- DIY Upholstery
- Natural Upholstery Materials
- Toxins in Furniture
- Working with an Upholsterer
- Worksheets & Calculations
Due to transitions within the business, we have discontinued sales of materials in October 2019, and will be shifting our full focus to the education side of upholstery and natural materials.
See our full listing of vendors for natural upholstery materials here: ‘Where to Buy Healthy Non-Toxic Materials for Upholstery’
GOLS Certified 100% Natural Organic Latex Foam is non-toxic, safe for children, and produced under fair labor standards.
Latex is naturally:
- resistant to dust mites
- antimicrobial & anti fungal
We have a few pages tailored to different interests: professional upholsterers & designers, DIY makers, and those who are hiring a professional to reupholster their furniture. ‘Natural Upholstery Resources’ is the best place to start.
Since upholstery styles vary so widely, that’s a difficult call, but I’ve assembled a reference to help you get a rough idea of how much your project might cost.
Hopefully you can find an upholsterer who is open to learning about & working with materials that may be unfamiliar to them. Please visit our Start Here page, where you can find resources to help you work together to get your project done.
Natural materials are used in upholstery in much the same way as ‘conventional’ foam & padding, with the noted exception that the wool batting is not glued to the foam (as polyester batting is glued to urethane foam in conventional upholstery). Instead, NaturalUpholstery.com’s wool batting must be either sewn or stapled around the latex foam (see demo video here). It has a thin spun backing (see photo here) that makes this easy.
Note: with the wool batting, the outer upholstery fabric will need to be lined with ticking fabric to prevent the wool fibers from traveling through to the surface of the upholstery (ticking fabric is not necessary with leather or other non-woven material).
Yes, you can see and purchase samples in our shop.
We have GOLS certified organic 100% Natural Dunlop Latex Foam available in sizes up to 80 inches long. One important thing to keep in mind is that latex is a relatively heavy material compared to ’standard’ urethane cushion foam, and a single large sofa cushion could weigh 60-70 lbs, depending on size and thickness. This may not be too much of a concern once it’s in place on your sofa, but the weight could be an issue for those working with it and moving it around.
Watch this short video demonstration on how to measure an existing cushion to determine what size latex foam to replace the old foam
The 24 x 82-inch foam sheets that are standard sizing for urethane foam are not standard for latex. The maximum length for latex foam is 80″, maximum width of 76″ and maximum thickness of 6″ (with some exceptions). You can order any size custom cut within these parameters. See our custom cut page for details on how to order.
Firmness is a subjective choice. You can learn about natural latex firmness & density here.
It’s best to use a firmer foam for thicknesses 3 inches or less. Learn more about natural latex firmness & density here.
We’ve found that most upholsterers are willing to work with natural materials once they realize they are not so very different than ‘conventional’ materials to work with. Check out this page on working with a professional upholsterer to help you get started.
To help connect people who need services with those who provide them, we’re compiling a resource list of upholsterers around the country who are willing to work with these natural upholstery foundation materials. A link will be placed here when that resource becomes available.
If you have an addition to the list, we’d love your help! Just drop us an email through our contact form, and include the upholsterer’s or craftsperson’s name, business location and phone number, and we’ll add them to the list!
Yes, the medium density dunlop foam would roughly equate to a medium density polyurethane foam. Learn more about natural latex firmness & density here.
Latex can be custom cut to any length up to 80″ x any width up to 76″ x any thickness up to 6″. Check out our latex custom cuts page for details on how to order.
An electric carving knife works nicely if you don’t have an upholsterer’s saw. Watch this video to learn how to cut latex foam.
I’ve found that this is very subjective. Some people are sensitive and perceive a strong smell, while others do not notice any smell at all. If you’re worried about the smell, I recommend you order a sample.
We are committed to providing eco-friendly and socially conscious, humanely produced materials that are third party certified by reputable organizations such as GOLS or Oeko-tex – both certifying organizations hold the bar high on human safety standards. At this time, latex is the only material that I have found for use in sofa cushions that has these certifications and is toxin-free.
Soy foam is basically a ‘polyurethane based foam with a touch of soy added for marketing purposes’, as explained in this post by Oecotextiles: What kind of filling for your sofa cushions?
I recommend a layer of wool batting between the latex and the cover fabric, for three basic reasons:
- provides an added layer of protection for your latex foam from UV exposure
- recognized as a NATURAL flame barrier that meets the revised CA TB117-2013 standard for flame retardants in upholstery
- softens the edges of your cushion (as conventional polyester batting does in standard upholstery practice)
- provides enough coverage to prevent the latex holes from showing through the cover fabric.
You can read more in this blog post.
