With more people working from home, many of us are spending more time indoors than ever before. That’s one reason why buying non-toxic furniture (or at the very least, less toxic furniture) is becoming more important to many people. So in this part of our furniture series, we’re talking about non-toxic dressers.
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Featured image credit: Kalon Studios
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Formaldehyde in Dressers
As we discussed in our Ultimate Guide to Non-Toxic Bedroom Furniture, volatile organic compounds (a.k.a. VOCs) are the biggest concern when it comes to furniture.
VOCs are chemicals that, simply because of their composition, can evaporate in normal atmospheric conditions. This evaporation is what a lot of people call “off-gassing.”
When the chemicals in your furniture off-gas, they release toxins into your environment, which you then breathe in. VOCs from furniture and building materials are actually a huge source of indoor air pollution!
Formaldehyde is one of those VOCs, and it’s very commonly used in dressers in the form of adhesives. Unfortunately, formaldehyde is linked to various negative health effects, from skin irritation to cancer.
What to Look for in Non-Toxic Dressers
Real, Solid Wood (Instead of Engineered Wood)
It’s very common for furniture companies to use engineered wood, also called composite wood, as opposed to real, solid wood because it’s cheaper. Examples of engineered wood include medium-density fiberboard (MDF), particleboard, plywood, or chipboard.
To make engineered wood, manufacturers basically take a bunch of sawdust and wood chips, and wood pieces and glue them all together to form what looks like real wood. All of those glues and adhesives are a big part of what makes dressers and other “wooden” furniture toxic because they contain so much formaldehyde and other VOCs.
Instead of engineered wood, look for solid wood instead, which will automatically contain less toxic chemicals. Sustainably sourced and/or reclaimed wood is best!
Little to No Adhesives
Using MDF and other types of engineered wood is one of the biggest ways formaldehyde gets into dressers, but manufacturers may also use adhesives to actually assemble the wooden pieces as well. When shopping for non-toxic furniture, look for brands that use assembly methods which require as little glue as possible.
Zero- Or Low-VOC Paints and Finishes
Another place VOCs can come into play is in the finishes and paints used. Instead of toxic finishes, lacquers, and paints, look for companies that use natural oils like raw linseed to finish the wood. Or, choose unfinished if you like that aesthetic!
When shopping for non-toxic furniture, looking for third-party certifications can help you make sure your dresser meets a certain set of standards when it comes to the materials used.
Look for labels like GREENGUARD or GREENGUARD Gold, MADE SAFE, Formaldehyde Free Verified by UL Environment, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and Sustainable Furnishings Council. You can read more about each of these labels here.
The 7 Best Brands for Non-Toxic Dressers
Now, let’s get to our favorite brands for non-toxic (and beautiful!) dressers for your home.
When it comes to non-toxic and eco-friendly bedroom furniture, Avocado is one of our MOST favorite brands! Their furniture is not only safe and sustainable, but it’s truly durable and beautiful, too.
Avocado’s Greenguard certified dressers are made in their Los Angeles workshop out of reclaimed and responsibly-sourced FSC-certified wood and finished with a zero-VOC sealant.
They have a few different varieties of solid wood dressers, whether you prefer a more “natural” look, or something a little more elegant. The easy-open drawers eliminate the need for knobs and handles and allow for a really clean, sleek aesthetic.
Not only is Avocado’s bedroom furniture free from toxic chemicals, but they’re also a B Corp certified company, which means they are prioritizing people and planet as much as possible. Their Los Angeles workshop is powered entirely with renewable energy and is on its way toward a zero-waste certification. All of their products are carbon negative as well.
The Futon Shop carries a collection of wide, solid wood dressers that come in a variety of different finishes. Most of their dressers are actually produced by Vermont Furniture Designs. They don’t stain any of their dressers, but instead let the natural wood color shine through, finishing them with a natural, zero-VOC linseed oil wax.
Medley carries several different sustainable and non-toxic dressers, depending on the size you need (3- or 4-drawer tall, 4- or 6-drawer wide, etc). Choose between either FSC-certified American solid hardwood or natural bamboo, available in various different light and dark finishes.
In addition to sustainably-sourced materials, Medley uses a few different types of low- and zero-VOC finishes and glues made out of water-based and natural materials such as beeswax. Plus, everything is handcrafted in California, USA.
You probably already know about West Elm as one of the most popular places to buy furniture for your entire home. Not everything West Elm makes is non-toxic, but they do make it really easy for customers to filter products based on their priorities. So when you’re shopping for dressers, you can sort according to Greenguard Certified, Fair Trade, Sustainably Sourced, and/or Handcrafted.
They also have different dressers that will fit a wide variety of aesthetics, whether you’re looking for something for the kids’ room, a modern and minimalist dresser for your bedroom, or a mid-century chifforobe!
Masaya & Co. carries a couple of large, wide dressers that would look beautiful in your bedroom or even as a media storage unit and table combo in the living or dining room. These gorgeous dressers are handcrafted in Nicaragua out of sustainably harvested hardwood and finished with a low-VOC natural oil.
Plus, for every product sold, Masaya & Co. plants 100 trees!
Kalon Studios’ minimalistic non-toxic dressers are available in tall or wide American ash or Black walnut solid wood. They’re finished with non-toxic SCS Indoor Advantage Gold Certification premium organic oil/wax finish for zero off-gassing.
Plus, they have soft-close drawers for the win!
If you like more of a rustic look, check out Vivaterra. Their non-toxic dressers are handmade in California with reclaimed Douglas Fir wood and water-based, non-toxic stains. Choose between a variety of heights, stain colors, and the number of drawers.
Are IKEA’s Dressers Non-Toxic?
You might notice that everyone’s favorite affordable Swedish furniture company didn’t make this list. IKEA does have some great sustainability initiatives and has made even more progress in recent years, but unfortunately, they didn’t make the cut for this guide.
Most of IKEA’s dressers are made using at least partially solid wood, although many of the dressers do use fiberboard as well. They’re also finished with conventional acrylic lacquers, paints, adhesives, and stains that are NOT low- or no-VOC. (This even includes their ‘more sustainable’ natural wood dresser.)
We hope to see IKEA transition to non-toxic glues and finishes in the next few years!
For a More Affordable Option: Buy Secondhand
Dressers can be expensive, especially when you’re buying something that’s high-quality, sustainable, and non-toxic. So thrifting and buying secondhand can be an option to consider as well.
Here are some places to look for secondhand furniture:
More Non-Toxic Furniture for Your Bedroom
If you’re looking for natural, non-toxic and eco-friendly furniture like mattresses, bed frames, nightstands, mirrors, headboards, and benches to match your dresser, we’re put together a full guide to non-toxic bedroom furniture—just click here!
Whenever your current dresser starts falling apart (and let’s be honest: if it’s an IKEA one, it’s going to happen soon), consider replacing it with one that’s made with non-toxic and sustainable materials that won’t off-gas harmful chemicals into your bedroom while you sleep!
Image Credits: All product photos belong to respective brands.