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Non-toxic sofa query

Jane
last year

Hello. I've fallen down a rabbit hole! We've been refurbishing the house we bought last year, and we're trying to do everything as low VOC and non-toxic as possible. We need a new sofa, and I've discovered that UK regs re flame retardants are pretty strong - certain flame retardants have been banned in the US and EU but not over here it seems. Has anyone else been through this and have any leads on non-toxic sofas? I've learnt that natural fabrics are better as they're inherently flame retardant eg wool/leather. But that "natural" sofas will still have an interliner that contains flame retardants. I've found what seems to be the only one without flame retardants in the UK, made by a company called Cottonsafe, but it's a futon sofa bed rather than a slouchy sofa! Can anyone help?

Comments (82)

  • pirn
    9 months ago

    Finally, after 5 attempts to get information, I have discovered that the Big Blue Sofa from Barker and Stonehouse is not Fire etardant free. It was advertised as having no man made chemicals , but I was sceptical. It turns out it does have FR chemicals and so they will be changing to wording on their information.

  • nikki942
    9 months ago

    Well done for pulling them up on that.. So frustrating when companies aren't

  • HU-914834474
    9 months ago

    Hi all, just got information back from Whitemeadow about their eco Neptune sofa. Same story here, about 4 emails before getting info about the actual stuff they spray on. The chemicals they use are on the inside of the fabric (inside of cushions and pillows). They use the following, a polyacrylaat solution with bromides and antimoontrioxide. They say it should not react any differently to standard FR treated fabrics available in the market, bla bla bla. We bought one last week so I'm looking at ways of removing the FR when the sofa arrives. I read that hoovering the fabric may remove part but I still need to look into it properly. Knowing the chemicals you're dealing with is a start.

  • HU-588959910
    9 months ago

    I think it is shameful that chemicals continue to be sprayed and placed inside of furnature as well of everywhere else-in this day and age. I should at least write to a parliment representitive to complain. Anyone know who i should write to or get a petition going? i am not the best of writers but will do my best to get a voice out there. Any suggestions or comments??

  • HU-914834474
    9 months ago

    Especially so when FRs are considered ineffective. If a fire starts and gets as far as the inside of cuschios pillows etc, there is no stopping it anyway, defeating the process of spraying FRs internally. The shop from where we bought the sofa said they don't spray them outside the fabric because that would cause inflammation and all sorts of nasty stuff.

  • HU-588959910
    9 months ago

    Thanks, i can add some of your thoughts in what ever i write. i will def display on this forum before i send anything. i had an idea about the wool industry and exploring

    other organic forms of stuffing.

  • Jane
    Original Author
    9 months ago

    There’s been a campaign on this for a while - check out toxicsofa.com. Worth searching for live petitions in case there’s one already out there. I agree it’s awful that our laws are so weak on this - worse than the EU and US.

  • Louise Botos
    9 months ago

    So anything in the UK or shipped to the UK has to have FR by law. However, this is what l did. l ordered a sofa (SofaCompany Denmark)which l was assured did not contain FR, l then told them somebody would be collecting on my behalf. l put the job out on Shiply ,picked a guy who brought it over on the ferry and delivered it to my doorstep and brought it indoors. Of course you take a risk with comfort etc as you can't try it out and actually it did smell of chemicals which l think might have been the dye? l opened all the windows and it disappeared after a couple of days.

  • Ellie
    8 months ago

    I was thinking to make one using an old sofa and natural kids matresses from the little green sheep. may be easy to cut up and use inside of the seat cushions, then upholster. Big job but would do the trick.

  • Ellie
    8 months ago

    https://www.homedit.com/easy-diy-couch/ 

    my kids have mattresses from the little green sheep and they are really nice. Think I could easily cut them to size and cover them.


  • HU-588959910
    8 months ago

    Sounds like a great plan. I continue to explore this topic- we still need a sofa and armchair but refuse to buy toxic!

  • Nat Blas74
    8 months ago

    How about Willow and Hall uk? has anyone researched these sofas? according to website: “We conscientiously source our fabrics, ensuring the mills we partner with use eco-friendly processes where possible. We have also partnered with FibreGuard and Staingard, which offer environmentally safe fabric protection with no harmful chemicals being released”

  • Barbara Smith
    8 months ago

    @Louise Botos I am also looking into bringing a sofa from EU. Would you mind me asking whether you did this before or after Brexit? Brexit adds yet another level of complexity to this. Thank you!


