Last Updated on May 17, 2022 by The Filtery Staff
Ah, bean bag chairs! They’ve always been a staple in kids’ playrooms and teenagers’ gaming pads, but nowadays there are also some modern adult bean bag chairs that would look beautiful in the living room, too!
But… just like with just about everything else we buy these days (*sigh*), most bean bag chairs are made with materials that are, well, not-so-great.
So in this article, we’re going to talk briefly about why traditional bean bag fabrics and fillings aren’t the healthiest, and then we’ll give you some better alternatives.
Let’s get to it, shall we?
This article 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.
Featured Image Credit: Pottery Barn
What’s the Deal—Are Bean Bag Beans Toxic?
Almost all of the little foam beads you find in bean bag chairs are made of polystyrene. As we discussed in our guide to plastics, polystyrene is essentially the second-most toxic form of plastic, after PVC.
As the name indicates, it’s made from styrene, which is a suspected carcinogen. Not only that but it’s manufactured using benzene, which is another carcinogen, along with hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are harder on the environment than carbon is.
Polystyrene also can’t biodegrade; instead, it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces in the environment, creating toxic microplastics and releasing harmful HFCs into the atmosphere as it goes.
So long story short, conventional bean bag beans are NOT good. What should we look for instead? Instead of polystyrene, eco-friendly bean bag chair alternatives are filled with things like:
- Organic/natural latex
- Buckwheat hulls
- Kapok fiber
- Plant-based foams made from soy and vegetable oils
- CertiPUR and/or GREENGUARD synthetic foams
- recycled polystyrene
(You can read more about these fillings and find out where to buy them further down in the post!)
The less-toxic (CertiPUR and GREENGUARD) synthetic foams and recycled polystyrene are not the BEST options, but they’re definitely better than virgin polystyrene. Even though they’re made out of synthetic materials, the third-party certifications means they’ve been independently verified to be free of a list of other harmful chemicals. We’ve included them as options in this article because it’s still somewhat slim pickings when it comes to 100% organic and non-toxic bean bag chairs. Sometimes it’s okay to choose the BETTER (if not PERFECT) option!
What About the Bean Bag Covers?
A lot of the conventional bean bag chairs on the market are made out of synthetic fabrics like polyester, which is just another type of plastic. Considering that this is the part of the chair that will be against your or your child’s skin for a long period of time, it’s better to choose natural and/or organic fabrics in order to reduce the amount of off-gassing. Look for:
- Cotton (organic is best, but conventional is still better than synthetic fabrics)
Of course, these fabrics are also more eco-friendly in their production and end-of-life compared to polyester.
7 Brands That Make Natural, Organic, and Non-Toxic Bean Bag Chairs, Covers, and Filling
The Ultimate Green Store carries bean bag chairs for adults and kids that are handcrafted in the USA out of materials like organic cotton and hemp. For the filling, they use:
- CertiPUR-US certified foams, which are low-VOC foams without PBDEs, TDCPP or TCEP flame retardants, heavy metals, formaldehyde, or phthalates
- “Superfill,” which includes recycled polystyrene beads and pre-consumer recycled shredded foam
- “Eco Superfill,” which includes natural latex foam in place of standard urethane shredded foam (we recommend choosing this one instead of the “Superfill.”
These chairs are personalizable, too!
F.Y.I., you might find several other online retailers selling Bean Products and rebranding them as their own. You can tell because they have the same product images and descriptions, but just know that they’re all the same thing!
The covers for these bean bags are made from 100% cotton (conventional, not organic). The filling is made out of their own plant-based “Evergreen Foam,” which is made from a blend of soy, castor, and other vegetable oils and is completely free from fire retardants, formaldehyde, nickel, mercury, parabens, and other hazardous materials. They have a wide variety of colors to choose from, too.
Available in pre-stuffed or cover-only.
While not *technically* bean bag chairs, Carolina Morning has a really wide selection of non-toxic and organic cushions, pillows, yoga bolsters, and floor furniture of various shapes, sizes, and colors.
They use materials like organic cotton, hypoallergenic kapok fiber, and natural buckwheat. Although this brand is geared toward yogis, their products can be used for lounging, working, and gathering together with loved ones, too. Their designs are meant to support and encourage proper posture and alignment in order to prevent and decrease aches and pains, too!
Cushions, covers, and fill.
