indoor air quality

How Green Furniture Can Be An Investment in Your Health

Eco-friendly furniture is one of the biggest green living trends, according to a growth analysis and forecast report by Technavio. Increasing interest in living sustainably and reducing our carbon footprint are why homeowners are investing in responsible interior design, yet arguably the most important reason for going natural, is that it is an investment in health. Pressed-wood furniture releases toxins which are harmful to human health, making sustainable woods like bamboo an interesting alternative for families. Wood furniture may not always be sustainable, but fabric-covered options can contribute to poor air quality in your home and should be replaced by natural alternatives.

What Chemicals can Soft Furnishings Contain?

You sofas, cushions, drapes, and bedding can contain flame retardants (which can leach out of foam and fabrics), PFCs (used in stain-resistant fabrics), and formaldehyde (which can be used in synthetic upholstery fabric) – to name just a few chemicals. The National Cancer Institutes links some of these toxins to cancer, memory loss, and other conditions which can be avoided by avoiding these compounds when buying furniture, or by considering replacing existing furniture with ecologically-friendly items. Frequent steam vacuuming can help to remove harmful toxins.

How do these Toxins Get Into Our Respiratory System?

The toxins emitted by soft furnishings can be inhaled directly (if they are in gas form) or through dust and other particles that settle on furniture. Children and pets, who tend to stay close to the floor or carpets, can be at a particular risk, so consider replacing carpets with wooden flooring. Keep floors, furniture, and curtains clean by using a good steam vacuum cleaner, which will enable you to avoid toxic cleaning products yet keep your home spick and span.

Bedding and Air Quality

Your mattress can contribute to poor air quality, since it can contain foam (made from petroleum), synthetic latex, vinyl, chemical flame retardants, and other compounds. Because you spend eight hours a night in bed and you are breathing so close to the mattress, the effect of these toxins can be amplified. When having a look at which mattresses are non toxic, the key is to go as natural as possible. Most natural mattresses are made from a single material (usually latex). Another option is to opt for CertiPUR-certified furnishings; these aren’t 100% toxin-free, but they are definitely more conducive to good health than furnishings without this rating. Be as vigilant of pillows as you are of your mattress; make sure you opt for pillows made without ozone depletors, which have negative health and environmental effects.

Improving the Air Quality in Your Home

In addition to opting for solid wood and natural soft furnishings, reduce the toxic overload in your home by ventilating it as often as possible. Open windows wide and take furniture outside onto the porch or terrace on a windy day. Take furniture out when the sun is high, since doing so will warm the materials and prompt them to emit toxins while they are outside. If you cannot replace all furniture, consider purchasing a HEPA filter, which traps 99.97% of fine particles, thus removing them for the air you breathe. What differentiates HEPA from other filter types is that it can remove particles as tiny as 0.3 microns.

Choosing eco-friendly furniture makes sense in this age of forest devastation, but it is also important from a health perspective. Hard and soft furnishings can emit toxins that can interfere with our respiratory health, and many toxins have also been linked to various types of cancer. Opt for natural fabrics and materials when you can, boosting your indoor air quality with frequent steam vacuuming, ventilation, and a reliable HEPA filter.


Nikki is an author and writer specializing in green living ideas and tips, adventure travel, upcycling, and all things eco-friendly. She's traveled the globe, swum with sharks and been bitten by a lion (fact). She lives in a tiny town with a fat cat and a very bad dog.

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