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Question from Dawn

Hi Debra,

Does anyone know about Ikea stuff? They claim some of their things are non voc etc. Does anyone have any actual experience though with buying anything new from them?

Irina: I did research on ikea before, and they officially used to claim (I haven’t checked for a while) and I read from other non toxic connoisseurs that IKEA has some of the highest standards for testing their products for toxicity and exceeding the set standards as well as not using flame retardants on their furniture. It was confirmed back then that their white basic dishes do not have lead or other heavy metals. The quality and durability of their furniture specifically is still often questionable though that’s my 2 cents.

Nancy: I have many pieces from Ikea. Solid wood and steel items are fine. And easy to put together….

Louise: On Debra’s suggestion, I got a lovely IKEA non-irritating green polypropylene (sp?) fake Christmas Tree in November. Love it so much am keeping it up year round, decorating each season with seasonal fun!

Eleanor: Does IKEA use fire retardant chemicals in their furniture? I know several companies have stopped using fire retardants.

Kathie: Take a look at Ikea Hemnes furniture. Solid pine. I have several pieces of the Hemnes. It might work for you.

Karen: I also have the Hemnes pieces and they are fine.

Marni: Same here.

Debra Lynn Dadd: Yes I have purchased things from IKEA for my own use and recommended them to clients but only some pieces are suitable and those are made with solid wood and they have a very light acrylic finish on them that has no odor. But then there are other pieces that are made from synthetic fabrics and particleboard so you have to read that the descriptions carefully. I want time I had the thought of going through IKEA and choosing all the furniture that I thought was acceptable. Would anybody like me to do that?

Melissa: Yes, I would greatly appreciate you recommending which pieces to purchase. Im on a limited budget and need a new couch, headboard, and dressers. Ikea fits my budget and my state of mind!!

Dottie: Debra Lynn Dadd, that would be great!

Debra’s Answer

First, here is Ikea’s Chemicals & Substances fact sheet.

Read it and you will see:

  • no BPA in anything, not even the cash register recipts
  • no brominated flame retardants. “We never add any chemical flame retardants to our products if not required to do so by national legislation. To avoid adding chemical flame retardants, we strive to use materials with inherent flame retardant properties instead, such as natural wool.”
  • no PVC
  • no phthalates in children’s products and food containers
  • formaldehyde is “substantially reduced” but not completely eliminated
  • no fluorinated (water-repellant) chemicals in shower curtains, umbrellas and ponchos
  • no chrome in leather
  • no “CMR” substances—may cause cancer, mutation or are toxic to reproduction.
  • ban on lead, cadmium and mercury content
  • ban on the use of azodyes in textiles and leather

And they invite customers to contact them if there are any questions.

Now, all that said, it’s been my experience that I have to read the labels CAREFULLY and understand materials to make sure I don’t buy a product that I consider to be toxic.

A great thing about IKEA is that they very clearly disclose all their materials on their website and on labels, so if you understand materials, you can figure out what’s toxic and what’s not. And this is why I am working so hard on Zero Toxics, so you have a place to look up materials and find out if they are toxic.

[Just as an aside one of the things I am running into is that manufacturers seem to be more willing to disclose materials now but they are less willing to explain what those materials are and their toxicity. That’s another reason why Zero Toxics is needed].

Someone mentioned HEMNES above, so I will use that as an example.


Down below the product (you may need to scroll, there is a row of tabs)

Click on “Materials and Environment”

You’ll see that the frame is made from solid pine. Perfect. It has an acrylic lacquer finish. They have used this finish for years. I have purchased pieces with this finish with no problem. I’ve recommended it to clients and have had no complaints. It is made from petroleum, so if you need to stay away from materials made from petroleum, do not purchase any products from IKEA with this finish.

But then you get to the storage boxes, which are made from particleboard which ARE outgassing formaldehyde because IKEA has not banned formaldehyde.

MANY of their furniture pieces are made with particleboard.

So in this case, if you are OK with finish, you could purchase the frame, but not the store boxes, and I would consider that to be fine. I have, in fact, purchased an IKEA bed frame with no problem. And have purchased them for clients too.

You also need to watch out for stain, which may have VOCs.

I can’t possibly go through every product at IKEA and look at each one.

Many of the products I’ve purchased in the past are no longer available.

Here is one of my favorite products: SNIGLAR CRIB 

Look at this product description: solid beech, solid beech, solid beech. And nothing else. Unfinished. They say the fabric is nylon but don’t say the filling on the mattress, Hmmmm. In any case, I would buy this crib and put a Naturepedic crib mattress in it and be perfectly happy.

In addition to the bed frame, I’ve also purchased a down comforter, cotton curtains, a kitchen island, glass food storage containers with silicon lids, water bottles, rods on which to hang kitchen accessories, shower curtains, my favorite linen dish towels, and various other items.

I just have to say that I have been shopping at IKEA for many years and have always loved it because I could get solid wood furniture and other natural materials, they have clean simple design, and great prices. But the last time I went there about six months ago I was very disappointed. The amount of natural materials used has decreased greatly and I noticed prices have gone up. That doesn’t mean you can’t find natural materials and bargains, but it is no longer the IKEA I once knew and loved.

Larry and I are actually going to be going to IKEA to look for things for our motorhome tiny house within the next month, so when I’m there I’ll take a look around and see what I can find and will add those items here.

If you have any products you are considering, post them here and I will translate for you.

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