Friday, March 29, 2019

Wood Furniture Buying Guide

Its been three years (!) since I last updated my furniture buying guide- so I figured it was time for an update!

I love wooden:  for toys, for flooring and of course for furniture. I think that, when chosen properly, it is the safest least toxic alternative especially for cribs and beds. However, it is important  to understand that not all wood furniture is created equally.  It is important to understand the differences in wood types and  to ask these questions before making your next (wood) furniture purchase

1. Is it real solid wood?

It seems like a silly question, but it is quite important.  Most affordable furniture in the US is not made of solid wood.  Instead, it is actually made of composite woods ( plywood, particleboard or MDF). These wood alternatives all use formaldehyde containing adhesives that will off gas for years into the air you are breathing. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen, allergen and irritant. Particleboard looks like wood shavings glued together with no visible grain. Plywood is fairly thin with a grain. Unfinished edges reveal that a number of layers have been stacked and glued together.

Solid wood is, however, significantly more expensive than composite wood furniture.   For cribs and beds, especially, if you have the means of purchasing solid wood I would recommend doing so.   If it is out of budget, make sure the composite wood furniture you are purchasing is either:

  • - Greenguard Gold Certified  (This certification is to regulate the emissions/ chemicals that can be given off by 'indoor use' products and that can thus affect the indoor air quality- it includes strict emissions for formaldehyde, benzene, dioxane, Methylene chloride,Phenol, Styrene, Toluene, Vinyl Acetate)
  • - CARB 2 Compliant and/or TSCA Title VI compliant: both standards are the same and limit the formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products
  • - NAF: made without formaldehyde based adhesives 
These three certifications will make sure that the formaldehyde levels are kept at the lowest possible levels.

2.  Is it FSC Certified Wood?
When you buy a piece of wooden furniture you want to make sure the wood comes from an FSC certified forrest.  This certification promises: 

  • FSC certification assures you that the product has sourced its wood in a sustainable way from a forest that is being managed in a way that preserves the natural ecosystem with a  minimum negative impact on the  forests
  • A FSC Certified forest is only certified if it has met the highest environmental, social, and economical standards.
  • Beyond environmental concerns,  FSC certification requires attention to  worker rights, supports native peoples’ rights of ownership and use of land and resources, and  protect areas of high conservation value (HCVs). These may contain significant concentration of plant or animal species; rare, threatened, or endangered ecosystems; or areas of rare or outstanding biological, ecological, or social value.
3. Is the wood treated in any way?
Untreated wood might be the most natural but it is pretty rare to find furniture that is not finished, treated, sealed or painted in some way.  Some products used on wood do contain harmful solvents and other chemicals.  

When unfinished is not possible
- Consider wood that is finished with tung oil,  beeswax, walnut oil, 
- You can have it finished with less toxic low-VOC and water-based polyurethane stains and sealants, 

I often get asked if there is anything you can do to reduce the chemicals emitted from composite wood products.   While composite wood furniture is not ideal- most of us have some in our homes.
When possible:

1.  allow the piece to off gas remotely (in a garage or backyard).
2. consider applying  a non-toxic finish to the exposed, bare wood that keeps fumes from being released into the air.  Afm Safecoat Hard Seal, White 32 Oz. Can 1/Case

Because I get asked a lot:
My Amazon Shop has tons of safe wooden toys.  
Recently we purchased beds from Room and Board for the kids which I liked because they are solid wood and the lacquer is Green Guard Gold Certified

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