We recommend wrapping your natural latex foam with wool batting. A cotton ticking fabric envelope wrapped around the wool will help prevent the wool fibers from migrating through to the surface of your outer upholstery fabric. Both layers will help to protect the natural latex from UV damage and drying out.
Our Premium Wool Batting is all natural, free of chemicals, and humanely produced in New Zealand.
Check out ‘About our Premium Wool Batting for Natural Upholstery’ for more information.
Wool batting is recommended to cover all latex foam used in any part of upholstery for the following reasons – Wool:
- is a natural flame retardant barrier – see the post ‘Interpreting the CA Flame Retardants Standard for Upholstered Furniture’ for more info. See this related post.
- provides added protection for the latex foam from UV light that passes through the cover fabric.
- provides enough coverage to prevent the latex holes from showing through the cover fabric.
- softens the edges of your upholstery cushion or padding.
- is a healthy & sustainable alternative to polyester batting.
See ‘About Wool Batting for Natural Upholstery’ for more information.
The beauty of any properly applied batting is that it creates a smooth, rounded finish and softens the edges of foam corners. It doesn’t add much thickness to the finished surface so you don’t have to adjust the size of your cushion cover to accommodate the batting.
Our Premium Wool Batting comes with a thin spun backing, which is also wool (you can see it in the image on the wool product page). The backing makes the wool much easier to handle and work with, and you can use it to hold everything in place. It even holds up to light stapling – it’s stronger than it looks!
You CAN use standard polyester upholstery batting to wrap your latex foam. In this case either a ticking fabric or a heavy cover fabric (such as leather) is recommended to protect the foam from light. Latex foam breaks down quickly when exposed to light – especially UV light, though I’ve seen evidence that indoor fluorescent and incandescent lighting can be detrimental as well. The wool batting and the ticking fabric each provides a measure of protection, and the two combined will help keep your latex foam soft and long-lasting.
Note: using no batting at all is not recommended as it will result in faster breakdown of your foam due to increased abrasion between the cover fabric and foam.
Here’s an example of a wool batting that comes with a thin spun backing, which is also wool:
A backing makes it possible to secure your batting without the use of glue. It needs to be strong enough to enable either hand stitching or plier-stapling around the edges of your latex foam core, and to hold up to stapling (with care) to wood in tight upholstery.
If you purchase a wool batting that does not have this backing, you can use a thin fabric to serve the same purpose. I like to use open weave cotton such as gauze or harem cloth for this purpose, but a thin muslin could work as well.
For instructions on how to cut and ‘book-wrap’ your foam with the most economical use of wool, check out this video.
Yes, you can use cotton instead of wool, but cotton batting will increase the dimensions of your cushion, since it does not compress as much as wool. In that case you would need to reduce the size of your foam to get the same size cushion. A rough guess might be to reduce each foam dimension by 1/2” for a 1.5” thick cotton batting, but you would have to experiment to see what works. Note: you don’t need the ticking fabric with cotton, though a thin cover sewn around the cotton would make it easier to stuff into the outer cushion cover, as cotton tends to stick to everything it touches. Another important consideration is fire resistance – wool is naturally resistant to flame, while cotton is not.
Yes, you can place a layer of cotton over the foam first, and then add the wool on top of that. The wool forms the outer layer on all upholstery, where it provides a fire retardant barrier, and also acts to soften the edges, just as polyester batting does in conventional upholstery. See related post ‘The benefits of wool batting’.
Organic cotton batting is a heavier batting which is meant to be used as a foundation material in upholstery, not as a replacement for dacron/polyester, which is a lighter weight ‘finishing’ layer between the outer fabric and the layer beneath. The wool batting is the correct weight, and is used to replace the dacron/polyester layer.
Polyester batting is glued in place in conventional upholstery. In natural upholstery, instead of glue, the wool batting has a thin spun backing that can be stapled or stitched, depending on the upholstery application. The unbacked side of the wool sticks quite nicely to burlap (the material used on sofa and chair backs as a support layer for the lightweight ‘finish’ batting) and to latex foam.
Please note that wool batting requires an extra layer of ticking fabric between the outer fabric and the wool batting to prevent the wool fibers from migrating through to the fabric surface.
If you’re wondering why the extra layer of ‘ticking fabric’ is recommended between the wool batting and outer upholstery fabric, the answer is two-fold:
- the organic cotton ticking fabric provides an added layer of protection from light. Latex foam breaks down quickly when exposed to light – especially UV light, though I’ve seen evidence that indoor fluorescent and incandescent lighting can be detrimental as well. Both the wool batting and the ticking fabric provide a measure of protection, and the two combined will help keep your latex foam soft and long-lasting.
- if you are using the wool batting with a woven upholstery fabric, ticking fabric is strongly recommended to prevent migration of the wool fibers through the outer fabric, resulting in unsightly pilling on the fabric surface.
