The Natural Bedding Company literally started as a cottage industry, with everything made at home and Andrew McCaig sometimes making deliveries by bicycle. Over the years not all that much has changed (except the bicycle deliveries) – the mattresses are still handmade and the personal service is as good as ever.
To really understand Natural Bedding and the passion behind it, you must go back to 1984 – a time when virtually every house in Sydney’s Inner West had rice paper blinds, and Thai restaurants were a novelty around town. Andrew McCaig was miserable in his job as an auditor – office life and dealing with figures all day wasn’t his idea of fun. Out of hours, he trained to become an oki yoga teacher and practised shiatsu massage, which helped a bit, but it was weekend classes in making yoga mats and futons that completely changed his life.
Sam, the baby who used to do the café rounds in his pram, started working with Andrew at weekends while he was still at school (and even made a miniature bed base and mattress for a project in year 10), and they’ve worked together ever since. Between them, they’ve been involved in every aspect of the business, including manufacturing, retail, delivery and advertising.
From literally a cottage industry, Natural Bedding hasn’t really changed all that much. It’s still not huge – about 11 people all up – and that means it’s small enough for everything to still be proudly handmade right here in Sydney from natural and sustainable products. And small enough, too, for you to deal directly with the people who are involved in making your bed for you.
The covering to our mattresses is organic cotton with hemp, which we source from a company in New Zealand. Being organic, no harmful chemicals have been used during the growth cycle of the cotton.
We use a number of materials in the filling:
Our carbon neutralised organic latex comes from rubber trees from two farms in Sri Lanka, and is shipped directly to us. The company that owns the farms has a number of schemes for its workers and their families, including school programs, and has certification through one of the leading and largest organic to sustainability certification associations, Control Union. On top of all that, our organic latex is naturally flame retardant, dust mite-resistant, hypo-allergenic, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal.
It’s taken us years to find the wool we now use – once it’s off the sheep, it’s organically cleaned, leaving it with plenty of bounce. Not all the lanolin is removed either, which means it retains a nice natural scent. Admittedly not everyone loves that scent – best to have a sniff before you commit to it. Apart from being lovely and soft, our wool is flame resistant and dust mite-resistant.
"Wool is naturally flame resistant and offers a greater level of fire safety than other fibres... Wool's inherent fire resistance comes from its naturally high nitrogen and water content, requiring higher levels of oxygen in the surrounding environment in order to burn."*
Our mattresses are also available without wool.
All the timber used in our furniture is solid Australian oak hardwood, sustainably managed, and falls under the government’s ecoSelect program and certified by the following: FSC, PEFC, AFS, CSAW, FWPA, FTT. Our drawer bottoms are made with formaldehyde-free, soy-based bonded plywood to reduce weight and increase functionality. We use eco-friendly Livos, a German product, to finish the timber – not only is it environmentally sound, but is also a healthy alternative for anyone sensitive to petrochemical-based lacquer. In our bed frames, we use a small amount of water-based glues.
There are two main methods of processing latex – the Dunlop and the Talalay process. We use the Dunlop process, which has been practised since the late 1920s. First, the sap is extracted from the rubber tree, then put into a centrifuge machine and whipped into a froth. The froth is then placed into a mould with a small amount of gelling agent (sodium silicofluoride), covered, and steam baked. The latex is then washed and rinsed which removes any residue left over from the gelling and baking process, as well as removing most VOC’s.
The Talalay Latex process has a few more steps than the Dunlop Latex process. Once the sap is in the mould with the gelling agent, it is placed in a vacuum chamber, and air is extracted. It is then flash frozen, and chemicals used to stabilise it. After this the mould is baked before it is washed and then rinsed alike to the Dunlop method.
It is important to note that although you may find 100% Natural Talalay Latex on the market, it is not possible to create certified Organic Talalay Latex. Consequently, the Dunlop Latex process is the only way to produce 100% Certified Organic Latex internationally. As our first priority is to create a natural and clean product, we choose to use the Dunlop process.
Organic fillers are naturally occurring substances found in the sap, including tree minerals and salts. You’d expect them to be there, and we wouldn’t try to remove them. The latex we work with and use to handcraft our natural mattresses and pillows contains only organic fillers.
Sometimes when we have a customer come to us who has had previous allergic reactions/sensitivities to latex, it may have been a reaction to the synthetic fillers that have been used to make that product. We offer complimentary mattress material samples to anyone with allergy or sensitivity concerns.
When the sap is heated with a small amount of gelling agent (sodium silicofluoride) a minimal amount of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are formed. VOCs are carbon-based compounds, found both naturally and in many household products and most are washed out of the mattress during the rinsing process before testing and packaging. They are carbon-based chemicals that easily evaporate at room temperature and can combine with other molecules in the atmosphere to create new compounds – some harmless, others not so. This is often described as the smell from fresh paint, new furniture, new cars, etc. which arises from VOCs breaking down – a process known as off-gassing (this typically occurs when a product is first made and when a product nears the end of its life).
When there is a high level of VOCs, we find chemically sensitive people can get headaches, itchy eyes, feel nauseous or have issues breathing. Consequently, high levels of VOCs can have adverse health effects as off-gassing may persist for years after a product is made. The more natural a product is, and the more stable its make-up, the lower the level of VOCs and the safer it is. We care deeply about creating a healthy sleeping environment so we strive to ensure our Organic Latex has as little off-gassing as possible. Our latex is tested and certified to ensure it has a low toxicity.
Any hardwood tree, whether it’s part of the ecoSelect program or not, will take many years to grow. With that in mind, it’s important to use hardwood timber respectfully and thoughtfully. All our furniture is built to last – we offer 10-year guarantees on every piece – but expect it’s lifetime to be much much longer. It’s very important to us that we produce sustainable furniture that doesn’t end up as landfill. Most hardwood trees cut down in Australia are turned into wood pulp, sold very cheaply and shipped offshore to make paper, which is then bought back. By buying a piece of furniture made out of Australian hardwood timber, you’re contributing to a much more sustainable future.