Non-Toxic Countertops

Updated September 2019

This post contains affiliate links, upon purchase I earn a small commission at not extra cost to you. 


If you need assistance choosing countertops for your sensitivities, please contact me for a one-on-one consultation. 


For the rest of a non-toxic kitchen, see dedicated posts on:

Non-Toxic Countertops


Butcher Block

The glues may or may not be tolerable. They are affordable.

Check to make sure it's solid wood all the way through, as the ones I have seen at IKEA are not solid wood.

Hemp oil is my top pick for a wood finish, beeswax can be added as well.






Solid Wood

More and more I'm seeing thick solid slab countertops. This can be a good option if you can source a solid slab of wood.

This example is in a bathroom, but I have seen this in kitchens as well.









Concrete

Here is a non-toxic countertop mix that does not contain fly ash, vinyl or latex.

Seal with AFM Safecoat 2K Pro Urethane from GDCWalnut Sealer, or Tung Oil. Odies Oil and Daddy Vans also make non-toxic oil and wax concrete sealers, but they do not disclose all of their ingredients.

This is a very affordable option, especially if you DIY.




Granite and Marble

Find out what was used as a sealant and resin, or find a raw piece that does not contain either of those.

Ubatuba granite does not need a sealer so that is a major plus side to that. Other types of dense granite don't require a sealer (you will have to find out how dense it is/perform a water test).

The downside of most types of granite and marble is that they need to be resealed every year or two and you need to make sure you can tolerate a sealer.

Walnut Oil works on granite and marble if they are not glossy. Another low toxin sealer is Meta Creme.

Tung should not be used on marble. Whether it can be used on granite is still a debate. Linseed should not be used on either type because it does yellow.

Test for radioactivity with granite if you are concerned with radon.

They don't always need plywood as an underlayment, it depends on the thickness. You could also try using a different type of underlayment.

Other Natural Stones

Soapstone via DesignBuildMADE.com
Onyx needs a sealer that is reapplied every few years.

Sandstone is a cool option, just use a non-toxic sealer.

Soapstone is a good natural option that is usually sealed with mineral oil but can be sealed with Milk Paint Soapstone Sealer. That soapstone sealer will work on onyx and sandstone as long as they are honed and don't already have a gloss finish on them.

Quartzite is a stone that is often very dense, not requiring a sealer.

With Solid Slate, find out if a sealant has been used. You can use Milk Paint Walnut sealer on raw slate as well as Tung Oil. Some slate is dense enough to not require a sealer.

Hemp Oil should work on all the stones and concrete as well as wood (I haven't seen it done on stone/concrete but it's also a drying oil like the others, and the companies claim it will work). Do a test to check for yellowing on light stones.

Stainless Steel, Aluminum and Copper

Use a non-toxic underlayment.

Copper would require a sealer.

Stainless steel can look very modern and be very safe for the chemically sensitive.

Some who are EMF sensitive use a ground fault interrupter.

Quartz

I used Cambria Quartz in my tiny home (pictured) and it's absolutely beautiful. It is made of ground quartz, pigment and resin binders. They claim that the final product is fully cured (no VOCs) but it did have an offgassing odour for the first few days. After that, I found it totally safe.

I did not use any glues to fasten it. The price is comparable to marble, but more than granite. It is a long-lasting non-porous material that doesn't need a sealer. It could be offgassed outside until it doesn't have a smell.

Do not allow them to spray a chemical cleaner on it after they cut it and before they install it. Stay away from the dust while they are cutting it.

Solid Surface

Paper-Based 

Paperstone and Richlite (pictured) are paper-based, claim 0 VOC, and are light options (ideal for trailers!).

Richlite is new paper, Paperstone is recycled.

Glass/Concrete

Recycled glass is very similar to quartz and is also considered as safe. Icestone is a brand that makes cement & glass countertops - they claim 0 VOC and need a marble/granite sealer.

Plastics

Corian is made from an acrylic polymer and alumina trihydrate and is GreenGuard Gold certified.

Durat is appealing because it might be the lightest option for a trailer, it is low VOC, polyester and acrylic (made partly from recycled cell phones). This may not be preferable for people with sensitivities.

Another plastic option that is super light is Metem, which is recycled HDPE and claims no offgassing. I tested it out and found it very safe, it's also incredibly light and a good option for a trailer. Here is my video about it.

