I’m in the market for a non-toxic footstool for my husband. He has a chair that he uses in a quiet corner of our house and would like to be able to put his feet up. Since it’s not in a main room of our house, I’m not looking for investment-quality furniture but I would like it to look nice and be built to last.
I thought it might be interesting to show the steps I take and thought process I go through before I buy a new product for my home.
Identify a Trusted Source
A quick search of my go-to, non-toxic furniture makers, Medley and Cisco Brothers, confirmed my suspicion that all of their options would cost far more than I wanted to spend. So, I went to another favorite source; Etsy.
I really like buying from Etsy for many reasons. I like to support small businesses, particularly those that are women-owned, and handmade goods are generally environmentally-friendly. Most importantly, Etsy sells many products made with natural materials and the artisans are often willing to customize when materials are not optimal.
Eliminate Problematic Materials
I chose to steer away from stools with wooden legs because it eliminates the need to evaluate adhesives and stains, each of which are potentially toxic. I also chose to avoid leather because even vegetable-tanned leather can be processed with harmful chemicals. This led me to focus on stuffed cushions or poufs to serve as a footrest.
Evaluate the Materials
Most Etsy shops do a good job of identifying the materials used in each item. The more detail that the artisan provides, the more comfortable I feel that I can adequately assess the product. I look for natural fabrics and fills and then make note of questions I have for the artisan.
I assumed that many of the items I looked at have a zipper so that the cover can be washed, but most didn’t list this as a material. Though zippers are made of plastic, it is a minor exposure and I am not worried about it.
Look for Certifications
When purchasing fabric, it is optimal to find products certified by GOTS or Oeko-Tex. Read more about certifications here.
Contact the Producer
I always like to verify the materials with the artisan and confirm that there is nothing else used in the product.
For fabrics, it’s important to know what types of dyes are used and if they have any treatments, like stain resistance. This is often not specified in the description.
I also ask for verification of organic claims and certifications.
Finally, I ask about the ability to customize if there is a material that I would like to substitute for something less toxic.
I started by searching for organic poufs. Adding the word “organic” to the search helps to identify products that attempt to use more natural materials. It is a good filter but does not guarantee that the finished product is organic. I found dozens of options and narrowed down my choice to three items. Each have pros and cons.
- Crochet part: natural linen cord
- Filling bag: natural linen fabric
- Filling: Styrofoam beads.
- Linen is not beached, no dyes used, 100 % pure Baltic linen
- The fabric for both the inner and outer fabric is undyed linen.It’s not certified organic but flax (which is used to make linen) requires little to no pesticides and can be mechanically processed into linen fabric with few chemicals. Some cheaper linen can be processed with chemicals so I’ve reached out to the artisan to confirm that the linen is mechanically processed and to see if it has any certifications.
- I love that it is undyed because the dying process can be chemically intensive.
- Styrofoam beads are not something I would buy. Read more here about Styrofoam. I confirmed that it is possible to buy this unfilled. I would fill it with this GOTS certified organic cotton fill.
- Exterior: 100% organic wool
- Interior: Organic linen
- Stuffed with high quality polystyrene beads
- I love that the wool and linen are organic. I have asked for confirmation of organic certification and also inquired about the dyes. They look to be undyed but I want to be sure.
- Polystyrene is the same things as Styrofoam. Styrofoam is a trademarked brand name for polystyrene. I would not buy this. I have asked the artisan if I can buy the cover without any filling.
- Filling: 100% Organic GOTS Certified Cotton
- Insert Cover Fabric: 100% Cotton, lightweight
- Zip-Off Cover Fabric:
- Max Cotton (100% Cotton)
- Canal (60% cotton/40% polyester)
- Mimos (50 % Cotton/50% Polyester)
- Bella (67% Cotton/33% Linen)
- Velvet (65% cotton/35% Polyester)
- Water/ Stain repellent fabric (60% Cotton/40% Polyester)
- This is the only option I found that has a GOTS certified fill. This is ideal.
- The insert cover is 100% cotton. There is no information about dyes or certifications.
- The outer cover is available in many options, including synthetic fabrics and stain repellent treatments. This raises concerns about the 100% cotton fabric. Most cotton fabric is dyed and processed using harsh chemicals. It seems unlikely that this cotton is organic or certified.
- Interestingly, this option has the best fill but the most questionable outer fabric.
While I am still waiting to get some answers from the artisans, I am leaning toward option 2, assuming I can supply my fill and the wool and linen are undyed. If I can’t confirm the type of dye used on the wool, I will go with option 1 and use my own fill. Either will be non-toxic and will get the job done beautifully!