Pottery Barn’s bean bag chairs are not completely non-toxic, but they do have several things going for them. All of their bean bag chairs and similar loungers are GREENGUARD Gold Certified, which means they have been independently verified to be free of a list of toxic substances that contribute to indoor air pollution. Several of the chairs are certified Fair Trade as well. They also have a really wide selection of designs, whether you’re looking for faux fur, solid colors, or cute animals (hello, Hedwig!).
That being said, these bean bags aren’t made from natural or organic materials. Instead, they’re made mostly out of polyester and polystyrene. A great deal of it is recycled, which definitely makes it a more eco-friendly option than most conventional bean bag chairs. But as mentioned above, these materials are plastics and therefore do pose some problems to human and environmental health.
If you like the chunky knit aesthetic, you’re going to love Looping Home’s pouf ottomans, bean bag chairs, and loungers. These are handmade to order out of recycled conventional cotton (not organic) and are available in several different beautiful neutral shades.
Some of Looping Home’s products are available pre-stuffed, but they use conventional polystyrene, so we recommend just purchasing the cover and then filling it with something else (see below).
If you like more of a rustic feel, these bean bag chairs are made from a blend of eco-friendly linen and conventional cotton. You can get plain, natural linen or a patterned fabric like horses, cats, bees, poppies, hearts, and more.
These come without the filling, so you can either use them to store your child’s stuffed animals, or you can buy the filling separately. (Keep reading for more suggestions on bean bag filling alternatives.)
Kamile, who owns Home Luxury Boutique shop on Etsy and hand-makes all of her bean bag chairs has a few that are made out of 100% natural linen. These come in Kid, Adult, and XL sizes, so they’re a great option for just about any living space.
This Etsy shop currently carries two bean bag covers that are made from organic cotton fabric—Pink Mountains or Green Cactus!
Brentwood Home Play Couch (aka “Nugget Couch”)
Brentwood Home has a bean bag chair which is made out of recycled plastic bottles and CertiPUR foam (which is definitely better than nothing), but the outer cover is also made out of synthetic fibers and doesn’t come with any non-toxic certifications.
Their nugget couch, however, is a great bean bag alternative option that kids love! Finding a nugget couch that is completely free from synthetic foams is basically impossible (as of right now), but this couch comes with a couple different certifications, including GREENGUARD Gold and CertiPUR, which indicate that it’s been tested against a list of toxic substances.
The foam is also made with 20% plant-based material (like soy, corn, and castor bean), which again, is not perfect but definitely better than the majority of nugget couches on the market.
These couches come in six fun colors and six block-type pieces that can be rearranged to make forts, kingdoms, and all kinds of different play environments.
Some other things to note: The covers are removable and machine washable. Everything is made in the USA. It’s a climate neutral product. And trees are planted with each purchase.
What’s the Best Natural/Non-Toxic Bean Bag Filler?
If you don’t want to mess with the recycled/synthetic bean bag fillers, you might choose to buy a natural or organic bean bag cover and then fill it with a material that you feel good about! Many of the brands above sell just the bean bag chair cover alone, so you could buy one of those and then purchase a bean bag filling alternative of your choice.
Here are a few different materials to consider:
This organic latex filling is GOLS certified organic and made in the USA. Organic latex is plant-based, non-toxic, and biodegradable, but the feel is very close to synthetic foam.
These organic buckwheat hulls are going to have a firmer feel (like what you’d experience with a meditation pillow). Some individuals may really like the buckwheat hull feel, but if you’re looking for a super cushy bean bag chair, this probably isn’t the fill for you.
Organic kapok fiber feels a little bit like cotton or wool, but it actually comes from the inside of a kapok tree seed! Kapok fiber feels more like the stuffing that’s in a conventional pillow.
Cork is also a good option since it has a little spring to it but it’s also firm enough to hold your weight.
Bean Products also carries a natural latex & kapok blend, which will give you the soft pillow-y-ness of the kapok, with some of the bounce that comes from latex.
Or, as Cloud Makers suggests, you can use your kid’s bean bag cover as a stuffed animal storage unit!
Keep in mind that every type of material is going to feel a little bit different—some might have more bounce while others will provide your body with more support. If you’re planning on filling multiple bean bag chairs, we recommend starting out filling just one bean bag to make sure you like the feel of it before ordering more filling for the other chairs.
Sit back and relax knowing you’ve got non-toxic and eco-friendly bean bag chair options for your home!