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Non-Toxic Wooden Furniture Guide

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1. Clean Sleep 2. Medley 3. Copeland 4. Vermont Woods Studio 5. Avocado

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When you think of natural, non-toxic furniture materials, wood probably comes to mind immediately. 

In theory, wooden furniture should be free of toxins, but there are several things to look out for when considering a bed frame, dresser, dining table, etc.

In fact, finding truly non-toxic wooden furniture can be just as challenging as finding a non-toxic sofa

We created this Non-Toxic Wooden Furniture Guide to help you choose safer wooden items for your home. Read on for our favorite brands, as well as the verdict on big box stores like West Elm and Wayfair. 

Three Key Components of Non-Toxic Wooden Furniture

When we look at wooden furniture, we have to consider three major components that can contribute to its toxicity. These are:

  1. The wood itself.
  2. Glues and other adhesives.
  3. Paints, stains, and other finishes on the wood.

Now let’s look a little bit closer at each of these components.

The “Wood” Itself

Wood seems like a straightforward material, but not everything that appears to be wood is truly solid wood. Many non-upholstered furniture items such as dressers, cabinets, chests, desks, bed frames, and tables are actually made from what’s known as “composite wood” or “engineered wood.”

These wood-like materials include plywood, particleboard, chipboard, and medium-density fiberboard (MDF).  All are comprised of sawdust or chips of wood that are glued together to make less expensive “wooden” furniture. A thin wooden veneer is glued to the composite wood to give it the appearance of solid wood. 

The primary concern with any of these composite woods is in the adhesives used to meld wood pieces together. These toxic glues usually contain a variety of problematic ingredients, the most notable being formaldehyde, which is an established carcinogen.

Chronic exposure to formaldehyde can cause central nervous system damage and respiratory disease, including asthma. As scary as that sounds, the risks posed by a piece of composite wooden furniture are probably pretty small. That’s because the phenol-free formaldehyde that is used today off-gasses quickly. 

Beyond toxicity, another concern with furniture made of engineered wood is that it tends to be less durable than solid wood furniture, making it a less sustainable choice. 

Is there such thing as non-toxic composite wood?

Choose plywood over similar materials. Plywood typically off-gasses less than do MDF or particle board.

Look for certifications. Make sure that they any piece of composite wood furniture is compliant with TSCA Title VI or CARB II. GREENGUARD and GREENGUARD Gold are even better. You’ll read more about these certifications below.

-If you’re in the market for plywood for a building project, check out PureBond plywood, which is formaldehyde-free.

Adhesives

We’ve already established that the glues used composite wood are often toxic. The same adhesives are also used to hold together different parts of a piece of furniture.

So even furniture made from solid wood may include adhesives in the joints and elsewhere–and these will be similarly problematic in terms of formaldehyde.

Paints, Stains, & Other Finishes

Choosing only solid wood furniture is a great start, but furniture finishes can be another source of toxins. It is often difficult to determine exactly what materials are used in wood finishes, especially when it comes to products from a big-box furniture store. 

Fortunately, most wood finishes emit their fumes during the application and drying or curing processes; once fully cured, most wood finishes are inert and non-toxic. 

Clear finishes can contain high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs, or the fumes you might smell), although these too will dissipate with time. Many furniture manufacturers add solvents to their finishes to decrease the time it takes for them to cure. Common wooden finisher solvents contain arsenic and beryllium, which are of particular concern if used on a tabletop or other food-adjacent surface. 

Fortunately, there are several safer wood finishes, including: 

  • Tung oil. If you can choose your finish, or are finishing a piece of wooden furniture yourself, tung oil is a great option. Be sure to choose tung oil formulated without driers.  
  • Linseed oil. Linseed oil can provide a toxin-free finish, but you need to be sure you get either raw linseed oil or polymerized boiled linseed oil. Avoid the common “boiled linseed oil” that doesn’t specify that it is polymerized. Boiled linseed oil is blended with plasticizers, hardeners, and heavy metals. You can read more on linseed oil here
  • Beeswax. Beeswax-based finishes can be non-toxic, but these need to be melted down and mixed with tung or linseed oil to be applied. Once again, you’ll need to make sure you’re getting the right kind of either of those (see above). 
  • Shellac. A byproduct of a type of bug, shellac can be a great toxin-free finish. Unfortunately, it often contains a toxic solvent, the most concerning of which is methanol. 
  • Water-based finishes. Some water-based finishes are non-toxic, but be aware that not all of them are. We like AFM Safe Coat DuroStain. Although not “natural,” water-based polyurethane finishes are safe. Be sure to avoid oil-based polyurethane finishes, though, as these are decidedly toxic.
  • Paints, stains, and other colored finishes. Colored finishes like paints and stains can emit high levels of VOCs during application and drying. You can learn more about safer paint options here

If you’re using any oil-based products to finish wooden furniture yourself, be sure to do so in a well-ventilated space to reduce your exposure to VOCs.

