5 Tips for Creating a Toxic-Free Nursery or Bedroom
Planning on renovating a baby or kid’s room? See our non-toxic renovation guide for tips on creating a safe and beautiful space for your child.
Naturally, we remember to choose organic baby care products or find non-toxic cups, teethers, and toys for our kids. However, it’s easy to forget that our furniture, flooring, decor and other parts of the home can also expose them to harmful toxins. As brands become increasingly eco-conscious, health-friendly alternatives are popping up on the market. In this guide, we’ll look at 5 ways you can create a toxic-free room for your child when you know what to choose
1. Choose Low-VOC or VOC-Free Paints
Decorating the walls is one of the best parts of designing a nursery or bedroom for your child, and the excitement begins with finding the perfect paint shade. However, not all paints are made equally, so there’s more beyond hue to consider when making a selection. VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are chemicals that easily enter the bloodstream and affect normal functioning of the central nervous system. Plywood, particleboard and glues are some major culprits of VOCs, but they’re found in high concentrations in standard interior paint formulas.
There are brands making eco-friendly paints that are a lot less toxic than conventional paints, and some make their paints VOC-free. Look for VOC-free or at least low-VOC paint when designing the room’s walls. Be sure to let the paint dry and air out for several days before your child sleeps in the room.
Behr Premium Plus, which is Home Depot’s brand of paint, is a line of VOC-free paint that has probably the widest selections of hues and finishes. Milk Paint and YOLO Colorhouse are some other brands making VOC-free paint. Harmony from Sherwin-Williams and Natura from Benjamin Moor are organic lines of VOC-free paint hues made VOC-free.
2. Select Safer Floors
Choosing the best flooring option for your child’s room may take some research, but it’s worth it. Many hardwood floors have varnishes you can smell for months after they’re put in. What you’re smelling is VOCs, so opt for a polyurethane-free varnish for hardwood floors if you’re having them put in.
Bamboo is an eco-friendly alternative to wood, and it’s actually a lot more durable, scratch-resistant and water-resistant compared to wood flooring. Another alternative gaining popularity is cork flooring made from the bark of the cork oak tree. It’s not quite as hard as bamboo, but it’s stronger than you might think, and is totally safe for your baby or toddler to crawl around on.
If you’re having carpet put in, or if you’re placing rugs down, find carpeting or rugs that are made with naturally sourced materials instead of synthetic fibers. Synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester contain VOCs and other toxins, as well as toxic adhesives keeping them in place. Organic natural fibers sourced from wool, cotton, sisal or jute are much better for your child’s room because they’re free of VOCs and other harmful chemicals. Find out more about the health risks of carpet and how to choose safer options.
3. Set Up Soft, Diffused Lighting
Newborn babies are brand new to light, so nursery lighting should be very soft and dim. Blue light, which is emitted by sunlight, digital screens and LED light bulbs, should be avoided in nurseries, as well as in children’s rooms. Overexposure to blue light puts children of all ages at a higher risk for developing eyesight issues, as their eyes absorb more blue light than adult eyes. Make sure all light bulbs are covered and diffused by a lampshade. Select “soft white” light bulbs instead of LED light bulbs, which emit more blue light.
Installing a dimmer switch is a great way to help your child wind down for bedtime in the evening. It can also prevent too much brightness from flooding a nursery, especially if your lampshades are thin or you have a ceiling light your baby looks upward at. Dimmer switches come in handy for middle-of-the-night diaper changes and feedings, when you only want just enough light to see what you’re doing. Also, opt for table lamps and ceiling lights instead of floor lamps, which can lead to dangerous accidents for crawling babies and waddling toddlers.
4. Choose Non-Toxic Furniture Pieces
When furnishing your child’s room, look into the materials each furniture piece is made with before committing to it. First, make sure a piece of furniture passes all legal safety requirements. Second, see if it’s made with flame retardants—it may say “fire-resistant.” If it does have flame retardants, you can be sure it’s toxic. Old vintage pieces of furniture are typically made with old paint that contains lead, and many wood furniture pieces are made with harmful chemical varnishes.
Look for children’s furniture made with sustainable materials, such as bamboo or wood. Bamboo is a non-toxic, very hard material that is also non-chaffing, and doesn’t require varnish. If you choose wood furniture, opt for pieces made with sustainable wood and built out of solid wood pieces instead of wood that’s been made into a pulp and mixed with VOC-containing glues and formaldehyde, which is a respiratory irritant linked to cancer. You also want wood furniture to be finished with a non-toxic varnish.
Your best bet is to find a brand you trust that makes non-toxic children’s furniture, and buy furniture sets from them. The best brands to buy from are the ones that are honest about the materials going into their products, and ones that aren’t should be crossed off your list.
See below for our top non-toxic furniture picks.
5. Improve Ventilation in the Room
The smallest bedrooms are typically given to the smallest family members, and these rooms don’t always have the best ventilation. Adequate air circulation is required to push out old air and supply the room with clean air and fresh oxygen—a big need for the developing brain. There are a few things you can do to improve airflow in your child’s bedroom:
- Get mechanical ventilation, whereby the outside air is filtered before being blown into your home. This gives you fresh air from the outdoors that has been filtered so that it’s even cleaner than outside air.
- Get an air purifier, which cleans the air of airborne allergens, pathogens and pollutants. Find one that operates quietly and doesn’t require frequent filter changes.
- Get a ceiling fan put in the room if you don’t already have one, because it’s great for pushing stagnant air out of an enclosed space, and works a lot better than just opening the window.
Non-Toxic Solutions for a Safer Nursery or Bedroom
Indoor air quality can be worse than outdoor pollution depending on what toxins you’re exposed to inside your home. The most common objects in a home, such as flooring and furniture, can emit harmful chemicals that have been linked to health problems. The best way to keep your child’s room clean and safe is to do your research on elements you bring into the room and find non-toxic alternatives to elements like furniture, paint and flooring.
Our Non-toxic Nursery Furniture Picks
Oeuf Sparrow Crib
Made of solid birch and and Baltic birch plywood, the Sparrow crib’s finishes are non-toxic, water-based and free of VOC health hazards.With its wide range of finishes, this stylish and versatile crib will co-ordinate with any nursery decor. Slim side rails and spindles give this crib a light, airy feel and make it a favorite of interior designers. Its high quality and sturdy construction means it will last for generations.
Made of Baltic birch plywood and eco-MDF and non-toxic, water-based finishes, the Sparrow’s 3 deep drawers provide plenty of storage room.
Soft, sumptuous and free of flame retardants, the Como Glider is one you’ll sink right into for rest and relaxation. It includes a calming and soothing glide, extra soft seat and back cushion, and beautifully tailored sides.
Made of eco-friendly 100% cotton and non-toxic dyes, the Lorena Canals machine washable Bereber rug is available in two sizes and adds style and comfort to any room or hallway.
The GATHRE Mini+ USA Map Mat is free of toxins, PVC, phthalates, and lead and can be used as wall decor, a floor covering or a portable playmat.
Made with the safest, most renewable materials available including sustainable New Zealand Pine, lead and phthalate free finishes, CARB II compliant MDF, the Spruce Tree Bookcase adds playful joy to any room. With exceptional functionality, it holds roughly 12-15 children’s books on each branch, with enough space in between branches to store some of your other favorite items.
- Preparing for a new baby? Here are 9 simple non-toxic living tips to help you make a safe and welcoming environment free of nasties for your newborn.
- Your child will spend almost 4000 hours on their mattress each and every year until they graduate high school. See how you can ensure their bed won’t expose them to harmful chemicals each night in our guide to choosing a non-toxic mattress.