Tips for Buying Your First Real Couch
How to pick one that is both comfy and healthy
Congrats on making your next big #adulting decision! Your first foray into buying a real, large piece of furniture. Now come the big questions: where to look? How much does it really cost? How am I going to get it through the door (or up the stairs)? What color should it be?
One more thing to think about is what might be hiding in the couch. Things like chemicals or toxic substances that might sound like good things, but secretly aren’t – like stain resistant fabric and flame-retardants. If you want to cut to the chase, look at our roundup of healthy modern couches you can buy online.
Flame-retardants used to be added to the foam in sofas but turns out they basically didn’t do what they were supposed to do (stop fires) and instead are linked to cancer, lowered brain function, and irregularities with the immune system, just to name a few. Even firefighters agree flame retardants are no good. So, maybe we should rethink putting them in things.
If you’re shopping for a new couch, anything made after 2015 will have a label under the cushions that will let you know if there are added flame retardants. Hint: you want the X by the one that says “without added flame retardants.”
Many brands have updated their standards to be compliant. Some big name brands include IKEA, Crate and Barrel, Lay-Z-Boy, Restoration Hardware, and The Futon Shop. Many other brands are also meeting these standards. You can check online or ask a customer service representative for help. We also have put together a list of the brands we could find – find it at the end of the article.
If you’re buying a used couch off of Craigslist, you have to investigate a bit more and might be taking a risk. If you find a label like this that says TB 117-2003, the only way to know is to ask the manufacturer, which could be kind of hard to do. If you see a label that says TB 117, then it it’s more likely than not the couch was made with flame retardants. If it were us, we would steer clear.
Is spilling red wine on a white couch without stains too good to be true? Short answer, probably. In order to have these super stain resistant, oil and water repellent, and waterproof abilities, manufacturers add a chemical to the fabric that is similar to the bad one in Teflon pans. They are called highly fluorinated chemicals, and include PFOA, which has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, elevated cholesterol, decreased fertility, thyroid problems, and decreased immune response in children.
These highly fluorinated chemicals will never break down or leave the environment and can mess with your hormones or cause your cells to mutate. While stain-resistance can be super convenient (if like me, you eat on the couch or have kids), we suggest getting a natural, untreated fabric and trying really hard not to spill on it. If you’re accident prone, or have small kids or pets, choosing a textured or dark color fabric can hide stains. Couches with washable covers are another good option. That way you can take the cover off the one cushion that was victim to the spill and throw it in the washing machine.
You can also learn some tricks for the best way to clean up spills, preferably with little to no chemicals. For couches, try a lot of water and a little bit of dish soap. This is a tip from my grandma, so you know it works! We have a whole bunch more information about cleaning products you can check out, too.
Take Away Tips
Look for a couch that is:
- Free of added flame-retardants
- Is filled with a naturally flame resistant options like polyester or wool
- Uses untreated fabric (or doesn’t claim to be stain-resistant). Organic cotton is always a good option if available.
- Super comfy and you love
List of brands
AICO, American Furniture Manufacturing, American Seating Company, Article, Ashley Furniture, Best Home Furnishings, Bernhardt, Benchmade Modern, Bradington Young, Broyhill, Burrow, California Sofa, C.R. Laine, Century, Cisco Home, Coco-Mat, Comfort Design, Compendium, Corinthian, Craftmaster, CB2, Crate & Barrel, Dania, David Edward, Drexel Heritage, Dwell Studio, EcoBalanza, EcoSelect, Eco-Terric, Ekla Home, Endicott Home Furnishings, Eco-Luxury, EQ3, Fairfield Chair, Flexsteel Inds, Furnature, GreenSofas, Gus Design Group, Henredon, Hickory Chair, Hickory White, Highland House, Homeware, Hooker Case Goods, Hooker Upholstery, IKEA, Interior Define, Kevin Charles Fine Upholstery, Kincaid Furniture, Klaussner, Kristin Drohan Collection, Land of Nod, Lane, La-Z-Boy, Lee Industries, Lillian August, Maitland Smith, McCreary Modern, Michael Weiss, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Monarch Sofas, MotionCraft, Mr. and Mrs. Howard for Sherrill Furniture, Pacific West Furniture, Palliser Furniture, Pearson, Plummers, Precedent, Restoration Hardware, Roger + Chris, Room & Board, Sam Moore, Scandinavian Designs, Sherrill Furniture, Soma Ergonomics, Southern Furniture, Southern Motion, Staples, Taylor King, Thom Filicia, Thomasville, The Futon Shop, United Furniture Industries, Vanguard Furniture, Viesso, Whittemore Sherrill Ltd.