Who doesn’t love furniture shopping? I love to keep my furniture for ages, so when it comes to looking for something I get pretty excited when the time comes to bring something new into my home.
I love to look at interior magazines and Pinterest for inspiration and there is nothing better than visiting all of my favourite showrooms to explore what is out there and all the possibilities that come with them. But it gets so hard when there are endless options out there and let’s face it you want it all and you want to make sure it’s just perfect for your home. My definition of perfect has changed with time and I’ve become more concerned with the health and safety and ethics of the products I purchase.
Before, I only cared about my furniture looking great. Don’t get me wrong aesthetics is definitely still very important but now I also need it to be good quality and non toxic furniture. I’m mostly drawn to wooden furniture, so I thought that would be fairly easy to find. But after some time I found that even natural materials can be glued, coated and treated with some pretty nasty stuff. So I realised that I had to do my research to make sure I didn’t buy anything I’d later regret.
What’s In Your Furniture?
Sadly, I learned that most furniture is made with all sorts of harmful chemicals which I definitely wouldn’t want to bring into my home. It’s not nice to think that our indoor air quality is compromised by bringing in formaldehyde that can lurk in particle wood, or the glue vapours that are inside rugs, or the stain proof compounds that are sprayed on the couch and the list goes on. All of these nasties can easily turn our healthy sanctuary into a toxic minefield.
Basically these tiny particles can leach from our furniture, rub onto our skin, float into the air we breathe and settle on the floor where our children and pets play. Without knowing it we inadvertently breathe the fumes, ingest the particles and absorb these contaminants into our skin.
These bad chemicals can give us headaches and rashes, make us drowsy and dizzy, they can also irritate our eyes, throat and lungs and trigger allergies. They also have been linked to messing with our hormones and contributing to a variety of serious health issues over time.
While it’s pretty much impossible to completely eliminate all of the chemicals from our home entirely, there are heaps of ways we can try to significantly reduce our exposure to them, especially with looking for non toxic furniture.
While it would be nearly impossible in today’s world to eliminate chemicals from our homes entirely, there are plenty of ways we can significantly reduce exposure. In this article, we’ll cover the common toxins to avoid in both new and second-hand furniture and the healthier, natural alternatives to choose in their place.
Choose Natural Materials When Buying New Furniture
A good rule of thumb – stick to raw, natural materials when sourcing non toxic furniture. When we think of natural furniture materials, we naturally think of wood. So, it’s important to note that pressed veneer is made of wood, it’s usually not a very healthy option because it’s usually glued together with a resin that’s made from formaldehyde. This is a dangerous toxin that is known to release into the air over time. So if you’re using pressed wood do make sure to look for those manufacturers who use formaldehyde-free adhesives, if you can find them.
A good healthy alternative to pressed wood is furniture made from solid wood such as birch, teak, walnut, oak, or bamboo. You also need to make sure the wood is either untreated or that it’s finished with natural stains or paints, in place of solvent-based varnishes or other toxic coatings.
Always Look For Natural Fabric Upholstery & Filling
Choose fabrics made from natural textiles such as wool, cotton, and hemp — ideally grown without the use of pesticides and manufactured without harmful toxins. Upholstery made from polyester or nylon can cause itching and other unpleasantries. You’ll also want to avoid upholstery that has been treated for stain, moth, or fire resistance.
Also, try to avoid furniture stuffed with synthetic foam, polystyrene, and other materials that are made with harmful petrochemicals. Natural non toxic furniture alternatives include fillings made from cotton, kapok, natural latex and coconut coir.
Off-Gas Chemicals From New Synthetic Furniture
It’s been mentioned before that if you do purchase furniture that’s made from synthetic materials or it’s coated with toxic solvents, be sure to off-gas them before you start using them. This is especially important if there is any item that will be in your bedroom/ sleeping rooms.
If you can, it’s best to unpack and leave these products outdoors while they off-gas. Otherwise, set them in the room you use the least and open the windows. Seal any vents you might have in the room and turn on a fan to better circulate the air. Then close the door behind you and put a towel under the door to keep the fumes from flowing back into the house.
Acquire Second-Hand Furniture
Natural materials can at times be more expensive than synthetics, so non toxic hardwood furniture or bamboo accessories, might not be in the budget. If that’s the case, second-hand furniture may be a more suitable option.
A good point about getting second-hand furniture is that you typically don’t have to be as concerned with the manufacturing materials, as you would with new furniture. This is because any chemical vapours would probably off-gas before making their way to your home.
However, that doesn’t mean these new-to-you items won’t smell musty, smoky, or otherwise funky. And on the off-chance they don’t smell at all, it’s still a good idea to clean any second-hand items thoroughly before using them.
You’ll likely find that white vinegar and baking soda will clean, disinfect, and deodorise most items well enough.
Don’t Forget To Take Your Time And Enjoy!
Sure, finding non toxic furniture that’s both healthy and beautiful can take a little extra effort, especially if you’re used to visiting the more commonly recognised shops. But I believe the pay off in the end is absolutely worth it. Not only will your non toxic furniture contribute to a healthier home, you’ll be filling your space with unique one-off pieces that are always great conversation starters with your guests!