PART 4: How to Banish the Toxins Lurking in your Furniture

Did you know that toxins may be lurking in your comfy couch, your brand new mattress (yes, brand new!) and your shiny new bookcase? #furniture #toxins

It’s almost like a horror movie starring toxins: you, the protagonist, are searching high and low for the dangerous toxins that are making life miserable. You suffer from headaches, breathlessness, and dizziness. You buy organic food, keep your home spick and span, and work out to stay fit. And, yet…you suffer. And you aren’t sure why.

The culprit, my friend, may be toxins lurking in your furniture and textiles. 

In plain sight.

Well, not in plain sight, but in objects that are in plain sight – right in front of you. Objects you use all day, every day. You spend eight hours a day sleeping in them, your kids spends all day sitting, standing and rolling in them. 

Do you know what is hiding in your furniture? In your furnishings and bedding? Your carpets and curtains, table cloth, and wallpaper? This post isn’t meant to scare you. It’s meant to inform you, and help you take some concrete action to improve the situation. 

Let’s find out what’s going on!

Toxins in Our Furniture?

Science has long known about chemicals commonly found around the house that could cause health problems. We’ve covered the toxins found in household cleaners, in your clothes, and in personal care products. We’ve talked about phthlates, and more.

But we haven’t yet touched upon a few toxins that may be lurking in your comfy couch, your brand new mattress (yes, brand new!) and your shiny new bookcase. The thing is, there’s a lot of stuff about your furniture that you don’t know about – what is used to glue, gloss and mold the fabrics; to shine the wood, to laminate the bookcase, and to make them all ‘flame-retardant’. 

So the chemicals that bring that new, clean look, feel and smell to your furniture belong to a group of compounds called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These compounds are toxic and can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat; they pollute the air inside your home, give you headaches, loss of coordination, and nausea. More serious effects may be damage to your liver, kidney, and central nervous system. And, finally – you know this is coming – some VOCs are even known to cause cancer.


Did you know that toxins may be lurking in your brand new sheets and mattress? #furniture #toxins

Some of the Common Toxins Found in Our Furniture

Let’s go over these toxins in more detail, so you can understand what they are, and recognize any symptoms you may have. 

Note 1: Environmental Science and Technology has found over 30 chemicals in mattresses alone, not including sofas, vehicle furniture, and so on. To see their entire list, visit the EPA’s website.

Note 2: Isn’t it funny how our system works? These chemicals have been “found” in mattresses. Well, who put them there?! Why are the authorities in charge of our health and safety not aware of this? Why have manufacturers been allowed to flout norms and endanger lives in order to make profits? Who is looking out for the common citizens?!

*composes self* Let’s look at some of the most common toxins found in furniture:

1. Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde, a colorless chemical with a strong odor, is found in pressed-wood products, adhesives, plywood, fabrics, and product coatings. Short-term exposure to formaldehyde includes symptoms such as watery eyes, coughing, wheezing, nausea, skin irritation, and more. Long-term exposure could result in cancer, so formaldehyde has been classified as a carcinogen by several agencies, including the EPA. 

2. Acetaldehyde

Acetaldehyde is used in producing perfumes, polyester resins, dyes, rubber production, and more. Short-term side effects include irritation of the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract. Long-term exposure studies have been inconclusive.

3. Vinyl Acetate

Vinyl Acetate is used in producing adhesives, paints, and lacquers, among others. Side effects include coughing and inflammation of the respiratory tract. 

4. Hexabromocyclododecane

Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) is a category of toxic flame retardants used ostensibly to protect you in case your couch catches fire. HBCD accumulates in breast milk, and “biomagnifies” in the food chain, according to the EPA. HBCDs have been known to cause adverse reproductive, developmental, and neurological effects.

5. Perfluoro-octanoic Acid (PFOA)

Perfluoro-octanoic acid is used in carpets, leathers, and upholstering to make them waterproof and stain-resistant. PFOA causes liver toxicity, kidney toxicity, developmental effects, and cancer. The EPA has attempted to regulate PFOA since only 2015, but it continues to be used nationwide.

6. Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers are additional flame retardants that tend to leach out of foams, plastics, fabrics, pollute the air, and accumulate in the environment. They are known to cause adverse neurobehavioral effects. 

