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My #1 Tip for Selecting the "Cleanest" Organic Sofa for Your Budget

furniture home detox Dec 17, 2020

by Sophia Ruan Gushée


As we spend more time at home this winter, many of us will be cozying up on our sofas. I hate being the bearer of upsetting information but, if you're reading this article, you'd probably appreciate learning more about the risky exposures from many sofas. 

This article will inform you of key things you should know about sofas, simple habits that can reduce your toxic exposures, and tips on selecting the "cleanest" organic sofa for your budget and preferences. To help you understand the best allocation of your budget for a "cleaner" organic sofa, this article will also offer the following:

  1. Highlight the benefits of detoxing your sofa
  2. Recap the key mattress components, or "Household Repeat Offenders," that can help us assess potential toxic exposures from sofas (because I want to help you learn an informational framework from which you can make healthier choices from your informed intuition)
  3. Summarize the key healthier alternatives to sofa components
  4. Identify third-party certifications that can help identify less toxic sofas
  5. Reveal my #1 tip to filter out riskier sofas
  6. Share a list of retailers that have claimed that they offer safer organic sofas
  7. Offer free ways to reduce your toxic exposures to your household furniture
  8. Link to additional resources
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Benefits of an organic sofa

We generally spend 90% of our time indoors. This winter, even more of that indoor time will be at home. There has never been a better time than now to become more curious and informed about the things in your home, especially the things that pollute our indoor air and dust.

Certain toxicants can be two to five times—and even 100 times (EPA 2012a)—higher indoors than outdoors. Why is that so? A broad offender is the category of interior furnishings. Included in this category are furniture, carpets, mattresses, window treatments, paints, wallpaper, and building materials.

A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Our Toxic Exposures 

Toxic chemicals that have been detected in sofas can, or may, contribute to the sample list below (1,2):

  1. Cancer
  2. Obesity
  3. Anxiety
  4. Hormone disruption
  5. Suboptimal pregnancy outcomes
  6. and more

The Green Science Policy Institute (1) reported that that in one study of 101 American couches bought between 1984-2010, "85% of the couches contained harmful or inadequately tested flame retardant chemicals in the foam."

Hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies have associated certain chemical flame retardants to harm/risks to humans, animals, and the environment. For example, the flame retardants below were commonly used in couches and have been phased out due to their risks. (1)

  • TDCPP (chlorinated Tris) was listed as a carcinogen by California in 2011
  • PentaBDE (pentabrominated diphenyl ether) was globally banned due to toxicity and environmental persistence
  • Firemaster 550 was associated with obesity and anxiety in one animal study

However, even though the chemicals above have been phased out, substitute chemicals are not necessarily safer. In chapter 1.13 "Track Records of Substitutes" in my book A to Z of D-Toxing, I explain this further.

Benefits of a "cleaner" organic sofa:

  1. Improved indoor air quality
  2. Less toxic chemicals and maybe heavy metals from your household dust
  3. Fewer contributing factors to chronic symptoms
  4. Reduced risks for serious health effects (like cancer) for you, those you live with, and future generations

Ultimately, reducing your toxic exposures reduces the stress on your genetic integrity and improves the factors that can optimize your epigenetic expressions.

Avoid Household Repeat Offenders 

Improving our home's indoor air quality and detoxing our household dust has never been more worthwhile. With this intention, we dived deep into mattresses last week, "dissecting" mattress components that comprise many things in our homes. This is why mattresses offer high-impact lessons that we're going to apply towards organic sofas in this article.

In recent articles, we spotlighted four major Household Repeat Offenders in Practical Nontoxic Living podcast episode 30, "Master Organic Mattresses & Sustainable Interior Design for an Eco-friendly Home," with Barry A. Cik—Founder, CEO, and Technical Director of Naturepedic, an industry-leading manufacturer of award-winning certified organic mattresses and related products. As a review, the four Household Repeat Offenders often found in mattresses, which also apply to sofas, are:

  1. Polyurethane foam
  2. Synthetic fibers
  3. Glues
  4. Chemicals used for various benefits: resistance to water, stains, microbes, and fire; scents (like, to mask unpleasant odors; colors).

