The family room couch is pretty much the epicenter of most people’s homes. I know it is in mine. A couch has to stand up to spills, grime and endless lounging, while also being comfortable enough to sleep on without being beyond expensive. But, the question of toxicity and couches was one thing that never really crossed my mind until I recently began to shop for a new one to replace the 10-year old one that had seen better days. Come to find out, most couches are doused with flame retardants that slowly release toxic chemicals into your home. Um, no thank you. So, off I went to find the best quality, family-friendly, yet affordable couches without flame retardants.
The Dangers of Flame-Retardant Chemicals
It doesn’t even cross most people’s minds that flame retardant chemicals can pose a real risk to your health. Flame retardants are added to foam cushions in furniture to potentially stop the spread of fire. In the 1970s, California had strict flammability standards for upholstered furniture, so many manufacturers added flame-retardants to all of their furniture lines to meet the requirements. The problem is that these chemicals leach out of the foam and collect in the air and dust in your home, which ultimately make their way into our bodies.
Flame-retardants have been linked to cancer, birth defects, fertility issues and problems with brain development in children. These flame retardants can linger in the environment causing long-term problems.
How to Buy a Nontoxic Couch
After numerous studies showing the harm that flame retardants can cause to our health, California revised it law, eliminating the need for toxic flame-retardants. The new standards, Technical Bulletin 117-2013, do not prohibit the use of flame retardants, but companies no longer have to include them like they once did. What they do have to do now is label whether or not flame retardant chemicals were added.
In theory, this makes sofa shopping that much easier, simply look for the label, right? Ideally, yes. The best labels are the ones that have the statement:
The upholstery materials in this product:
_ contain added flame retardant chemicals
X contain NO added flame retardant chemicals
You want to see the big giant X next to the statement with NO added flame retardant chemicals. This label is usually under one of the cushions, attached to the base of the couch. If you see any other label referencing Technical Bulletin 117 or Technical Bulletin 117-2013, it can be a grey area, so ask the store or manufacturer for more information.
Couches Without Flame Retardants
Up until 2015, it was pretty hard to find couches without flame retardants. But, since the California law changed in 2014, more and more furniture manufacturers have stopped using fire-retardants and you can find a good selection to choose from.
Here are my top picks for stores that carry affordable couches without flame-retardants (and the couch that I ended up buying):
Pottery Barn and West Elm
All couches made after January 1, 2015 from Pottery Barn and their sister company West Elm do not contain added flame retardants. Make sure to ask the customer service rep or sales person before you buy to make sure you are not getting an old or floor model that was made earlier and double check the TB 117-2013 label to confirm. Pottery Barn frequently has 20-25% off sales on their furniture, including special orders, so make sure to wait for one of those so you can save the most.
Crate & Barrel, CB2 and Land of Nod
As with Pottery Barn and West Elm, Crate & Barrel and its sister companies CB2 and Land of Nod (children’s furnishings) also stopped adding flame retardants to their couches as of January 1, 2015. Since you will most likely have to order your couch if you buy from here, the odds are that it will be made right away and you won’t have 2014 leftovers. Always make sure to ask before you order. If you sign up for emails, you can usually get 10% off your first order.
Davis 3-Seat Sofa ($1599 at crateandbarrel.com)
Ah, IKEA…brings back the early days of living right after college, spending hours putting together your first “grown-upish” furniture for your first apartment. But, after a second look, IKEA has actually come a long way and has some really solid couch selections to choose from. What’s not to love? Modern, solid design at a great price tag. Definitely count me in. At these prices you can even afford to buy several slipcovers to change up your look depending on your mood, or the spills that you have. They also made the change after January 1, 2015, but as always check the labels and ask a store associate to make sure.
Since Ashley Furniture is a larger retail store with a ton of sales and coupons, you will most likely be able to find a good deal on a good quality, flame retardant free couch. They are in the same boat as all the others by making the change after January 1, 2015, so just make sure you do your due diligence and check the label and you should be good to go.
*Remember to look for sales and coupons. At the time of writing, this sofa was down to $800 in my zip code.
Don’t think of La-Z-Boy as the store for your dad’s old recliner. As with a lot of product lines these days, La-Z-Boy has had a bit of a rebirth by adding a lot more modern styles to choose from. La-Z-Boy started a little earlier than the rest by stopping to manufacture couches with flame retardants by October 1, 2014. Make sure to ask a sales associate or customer service rep (if you are ordering over the phone) that you are not getting a stock couch and you should be in the clear.
These five retailers are easy to find across the country and offer really good choices for an affordable couches that doesn’t have flame retardants doused all over it.
So, which one did I end up buying?
I know you are dying with suspense, so I’ll let you know that I got the Pottery Barn PB Comfort Roll Arm Sofa and Love Seat in Performance Everydaysuede in Stone. I did get it when they had a 25% sale going on, so I would highly recommend you wait for that.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve found any other great deals on couches without fire retardants that everyone should know about!
Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links. I recommend these products because they are products that I personally use or companies that I have found trustworthy.