Because everyone asks about Wayfair

As you probably know, Wayfair is a huge importer of furniture that’s made all around the world. Their catalog is so vast (and changes by the minute) that it is impossible to review even a fraction of their wooden furniture. Wayfair certainly offers some solid wood options, but they don’t seem to offer much furniture with certifications of any kind.

Non-Toxic Wooden Furniture Labels & Certifications 

There are a few key labels and certifications to look for to identify safer or non-toxic wooden furniture. 

As we’ve mentioned, formaldehyde is the most concerning toxin in most wooden furniture. In the United States, the EPA has acted to limit formaldehyde emissions.

All composite wood products made or sold in the United States must have the label “TSCA Title VI compliant.” For products manufactured or imported prior to March 2019, look for that label or one that specifies that the items is CARB ATCM Phase II compliant. 

TSCA Title VI sets limits on formaldehyde emissions, but compliance does not mean that products are formaldehyde-free or totally safe. A voluntary and more comprehensive standard is GREENGUARD certification, which limits VOC emissions, including but not limited to formaldehyde. 

There are two levels of GREENGUARD certification. GREENGUARD Gold certification is the highest bar. For comparison, furniture with the GREENGUARD Gold certification cannot emit more than 220 micrograms total VOCs per cubic meter, whereas the standard GREENGUARD certification allows up to 500 micrograms. 

Also, whenever possible, look for products that have the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) seal of approval. This ensures that products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits. This label does not promise non-toxicity, however. 

Ways to Offset the Risks of Toxic Wooden Furniture

Unless you have an unlimited budget, you probably are not in a position to replace every piece of potentially toxic wooden furniture in your home. In addition, aesthetic priorities might mean that you choose some pieces that contain composite wood, or finishes that contain formaldehyde or other toxins. 

To clear the air, consider our top four air purifying strategies. These are a great way to boost the safety of your home environment:

  1. Use air purifying machines. For the best active filtration of a range of VOCs, including formaldehyde, we suggest using an effective air purifier. Not all are created equal.
  2. Ventilate every day. Opening windows will reduce off-gassing from furniture and floors, as will keeping down the humidity and heat in your home. Open your windows daily when the outdoor air is cleanest (typically in the morning).
  3. Get house plants. Some of the best plants for filtering formaldehyde include Boston ferns, English Ivy, spider plants, and peace lilies.
  4. Place charcoal bags around. Moso Bags employ a type of bamboo charcoal that reduces formaldehyde from the air. I have several of these around my house, and a couple in my car.  

The following brands offer non-toxic furniture that we consider to be Good Stuff because it’s made from solid wood with safe adhesives and finishes.

Avocado

In addition to safe mattresses, Avocado makes GREENGUARD-certified wooden bedroom furniture, including bed frames, dressers and nightstands. 


Clean Sleep

These bed frames are built to our specifications by a small manufacturer. They are made from solid wood and are available as either unfinished or finished with Tried and True tung oil (which is free from toxic driers).

  • Clean Sleep Craftsman Non-Toxic Bed Frame
    Clean Sleep Craftsman Non-Toxic Bed Frame
    $691.00$1,114.00
    Quick View

Copeland Furniture

Copeland offers a full range of solid wood furniture with GREENGUARD finish options. They source most of their wood from within 500 miles of their factory, reducing their energy consumption.


Green Cradle

This company makes solid wood bedroom furniture, either unfinished or finished with linseed oil. They have dressers, chests, armoires, bookcases, nightstands, and cribs.


Kalon Studios

Kalon offers a wide range of furniture made from solid wood and FSC-certified/CARB II compliant plywood. They choose no-VOC glues and non-toxic, GREENGUARD Gold finishes.