Chemicals from polyurethane foam that evaporate into the indoor environment or leach into household dust may contribute to asthma; eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches; loss of coordination; nausea; and damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. VOCs have been linked to cancer after prolonged exposure. Some companies certify that products emit low or no EPA-listed VOCs.

—A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Our Toxic Exposures 

In the audio version of Practical Nontoxic Living podcast episode 30, you will hear more about my informational framework to help you edit many other things at home, like your sofas. In the podcast show notes, you can see some of these mattress components in a video. You can access both by clicking on the below:

Practical Nontoxic Living podcast episode 30: "Master Organic Mattresses & Sustainable Interior Design for an Eco-friendly Home"

Wood is a Household Repeat Offender

With sofas, examine the wood that is used, which is most likely in the "frame" and legs of the sofa. Wood is another Household Repeat Offender. The components below are often sources of toxic exposures:

  • Glues used to adhere particles that comprise engineered, or composite, wood
  • Wood finishes (like paints, stains, or sealants) can off-gas toxic fumes

Generally, 100% solid wood is the most nontoxic options. However, solid wood tends to be more expensive and is often cost-prohibitive.

So also consider wood that has been proven to emit zero- or low- VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Ideally, there is a third-party certification of the manufacturer's claims. For example, products that have GREENGUARD Certification have been scientifically proven to meet some of the world's most rigorous, third-party chemical emissions standards. This helps reduce indoor air pollution and the risk of chemical exposure while helping to create healthier indoor environments.

Healthier Components of a “Cleaner” Organic Sofa

This article has reviewed what to avoid. The following lists which healthier components to look for. They are:

  • 100% natural rubber latex as cushioning 
  • Organic cotton or wool (as cushioning or “wrapping” fabric)
  • Nontoxic dyes on fabrics
  • Low-VOC glues, paints, and paint stains (especially in wood that may be used in the sofa)
  • No added chemicals for resistance to fire, stains, water, microbes, etc.
  • Cushioning made of polyester or wool is less likely to contain chemical flame retardants

Additionally, when reading product labels, ask "how" if you read:

  • Waterproof
  • Stain-resistant
  • Antibacterial or antimicrobial
  • Flame-resistant
  • Nontoxic

My #1 Tip for Selecting the Most Nontoxic Sofa for Your Budget

If you're shopping for a new organic sofa, you can narrow your first look by considering those that claim that there are no chemical flame retardants. Read the manufacturer's product label and remember the following:

  • TB 117: More likely to contain toxic flame retardants.
  • TB 117-2013: Manufactured after flame retardants were no longer required, but may still contain added chemical flame retardants so research further.

Ideally, you want to see the below on the manufacturer’s label:

Technical Bulletin 117- 2013” AND “contain NO added flame retardant chemicals.”

You are more likely to find this language in furniture made after January 1, 2015 (exceptions exist for furniture made before and after 2015). These may be two separate labels.

Helpful Certifications:

  • Global Organic Textile Standard, or GOTS, certification
  • Global Organic Latex Standard, or GOLS certification for organic latex
  • Oeko-Tex Standard 100  or Greenguard Gold
  • Greenguard

Retailers to Start With

According to a March 2017 report by the Green Science Policy Institute, the retailers below claim to offer sofas without added chemical flame retardants. 

  • Crate & Barrel
  • La-Z-Boy
  • Green Sofas
  • Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams
  • Restoration Hardware
  • Staples
  • The Futon Shop
  • Room & Board

For a complete list, click here: Green Science Policy Institute.

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Tips for Everyone

Most of you are not going to replace your sofa. And there is a lot that you can do to reduce your toxic exposures from not just your current sofa, but also many other household items (because of the Household Repeat Offenders). Below are 5 healthy habits to reduce your daily toxic exposures:

  1. Prioritize vacuuming and cleaning. Toxic chemicals can settle in dust, which reside on many different surfaces areas (floors, countertops, remote controls, etc.).
  2. Wash your hands, especially before eating and drinking. Chemicals from sofas often collect on your skin and fingertips.
  3. Shower/bathe before sleep. Whether you have been outside or not, our skin is constantly eliminating waste from our bodies and protecting our internal environment from the external one. Shower or bathe before sleep to help detox what your body and skin must process. Energy healers and EMF experts also have their unique perspectives on the benefits of bathing and showering too. So experts from a variety of vantage points recommend baths and showers at the end of the day.
  4. Sleep in clean clothes. In our Covid19 world, days and nights easily blend. It can be harder to change clothes for sleep, especially for children. This is a friendly reminder that if the clothes have been outside or around other people's germs, then sleeping in clean clothes can reduce your toxic exposures during your sleep.
  5. Invest in the most effective air purifier for your budget. Click here to learn more about the one that I chose for my family: Intellipure.