  • Barbara Smith
    8 months ago

    I reached out to Terry from Toxicsofa.com and he explained that there's absolutely no way to find non FR treated sofas here in the UK. Companies claiming not to use chemicals still use FR but, I believe it's only inside as they still need to comply with the UK regulation.


    To be honest, I wish I'd never heard of this because I urgently need a new sofa and unless I resign to getting nasty toxics in my body, I am not finding an easy way to get one.


    I had an attempt at reading the regulation and it's not that clear actually, for instance would decorative cushions also need FR? It is also not clear whether cleaning a fabric professionally would break down the FR and eliminate them.

  • nikki942
    8 months ago

    I think that item that has a label with fire resistant on it has been treated with flame retardant... Or if says keep away from fire, I believe that means hasn't been treated.. But yes so much is treated with flame retardants now, is hard to know how to

  • nikki942
    8 months ago

    I also think a lot of flame retardants are considered 'safe', so even when people advertise non toxic chemicals, they can still include FR etc.

  • Barbara Smith
    8 months ago
    last modified: 8 months ago

    Indeed! It's so confusing. The regulation affects upholstered furniture which is why anything upholstered does need t have the FR label but, things like computers, toys, buggies...etc also are treated by FR so it's a huge pandora box that leaves you wondering what else we don't know :-(

  • pirn
    8 months ago

    I have been worrying about F R chemicals for several years since I discovered the issues with them.

  • pirn
    8 months ago

    I got rid of my old sofa and replaced it with a futon with a mattress from Cotton Safe. They definitely don't use FR chemicals. The mattress works ok as a sofa but it is not as comfortable as an upholstered sofa would be. However I am happier knowing I am not sitting on chemicals. I hope on day to find an alternative but it will have to do for just now.

  • HU-588959910
    8 months ago

    Eco Sofa said they were working on it…..

    I am toying with the idea of getting an vintage/antique and having it re upholsted and added padding from cotton or wool. Here is the one i was thinking of:


    It has already been stripped of covering. We are thinking hard as it cost over 1000 so with the reupholstery it adds up…. but it is antique and should hold its value.

  • Barbara Smith
    8 months ago

    Ecosofa use FR in their interliners. A lady in this thread: https://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/ethical_living/1427448-Help-We-are-looking-for-a-non-toxic-sofa asked them a few years ago ( although things might have changed since then? ). I also thought about re-upholstering an old sofa but, no one would do it with fabrics/foams that aren't treated as they would become liable ( I asked a few reupholstering companies ).


    The only way to avoid the worst ( although not all ) FR is to buy in EU and bring the item paying taxes it seems. However, today looking into a sofa made in Denmark and that I can buy in France, I found out most of their fabrics are made in the UK so they might also be treated ( I wrote them and awaiting confirmation about this ).


    Honestly, it's such a nightmare and a rabbit hole that I am very close to just give up and buy a sofa here

  • HU-588959910
    8 months ago

    Interesting! I question….if the padding is wool ( wool being less toxic and inflammable) could you still be libel? Nothing makes sense! I am also going to look at the EU. And yes it has been a problem. When i spoke with Eco Sofa they told me you can choose your natural filling. He insured me that it was natural. Something about being samwiched in between (i think he meant FR) !?. Apparently, they are so busy they could not begin another sofa until May of 22. So I let it go.

  • Kerry Greener
    8 months ago

    There's some info that TopEco Home put together that you may find helpful. They do all the research beforehand and try as best as they can to have eco-friendly, non-toxic furniture. It's free to download.

  • PRO
    SLC Interior Design
    8 months ago

    When searching in the EU you will have to check if they meet UK FR standards - another rabbit hole! The EU and the UK have different regulations around FR on sofas, so many EU company can't import (or shouldn't) to the UK.

  • PRO
    SLC Interior Design
    8 months ago

    @Persona Abode is a wellness Interior Designer who will be able to answer a lot of your questions. I've DM'd her and asked her to join this thread.