Medley

Medley offers a wide range of  wooden furniture that is GREENGUARD Gold certified. You can customize your order with nontoxic materials and finishes (Tung oil or beeswax). Get 5% off with code: GOODSTUFF5. (We have the chairs pictured here in our living room!).


Oeuf

Oeuf uses a lot of plywood, but they have GREENGUARD Gold certification and their furniture is manufactured in Latvia in an FSC certified facility. 

My kids sleep in this bunk bed.

Amazon

And we have this dresser.

Amazon

Pacific Rim Woodworking

This company makes beds and dressers out of solid wood and PureBond plywood (which has no added formaldehyde). They have options for natural and zero-VOC finishes. 


Romina Furniture

Romina makes GREENGUARD Gold certified bedroom furniture for babies, kids, and teens. They use solid wood only, organic natural glues, and a variety of non-toxic finishes. 


Savvy Rest

This company uses solid wood to make bed frames, coffee tables, and benches, which are available unfinished or with zero-VOC finishes. (We also love their safe mattresses and upholstered furniture!)

Savvy Baby Crib Mattress from Gimme the Good Stuff

TY Furniture

This company uses solid woods, non-toxic natural oils and wax finishes, and non-toxic glues. They offer a wide range of wooden furniture.


Uplift

Consider this company if you are looking for a standing desk. They offer solid wood as an option for the top, and metal for the legs. The finish has GREENGUARD Gold certification.


Vermont Woods

They offer solid wood bedroom furniture (some pieces have veneer) and desks with very low VOC lacquer. 


Viesso

Uses ECOS 0-VOC finishes (which are very well tolerated by the chemically sensitive) or natural oil and wax finishes on wooden furniture. They use 0-VOC glues.

If you’re enjoying this guide, to be alerted when we publish or update our Safe Product Guides.

These brands have at least some products made from solid wood or safer composite wood. Some offer a subset of GREENGUARD Gold certified products. Many don’t divulge specifics about their adhesives or finishes. 

Canal Dover

Canal Dover makes solid wood furniture but doesn’t offer specifics on their glues or finishes. 


Crate & Barrel

Crate & Barrel does have some solid wood items, but like many others, they use a lot of “engineered wood.”  They don’t specifically divulge what their finishes are. Some items from Crate & Kids are GREENGUARD Gold certified, which is why we are calling them Okay Stuff.


Ethan Allen

Ethan Allen deserves a special shout-out as being slightly superior to the other larger brands mentioned here. Ethan Allen has come a long way regarding environmental impact and indoor toxins over the last several years. They have several factories here in the U.S., but they also import items.


Ikea

Ikea says that “solid wood is one of our favorite materials and is part of our Scandinavian heritage,” but most of their furniture is made from fiberboard and plastic. I do appreciate that almost all of the wood they use is now either FSC certified or recycled.


Lulu & Georgia

While not everything on this site is toxin-free, we identified the following L&G items as Good Stuff:

Solid FSC wood indoor/outdoor coffee table.

Solid wood side table.

Solid oak shelving.

3-drawer dresser.


Pottery Barn

Owed by the same parent company as West Elm, Pottery Barn sell some solid wooden furniture, but plenty of items that are engineered wood. They do have some items with GREENGUARD Gold certification, including:

Platform bed

Storage bed

Secretary desk


Stokke

Stokke is a European brand that makes a fair amount of wooden furniture for kids, but it has no meaningful certifications. We are still calling Stokke Okay Stuff because the bulk of their most popular chair, the Tripp-Trapp, meets the E.U. Timber Regulations. All pieces of their high schairs are is free of phthalates, they use water-based paints, and their cushions are made of organic cotton.


West Elm

West Elm uses a lot of  “engineered wood with wood veneer” in their furniture. They do have GREENGUARD Gold certification for a few select children’s items, including the following.

Twin bed.

Extra-wide dresser.


Zin Home

Zin Home offers bedroom furniture, much of it out of reclaimed wood, and some with natural finishes. They might be Good Stuff, but we’re listing them as Okay Stuff because they were not able to give me specifics about their finishes, as the items are made overseas.


Williams Sonoma

At the moment, we found one item from WS that qualifies at Good Stuff, so we cannot call this brand Okay Stuff.

If you happen to love this coffee table, it’s Good Stuff!




One response to “Non-Toxic Wooden Furniture Guide”

  1. Hi, Can you tell me which mattresses you used on the Oeuf bunk bed for your sons?

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