Nov. 3, 2021: Edited to include my 2021 product favs!
One of the most common questions I get when people want to start making a healthier home has to do with choosing healthy furniture.
And believe me, I know how challenging this can be!
I have done countless hours of research and trial and error to find the best non-toxic furniture for all different price points. Rather than making you take hours of your time, I've condensed my research to give you a few great tips to help you choose healthier furniture.
Some links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
First, let's start with what NOT to get...
Avoid Chemical Flame Retardants:
Chemical flame retardants are known endocrine disrupters (messing with hormones) and carcinogens. Certain types also cause neurological disorders. The chemicals are especially detrimental to children because their small bodies are absorbing these chemicals at a much higher ratio than adults.
When buying cushioned furniture look for the CAL TB 117-2013 Compliant label. The label will say whether or not the product uses chemicals to meet the requirements of the California law. This label is only required on furniture sold in California, but since they have such a large consumer population, many companies don’t change their packaging for the rest of the country.
If you do not see the CAL TB 117-2013 Compliant label, the best option is to contact the manufacturer and ask if they use chemical flame retardants in the specific piece of furniture you are looking for.
Formaldehyde is a volatile organic compound (VOC) which means that it off-gasses harmful chemicals into the air we breathe. This off-gassing can last for years. It leads to eye, nose, throat, and lung irritation, increases risk of asthma in children, causes upper respiratory illnesses, and is a known carcinogen.
Formaldehyde is used in the glue that binds together most home furnishings. It is often in the particle board or plywood frame of sofas, tables, cabinets, dressers, bed frames, and shelving.
Look for solid wood furniture and frames whenever possible to minimize the risk of formaldehyde exposure. Contact the manufacturer to ask if they use formaldehyde in the particular piece of furniture you are looking for.
Look for Greenguard GOLD certified products: This is a good indicator that the product has very low VOC emissions, specifically formaldehyde. GreenGuard Gold does not test other emissions such as phthalates. It also isn't testing chemicals within the product such as flame retardants.
FYI: There is also Greenguard Certified (without the Gold status). The allowed VOC emissions for this certification are much higher. So be sure to verify that you're buying Greenguard Gold certified products.
Avoid Synthetic Latex:
Synthetic latex is made using petroleum-based compounds. It contains VOCs that will off-gas for long periods. Synthetic latex is found in mattresses and chair cushions.
Natural latex is the safer alternative to synthetic latex. Natural latex is made from the rubber tree and will not off-gas. If you are looking to buy a natural latex mattress or sofa, make sure that the company is using 100% natural latex. Some companies use a blend of both natural and synthetic latex but market the product as natural.
Avoid Stain Guards:
Stain-resistant upholstery is treated with PFAS, a toxic chemical that can cause reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological issues. These chemicals never break down, so they're in our environment forever. Besides the issue of exposure in stain-resistant furniture and non-stick cookware, they're also getting into the drinking water supply across the country due to the manufacturing of the chemicals.
To avoid stain-resistant chemicals, opt for couches with slip covers so you can remove the fabric and wash the spills. And when needed you can more easily replace the slip cover rather than having to buy an entirely new couch.
Healthy and Non-Toxic Furniture Recommendations
Healthy and Non-Toxic Sofas and Chairs
Many main stream brands have stopped using flame retardants in their sofas including:
IKEA, Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel, and Room & Board. But note that other chemicals, like formaldehyde and synthetic latex, may still be in the furniture.
IKEA is a great affordable option for safer furniture. They stopped adding flame retardants to their cushioning in 2015. They also strive to use as little formaldehyde as possible. They do not use formaldehyde in their paints or in the adhesive that attaches a laminate to its particle board core. Across all their products, the formaldehyde emissions are about half of the legal limit set by the European Union.
Pottery Barn has plenty of options for nontoxic and sustainable furniture. Most of their sofas are Greenguard Gold certified. Their website makes it really easy to identify which products are certified non-toxic by adding an icon to the overall products page.
Learn more about Pottery Barn's health and sustainability efforts here.
The Futon Shop is a company I'm loving right now. They make organic, sustainably sourced furniture of all kinds. And it's made in California. They have lots of options for sofas, loveseats and sectionals. (And yes, they have futons too.) And they're more affordable than many of the other organic furniture options out there.
Medley Sofas are modern, and I love them. They're also made in California. And they're in about the same price bracket as the Futon Shop.
Savvy Rest makes sofas and arm chairs made of organic cotton or hemp fabric, organic latex cushions and solid wood frames. Their products are pricey, but you are paying for a completely non-toxic product.
A futon is a more affordable option for selecting the best healthy materials since there's less to them. They work great for small spaces, play rooms or that extra office/guestroom/workout room.
The Futon Shop is a perfect option to select a healthy, organic futon mattress, and/or frame.
IKEA is another great place for affordable, healthier futon options.
Healthy and Non-Toxic Mattresses
Mattresses have more stringent flame retardant requirements than sofas. This means that mattresses will either have an added chemical flame retardant or are made of wool which is a natural flame retardant. Organic mattresses are the best option. Look for organic cotton, natural latex and wool. Wool makes the mattresses naturally flame retardant, so no chemicals need to be added.
My Favorite Options:
Avocado Green Mattress (Their bedding is amazing too. I have the alpaca duvet insert, and it keeps me toasty warm.)
The Futon Shop
Essentia is a mattress I'm currently looking into. It's a natural memory foam mattress (made of natural latex). I'll report back soon with more information 🙂
Healthy and Non-Toxic Dressers and Shelves
When choosing dressers and shelving, look for solid wood furniture. Solid wood is going to be more expensive than engineered wood (particle board, MDF and plywood) but it is much less likely to contain formaldehyde.
Note: Be mindful of the finish of the wood! If the solid wood furniture is finished with a toxic stain or paint, it will off-gas VOCs. You want a non-toxic ZERO-VOC finish.
Contact the furniture company to find out what types of paints and stains they use to finish their solid wood furniture.
My Favorite Options:
Avocado Green Mattress makes beautiful, natural dressers, night stands and bed frames for those with a higher budget.
Pottery Barn makes it easy to find healthy and sustainable dressers and shelves with their 'certified non-toxic' and 'sustainably sourced' labels. Most of their furniture appears to be a healthy option, but you do need to check each item.
Vermont Woods Studios is an awesome choice for solid wood furniture for my east coast friends. (Not everything is made in California). They use safer wood coatings, but their website suggests you sample their products if you have Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. Here's a link to their coatings information.
IKEA makes a lot of solid wood furniture that is unfinished. This allows you to affordably buy solid wood pieces and finish them yourself with non-toxic paints.
Milk Paint and Lullaby Paints are two great non-toxic furniture paint options.
Healthy Used Furniture
Shopping for second hand solid wood furniture is a good way to keep costs down. I do not recommend second hand furniture for any cushioned, upholstered furniture because toxins can off-gas from those materials for years.
Plus, without knowing the previous owners, you don’t know if the chair or sofa has been exposed to cigarette smoke, toxic cleaners, or any other household toxins that tend to linger on upholstery for a very long time.
Choosing the healthiest furniture you can is the right choice for your family. And knowing what you need to avoid is a great start in keeping your family safe and healthy.
These furniture suggestions will fit in perfectly when creating your bedroom sanctuary! Your mind and your body will thank you.
Grab a copy of the Healthy Materials Guide for 100's of healthy building and finish materials for your renovation or new home build.