Would you please recommend some resources for buying a fabric covered sofa that does not off-gas?

Asked by Mike Webb
Minneapolis, MN

I had to return a brand-new $800 USA-made 70% polypropylene/30% polyester fabric sofa because it caused me:headaches,sore throat,sinus and chest yellow-green mucus discharge,sore watery eyes and a bitter-tasting mouth continuously for two weeks, even with windows open and fans blowing 24/7. Any help is appreciated. Thanks, a Sensitive Senior. 


Molly McCabe, AKBD, CGP, CAPS

Answered by Molly McCabe, AKBD, CGP, CAPS

Bainbridge Island, WA

A Kitchen That Works LLC

June 3, 2013

Dear Mike,

There are a number of substances that may be causing you discomfort. My guess is fire retardants along with formaldehyde.

If you read the links below, I think you will conclude that there is little opportunity for you to purchase a sofa manufactured in the United States without fire retardants.

As suggested in previous Green Home Guide posts, your best strategy may be to:

  1. purchase a sofa from overseas such as Europe where manufacturing standards when it comes to chemical use is much stricter
  2. purchase a used sofa that has hopefully off-gassed all that it has to off-gas, or
  3. reupholster a used piece of furniture with environmentally friendly fabrics and stuffing such as natural latex or wool.

I wish I had simpler options for you but I don’t.

Good luck!


For more information:

Read "I'd like to buy a "green" sofa that will hold up well with our two young children and not cost me $8,000. Suggestions?" a Q&A answered by Kirsten Flynn.

Also, check Kirsten Flynn's Q&A "Where can I purchase green furniture for my sons, especially a bed?

"How can I buy furniture that is safe from chemicals?" is another related Q&A on this topic.

Tagged In: home air quality

Do you have a question about greening your home? GreenHomeGuide invites you to Ask A Pro. Let our network of experienced green building professionals – architects, designers, contractors, electricians, energy experts, landscapers, tile & stone specialists, and more – help you find the right solution.