You can read more in this blog post.
Note: If you are using leather or a similar non-woven, heavy upholstery, then the ticking is not necessary.
There are two ways to apply the ticking fabric:
- cut the ticking fabric the same size as the outer upholstery fabric and apply them together as a single piece in sewing or stapling (I sometimes sew sew or serge the two layers together at the edges prior to working with it).
- apply the ticking fabric separate from the upholstery fabric – for example, sewing an inner cushion cover, completely separate from the outer cover.
Let’s say you’re purchasing a 54-58” wide cotton ticking fabric, you will need about the same yardage as your outer cover fabric. You may cut the two layers at the same time and treat them as one piece, or build a separate inner cover out of the ticking fabric. If you build a separate inner cover, it is recommended that you make it slightly larger to allow it to fill out the corners of the outer cover.
Here’s a post that tells how to ‘test’ your frame: Evaluating your upholstery project
I have a question regarding FABRIC SOURCES for my first upholstery project. Is it necessary to purchase from an ‘upholstery’ shop or can I go to my local fabric store? Are there any concerns I should be aware of with respect to the quality of upholstery fabrics from an all-purpose fabric store? Given this is my first project, I do not want to buy expensive fabric, but I do want the quality to be durable.
- Crease test: if you fold the fabric on a corner and press it tightly between thumb & fingers, it should not leave a stiff crease, and it should not feel ‘crunchy’, which is a sign that those weak threads could break easily.
- Fraying: take note of how much it frays at the edge, as this could make it more difficult to work with, though fraying does not necessarily indicate low quality. Surging the edges helps with a fabric that unravels easily.
- Stretch test: pull the fabric across the grain, then diagonally – it will always stretch more on the (diagonal) bias. If it seems overly stretchy on the straight grain, pass it up.
- Workability: smooth a section of the fabric over your knee to get the feel of it’s ‘workability’ for upholstery. Does it drape nicely? Is it stiff and difficult to fold? Is it too thick and bulky? or too thin?
- True to grain: If there’s a pattern or print, and even with solids, make sure the grain is straight on the roll and not skewed – crooked weave is often a reason for discounting fabrics.
- Samples: If you’re looking at samples, check out this video on how to read fabric sample books (or memo samples labeled with fabric info).
- Fabrics with nap: If you’re considering a fabric with nap, check out this video for 3 tips for working with velvet and other napped fabrics.
The short answer is yes, keep everything. Traditional upholstery materials, such as horsehair, used in pre-40s furniture can be very long-lasting. No matter what the age, I recommend re-using as much of the original padding as possible as it defines the chair’s shape and results in much less work and expense. Do keep the original layers even if you have to replace everything, as they provide a valuable guide to follow when building those layers back on with new material.
Organic Cotton Batting works well as a foundation layer in upholstery, and is often the only padding used in antique chairs. It generally yields a firmer seat than foam, with firmness depending on what’s underneath it. If the chair has springs it can yield a very comfortable seat. If it has only webbing, it will feel firmer.
I prefer to use the original materials (or replace with equivalent material) whenever possible to retain the integrity of the chair’s purpose and history.
Wool batting is NOT suitable as a foundational support layer – it replaces polyester batting, which serves to ‘soften the edges’ on the surface rather than providing a substantive padding layer.
Yes. Our cotton is certified by NICS (Nature’s International Certification Services), which has verified through inspection and review that this product has met the requirements of the National Organic Standards. You can look up NCIS and other USDA-Accredited Certifying Agents on the USDA/NOP* Organic Integrity database, which lists all certificates on their website (*National Organic Program).
Yes, though this is not information they give out to everyone, due to privacy concerns. The Lot Number on the certificate indicates information about location, field, and seed used by the grower.
The most recent shipment (2018) of NaturalUpholstery.com’s Organic Cotton Batting was grown in New Mexico, USA
Yes, the batting is manufactured in Portland, OR.
GOLS stands for ‘Global Organic Latex Standard’ which was introduced in 2012 to ensure a clear path and procedure on the route from field level/ farmer level to certified organic latex product manufacturer. Among other factors, manufacturers that are given the go-ahead to produce organic products under the GOLS logo would have to follow mandatory social and environmental regulations. This will make the final consumer socially and environmentally responsible, indirectly. See ‘What is a third party Certification?’.
The Oeko-Tex Standard 100 standard is concerned primarily with health and safety of textile products (including latex foam). It tests only the end product, not the processing – for example, wastewater treatment is not included. It is NOT an organic certification and products bearing this mark are not necessarily made from organically grown fibers. Look for the GOTS or GOLS label for organic certification. See ‘What does the Oekotex Standard 100 test for?’ and ‘What is a third party Certification?’