  • PRO
    Persona Abode
    8 months ago

    It’s a minefield finding a non toxic sofa. Having exhausted many avenues lately I found that using a natural top fabric like wool means that you don’t have to use an interliner. Company Ecosofa told me it’s a matter of fabric content ratio, I believe 75% and upwards must be natural.


    There is a shift in the contents of FR chemiclas so that they are non toxic and water based so you shouldn’t automatically dismiss FR treatments. The issue is that UK is regulated very heavily and so there is little getting around the situation.


    Even if you reupholstered, fabrics will need to be treated. If you’re doing this for yourself, remember it could invalid your insurance.

  • Barbara Smith
    8 months ago

    @SLC Interior Design Yes, they need to add the FR in order to export to the UK. However, if you pick up the item yourself and bring it here, you would just have to declare it and pay taxes like any other item exported. The UK regulation for FR apply to manufacturers and sellers but, not individual consumers hence you could bring a non treated sofa but, you won't be able to resell it if you decide to change sofas in the future. In addition, it'd indeed invalid the insurance as Persona Abode mentioned above.


    @Persona Abode You are right, the industry did change but, they just swapped a bad FR for another equally harmful. Whilst there was a "sois-disant" shift, it has not been for the better unfortunately.


    I have found a designer that makes bespoke sofas, unfortunately they are VERY expensive https://ensemblierlondon.com/pages/contact-ensemblier the materials used are natural hence the price and also this reveals that Ecosofa as well intentioned that they are, do use FR albeit perhaps not as extensively as others so it could still be an alternative.


    The other option would be to buy a sofa with removable covers, wash them which should remove most of the FR and maybe even change the foam by a natural latex one or wool? It's seems like a big hassle but, the UK regulations are leaving few options really


  • PRO
    Persona Abode
    8 months ago

    Even if you wash the removable covers the FR coating doesn’t wash out. It offgasses over a longer period of time. FR treatment on clothes for example can last from 12 months upwards. Upholstery uses much more.

    While it is best to use natural latex alongside coir as opposed to foam. With latex you have to check that it is organic on origin and be aware that it can break down more readily than foam.

  • Barbara Smith
    8 months ago

    Thank you @Persona Abode! That's extremely helpful. So, I am guessing my only option is to buy abroad and bring it myself. If you don't mind me asking, do you think wool fabric are less attractive in a sofa than linen/cotton? I will have to buy online and trust that the digital fabric sample is how it looks like on the screen so it's yet an additional risk to take :-(


    Thanks again for jumping in this thread and helping us out here!

  • PRO
    SLC Interior Design
    8 months ago

    Hi Barabara, yes you are absolutely right, as an individual you can bring an untreated sofa in, with relevant taxes but as you said you cannot resell and it would also not be valid for a rental property either + as @Persona Abode mentioned, validity of insurance.


    It really is a mine field and with COP26 on at the moment, I bet none of them have taken a moment to think about what they are sitting on and it's enviormental and health impacts!


    Good luck and keep posting updates.

  • PRO
    Persona Abode
    8 months ago

    @SLC Interior Design

    The built environment will be discussed on day 11 of Cop26 so hopefully will be talked about alongside other issues.

  • HU-588959910
    8 months ago

    Thank you so much for letting us know - I will keep an eye out for that. Also, it helps when others really care about the natural world.

  • PRO
    SLC Interior Design
    8 months ago

    Thanks @Persona Abode I'll defintely be tuning in for that!

  • Jane
    Original Author
    8 months ago

    Just to add here that a friend told me about this podcast with Arlene Blum, who managed to get fire retardant chemicals banned from children’s clothing and furniture (in the US). Took years to convince people and lots of misinformation from companies to delay action apparently (sound familiar?!). Now she wants to do similar over here - I haven't listened yet but it sounds eye opening. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0011549

  • HU-771346237
    7 months ago

    I got this response from http://www.ecosofa.co.uk/ in February:

    Hi Chris, thanks for the enquiry, the interliner we use is 100% pure wool which is naturally fire retardant and so needs no chemical treatment or additive.

    We can absolutely guarantee there are no chemical fire retardants anywhere in our products.

