I’ve been dreaming about getting a non-toxic, flame-retardant-free, non-polyurethane couch (that’s a mouthful!) for as long as I can remember.

The problem? For years they were simply hard to get a hold of. Laws requiring the use of harsh chemicals were in full swing, and the affordability of artificial fabrics and fillings meant nearly every manufacturer was using them. When I would come across the occasional gem of a non-toxic couch it was so far out of financial reach that I had to keep on dreaming!

In recent years things have been changing!

As of early 2015, the law that once required chemical flame retardant use has been altered to allow less harsh alternatives (and none at all, in some cases!). Public demand has also greatly increased (YAY US!!) putting pressure on companies to make a change.

Although that is incredible news, flame retardants aren’t the only thing to watch out for when purchasing a couch (or mattress, for that matter).


Elements to Avoid


Flame retardant chemicals including polybrominated diphenyl ethers {PBDE’s}, which are neurotoxic chemicals. PBDE’s have been banned for use, but still linger in older products & can found in blood & breastmilk today. The chemicals that replaced PBDE’s {including Firemaster® 550 & chlorinated tris [TDCIPP]} have been shown to disrupt hormones & may cause cancer. Flame retardant chemicals are applied to the foam or filling portion of a product to prevent catching on fire. Studies show, however, that they are not successful at reducing flammability…yet highly toxic when enflamed. Don’t forget to read labels!

Stain resistant sealants that include Perfluorinated chemicals {PFC’s}. PFC’s are a large family of chemicals that allow a surface to become resistant to acid, heat, & other eroding elements. It is considered highly toxic to humans yet has been found in nearly every American tested for the chemical. It is an endocrine disruptor {messes with our hormones} & has been linked to lower birth weight babies & thyroid hormone imbalance.

Polyurethane foam, which is used in most every mainstream “cushion”. Ingredients to make up this foam include polyols—which are often petroleum derived, & di or poly isacyanates—which produces possibly carcinogenic off-gasses. They are also eye & respiratory tract irritants.

Artificial fibers like polyester, nylon, acrylic, rayon, & bamboo {the last two must undergo quite a bit of chemical processing—there are some reputable bamboo companies. This is a general statement}. These fabrics & their chemicals make direct contact with our skin.

Paints, stains and lacquers on wood frames that may contain VOCs, fungicides, and chemical pigments.


Beware of Greenwashing


Unfortunately, whether it’s the intention of the company or not, key marketing words like “organic” & even “non toxic” can be deceiving. While a company might not use flame retardants or polyurethane foams, for example, they may use press board (which often contains VOC-off-gassing glues) to build the base, or polyester covers with a chemical stain sealant. And an organic cotton cover can only take you so far…

What I see most often, likely because of it’s affordability, is a flame retardant free couch with polyurethane foam padding. These often have other issues, like the use of sealants, artificial fibers, and press board.

While I do think a little cleaner is better than nothing, it’s important that you know exactly what you’re buying when you purchase, and aren’t “tricked” into thinking it’s cleaner than it is.

Some examples of flame retardant free, but not necessarily “clean” couches are:

  • Ikea Sofas
  • Pottery Barn Comfort Eco Collection
  • Room & Board
  • Dania
  • La-Z-Boy
  • Pretty much anyone that touts flame-retardant-free, but nothing else.


Out of the Box Goodness


Now let’s change focus to the good stuff! There are a few really high-quality companies dedicated to making truly non-toxic upholstered furniture:

AMAZING UPDATE!! The Futon Shop now carries USA made, NO GLUE, 100% Pine frame foam free organic couches for incredible prices. This is big stuff!!

While I LOVE what these companies are doing, I can’t pretend they are affordable. Buying a sofa from one of these companies is a serious financial commitment! With a toddler at home and baby on the way, paying top dollar for a couch just wasn’t doable for us at this time.

I was, however, SET on getting a clean couch in this house before baby came! And I’m proud to say that I had SUCCESS!


Our Affordable Non Toxic Couch


Where there’s a will, there’s a way! I knew there had to be an option I was missing…

Enter the FUTON.

Now I know these dorm-room-dwellers can get a bad wrap, but hear me out!! Their secret is in their simplicity.

While a traditional sofa is built with a complex frame and layers of padding and fabrics–all with a myriad of possible “mystery ingredients”, you can get a futon mattress composed of as little as two materials (or even ONE if you purchase a cotton stuffed and covered mattress!).

Frames vary in materials used, but it’s both simple and affordable to find a muck-free frame.

We searched high and low for the cleanest, most comfortable, affordable, and beautiful option; and here’s what we found:

The Futon Shop:

Ohhh my goodness I love this company.

They make all their mattresses and covers in their own shop in San Fransisco, CA. They are very focused on making a clean product, and willing to work with their customers…I know this because I went in and basically grilled them. I can’t help it, I like being an informed consumer ;]

I found out that if the mattress contains wool, the law doesn’t require any added flame retardant. If you purchase one without wool, they use a “natural flame retardant” called Borate. However, they will omit the use of Borate when making your mattress so long as you have doctors note asking them to do so (for legal purposes).

While I don’t recommend the use of springs in upholstered furniture (because they can act as little antennas, attracting dirty electricity and radiation) I feel pretty confident recommending any of their non-spring-containing, flame-retardant-free mattress options! We went with wool because it’s so simple and durable.

When it came to frames, which The Futon Shop outsources, they had a lot of options, but none that fit exactly what we were looking for. The closest fit was a beautifully hand crafted Amish frame, but the price point pushed it out of criteria for us.


I know very little of what else this company offers; all I know is that they make a great looking unfinished wood frame!

The Savannah boasts untreated wood made with no glues, paints, or lacquers. AND it was super affordable (even with shipping!)


We couldn’t be happier with our new NON TOXIC couch!

To cleaner and cozier cuddling,

Love, Rochelle

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This