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Organic & Sustainable Upholstery Practices

What is organic upholstery and why should I care?

This is a common question in my work, which includes restoration and customization of vintage upholstered furniture. Our mission is to educate as well as offer the option of organic & sustainable upholstery materials – an important choice for those who are chemically sensitive, as well as those looking to create a cleaner indoor environment.

It is helpful to know what kinds of questions to ask your furniture dealer or upholsterer when purchasing new furniture or rehabilitating your favorite sofa or chair. Confusion runs rampant with the current trend toward greenwashing everything from vitamins to kitchen sinks, partly due to a lack of guidelines which consumers can trust. Oecotextiles, an organic textile manufacturer who walks the talk, addresses this issue in some depth in their blog.

Our certified organic wool comes from a local sheep ranching and wool producing operation

‘Organic’ vs ‘Natural’

Not all upholstery materials are available as certified organic products, so we have to do the best we can by offering the “next best thing” alongside the certified products, while keeping an eye to the horizon for new and better options as they become available. The certified organic products we are currently using in our restorations include latex foam, cotton batting, and locally produced wool felt & batting. (Note: we are addressing the inside padding materials here; cover fabrics will be explored in a later post).

The wool batting must be covered with a layer of organic cotton/bamboo batting or an organic cotton ticking fabric to prevent ‘migration’ of the wool fibers through the cover fabric.

Certified organic wool batting and felt wrapped over a hemp canvas base layer

The remaining fabrics we are currently using include non-organic natural fibers, such as hemp canvas used as a base layer over the springs and jute burlap.

Both wool and latex are widely touted as natural barriers to dust mites, mold & mildew, which are known allergen sources in many home environments.

Want to learn more about using natural materials in upholstery, including classes, fabric resources and home health issues? Sign up for the mailing list to stay informed. Thanks for visiting! Please leave a comment below if you have anything to add to the conversation.

About the Author

CarlaHey there! I'm Carla Pyle. I love the stories that our furniture tells. For me a picture of my Granddaddy Milton's green upholstered arm chair brings to mind the vivid rhymes & colors of 'The Cat in the Hat' and his soft low voice in the telling. I love too that there is always an element of nature in furniture - the warm-toned curving grain of a walnut leg or the reflection of life in a mid-century chrome piece. The best part of teaching & sharing natural upholstery is that it ties all of these things together. Stories - of individual experience and of the planet - help us build happy & healthy homes.View all posts by Carla →

  1. Anne PerryAnne Perry01-12-2010

    I like the whole idea of sustainable furniture.
    Also, instead of tossing old stuff in the landfill, rehabilitate it.

  2. casulo1casulo101-13-2010

    Yes, I imagine we’ll be ‘mining’ from the landfills some day, though it’s better to rescue those treasures before they are needlessly buried. The older furniture pieces have the best bones, with hardwood frames that will out-last most commercial furniture on the market today.

  3. Tina OrtmanTina Ortman01-14-2010

    You are a very clear and concise writer. I look forward to more of your insights, when you find the time (wink-wink).

  4. TravonTravon01-25-2012

    Most help articles on the web are inaccurate or incoherent. Not this!

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