Textile products bearing the Oeko-Tex 100 certification mark:
- Do not contain allergenic dye-stuffs and dye stuffs that form carcinogenic arylamines.
- Have been tested for pesticides and chlorinated phenoles.
- Have been tested for the release of heavy metals under artificial perspiration conditions.
- Formaldehyde is banned; other aldehyde limits are significantly lower than the required legal limits.
- Have a skin friendly pH.
- Are free from chloro-organic carriers.
- Are free from biologically active finishes. (Thanks to the Two Sisters Ecotextiles blog for this information)
We don’t currently sell upholstery cover fabric, but have begun a resource list of Natural & Organic Fabric for Upholstery. Check it out, and leave a comment about a fabric resource you’ve found (or ‘un-found’) to help others find their perfect fabric.
Not yet, but it seems there may be hope on the horizon. Check out this recent post by the Two Sisters Ecotextiles blog: What’s new in stain repellants?
Your foam will usually be one single unglued piece, though we recently found out our supplier does not offer Soft (D65) latex in thickness > 3″ without gluing layers together. Please inquire for your specific order if this is a concern for you. Our shop sometimes offers (discount) ‘one-of-a-kind’ pieces that have glue seams – these are clearly identified as such (e.g. states that it is glued in the item description). See this related post about the ‘feel’ of glued natural latex foam.
I use a non-toxic water-based glue system in my shop – Simalfa, which unfortunately is not sold in smaller quantities than 5 gallons. The home-made solution I have used is Aleene’s Tacky Glue which is a water-based non-toxic white glue. You can mix the glue with water to make it brushable – apply glue to both surfaces of the latex and join together. Allow it to dry overnight before using it. This glue method will stiffen the foam slightly at the seam, which may be more noticeable with vertically joined pieces (joined to make a longer or wider cushion) than horizontally joined pieces (joined to make a thicker cushion). In other words, it could feel uncomfortable if it were placed in the middle of a seat. If you glue two pieces to make a thicker cushion (creating a horizontal seam) it may feel slightly firmer overall, but should perform the same as a single piece.
If you’re using a spray glue made for gluing foam together (which are usually high VOC content), the seam will be less noticeable since these glues remain more flexible when dry.
I have an upholster willing to make cushions for us using natural latex and GOTS certified fabric that we purchased. However, we don’t know what kind of glue can be used. The upholsterer has only used a conventional (probably toxic) spray glue, so I offered to do some research. What suggestions for glues do you have? Thank you!
If your upholsterer is using wool batting, there is no need for glue, since wool will stick naturally to the foam. You don’t need to glue it to the foam, but you do need to wrap it to hold the wool in place as you stuff it into the cushion cover. Our Premium Wool Batting comes with a thin spun backing, which is perfect for this purpose. You can either hand stitch or staple it around the edges. Remember that when you use wool batting, you’ll need a ‘ticking’ layer (a tight-weave organic cotton fabric) between the batting and the outer upholstery fabric to keep the wool fibers from migrating through the cover fabric (exceptions are leather and other non-woven covers).
Here are a few to get the conversation started:
- Does it contain formaldehyde (often found in particle board or plywood)?
- Does the foam contain Flame Retardants?
- Where is it made (in the USA or imported)?
- Does the furniture company employ sustainable and socially beneficial business practices (local resources, working conditions, equality for genders)?
As of February, 2020, I am still doing limited local upholstery work in SW Montana, and not accepting long-distance work. Please be advised of the following physical limitations regarding size and volume of the work I can take in:
- Due to space constraints with education activities going on at the same time in the workroom, I am not accepting full-sized sofas or recliners, and can only work on one item at a time (with some exceptions for smaller items & soft goods).
- Access to the workroom is up a flight of narrow stairs. Due to illness within the family, I am no longer able to offer pick-up service or handling of items above a certain weight & size. Delivery and pickup of each item (including up & down the stairs) will be your responsibility.
If you are not local to SW Montana, check out the National Upholstery Association’s resource for finding an upholsterer in your area, then refer to this resource for help working with your local upholsterer on using natural materials in your project.
Sorry, we do not make custom furniture, but can provide support to help you get the right materials to take to your local upholsterer.
When trying to create a cleaner, safer environment for your family, you may be considering duck or goose down as a substitute for foam or polyester stuffing. Animal cruelty is certainly a concern with down, and you can check the source of your down through third-party organizations. Just search ‘cruelty-free down’ for listings for ethically-sourced down. The same process applies if you want to be sure that your down purchase is toxin-free.
Sorry, we do not sell ‘raw’ down or any pre-made down envelopes or pillows for upholstery use at this time.
Sorry, we do not sell wood products.