We’ve covered non-toxic, natural, and organic mattresses, so it’s time to move on to the next piece of bedroom furniture: bed frames. Are non-toxic bed frames really necessary? Which materials are best? And what the heck is MDF wood?
We’ve got your answers to all that and more… plus our recommendations for the best bed frames for just about every category (platform beds, canopy beds, bed frames with storage, and lots more).
This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if you choose to make a purchase. We only make recommendations that are genuine and meet our standards. Feature image credit: Avocado
Why Choose a Non-Toxic, Chemical-Free Bed Frame?
Many conventional bed frames contain a host of toxic chemicals, which we’ll discuss in more detail in a minute. Considering that most humans spend about a third of their lives in bed, switching to non-toxic bedroom furniture could actually make a difference in one’s long-term health. Not only that, but sleep is when our bodies do a lot of rest and repair, so doing what we can to make sure our bodies don’t have to work overtime during sleep can really create a positive compound effect.
What Makes A Bed Frame Toxic?
Conventional bed frames usually contain things like resins, varnishes, paints, wood stains, glues and adhesives, and more. It is extremely common for these materials to contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). When these materials off-gas into your bedroom (slowly leaking chemicals into the air over time), they decrease the indoor air quality. This can be especially concerning for people with sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.
Do Bed Frames Contain Formaldehyde?
Yes, most bed frames do contain formaldehyde, especially when they’re made with engineered wood particleboard, and/or plywood. Most of the formaldehyde comes from the glues and adhesives used (we’ll talk about this more in a minute).
Formaldehyde is linked to various negative health effects, from skin irritation to cancer.
When it comes to the short-term effects of formaldehyde, the National Cancer Institute states:
“When formaldehyde is present in the air at levels exceeding 0.1 ppm, some individuals may experience adverse effects such as watery eyes; burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing; wheezing; nausea; and skin irritation. Some people are very sensitive to formaldehyde, whereas others have no reaction to the same level of exposure.”
When it comes to more chronic effects, the F.D.A. states, “Chronic effects associated with formaldehyde can include an increased prevalence of headaches, asthma, contact dermatitis (a red, itchy rash caused by direct contact with a substance or an allergic reaction to it as a result of sensitization) and possibly cancer.”
For these reasons, we want to try and stick to formaldehyde-free bed frames.
Are Metal Bed Frames Non-Toxic And Safe?
There are pros and cons to different types of bed frame material. Bed frames that are made out of material like steel are generally less toxic because they usually require much fewer adhesives and finishes compared to wood. They usually don’t off-gas at all, or if they do, it’s not very much.
Metal bed frames also tend to be more affordable, are lighter weight, and take up less space, so they might be a good choice for people who move homes frequently.
However, there are some downsides to metal bed frames as well. They’re not always a great choice for every type of mattress; some mattresses will work better with a platform bed frame instead. And if the metal used is virgin instead of recycled, they’re not super eco-friendly.
Another problem with metal frames is that they have the potential to increase exposure to radiation from electromagnetic fields (EMFs) while you sleep, essentially acting as an antenna or conductor. Although we still need more research in this area, it’s something that is becoming more of a concern for many people. Although EMFs are natural and humans have always been exposed to a certain amount of them, the level of certain types of EMF exposure is what is becoming more concerning in our ever-connected world.
So, Is a Metal Or Wood Bed Frame Better?
Ultimately, wood and metal both have different pros and cons. What is better for you might not be better for someone else. What’s most important is how that wood or metal was sourced and manufactured, and what chemicals were used (or not used) to make it into a bed frame.
What Are the Safest Materials to Look For In a Non-Toxic Bed Frame?
Wood is a great option for bed frames. It’s a non-toxic, natural material that’s also eco-friendly (when sourced and treated in a sustainable way). But it’s important to make sure you get a solid wood bed frame, instead of engineered wood.
Engineered Wood Bed Frames vs Solid Hardwood Bed Frames
Engineered wood is often used for furniture because it’s cheap. To make engineered wood, they take a bunch of wood “pieces” such as wood chips, sawdust, etc., and then press it all together with glue in order to make what appears to be real, solid wood. It’s often very convincing, and companies will use jargon to make it more confusing about what type of wood is really being used in their products.
The glues and adhesives that are used to make these pressed woods are where you’ll find a lot of the formaldehyde in furniture.
