signs to help you spot them in the first place.
- Price – Fiberglass is a low-cost protective material. And as such, bottom-shelf mattress manufacturers are more likely to use it than high-quality mattress makers. Many popular retail mattresses (e.g., memory foam) that sell for less than $600 for a queen will often contain an inner cover made with fiberglass.
- Origin – Countries like China often have different manufacturing standards than those mattresses made in the USA. And while not all factories from China will use fiberglass, it’s more likely an internationally made mattress inner cover will contain fiberglass than a mattress cover produced in the US.
- Material – Mattresses made from memory foam (and that are low cost) may also be more likely to have a cover with fiberglass. Since this material is so highly flammable, manufacturers may resort to lower-cost fire retardant solutions to meet US safety specifications.
How Do You Determine If You Have a Fiberglass-Free Mattress?
When all is said and done, the best way to see if your mattress or mattress inner cover is made from fiberglass is to check the label.
All manufacturers are legally required to include the materials used for both the inner and outer cover on the label. Plus, they also need to list the percentages of each material on the tag.
If your mattress label says XX% glass fiber, that means it contains fiberglass.
Your label should also say, “Do not remove the cover,” since doing so is what releases the fiberglass shards into the air.
Do Fiberglass-Free Mattress Covers Exist (FR Sock)?
There are a lot of health risks that come with mattresses build with a fiberglass inner cover. And it isn’t surprising that many people are looking for safer alternative covers (FR socks).
Some companies use chemicals as their fire retardants, but as we’ve seen, the health effects from these can often be just as scary.
Luckily, there are some natural alternatives out there to choose from.
For instance, The Beloit Mattress Company builds mattresses with glass-free all-natural FR Mattress socks from Precision Textiles, made from cellulosic fibers that come from natural sources like bark, wood, and leaves of plants.
These fiberglass free mattress covers:
- Are 100% glass free
- Contain no chemical finishes
- Are safe on the skin
- Provide maximum fire protection with high char strength
Fiberglass-Free Mattress Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions consumers have when it comes to fiberglass mattress covers and mattresses.
Is There Fiberglass in All Mattresses?
Not all mattresses or mattress covers contain fiberglass. Many times, it’s only memory foam mattresses. And even then, not all mattresses with memory foam will have fiberglass.
Be sure to carefully read mattress labels to see what a mattress and cover are made from before buying.
Is Fiberglass in Mattress Dangerous?
It certainly can be.
On the one hand, taking a fiberglass-made inner cover can release millions of fiberglass particles into the air. Furniture, clothes, carpeting, toys, and practically anything can become contaminated as a result, especially if the fiberglass is sucked into your HVAC system.
Fiberglass particles can also be released after the cover becomes ripped or worn down over time.
If your home is contaminated, you’ll likely feel itchy, develop a sore nose or throat, have scratchy eyes, and may even feel underlying conditions like asthma or bronchitis get worse.
The solution in most of these cases is working with a professional cleaner which can cost thousands to tens of thousands of dollars.
If you’ve seen the stories and found yourself wondering, “Is fiberglass in mattresses safe?” you should know that not all fiberglass mattresses are dangerous. Typically, it’s only the lowest quality mattresses that pose a risk.
But even still, many mattress buyers feel like it’s not worth the risk and instead find a fiberglass-free mattress.
Why is Fire Retardant Important?
Fire retardants are necessary for mattresses because many mattress types are made from flammable materials.
Memory foam, in particular, is highly combustible.
Without built-in fire retardants, some mattresses can become a blazing inferno after just a few minutes of open flame exposure.
But fire retardants like mattress covers and certain chemicals reduce mattress flammability and give occupants more time to escape before a home fire rages out of control.
That being said, some fire retardants like fiberglass and certain chemicals have been shown to carry significant health risks, too.
Are Mattresses Required to be Flame Retardant?
Yes, they are.
In 2007, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) put into law new standards for mattress flammability across the entire United States.
All mattresses must pass rigorous flammability testing before they’re cleared for sale.
It’s worth mentioning that, according to the CPSC, chemicals are not the only types of fire retardants that can be used. In fact, the CPSC does not require the use of any specific fire-retardant kind of technology.
Instead, mattresses need to be able to pass the testing protocols in order to become compliant.
Compliant mattresses will state on the tag that it meets the federal flammability (open flame) standard for mattress sets.
About the Author of this Important Article
We wanted to bring this warning to the public because it matters to us that consumers are equipped with the truth.
Dealing with the fallout from a low-quality inner mattress cover made with fiberglass can be devastating to individuals and families alike.
These tiny, itchy fibers can become lodged in your couch fabrics, your clothes, and even the floor you walk on. What’s worse, if these fibers get sucked into your HVAC system, they can easily spread to every corner of your home.
Besides the health risks, it can also cost thousands to tens of thousands of dollars to get your house back to normal.
That’s why we offer 100% fiberglass-free mattresses built using all-natural fire-retardant materials in our covers. We advocate better health and sleep and provide a more health-conscious alternative to fiberglass that still keeps your family safe.
So if you’re looking for a quality all-natural fabric mattress that’s comfortable, supportive, and fiberglass-free safe for you and your family, consider a fiberglass-free mattress.
Standard 16 CF4 1633 Federal Flammability Test
Here is a required two-camera demonstration of the standard 16 CFR 1633 federal flammability test performed by The Beloit Mattress Company on an older model of our newest Majestic Flip mattress. As a mattress manufacturer, this test is required for mattresses and mattress pads by the Consumer Products Safety Commission and in effect since July 1, 2007.
The amount of total heat released by the mattress must not exceed 10 Megajoules in the first 10 minutes, nor release more than 200 kilowatts at any given moment. As soon as the gas burner was turned off, the flame dropped way down. Unfortunately, most mattresses burn for the whole 30 minutes—this one self-extinguished at about the 12-minute mark.
According to Cornell Law School…
The purpose of the standard is to reduce deaths and injuries associated with mattress fires by limiting the size of the fire generated by a mattress set during a thirty-minute test.
If you have any concerns or questions about this subject, please contact us anytime.