What does Greenguard Gold mean? And is it important for my mattress?

A woman lies in bed with a Greenguard Gold logo imposed next to her
(Image credit: Greenguard / Getty)

Sleep is vitally important for our health, which is why we need a bed that supports our wellbeing. That doesn’t just mean choosing the best mattress for your sleep position – it also means picking a bed that is safe to use in the home. Greenguard Gold can help you decide whether a mattress is right for your home environment. 

Greenguard Gold certification is awarded to a mattress has been tested and found to produce a low number of chemical emissions, ensuring it offers better indoor air quality. It’s a globally-recognized standard, and one that many sleep brands strive to achieve.

There are a variety of mattress certifications that can help you understand how your bed is made and what that means for your health. The best memory foam mattresses should come with CertiPUR-US certification, while OEKO-TEX and ecoINSTITUT labels can help you determine if the mattress meets your eco-standards. In this guide, we’ll explore what Greenguard Gold certification is and why it matters for your mattress.

What is Greenguard Gold?

Greenguard Gold is an air quality certification awarded to products that have been tested and shown to produce a low amount of chemical emissions. Operated by UL (Underwriters Laboratories), Greenguard Gold is an independent and globally recognized non-profit organization.

The primary concern of Greenguard Gold is indoor air quality. Air quality can be compromised by chemicals that are released from common household products into the air. When we’re indoors, the air has less room to circulate and dissipate, causing chemical levels to build up. We then breathe in this compromised air.

A person sleeping on their back in bed

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The items we have in the home can contribute to poor air quality by emitting chemicals as gasses. These chemicals are known as VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) – this is is what Greenguard Gold tests for. Greenguard can test any type of mattress for VOCs, from all-foam beds to the best hybrid mattresses and even the best organic mattresses.

Greenguard Gold certifies that a product contains a low amount of chemical emissions, but it doesn't ensure no chemical emissions. These tests are exclusively for chemicals that impact indoor air quality – Greenguard doesn’t test for any chemicals that won’t be released into the air.

What does Greenguard Gold test for?

Greenguard and Greenguard Gold are both certifications given to a product that emits a low number of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). VOCs are types of carbon-based chemicals that can easily become vapors or gasses. This means when a product containing VOCs sits at room temperature or warms up, these compounds are able to evaporate and become incorporated into the air that we breathe.

Consistently breathing VOCs has been linked to a number of health issues, including:

That sounds pretty scary, but while poor air quality is a concern for everyone, it’s primarily an issue for babies, young children, and those with health issues. (This is the reason why Greenguard Gold was created, which we’ll cover in more detail below.) 

A couple sleep in a bed wearing eye masks

(Image credit: Getty Images)

VOCs are responsible for mattress off-gassing (a chemical smell that occurs when you first unwrap a bed-in-a-box mattress). While off-gassing can be unpleasant, it's largely considered harmless. Opening a window while your mattress expands can help clear the off-gassing smell quicker. 

How does Greenguard Gold test for VOCs?

UL completes Greenguard Gold testing in stainless steel chambers known as 'dynamic environmental chambers'. These chambers can be as big as a room, to ensure the mattress fits comfortably. Each chamber is temperature and humidity controlled, so there are no background VOCs that might affect the measurements.

A mattress that requires testing is placed into a chamber, where it can sit for up to two weeks. Chemical analysts can test for up more than 11,000 chemicals and measure the emissions given off by the product. The emissions typically start out high, before gradually decreasing and settling at a sustained output.

Once a product has received Greenguard certification, the story is not quite over yet. In order to maintain the certification, a product must be tested yearly. It’s possible for a mattress to lose its Greenguard certification if it no longer conforms to the high standards set by UL. 

What is the difference between Greenguard and Greenguard Gold?

Greenguard and Greenguard Gold certifications have similar requirements, but Greenguard Gold is the more advanced certification. To qualify for Greenguard Gold, a mattress must meet certain health-based criteria, with extensive testing for additional chemicals. A Greenguard Gold product must also show a lower total VOCs emission level than a Greenguard certified product. Greenguard Gold products must also meet the requirements of California Section 01350, a state-mandated test for VOCs.

A person sleeps tucked up in a blanket

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Greenguard Gold certification was initially created for products used in childcare and healthcare facilities. Children are more at risk of developing health issues related to poor air quality, as they breathe in a higher proportion of chemicals (compared to adults). Similarly, those in a healthcare facility might have compromised lungs or similar issues that can exacerbate the effects of VOCs. Although Greenguard Gold was developed for these uses, any product that meets the standards can be certified, including adult mattresses.

How do you find out if a mattress is Greenguard Gold certified?

Once a product has been tested and certified, it will be added to the UL Solutions Sustainable Products of Trust (SPOT) database. This has a record of over 80,000 products that have been tested and certified, making it the most thorough way to search for the product you’re interested in.

Alternatively, check the product listing. Look for the Greenguard and Greenguard Gold label: a green icon that confirms the product has been tested and reaches low emission standards. Most brands will display a Greenguard or Greenguard Gold label upfront.

Ruth Jones
Staff Writer

Ruth is TechRadar’s Sleep Writer. She’s here to help you find the perfect sleep setup for your budget and personal preferences. As well as keeping a keen eye on everything that’s going on in the world of mattresses, she regularly speaks to experts to help you learn how to improve your sleep habits, whether that’s by debunking sleep myths or explaining the science behind it all. Prior to joining the TechRadar team, she wrote features and product guides for new parents hoping to get a decent night's sleep, as well as writing for a variety of online spaces.