Not all companies use toxic chemicals to make engineered wood, but most of them do (so don’t be afraid to reach out and ask). Avoid purchasing products that use terms like MDF (medium-density fiberboard), particleboard (low-density fiberboard), plywood, or chipboard.
Instead of toxic finishes and laquers, look for companies that use natural oils, such as raw linseed, to finish the wood.
No- or Low-VOC Paints
If you choose a colored bed frame instead of going natural, make sure you choose a company that uses low- or no-VOC paint. Paints commonly contain a lot of VOCs, just like adhesives do.
Little to No Adhesives
As mentioned above, glues and adhesives contain formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals. Buying a wooden bed frame that is made from real solid wood instead of MDF or another type of engineered wood is one of the best ways to avoid adhesives in your bed frame.
Which Type of Bed Frame Should You Get? [Platform vs. Foundation vs. Box Spring]
We used to use box springs underneath all mattresses. When mattresses were thinner and less supportive, box springs absorbed a lot of the weight and provided support for your body while we slept. As the mattress industry evolved, box springs became less necessary.
If you have a more traditional mattress that uses innersprings, it’s recommended that you still use a box spring. Box springs can be placed on a foundation bed frame.
Foundation bed frames can be used for a wide variety of mattresses: latex, foam, and innerspring (traditional). Foundation beds are often made of wood and come with wooden slats which provide evenly dispersed support throughout the entire mattress. Just make sure that if you’re using a foam or latex mattress, that the slats are spaced out properly. (Check with the specific mattress for guidelines.)
You may or may not use a box spring with a foundation bed frame, depending on what type of mattress you have. You technically can still use a box spring with a latex or foam mattress even though you don’t need to. Most people would do this for added height.
A platform bed is similar but is only used for foam and latex mattresses. It uses wooden slats and the mattress can be placed directly on the frame so you don’t need a box spring.
So, now that you know just about everything there is to know about bed frames, let’s get to our recommendations! (P.S. Don’t forget to pair your bed frame with a non-toxic or organic mattress!)
Best Non-Toxic & Natural Bed Frames (Of All Types & Sizes)
Best Overall Certified Non-Toxic Bed Frame: Avocado City Bed Frame
Avocado is one of our favorite brands for non-toxic mattresses, bedding, and natural wood bed frames. They have really high standards, carry a whole handful of certifications, and have some of the best transparency in the industry.
They carry several different bed frames, but we chose their City Bed Frame as the best overall bed frame because of the fact that it looks great, is toxic-chemical-free, comes at a reasonable price point ($845 for a queen), and doesn’t take up a lot of space. Plus, it’s easy to assemble (requiring almost no tools) and isn’t too difficult to move from home to home.
These non-toxic natural wood bed frames are handcrafted in their own FSC®-certified Los Angeles woodshop out of sustainably harvested American timber. They use non-toxic, water-based ECOS stains (available in dark or light) and Titebond® wood glues, which are safe and produce no harmful fumes (zero VOC). They’re members of the Sustainable Furnishings Council, which means they don’t use any formaldehyde-containing MDF or other nasties.
Plus, Avocado is a very sustainable company, too. Their bed frames are actually carbon negative, their designs are zero waste and biodegradable, and they’re members of 1% For the Planet.
Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, California King
Brown (dark wood) & Blonde (light wood)
Choose between a headboard or no headboard
Best Non-Toxic Platform Bed Frame: Birch Natural Wood Frame
If you’re looking for a standard non-toxic and natural platform bed frame, this one from Birch is a great choice. It’s made in the USA out of durable and 100% natural wood and then finished with all-natural, water-based, and zero-VOC finishes. This green bed frame is made out of FSC-Certified wood that’s also LEED and CARB compliant. It’s easy and safe to assemble and requires zero tools.
Twin, Twin XL, Queen, King, California King
Natural or White
Best Natural Wood Bed Frame with Headboard: Masaya & Co. Gavilana Teak Bed
This sustainable live edge bed frame from Masaya & Co. is absolutely gorgeous! The perfect middle ground between chic and rustic, this bed is handmade in Nicaragua from sustainably harvested teak hardwood and a low-VOC natural oil finish.
Masaya & Co. was actually initially founded as a reforestation project in Managua, Nicaragua, and then later grew into a sustainable furniture brand that’s dedicated to timeless design, artisan craftsmanship, and the sustainability of our planet’s resources. For every product sold, their company plants 100 trees in Nicaragua to help combat deforestation in the region as a result of clear-cutting. To date, Masaya & Co. has planted more than 900,000 trees and currently employs 150 artisans in the region.
