Are you seeking to use healthier, more sustainable materials inside your furniture? We have a guide that will help you choose chemical-free materials and learn how to use them – whether you’re a maker, a designer specifying natural materials for a client, a professional upholsterer or are having some upholstery work done for you. Download the FREE ‘Buying Guide to Natural Upholstery Materials‘.
Alternative natural and organic upholstery materials are becoming more accessible for individuals who are chemically sensitive or who simply seek to create a healthy, non-toxic living environment.
Natural Latex Rubber, processed without any harmful chemicals or petroleum products, is tapped from Para Rubber (Hevea brasiliensis) trees, today grown mainly in southeast Asia. Latex is a natural repellant to dust mites & other allergens, and is also resistant to mold and mildew. It is used as a healthy, eco-friendly replacement for urethane foam in cushions & padding for upholstery. Biodegradable 100% natural latex is created from the latex of trees – formed into a foam using minimal chemicals, heated and then thoroughly washed to remove traces of chemicals, leaving you with just the latex foam.
Organic cotton batting is used as a foundation padding layer in upholstery.
Wool batting forms a naturally flame retardant barrier between latex foam and the outer fabric. Wool is also mold, mildew and dust mite resistant. It is used to ‘soften the edges’ in the top layer of upholstery.
Organic cotton twill or a tight-weave muslin is used as a ticking layer between the wool batting and the outer fabric to prevent wool fibers from migrating through the cover fabric and ‘pilling’ on the surface.
In the very early days of upholstery, there were no synthetics or foams. Aside from the materials mentioned above, any discussion of natural upholstery would not be complete without including traditional materials.
You’ll find some of these materials used in antique furniture, as well as in fine modern pieces using traditional re-upholstery techniques:
- Coconut fiber – the rough fibers of the coconut husk forms a ‘crunchy’ layer in traditional applications. If you buy a fresh coconut, you’ll find some of these fibers on the outside of the hard inner shell.
- Spanish moss – often mistaken for horsehair with its long fibers, but a closer look reveals a plant material.
- Hog hair or horse hair – yes, this is the wiry hair from a real animal, often found as a tightly packed dense layers in old chairs.
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