Protect Your Health By Investing In Non-Toxic Upholstered Furniture

As a sustainable interior designer, I always advise my clients to purchase the best construction materials, finishes, equipment/appliances, and furniture they can afford for their home or workplace.

Sometimes in a project, purchasing non-toxic upholstered furniture becomes an economic issue and clients end up making new furniture purchases on their own to accommodate their budget.  What usually happens is they do not receive the quality of furniture they thought they were purchasing, end up very disappointed, and try to return the furniture, if possible, to the retailer.

Before purchasing new furniture, whether solid wood or upholstered, learn everything you can about the new piece of furniture. Ask about eco-labels, product specifications to verify authenticity of materials used, ecological damage on workers and the environment, plus other questions until you feel confident in the product. If necessary, buy fewer furniture pieces in order to purchase quality made non-toxic furniture. You can always order more in the future. This way you will end up with what you really wanted. The quality of your investment will always speak for itself.

The following is important information you need to be aware of before purchasing non-toxic upholstered furniture:

  • Stylish healthy upholstered furniture that is well constructed can be a challenge to find. Most upholstery fabrics and foams contain chemicals that are bad for our health and the Cushions, pillows, and padding are generally made from polyurethane foam – a petroleum intensive product that breaks down over time and emits fine particles of chemical dust. Furniture that was made prior to 2005 is likely to have foam that contains polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which are a toxic class of fire-retardants chemicals that accumulate in people and wildlife, and disrupts the brain development and hormone systems, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).  In 2004, the type of PBDEs used in foam products was removed from the U.S. market because of safety concerns.
  • Choose furniture that is made with sustainable ecologically friendly construction methods that include recycled coils, non-toxic glue, FSC-certified hardwood and non-toxic finishes. Use natural less-flammable fillings such as wool, natural latex and organic cotton batting. These alternatives are not generally available in ready-made form. Your local upholsterer should be able to replace cushions from your existing wood-framed furniture. Always have a professional upholster replace or repair cushions or pillows that have damaged or torn covers because of the release of PBDEs and other fire retardants.
  • Keep in mind that upholstery fabrics are usually treated with fire retardants and chemicals to help prevent stains and wrinkles. Rayon, polyester and other common synthetic upholstery textiles are made with nonrenewable resources; the manufacturing process often involves the use of carcinogenic chemicals such as benzene, toluene, arsenic and heavy metals.
  • In the last five years, the availability has greatly increased for natural and untreated fabrics such as organic cotton, hemp, linen, wool, or silk, which provide healthy alternatives with lower ecological impacts.

We can help you improve the health of your home and to make it comfortable and beautiful. To learn more about our range of Sustainable Interior Design, Universal Design and Consulting services available in Connecticut, Manhattan, NY and Westchester County, NY and areas beyond contact us us at 203.984.4695 or email us at

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Lynn Hoffman

203.984.4695 |