Avonite makes an acrylic option and a "resin" option that are GreenGuard certified.

Tile

A good option for those who are chemically sensitive. The challenge is that concrete grouts are not normally what is used for a tile countertop, because it's so porous -it's easy to get grime, food, dust and eventually mold. You could add a densifier and a sealer but most tile counters are not made with concrete grout. A good non-toxic tile sealer is AFM Grout Sealer.

You can also find solid porcelain countertops now like iTOP|Ker which are a good option, but pricey.


Tadelakt

Tadelakt counters are a unique and beautiful option that are totally natural and safe. It needs to be a darker colour because it is susceptible to staining and needs a wooden edge, as the plaster edge is vulnerable. It requires some upkeep. Here's a really handy how-to for earthen countertops. Although it's very labour intensive, if you do it yourself it's very affordable.

Tempered Glass

Tempered glass is costly but is a very pure option.

Laminate/Formica

There is some misunderstanding on whether laminate is toxic. The top layer of laminate is melamine plastic, but the substrate is usually particle board which offgasses formaldehyde. In lightweight trailers the substrate can be polystyrene (EPS) foam. Even then, the problem can be in strong glues used to hold these together.

There is another way. You can buy Formica sheets at Home Depot and attach them to the substrate of your choosing. You may put this over an existing laminate counter, over offgassed plywood, EPS foam on another substrate.

And although it does not look as upscale as many of the other options, it can look chic and modern in some of the new colours like solid black. This DIY countertop is one of the most affordable options, and can be very low toxins.

Construction Adhesive for Countertops


The best adhesive for countertops if you do choose to use one to glue it to the cabinets below, is Almighty Adhesive. It's extremely tolerable and very low in toxins.






Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist with 5 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.


Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.comDid you find this post helpful? If so you can buy me a coffee to support the research behind this blog. Thank you!

60 comments:

Epoxy resins Services said...

Such a Great house and nice post.

Anonymous said...

Is a gas stove really bad to have? Do you think running the hood fan,having a properly maintained range, opening a window and having lots of plants in the house, takes care of the fumes?

Corinne said...

If you have Chronic Fatigue or other chronic illness I would avoid it for sure. Or if you are at risk for autoimmune diseases. If you are building and have an option I would for sure choose electric.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply.

wowwnc said...

I love your blog!

Thank you for creating it to give help & hope to others.

Do you have recommendations (brand names) for small, low EMF refrigerators?

Much appreciation to you.

Corinne said...

Hi,
I don't know that there is a low EMF refrigerator as the coils needed to cool it produce quite a lot of EMFs. I would take steps to put a shielded fabric around the fridge or shield you bed or bedroom if you think it's really bothering you: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/02/09/powerful-and-simple-tips-to-help-lower-your-emf-risks.aspx

SYoungquist said...

Hello,
As you've done quite a bit of research, I was wondering if you had come across or had any thoughts on Columbia Forest Product's Purebond plywood for cabinets. Supposedly with it's soy binder, the off gassing and VOC's are not as much of a problem. I'm considering this for our cabinets (possibly with solid-wood faces) in our kitchen, and am looking for informed opinions. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hello,
What do you think about soapstone countertops and are you familiar with paperstone countertops?

Corinne said...

I don't know what paperstone is but soapstone I think is a good choice. It's unlikely someone would react to stone and it doesnt need a sealer. but if you need multiple pieces to make the countertop then I would want to know what kind of glue is used.

Anonymous said...

http://www.paperstoneproducts.com/products-panels-slate.php
Made from recycled paper. VOC free, food safe no radon.
They are a good use for recycled material.

Keri Smith said...

I've been playing with the idea of installing Marble or granite countertops in my kitchen. I agree that having a chemical free kitchen is important. Thanks for the article!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article! I want to install Cambria in my kitchen but am concerned about what "glue" will be used for a seam. Also, I would like a glass backsplash but am not certain about the adhesive. I am VERY chemically sensitive. Can you advise how you handle the Cambria?

Corinne said...

Cambria doesn't have seams. There is an epoxy that the material is made of though, so I would try and get a scrap to test that was recently made. It's not necessary to fasten it down with anything. But check out the post on adhesives and try testing those for your own sensitivities.

Linda Rowe said...