Twin, Full, Queen, King
Easiest to Assemble Natural Wood Bed Frame: Thuma
This non-toxic and natural wood bed frame is handcrafted out of repurposed wood that’s completely free from MDF and veneers. There are also natural cork pads on the bottom of the legs to protect your floor. It also comes with a headboard that they call a “Pillowboard.” It’s made out of CertiPUR-US® certified foam with a 100% polyester pebbled linen-weave cover.
These aren’t the most non-toxic materials ever since they are synthetic, but we’re glad to see the CertiPUR certification, which indicates that it’s free from certain toxins. The whole bed is also GREENGUARD Certified, which gives us more reassurance that although some synthetics are used, it’s been tested to ensure low chemical emissions. The linen cover is also interchangeable and washable, which is pretty nice.
The cool thing about Thuma is how easy it is to assemble. They use what’s called Japanese Joinery. This Japanese craftsmen technique is naturally noise-minimizing while also super easy to put together, eliminating the need for excess metal hardware.
Twin, Full, Queen, King, California King, Daybed
Walnut (dark brown) & Natural (light brown)
Dark Charcoal or Light Linen for Pillowboard
Best Non-Toxic Bed Frame With Storage: Medley Buden Bed
You can customize this Buden Bed for more or less storage: you can choose whether or not to get headboard drawers, base drawers, both, or none at all. If you don’t have a ton of space (or just need more storage for your books, valuables, extra, blankets, and more!), this would be a great option for you.
The Buden Bed is made from bamboo, which is another natural option for non-toxic bed frames. It’s finished with a water-based, low-VOC protective clear coat.
Twin, Full, Queen, King, California King
Natural Bamboo (light brown) & Amber Bamboo (dark brown)
Most Affordable Non-Toxic Bed Frame: Avocado Metal Bed Frame + Foundation
If you’re looking for a budget non-toxic bed frame that’s on the more affordable side of things, Avocado has a good option. This heavy-duty metal frame is super sturdy and durable and free from any sharp edges. You also don’t need any tools to assemble it!
The steel used to make this bed frame is eco-friendly, too—it’s made in Pennsylvania, USA, by melting down reclaimed railroad steel! Plus, it has carbon-negative production and shipping.
The price for a queen-sized metal frame + foundation is $494. Or, you can use it with a foundation or box spring you already have. A queen-sized metal bed frame alone is just $169.
Twin, Full, Queen, King, California King
Best Non-Toxic Upholstered Bed Frame: Medley Bramo Bed
If you’re looking for a non-toxic upholstered bed frame, it’s much more difficult to find one. This one from Medley is available in two different versions: you can get it with CertiPUR-US certified poly foam (which is synthetic foam that’s been tested for things like flame retardants), or you can get a completely, 100% natural version.
For the completely natural upholstered bed frame, they layer the entire frame with certified organic natural latex which is made from the sap of rubber trees. Not only is it 100% natural, but rubber it also durable, contains no harsh chemicals, and is bacteria, mildew, and mold resistant (which is more necessary for fabric bedframes!). They then wrap the latex with domestic OEKO-TEX certified wool and use certified organic cotton for the internal linings.
Twin, Full, Queen, California King
Solid or tufted front
Various colors for the fabric and the legs
Speaking of Upholstered Bed Frames… Are They Unhygienic?
Many people ask whether or not upholstered bed frames are less clean than natural wood bed frames because of the way the fabric can hold onto things like dead skin cells and mold spores. Obviously, wood bed frames are easier to clean because you can just wipe them down with a natural cleaner. At the end of the day, it really just depends on your personal preferences and priorities.
Best Minimalist Non-Toxic & Natural Wood Bed Frame: Avocado Mid-Century Modern Bed Frame
Once again, Avocado gets our pick, this time in the minimalist aesthetic category. Like their other green bed frames, this one is also handcrafted in their FSC® certified Los Angeles woodshop. You can get it in Walnut wood, or as a Reclaimed wood bed frame.
To finish this solid wood bed frame, they use a zero-VOC finish called ECOS® WoodShield stain, which is organic, non-toxic, and odor-free. For assembly, they use the safe, fumeless, zero-VOC Titebond Wood Glue. This eco-friendly bed frame is carbon neutral, zero waste, biodegradable, and gives back to non-profit organizations that support our environment.
