We’re in the market for some new mattress toppers but have heard they have fiberglass in them. Is this true?
Some but not all mattress toppers have fiberglass in them which acts as a fireproof layer. Others have wool or thistle fibers instead, while some use salt or silica. By law, mattress toppers must have labels to show what they’re made of, so always check the label.
Let’s explore the subject of fiberglass in mattress toppers in greater detail, and discover how you can tell if your topper has fiberglass in it – and why it’s there in the first place…
Does My Mattress Topper Have Fiberglass? (How Do I Know?)
Foam mattresses and foam toppers can help you get a good night’s sleep. Today, you can find beds in a box in many stores. They are comfy and pretty cheap.
Most foam mattresses and toppers come with zipped, fabric cover around the foam core. On the label, there’s a warning – don’t remove the cover. But why?
By law, all mattresses and toppers must have a contents label. Most mattresses and toppers have two layers that are labeled outer and inner. The outer layer is the soft fabric layer that touches your skin. Its contents are typically some combination of cotton and polyester.
The inner layer – the foam layer – may have contents that read cotton, polyurethane, propylene, memory foam or latex. These contents are all safe and standard.
But if the inner layer label says that it contains some percentage of glass fibers or glass wool, then you have fiberglass in your mattress or topper.
If the manufacturer has a don’t remove the cover warning on the label, that’s another clue that your mattress or topper contains fiberglass.
Why is Fiberglass Used in Mattress Toppers?
But why in the world would mattress manufacturers use fiberglass on a mattress or topper? Fiberglass is a mix of composite plastic fibers and glass fibers. It has great insulating properties, can be molded to almost any shape and it’s a fire retardant.
Many mattresses these days are made of foam, which is a petroleum product and highly flammable. A surprising number of house fires – tens of thousands – start with mattresses or, more accurately, start with a lit cigarette dropped onto a mattress.
Several studies in the early 2000’s proved that having a fire-resistant mattress actually did save lives. In 2007, a law was passed that requires mattress manufacturers to have some method of fire-retarding their mattresses.
For mattress and topper manufacturers, fiberglass is an economic solution. It’s cheap to buy and those billions of tiny shards feel soft and can be molded into any shape. Plus, fiberglass is a safer solution than most fire-retardant chemicals, which have been proven to have serious health effects.
So, manufacturers designed a layer for their foam mattresses that were more fire retardant, made with a kind of fiberglass fabric. When fiberglass is subjected to high temperatures, it melts. That melted glass barrier slows down the fire, giving people time to escape.
That’s good news – in case of fire, the fiberglass layer could save your life.
The bad news is, if the outer fabric layer of your topper or mattress gets a hole, the fiberglass layer can be exposed. All those shards of glass can make their way into your home. Or, your outer fabric layer may have an “accident” and need to be washed.
Sure, the label fine print says not to remove it, but the fabric just zips off, allowing you to throw it into the washer. Once the outer fabric cover is off, the fiberglass layer is open to the air.
Tiny glass shards can stream onto carpets and drapes. Once into your HVAC system, they can end up on your countertops, tabletops, your children’s beds, your dishes, your glasses of water, and even your meals.
While fiberglass is not a known carcinogen, inhaled fiberglass particles can irritate your breathing passages. Small children, elders, and people with asthma or ones with other pulmonary issues are particularly susceptible.
Fiberglass can irritate your skin. Your skin and eyes may become itchy. If you ingest glass fibers, you may have stomach problems.
This is a good resource to read about fiberglass and mattresses.
Do All Foam Toppers Have Fiberglass?
Nope. Check the label that mattresses are required by law to have. Your mattress may have wool or thistle fibers instead. Some use salt and some use silica.
Here’s a link to a 2021 class-action suit, filed against makers and sellers of mattresses having fiberglass.
Can Mattress Toppers Be Toxic?
Historically, cheap quality or treated toppers and mattresses were known to off-gas toxic fumes. Methylbenzene, formaldehyde, methylene dianiline, methylene chloride, and chlorfluorocarbons were used in memory foam.
