Natural Upholstery: Information for Upholstery Professionals and Designers

START HERE if you’re a designer or upholstery professional working with natural latex foam & wool batting in place of ’standard’ urethane foam & polyester batting – a transition that’s quite painless once you’re familiar with the differences. No special expertise is necessary to work with them. More and more upholstery professionals are finding them “surprisingly easy to work with”. We’re also hearing from an increasing demographic of clients looking for the peace of mind that comes with using healthy, non-toxic materials that are free of harmful chemicals and flame retardants.

In case it is helpful to share this information with your customer, we have a page written specifically for them. Just send them this link: ‘Natural Upholstery Resources: Working with your Designer or Upholstery Professional’. Check out the ‘Upholsterer’s Guide to Natural Materials’ which includes a free download that gives you the dimensions of the materials + space to list how much of each material you need.

How much does it cost?

See this post to see four examples of natural upholstery project costs.

Natural Upholstery materials list

Here are the Natural Upholstery foundation materials you will need:

  1. 100% Natural Latex Foam – Oeko-Tex or GOLS certified are recommended choices
  2. Wool Batting (84″ wide) – Oeko-Tex certified is recommended
  3. Organic Cotton Ticking Fabric (58″ wide) – GOTS certified is recommended
  4. Organic Cotton Batting – GOTS certified is recommended

Here are the ‘conventional’ materials they replace:

(see below for a detailed break-out of resources to learn more about each material)

  1. Natural latex foam – replaces urethane foam
  2. Wool batting – replaces polyester batting
  3. Organic cotton ticking fabric – replaces conventional (non-organic) cotton ticking fabric
  4. Organic cotton batting – replaces conventional (non-organic) cotton upholstery batting

Working with natural upholstery materials – learning resources:

100% Natural Dunlop Latex Foam – replaces urethane foam

  • Made from the sap of the rubber tree Hevea brasiliensis.
  • Available in certified Oeko-Tex or GOLS Organic (request current certificates from your chosen supplier).
  • Available in several firmnesses: Learn about Latex Firmness & Density and watch the video.
  • The same standard upholstery foam dimensions apply for latex foam as for urethane foam. If you’re a professional, you’ll no-doubt have your own method of measuring, but if you need a reference, see ‘How to Measure your Cushion for Latex Foam’, and download the worksheet to help with your calculations.
  • Latex foam is heavier than urethane foam. See the video Natural Latex Foam – How Much does it Weigh?
  • If you’re looking to invest in a non-toxic water-based upholstery glue system, I have had good luck with Simalfa (#309 is the non-flame-retardant product I use in my shop). The smallest amount they sell is 5 lbs, and the recommended stainless steel spray gun is a hefty investment, but well worth the investment if you’re in the market for a health-friendly glue).

Premium Wool Batting – replaces polyester batting

Organic Cotton Ticking Fabric – replaces ‘conventional’ cotton ticking fabric

  • Similar in function to down-proof ticking in conventional upholstery.
  • Ticking is required to prevent the ‘barbed’ wool fibers from migrating through a woven upholstery cover fabric (it’s not necessary with leather, non-wovens or fabrics with a coating on the back).
  • Use only where wool batting comes in contact with cover fabric. See ‘What is ticking fabric and why do I need it?
  • There are two application options for cushions: (1) sew as separate cushion cover or (2) cut as a second layer along with cover fabric and treat both layers as one during construction. If you are constructing a separate cushion cover, it is recommended that the cover be slightly larger (about 1/2″ in each dimension) than the outer cushion cover, to allow the inner cushion to fill out the cushion and into the corners.
  • In general, the recommendation is to purchase the same amount of this 58-inch wide ticking fabric as 54-inch upholstery cover fabric for your project (this assumes you are using wool batting in place of polyester batting over the entire upholstered piece).

Organic Cotton Batting – replaces ‘conventional’ cotton upholstery batting

  • Recommended as a replacement anywhere ‘conventional’ batting is used in upholstery.
  • Used mainly as an upholstery foundation layer in tight upholstery (though some antique loose cushions may contain cotton batting over marshall springs).
  • A note about cotton upholstery batting (though it’s assumed that as a professional you are familiar with standard upholstery practices) – be sure you don’t confuse the lightweight (wool or polyester) batting with this heavier cotton batting. In most cases you won’t be using this batting for cushions (except in some antique cushions that use marshall springs). It is most often used in the base layers to create a dense padding, and to shape seats or backs around coil springs.

Do you have questions that aren’t answered here? Check out our comprehensive FAQs, or Contact me, and I will do my best to answer.