I'm very chemically sensitive and am reacting to my new Cambria countertops that were sprayed with a granite cleaner at installation. I contacted Cambria USA and learned that the resin is polyester-based - I am highly sensitive to polyester! Does anyone have any thoughts or suggestions? We're currently looking at the granite cleaner and what would remove a possible residue. However, my reactions [respiratory and neurological] have me thinking the problem is the resin. I thought I would be good with these Greenguard counters, but so far is it not good.

Corinne said...

yeah, I caught them just as they were putting that cleaner on and we washed it thoroughly with vinegar outside before it was brought in. The cleaner smell should not have soaked in those as it is no porous. As I mentioned it did have a smell for the first few days. I would just give it a while and if that doesn't get better put it outside for a while. it will offgas

Sue Houston said...

Lovely post.

Veronica George said...

What did you mean you didn't use glue to fasten your quartz countertop? How did you secure it?

Corinne said...

It is just sitting there. The sink holds it in place but it is heavy enough that it doesn't move. You can mechanically fasten it or use AFM Almighty Adhesive.

Simon Upping said...

Hi I'm sourcing for furniture for my new home and am considering aluminium furniture. However I came across sites that says that aluminum is toxic. But aluminium makers said they are not. One said that their's is made from aluminium allow grade 6063-T5 and that its non-toxic. Can anyone clarify? Thanks very much for your help.

Corinne said...

Aluminum itself is not toxic. The paints on it may be. Powder-coated is best as it cures quickly and should be tolerable.

Simon Upping said...

Thanks Corrine. I tried to google aluminium toxicity of furnishings but could not find any. What I discovered was warnings linked to cookware and foil and breathing in aluminium. Could there be a danger that since the aluminium furniture is a permanent fixture, we are breathing in aluminium? Examples of sites I'd looked at: http://www.mountsinai.org/patient-care/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/aluminum-toxicity

http://www.arltma.com/Articles/AlumToxDoc.htm

Should I be concerned? Thanks very much for your input.

Corinne said...

Hi, that is about ingesting it or breathing in the dust.

Simon Upping said...

Thanks Corinne

Mark W. said...

Great writing

Bob Lowe said...

Great post. Lots of good information. A quartz counter top seem ideal for keeping things clean and not harboring bacteria. What exactly do they use to for a sealant and resin that would last a long time but also be toxic free. Does it last as long as normal sealant? http://rogangranite.com/quartz/

Unknown said...

How are you suppose to test for radioactivity & lead in the counter tops and in tiles etc? We are looking into buying a home and I am a little overwhelmed at all the crap in our environment and all the possible and probable contaminants. Its starting to seem impossible to buy a safe home and is almost starting to get to the point where we are just going to have to pick and choose what is absolutely necessary and what we can deal with.

Corinne said...

Granite test for radioactivity and glazed tiles for radioactivity and lead - if you want to be super careful.

Corinne said...

Hi Linda, did the cambria ever offgas enough for you?

Kelly Bailey said...

I had a set of cabinets built for my home from a cabinetmaker in Flippin, AR. He made a gorgeous set of cabinets that were chemical free/formaldhyde free, all solid wood. When I got them delivered to my home I was really worried about smells, but when I got close to them and even sat next to them they didn't smell and there wasn't any off gassing of any kind. I've had my cabinets in my home now for about a year and still no problems. Love them! Glad I went with healthycabinetmakers.com.

Corinne said...

How far is their geographical range for kitchen and bathroom cabinets?

Kelly Bailey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kelly Bailey said...

nation wide

Jayeed Baq said...

Cambria Quartz in your tiny home and it's absolutely beautiful. Color combination of kitchen is really amazing. Thanks for this insightful article.
Aran mia

Unknown said...

l
Looking for a non toxic utility sink. Anyone have any ideas? Is there any off gassing with a stainless steal sink? Didn't want that look but I can not find a utility sink that is not plastic. Porcelain will chip and is expensive.

Corinne said...

Stainless does not offgas.

scotty123 said...

InovaStone has been providing quality natural stone worktops to individual and corporate consumers since 2000. Supplying you with just the best of service, our team are completely licensed to template worktops which they later on cut and polish in our work spaces, and finally return to match by the similar team.

Anonymous said...

