Did you know that your furniture can have a significant impact on the quality of air inside your home? Paints and glues used to put together the wood and fabric of your furniture can release fumes that are harmful to people and pets.
When you shop for furniture, you’ll want to not only look for stuff that fits into your decor scheme but also chairs and tables that are safe to be around.
We researched the topic and put together this article to give you some ideas about what to look for and when it might be a problem. Hopefully, you will find the information helpful in choosing the right furniture.
In This Article We'll Discuss
What is low-VOC or non-toxic furniture?
Furniture that is treated with sealant or glue can, at room temperature, give off vapors at room temperature. Those vapors can degrade indoor air quality and even with great enough exposure can be a danger to human health.
These vapors are called Volatile Organic Compounds. The process by which they are produced is called off-gassing.
When it comes to furniture, off-gassing is common with items constructed from particle board or plywood. These are materials that consist of several different pieces of wood that are joined together. This makes them more affordable. It also makes them more prone to off-gassing.
Chemical treatments used on exterior surfaces of furniture are also a source for off-gassing.
Low-VOC or non-toxic furniture includes items constructed from materials associated with either no or low levels of off-gassing. They are called that either because they are made from materials that don’t emit VOC vapors or made of single pieces of materials that aren’t treated.
This doesn’t apply to furniture. Countertops made of Formica and laminates are also a source of VOCs. If you have countertops made from any of those, you can replace them with things like recycled glass or soapstone.
What are some non-toxic furniture brands?
Because concern about off-gassing has increased among consumers, most furniture brands offer non-toxic furniture lines. When shopping for furniture, visit a prospective brand’s website to find out what non-toxic furniture they offer.
But there are a handful of brands that either started as non-toxic furniture companies or that specialize in it. Because these are niche companies, they are worthy of special mention. Many of these companies also specialize in eco-friendly furniture, too.
Savvy Rest is a central Virginia company that specializes in sofas, loveseats, and armchairs. You can purchase them either in a dedicated retail space or from their website. But expect to pay a good chunk of cash.
Medley, which used to be called Stem, uses water-based glues and plant oil sealants. You can purchase furniture from Medley off the company’s website. They are also pretty expensive.
Furnature is the purest brand, taking the extra step to manufacture furniture that is among the safest available. They are all made with no-VOC laminates and water-based glue. You can purchase their products from the Web. This is also one of the priciest brands.
To find Cisco furniture, you can find a list of approved retail outlets on the company’s website. It’s also among the most expensive furniture. The company leans heavily on natural fibers.
Is furniture off-gassing dangerous?
Off-gassing is still being studied, so just how dangerous it might be is still a matter of study. It’s more accurate to say that it has the potential to be dangerous.
Like any other environmental hazard, it’s important to look at it through the lens of the volume of off-gassing over time. That is, how much hazardous vapors are allowed to gather in one place. A little bit is probably not very dangerous, but continued exposure to heavy volumes is.
If you have reason to believe that your furniture is off-gassing at a heavy volume, you can take steps to reduce the amount of exposure you and your family have.
One simple one is to keep the air circulating. You can do this through fans or some kind of central air system. You can also open windows to quickly shed VOCs.
You can also use air purifiers, but be aware that HEPA filters aren’t very effective on VOCs.
One low-cost option that might work is baking soda. As an alkaline, it binds with VOCs and removes them from the air. It will reduce the smell associated with off-gassing.
How long does it take for VOC from furniture to dissipate?
Because VOCs is a broad category of compounds, not all of them will persist for the same length of time. And just as VOCs dissipate on different timeframes, so do different treated materials off-gas for different periods.
In particular, formaldehyde used to seal particleboard is a known VOC that will continue to off-gas for years. It’s believed that particleboard can off-gas for as long as 20 years.
By contrast, new paint will stop off-gassing in a relatively short amount of time… hours instead of years.
Finding the right furniture for your home isn’t just a matter of looking for what fits into your interior design plans. It also means finding furniture that is safe to be around.
Certain paints and glues can give off fumes that under certain situations can be hazardous to your health. So, when you shop for furniture, you’ll want to know how to avoid potential health hazards in your home.
We researched what makes some furniture unsafe and why, and put together this guide to help you better understand. If you found it valuable, we’d encourage you to share it on your social media networks. Or feel free to leave a comment below.