As a company, we have a taken a long time looking at the advantages and disadvantages of all types of natural fibers. When we decided to use organic cotton, the massive advantages of low pesticides and reduced water use, made it clear cut decision. When looking at wool as a raw material for natural wool mattresses, it was not so straight forward. There is much information on the internet but finding out the truth is very difficult.
Organic certificated organisations charge a lot for their services and therefore the price of the product is greatly increased by the manufacturer to cover the paperwork. To sell an organic product, you need a targeted marketing program to persuade people that the additional cost is justified. In my opinion this leads to misinformation on the web which is financially or emotionally driven and not always accurate.
Many peoples concern, when it comes to chemicals in wool, is the dipping of sheep. The reasons for doing this though is vital to the farming community, as it controls sheep scab.
As North Wales vet Iwan Parry recently wrote "Only by working closely and openly as an industry can we achieve our goal of eradicating sheep scab from this country. This is an immense challenge, requiring total commitment and dedication from organic and non-organic sheep producers alike. We cannot afford for anyone to be the weakest link in the battle against Psoroptes ovis".
Two chemicals are used for this purpose in the UK. One is stronger, faster acting and degrades quickly. The other is milder (also used by some organic wool farmers when necessary), is kinder to the sheep but takes longer to degrade in the wool and has an adverse effect on wildlife and rivers (dangerous to aquatic life). Dipping on farms is done in February to March allowing four months for the chemical to degrade in sunlight and rain before the fleece is removed.
When a treated fleece is ready for scouring (washing) its chemical concentration is tested and any contamination is normally about 1 to 1.5 parts per million.
The fleece is then scoured in a mixture of hot water and detergent, nothing else. Organic and non-organic fleeces are scoured in the same way using the same process. This removes the grease (Lanolin) as well as other impurities. After this process, any possible chemical residue is now down to approximately 1 in 100 million.
The natural fleece is now ready for needling into a non-woven pad. We at Cottonsafe® use the pads at this stage, no other treatments are used and nothing is added.
As a company, if we were to go down the organic certified route we would have to dramatically increase the price of our natural wool mattresses, making it available to only a few. Therefore, should we be concerned about dipping residue at 1 part in 100 million, or should we be concerned about kilos of chemicals being used in natural wool mattresses as a fire retardant? Many chemicals used in pesticides are similar to those used in fire retardants so it's just a matter of making a sensible decision based on scale.
This is the reason why we are more concerned about chemicals in fire retardants than in wool. Unfortunately, the law in this country allows mattresses to be sold as organic or "natural", but still be treated with fire retardant chemicals.
View our Widecombe bed mattress for further information.
However, some customers still would prefer and request organic certified wool. So, we have introduced a new mattress in our range “ The Hatherleigh Organic Wool Mattress
Like all small family businesses and farms, we find the cost of accreditation and certification of organic product considerable. We do not believe in passing these hidden costs on to our customers. So, The Hatherleigh Organic Wool Mattress uses organic wool from a highly reputable wool supplier who produces the best grade organic wool in the UK, and are themselves GOTS and Soil Association accredited. However, if we were to use accreditation logos we would have to add a further 20% onto the price, so we choose not to.