What is OEKO-TEX? What it means and why it matters

I asked bedding designers and mattress makers to explain the significance of OEKO-TEX certification for deep, clean sleep

OEKO-TEX certified bed sheets, the ettitude Signature Sateen Sheet Set, on a bed.
(Image credit: ettitude)

If you've ever been shopping for bedding, you might recognize the term 'OEKO-TEX'. You've probably seen it printed under product listings or written on care tags, without knowing quite what it means. 

I asked bedding designers, mattress makers, product testers to explain exactly what OEKO-TEX is and why it matters. We'll hear more about their testing process and how it differs from other authorities in the textile industry. 

Along the way, I've picked out a few of my favorite OEKO-TEX certified products, from the best mattress to the best bed sheets, so that you can breathe cleaner, healthier air while you sleep.  

What is OEKO-TEX? Experts explain

To get us started, I asked founder and CEO of NapLab, Derek Hales, to introduce OEKO-TEX and the importance of their work. In his time as a professional sleep product tester, Derek has sampled more than 300 mattresses and countless bits of bedding: who better, then, to explain the testing process at OEKO-TEX?

What is OEKO-TEX certification?

PlushBeds Botanical Bliss Organic Latex Mattress on a bed against a white wall.

(Image credit: PlushBeds)

'OEKO-TEX is an organization that consists of independent textile and leather testing institutes across Europe and Japan,' says Derek. 'OEKO-TEX provides standardized tests and verification for multiple different textile types.' 

OEKO-TEX offers two major certifications: Standard 100 and Made in Green. Now, I don't know about you, but I see Standard 100 certifications underneath all sorts of product listings, including some from less than reputable retailers. 

It makes sense, then, that Standard 100 certification only signifies that 'the textile is safe for human health, testing for harmful substances that could be detrimental with prolonged skin contact'. Given how close we hold our bedding, Standard 100 feels like the bare minimum.

'OEKO-TEX Made in Green,' on the other hand, 'verifies that textiles and leather items are produced more sustainably,' says Derek. This certification 'gives confidence to buyers that harmful substances weren't used, environmental responsibility was ensured, and workers have a fair workplace environment.' 

According to Derek, 'the OEKO-TEX testing process differs depending on the certification applied to it. Textiles will go through laboratory testing to ensure no harmful chemicals remain, and to verify other chemically related tests.'

Headshot of Derek Hales.
Derek Hales

Derek Hales is the founder and CEO of NapLab, the mattress testing site. He aims to build a system of objective performance tests to help readers understand what it's really like to sleep on any given bed. 

Why does OEKO-TEX certification matter?

Brooklinen Organic Hardcore Sheet Set on a bed.

(Image credit: Brooklinen)

One of the first, most obvious and immediate benefits of OEKO-TEX certification is that it helps health-conscious shoppers to sleep easy. Now that your bedding is certified free from toxic chemicals, you don't need to worry so much about mattress off-gassing or that new sheet smell getting into your lungs. 

When I interviewed Heidi Luber, President and Owner of the leading textile manufacturing company, Lubertex, she said that 'obtaining OEKO-TEX certification demonstrates a commitment to environmental health just as much as human health − in terms of manufacturing and end use – which bolsters quality assurance and boosts credibility with consumers and clients.' 

Heidi especially appreciates the human element of testing: 'OEKO-TEX examiners physically go into all the factories to observe the quality and ethical practices. I always do the same and walk each factory I partner with to fully understand the dynamics, so I can confidently say I know where all my products are processed.' 

With that said, Heidi believes that 'obtaining this certification covers really only the basic standards. I only work with companies and factories that adhere to these standards and above.' If you're an eco-conscious shopper, you should raise your standards and narrow the search to the best organic mattress or best organic bed sheets rather than any old OEKO-TEX product. 

Headshot of Heidi Luber.
Heidi Luber

Heidi is the CEO and fourth-generation owner of Lubertex International. Tracing back to its establishment in 1937 in Montreal, Canada, Lubertex initially specialized in importing, selling, and manufacturing home fabrics. Under Heidi's strategic direction as a visionary leader over the past 29 years, the company has evolved into a premier provider of fine bed and bath linens.

To save you some time and money, I've rounded up a few of my favorite OEKO-TEX-certified bedding from specialist sleep stores, such as Saatva, Brooklinen, and PlushBeds. Where possible, I've tried to select products made with organic materials to suit health-conscious sleepers and eco-conscious shoppers.

Are OEKO-TEX products organic?

A hand holding the Cozy Earth Silk Pillow.

(Image credit: A hand holding the Cozy Earth Silk Pillow.)

OEKO-TEX isn't the only environmental authority in town. If you read through the product listing above, you might have noticed references to GOLS and GOTS certifications. I asked Byron Golub, Vice President of Product & Merchandising at Saatva, the Smarter Luxury Sleep Company, to break down the differences between the badges.

First of all, Byron clarifies that 'not all OEKO-TEX certified products are organic. Although OEKO-TEX certified products are made without harmful chemicals, that doesn't necessarily mean that the materials are organic. For organic bedding, look for a Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification.' 

'GOTS Certified Organic sets the highest global standard for ecological and social responsibility,' says Byron. That's the stuff they use at Saatva, alongside Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) Certified Organic Latex. 

When I asked Byron why he sets so much store by GOTS certification, he spoke pretty plainly: 'GOTS Certified Organic sets the highest global standard for ecological and social responsibility.' By contrast, 'OEKO-TEX Standard 100 focuses solely on end-product safety and lacks transparency and organic guarantees throughout the supply chain.' 

Headshot of Byron Golub.
Byron Golub

Byron is the VP of Product & Merchandising at Saatva, the Smarter Luxury Sleep Company. He combines his scientific skills as an engineer with his creative side as a product designer to make some of the world's best mattresses. 


Where can I buy OEKO-TEX Standard 100?

Pretty much anywhere. That's why it isn't the most valuable accreditation for bedding to hold. I've seen OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certifications on stiff and scratchy polyester bedding that could irritate your skin and deplete our planet's natural resources. The fact that bedding comes free from toxic chemicals and VOCs should be the bare minimum, not a badge of honor. 

Where can I buy OEKO-TEX towels?

You'll find OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certified bath towels at pretty much any major home retailer, including Target, Wayfair, and Amazon. Here at H&G, we've ranked and reviewed all the best bath towels from some of our favorite bed and bath stores, including Cozy Earth, Brooklinen, and Bed Threads. Each towel is OEKO-TEX certified, and a few are even organic. 

Our verdict

OEKO-TEX certification comes in two strands: Standard 100 and Made in Green. I wouldn't set too much store by the former. OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certification only means that the materials in your mattress or bedding are free from toxic chemicals. It doesn't signify anything about the ethics of the manufacturing process, and it certainly doesn't mean that a product is organic. OEKO-TEX Made in Green certification carries more weight and signifies that both the materials and the manufacturing process to make a product are inspected and independently verified for sustainability. 

Emilia Hitching
Sleep Editor

Emilia is our resident sleep writer. She spends her days tracking down the lowest prices on the best bedding and spends her nights testing it out from the comfort of her own home – it's a dream job. Her quest to learn how to sleep better has taken her all around the world, from mattress factories in Arizona to sleep retreats in Scandinavia. Before she joined Homes & Gardens, Emilia studied English at the University of Oxford. She also worked on the other side of the aisle, writing press releases for regional newspapers and crafting copy for Sky.