Today, most manufacturers don’t use toxic compounds for mattresses and toppers. With better research, regulation and stricter Federal Trade Commission standards, most companies have found safer alternatives – even green ones.
Experts say to avoid using old toppers or mattresses. The older the technology, the more toxic they can be. Also, avoid super cheap foam mattresses or toppers.
Look for certifications from third-party organizations like CertiPUR-US, OEKO-TEX or GREENGUARD Gold, which certify that a foam topper or mattress was made with a negligible amount of toxic contents and has a negligible amount of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) that could off-gas.
Is It Safe to Sleep on a Mattress With Fiberglass?
The reason mattresses and toppers have fiberglass is to protect you from fire. However, if the outer fabric cover is getting worn, you should consider ways to keep the fiberglass from blowing around your home.
If your mattress topper has fiberglass and warns you not to remove the cover, then don’t remove it. Leave it on. Then, consider buying a high-quality cover that zips tightly around the inner foam, fiberglass layer, and outer fabric layer.
Since you have a fire retardant barrier already, you can buy a cover that’s easily washed and dried. Buy a sturdy, high-quality cover and then replace it when it gets worn.
Here’s a video from News 4 (the second in a series) where they try to set fire to a foam mattress with fiberglass and one without.
Does Memory Foam Contain Fiberglass?
The memory foam itself does not contain fiberglass. It’s not mixed in. But many memory foam mattresses or toppers have a thin layer of fiberglass that encases the foam like a shell.
Memory foam is a blend of polyurethane and various compounds – the recipe varies from company to company. Memory foam is a petroleum product and highly flammable. It must have some type of fire retardant, by law.
Historically, chemicals like boric acid, antimony, and decabromodiphenyl oxide were added to the memory foam. Sure, these chemicals were flame retardants. But the chemicals were linked to issues with reproduction, development, heart and lung damage, hair and memory loss. And they were also possible carcinogens.
So the industry moved to thin sheets of fiberglass, woven around the memory foam.
How Do You Remove Fiberglass From a Bed?
Experts say to call an expert – and that’s our official line here at Castle of Mine. The problem is that most home vacuums simply aren’t effective at picking up the tiny shards. Others say you can DIY it by using the most powerful shop vac you can buy (or rent).
If you want to do this yourself (which we don’t recommend) first, turn off the air conditioning. Then get a face mask on, one with P100 particulate filters.
Consider a Tyvek suit if you don’t want itchy skin. Get some gloves on. Encase the mattress with a sturdy zippered mattress cover so there’s no additional fiberglass coming off it.
You may need to throw out – or at least wash and dry – any bed linens or any clothes in the bedroom. Set up at least one HEPA air purifier to run while you are vacuuming. Rent or buy a shop vac with a HEPA filter and vacuum everything.
After you’ve vacuumed everything, run a lint roller over your surfaces and check for glass shards. Or, turn off the lights in the bedroom and shine a flashlight over the surfaces. If you still have fiberglass shards, they will sparkle like glitter.
When the bedroom is as clean as you can get it, be sure to take off the Tyvek suit, gloves, and mask outside and clean them with a hose.
However – and this is a big however – at Castle of Mine we only recommend getting experts to remove fiberglass for you. This can be very bad for your health if you’re not confident in what you’re doing and don’t take the correct precautions.
While not all mattress toppers contain fiberglass as a fireproof layer – not all do. So check the legally required label if you’re in any doubt.
If you’ve got an old mattress topper with fiberglass in it that is becoming worn, then replace it as soon as possible so the harmful fiberglass fibers don’t come out onto your bed and into your bedroom.
If you’re buying a new mattress topper and don’t want it to include fiberglass – then remember to always check that all-important label.
Homeowner and property investor Larry James started Castle of Mine to bring you the best articles on home improvement, based on his years of experience in homemaking projects. Read more >