  • HU-914834474
    7 months ago

    Some of these issues discussed here about importing new sofas to Ireland have already been covered early on in the thread. If the sofa is imported in Ireland, which has FR laws comparable to the UK, it has be treated with FRs to comply with legislation. The only exception to that is if they use wool or other naturally fire retardant and materials, in which case they don't need to spray anything extra.

  • HU-588959910
    7 months ago

    Just to let every one know that we went with the French Nepolian 3rd sofa ( photo shown in an earlier thread). All natural ready to be re-upholstered in natural linen fabric. We are so pleased- after months of searching. A little more expensive then anticipated but it is antique, beautifully made, comfortable and safe, as well as keep its value. I will continue to strongly advocate for a non toxic built environment and will be interested to see what others do to get around the dilemma of toxic furnature.

  • valiy
    7 months ago

    I would love to see a photo of how it turned out. I am thinking of doing the same as you. Where did you buy the sofa which was already stripped?


  • HU-522014314
    7 months ago
    last modified: 7 months ago

    My husband and I are making a sofa. We have made the wooden frame and are now looking at foam options. Oh dear now I've gone down the rabbit hole. I may have come up with a solution. Buying a firm foam mattress from Amazon.de which I presume would not be treated with FR. My husband is concerned that as it's not treated with FR that it might invalidate our home insurance in the event of a fire . Does anyone have any knowledge on this?

  • HU-357654692
    5 months ago
    last modified: 5 months ago

    Hello. I was wondering if anyone was aware of a sofa company called Habbio? They say they use natural, non toxic fire retardants... Not sure what to make of it.

  • HU-588959910
    4 months ago

    Thank you Jane. Really appreciate you keeping track. I will explore……I like it and will pass it on. i had covered a really old Nepolian 3rd horse hair sofa but it ended up costing a fortune (2000 ). it will keep its value though.

  • m m
    2 months ago

    hello everyone.

    looking for FR free coffee table, dining table with chairs and bed frame.

    so far for rugs I am going for sisalandseagrass

    for mattress cottonsafe

    and for sofa I am thinking to go for ecosofa although I red here they might not be FR free?


    I would really appreciate it if you could share any FR free and toxic free brands you have found so far for pillows, cushions,rugs,curtains,bathroom curtains, towels and bedsheets. I will be taking a minimalistic approach and buy only the necessary.


    Lastly, if anyone knows which are the items that must be by law treated with FR in our homes so I am aware. I will be buying a HEPA vacuum and will wait until I go to EU to buy a TV and appliances. Thank you in advance.

  • Ellie
    2 months ago

    La redoute sell organic and / or chemical safe curtains. Also warren evans don’t use FR on many of their mattresses

  • Ellie
    2 months ago

    Warren evans sell organic and chemical free mattresses. They use wool instead

  • charcharcharchar
    2 months ago

    Hello! helpful thread here. Desperately trying to find a non toxic sofa bed. Any leads anyone? I've searched high and low...how can these not exist??!

  • A Londoner
    last month

    Are there PFAS-free, natural material sofa brands in Europe, that anyone is aware of? Wondering if there might be brands safe and permitted to order for import to (or to bring to) the UK without, and without the addition of, PFAS / fire retardants.


    Asking as I already have chemical allergies, and suspect excess PFAS/toxic chemical exposure as an underlying cause, so NEED to eliminate any additional exposure. This means I also need to avoid MDF/plywood too, as well as wood lacquers. Any sofa frames need to be natural oiled oak or metal.

  • Judith Berresford
    last month

    I too am looking for a chemical free sofa, so was interested to find this thread. I would like to add that natural, chemical free mattresses are made by Abaca, and natural wool duvets are made by Baavet. As for fibreboard, offgassing can be neutralised by Ecover passivating primer.

  • charcharcharchar
    last month

    Hey judith ive pretty mu gofengiven up trying to find a non toxic sofa bed in the uk 😭. im wondering what the next best option could be… moderately non toxic eg? any suggestions?

  • HU-529203196
    last month

    Hi, im also trying to avoid chemicals and in the past have had an old sofa recovered. i dont know if chemicals were used , it was done by a local chap not a big company. I am moving house and in need of a new sofa and wonder if recovering an old frame is the way forward as i get to conteol what goes in and on it. has anyone else got any experience of this?

Ireland
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