7. Perchloroethylene

Perchloroethylene is used to dry clean fabrics and for metal degreasing. Short-term side effects of exposure include kidney dysfunction, neurological effects and behavioral changes, dizziness, headaches, sleepiness, and more. Long-term exposure has been associated with several types of cancer.

There are many, many more, of course, but these are among the most common (and dangerous) ones. Please head to the EPA site to learn more.


Did you know that toxins may be lurking in your comfy couch, your brand new mattress (yes, brand new!) and your shiny new bookcase? #furniture #toxins

How to Get Rid of Toxins in Your Furniture

Such dangerous villains are in this story; who are our heroes? It’s actually possible to minimize toxins using natural methods. (We don’t want to get rid of one toxin by employing another one!).

1. Use Air Purifiers 

Most of the toxins end up circulating in the air in your home. Which is what we end up breathing. So, one quick way of tackling the toxins in the air is by investing in a good quality air filter, like this one or this one. A warning: PCO cleaners are popular in the market, but have been found to contain dangerous gases, and even formaldehyde. They don’t even remove particles like an air purifier does. So, please do your own research before investing in an air purifier.

2. Deodorize using Baking Soda

This is my second-favorite method. It’s quite magical in how it works! Baking soda is alkaline, whereas many VOCs are acidic in nature. So you can actually use baking soda to “trap” some of the harmful gases. 

How, you ask? Sprinkle baking soda liberally over your furniture and carpets. Use a brush to work it into the fabric, and let it sit overnight (or over a weekend or a few days, if you happen to travel during that time). Finally, vacuum your furniture and carpets, pulling out the baking soda that has trapped the toxins in it. You can go ahead and open all the doors and windows, and air out your home after this, if possible. Ideally, summer is the best time to do this, but don’t let that stop you.

3. Green your Home

Ok, this is my favorite method. We already know this: plants clean up air, and help absorb chemicals circulating in the air. Plants such as English ivy, purple heart and foxtail fern are thought to have useful air-filtering powers. But in general, it’s best to include local varieties of hardy plants inside your home; don’t opt for something very exotic. Including plants inside your home is not just beneficial for your physical health, but it does wonders for your mental health, too. Just make sure you take adequate care of them as they take care of you!

4. Cross-ventilation of your Home

Keep your home well-ventilated. Give air enough room to enter, circulate, and leave (taking along with it the toxins that were in your home). Do some regular ‘airing out’ of your furniture, textiles, and even the rooms (open windows and doors to let the air through). This will help reduce the accumulation of toxins in your indoor air.

5. Off-gassing New Furniture

When you bring home new furniture, let it sit outside for a while (or in a well-ventilated space) to “off-gas” or “air out”. This is similar to how you wash new clothes before you wear them for the first time. This “off-gassing” allows some of the evaporating chemicals to be released outside your home, before you bring the furniture in and pollute the inside of your home. Read this old, but still relevant, article to learn more about furniture and flame retardants.

6. Try Charcoal Filters

Charcoal is highly absorbent and is used to remove chemicals by absorbing them. You may want to try out a charcoal filter for your home to help remove some of the VOCs lingering around inside your home. I’ve never used a charcoal filter, so I can’t give any advice, but be sure to do your research and to change the filters frequently.

Bamboo Bedding | 100% Organic Bedding & Sleepwear - ettitude


Learn More

The truth is, it’s quite difficult to completely detox your furniture and textiles. What we can do is to take what we already have in our home, and clean that up as best as we can. And keep educating ourselves. But, going forward, if you are in a position to purchase organic textiles and non-toxic furniture (or vintage furniture, too), that’s ideal. I have a post coming up next on some of the most eco-friendly furniture and home furnishings brands out there.

This Detox series includes the following segments:

  1. Non-Toxic Personal Care & Beauty Products
  2. Non-Toxic Clothing, Shoes & Accessories (Check out this list of 27 Organic Clothing Brands for Women)
  3. Home Cleaning Products
  4. Home furnishings & textiles
  5. Pet care
  6. Garden care

If you found this post useful, please share it with your friends! Thank you <3

Did you know that toxins may be lurking in your comfy couch, your brand new mattress (yes, brand new!) and your shiny new bookcase? #furniture #toxins



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  1. […] the post on toxins in our furniture, I’d written about the common toxic substances found in our homes, especially in our bedrooms. […]

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