In Summary

Getting familiar with the Household Repeat Offenders in your home is empowering because once you understand the key materials that comprise most things in your home, you can detox your home, purchases, and habits with more informed intuition and ease. 

Avoid the five Household Repeat Offenders below when examining sofas:

  1. Polyurethane foam
  2. Synthetic fibers
  3. Glues
  4. Chemicals used for various benefits:
    1. Resistance to water, stains, microbes, and fire;
      1. In avoiding chemical flame retardants, my #1 tip is to consider sofas that contain this language on the manufacturer's product label: Technical Bulletin 117- 2013” (or "TB 117-2013") AND “contain NO added flame retardant chemicals.”
    2. Scents (like, to mask unpleasant odors).
    3. Colors (to color fabrics and wooden legs).
  5. Wood
    1. Inquire about VOC emissions from the adhesives, paints, stains, and sealants that may be used. Look for zero- or low- VOC certifications.

Consider the healthier components when evaluating a “cleaner” organic sofa:

  • 100% natural rubber latex as cushioning
  • Organic cotton or wool (as cushioning or “wrapping” fabric)
  • Nontoxic dyes on fabrics
  • Low-VOC glues, paints, and paint stains
  • No added chemicals for resistance to fire, stains, water, microbes, etc.

Helpful certifications:

  • Global Organic Textile Standard, or GOTS, certification
  • Global Organic Latex Standard, or GOLS certification for organic latex
  • Oeko-Tex Standard 100  or Greenguard Gold
  • Greenguard

Get your copy of an essential household reference

For more details on Household Repeat Offenders, healthier alternatives, and how valuable it is to reduce the toxic exposures that we can control, buy my book A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Our Toxic Exposures (Amazon affiliate link). 

Learning more will help you strategically:

  • Navigate clever "greenwashing" so that you can more quickly assess the validity of claims like "organic," "nontoxic," "eco-friendly," and "sustainable"
  • Choose the best tradeoffs for your preferences and budget
  • Apply this informational framework towards mattresses, sofas, chairs, high chairs, nursing pillows, carpets, rugs, window treatments, bedding and bath materials, stuffed animals, and more

As you use this informational framework to curate what's in your home, you will detox your indoor air, dust, ... toxic exposures. This can lower your body burden of chemicals and heavy metals.

Organize your notes

As you can tell from this article, crafting a healthy indoor environment requires a conscious consumer that is tracking strategic details. This has inspired the creation of my Detox Deep Dive workbook series, which contains pages for me to track my notes.

Consider ordering Home Detox Workbook: Checklists to Eliminate Toxic Chemicals to organize your notes. I recommend creating notes on pages that you can staple or clip onto an interior page. Home Detox Workbook also contains checklists to detox your home's air, dust, hands, water, and sleep.

(To learn more, click on the image above, which is an Amazon affiliate link)

Get supported

While this informational framework can dramatically simplify your home detox and shopping as a conscious consumer, it simplifies a highly complex issue. So, remember that for more personalized support, the Essential Detox is an affordable option, and the Ruan Detox Immersion is a premium service that offers an even more customized detox deep dive.

In the meantime, allowing yourself time to notice the presence of these Household Repeat Offenders in your home will be as enlightening as noticing your thoughts, emotions, and breath during meditation.


(1) FLAME RETARDANTS IN FURNITURE by Green Science Policy Institute 

(2) National Center for Health Research

(3) A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Our Toxic Exposures

(4) Home Detox Workbook: Checklists to Eliminate Toxic Chemicals

Deconstruct to reconstruct.

In 2020, we're deconstructing our home, habits, and things to reconstruct a practical nontoxic and healing lifestyle. We're bringing consciousness to unconscious choices.


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