Choosing Nontoxic Wood Furniture

furniture interior design Jan 02, 2018

by Angela Cummings and Sophia Ruan Gushée


Wood furniture—such as couches, chairs, bed frames, box springs, tables and many more products—can be made from composite wood or solid wood. If you're hoping to choose the healthiest wood furniture for your budget, then consider the three key ideas below. 

1. Adhesives & Resins

Composite wood is made from wood pieces or wood dust that are held together with adhesives or resins. Resin is a material that is typically made of plastic.

Common types of composite woods are plywood, particle board, MDF (medium density fiberboard), and sometimes simply called composite wood. For example, composite decking is made from wood particles and resin.

Solid wood, on the other hand, is made 100 percent from wood. That means that solid wood is not made with adhesives and resins or other chemical binders.

2. Solvent Chemicals

Composite wood products are made of adhesives and resins that often contain a class of chemicals named solvents. Solvents may cause cancer and affect the nervous system, reproductive system, liver and kidney systems, and respiratory system. (1) 

3. VOCs in the Air

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)—such as formaldehyde—are emitted from various things in the home. From furniture, they often come from the adhesives and resins used to make composite wood products, wood finishes, and the glues that adhere furniture parts together. Natural soft woods, such as pine, also contain VOCs that off-gas into the air.

VOCs may affect the immune system, respiratory system, and cause cancer. (2) Furniture made with solid hardwood material and finished with a zero- or low-VOC finish release fewer VOCs into the air and is widely accepted as one of the least toxic types of wood.

In Summary

Ideally, nontoxic wood furniture is made of solid 100% hardwood, nontoxic glues, and zero- or low-VOC finishes (stains, finishes or paints). This will be much more expensive. So, the three key ideas noted above explain why you'll have to pay a lot more for nontoxic wood furniture. These three key ideas should also help you ask smart questions when shopping for healthier furniture, and deciding how best to prioritize your budget.

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(1) (2) A to Z of D-Toxing, Works Cited Part 2

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Ruan Living simplifies a nontoxic lifestyle through its Practical Nontoxic Living podcast, free detox workshops, online D-Tox Academy, and transformative 40-Day Home Detox. It aims to help you avoid toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from what you buy, own, and do— without compromising your joy and convenience. Ruan was founded by Sophia Ruan Gushée, author of the bestselling critically acclaimed book A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Your Toxic Exposures and several detox workbooks. A graduate of Brown University and Columbia Business School, Sophia has served on the Brown University School of Public Health Advisory Council and Well+Good Council. A popular nontoxic living speaker, consultant, and teacher, Sophia lives in New York City with her husband and three daughters. Her passion for empowering others to enjoy nontoxic living began with the birth of her first daughter in 2007. Everything she creates is a love letter to her children and for the healthiest, brightest future possible. You can learn more here: Sophia’s Impact.


This article is for informational purposes only. This information is provided “as is” without warranty.

It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. We do not offer medical advice, course of treatment, diagnosis, or any other opinion on your conditions or treatment options. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Ruan Living.

In no event will Sophia Ruan Gushee or Ruan Living be liable for any damages or loss of any kind resulting from the use of this website. Anyone relying upon or making use of the information on this website does so at his or her own risk.

Some of the services and products recommended on this website provide compensation to Sophia Ruan Gushee or Ruan Living. All recommendations are based foremost upon an honest belief that the product, service, or site will benefit our site visitors in some way.  

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