Twin, Twin XL, Queen, King, California King
Walnut or Reclaimed Wood
Best Non-Toxic & Natural Canopy Bed: VivaTerra Vintage Fir West Linn Canopy Bed
How beautiful is this natural wood canopy bed? This green bed frame is unique because it’s made from reclaimed Douglas Fir that can be up to a century old. As VivaTerra describes, “the wood is hand-planed to smooth its surface while preserving the distinctive character of the vintage fir’s imperfections.”
The reclaimed wood is finished with water-based, non-toxic stains, and everything is handmade in California, USA.
Queen, King, California King
Colors include: Onyx Black, Espresso, Linen Grey, Natural, Quartz White
Chemical-Free Bed Frames for Futons: Natural Home by The Futon Shop Amish Futon Frames
The Futon Shop’s Natural Home shop carries several collections of chemical-free and natural wood frames for futons and sofa beds. These beautiful green bed frames are handcrafted by expert Amish craftsmen in Pennsylvania out of locally sourced wood from responsibly managed forests. They use natural linseed oil finish and water-based glues. There are ZERO VOCs, so this chemical-free futon frame is completely safe.
Various styles, with and without armrests, various types of wood (light and dark)
Sizes: Chair, Twin Loveseat, Queen Loveseat, Queen, Full Loveseat, Full Double
Best Non-Toxic Bed Frames for Bunk Beds & Loft Beds: Natural Home by The Futon Shop
Natural Home by The Futon Shop is also the best place to find a solid wood bed frame for bunk beds and loft beds. They have a wide selection to choose from, so you can get what is best for your space. Everything is made in the USA from solid hardwood and available with low VOC finishes.
A wide variety of colors and sizes, including trundles, lofts, beds with storage, and beds with desks.
Best Non-Toxic & Natural Day Bed: Kalon Studios Divan Day Bed
This day bed can be used for lounging sleeping, as a couch, a toddler bed, or a regular twin bed (it fits a standard twin mattress). It’s made in the USA out of solid, domestic Maple and finished with an oil wax that carries the SCS Indoor Advantage Gold Certification for no off-gassing.
Best Non-Toxic Foundation: Naturepedic Organic Deluxe Foundation
If you’re looking for a low to the ground bed frame (or want to use it in between your bed frame and mattress), this is a great, simple option. It’s made out of solid North American wood and covered with GOTS certified organic cotton fabric. Naturepedic’s products are MADE SAFE certified as well, which means they’re completely safe from any toxic chemicals like flame retardants. No tools are required to assemble it either.
Twin, Twin XL, Queen, King, California King
Standard (7”) or Low-Profile (2”)
Best Natural Wood Trundle Bed: Savvy Rest Trundle Bed
Savvy Rest is a company that is truly committed to making truly safe and sustainable bed frames and mattresses. If you’re short on space, they have a great non-toxic trundle bed. It’s hand-built in their Central Virginia woodshop using sustainably sourced maple and poplar wood and zero-VOC finishes.
Colors: Lindseed oil (natural, light brown), Cedar, Mahogany, Walnut
Biggest Splurge Chemical-Free Bed Frame: Samina Sleep System
This chemical-free, non-toxic, organic bed frame is actually more than just a frame… it’s a completely customized sleep system. It comes with a truly unique mattress that orthopedic, grounding, and climate-regulating properties, along with an adjustable, inclined bed frame for people with GERD (acid reflux), sleep apnea, and snoring. The materials come with a handful of non-toxic and organic certifications such as GOTS and GOLS and the frame is finished with organic oils. No metal, flame retardants, or other VOCs here.
If you really struggle with things like back pain, you might want to consider looking into this system. It might be worth the long-term investment if it solves your pain and sleep problems.
If your want to spoil your pup, this natural and eco-friendly dog bed frame from Avocado is so cute. It’s actually made from FSC®-certified reclaimed and upcycled wood scraps from their Los Angeles woodshop. It’s finished with a non-toxic, zero-VOC stain and varnish. Check out more non-toxic dog beds here.
If you already have a base and are looking for just a headboard, check out these unique sustainable and natural headboards from KAZI. They’re handcrafted in Ghana out of natural elephant grass, then colored with organic dyed (they also have undyed versions, too). It also comes with the Nest Seal of Transparency which indicates artisans were paid a fair wage for their work. This is a true statement piece!
Since the average person spends over a third of their lifetime sleeping, knowing you have a non-toxic bed frame should eliminate one more thing that keeps you from having a great night’s sleep!