I'm really chemically sensitive and am responding to my new Cambria kitchen countertops which were sprayed using a granite solution at installation. Does anybody have any ideas or recommendations?
http://classicquartzstone.com

Corinne said...

They should avoid spraying them with this cleaning product at installation. You will have to wash it off on sides where you can reach it.

Ana john said...

Don't waste your money on these pans. they work for a few weeks, but after that you'll be using more and more oil to keep food from sticking. Eventually even the oil won't help. One of the worst kitchen utensils I ever bought. 

Corinne said...

Not sure what you are referring to!

Walsh Built Homes said...

I just stumbled upon this blog and wanted to share a cabinet line we use in our homes that is conscious of keeping the toxins out of kitchens. Www.walcraftcabinetry.com . hope this helps someone ;0)

Charles R Bailey Cabinetmakers said...

Are you looking for custom, solid wood, formaldehyde free cabinets & furniture? We can build your custom project with chemical free woods & finishes. You can check us out at www.charlesrbaileycabinets.com

Bonnie B. said...

I am very sensitive to chemicals and may need a new refrigerator. Also, all of my family has died of cancers (my siblings in their 40s) and I have an autoimmune disease and asthma. What can be done to have a fridge that doesn't outgas a lot of plastic into the food in it? And are the compressors always smelly and need to be run ahead of installation? I read the tips listed above, but am wondering what other thoughts people might have for me. Any suggestions on a brand? (Also - we can't have a really small fridge as we need a family sized one.) Thanks much.

Corinne said...

I have heard conflicting things about which ones are better. You may find a floor model that has offgassed or leave it in the garage running for a bit. As for which brand or type is the best for offgassing there isn't much agreement, you have to sniff a few of them if you can stand the exposures. You would think stainless would be better but that's not what I have seen.

Lindsay Craig said...

Hi Corrine, my husband and I have just purchased our first home and although I have not been tested for MCS I know I am very sensitive to inorganic chemicals and materials, as well as my son. I am not well versed in your area of expertise so I am trying my best to get a quick, as thorough as possible, education on these subjects as we are crunched for time.

We are redoing our floors in solid raw hardwood and was wondering your thoughts on Rubio Monocoat Oil Plus? We also are planning on doing a nail in installation but not sure what exactly is underneath the current floors. Seeing if we have to get soft plywood is there certain brands you would recommend? And considering we get the lowest VOC possible how long on average does it take for soft plywood to off gas?

Lastly, we are taking out the upper cabinets in the kitchen and putting in solid wood exposed shelving but plan to extend counter top space. I'm not sure what kind of cabinets are currently installed but its like there is a think plastic sticker covering the particle or what board underneath. We are wanting to just take them all out to not have to match these. So hopefully we can salvage some older off gassed cabinets, but if not I was wondering if you have any thoughts or knowledge on ikea cabinets considering they adhere to a higher standard than the US. I came across this option here: https://gimmethegoodstuff.org/non-toxic-kitchen-cabinets-for-project-one-eleven/
Any thoughts? I do plan on having an Austin Air to help with these two renovations.

Thank you so much for sharing your journey and knowledge with us all. You are very much appreciated.

Charles R Bailey Cabinetmakers said...

Using Ikea cabinetry is not exactly safe. As you have to deal with pressed board. That has formaldehyde and takes forever to outgass. If your looking for safe, formaldehyde free, chemical free cabinets check us out at www.charlesrbaileycabinetmakers.com. We would love to talk to you and help you out on your cabinetry.

Corinne said...

Hi Lindsay, Yes there is certainly a lot of info to get through! A lot of this is talked about on the blog. If you can't find what you are looking for, or it's too much information to go through, then let's set up a consultation. We can get through everything you need for your reno in an hour or less. corinnesegura@gmail.com. It is 60 USD per hour. More info on the consulting and contact page.

Fern Lady said...

I am very chemically sensitive & need a new washer/dryer unit. Any recommendations or ideas?

johnny said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

Hi Corinne, You wrote "The [faucets] I have seen that are 100% lead-free are made of 100% solid stainless steel." Since Parmir tested positive, do you have another lead free faucet recommendation that is reasonably priced? thanks!

Parmir claims to make 100% lead-free faucets but a client used these lead swabs to test a kitchen and bathroom faucet and the test proved positive.

The other options for 100% lead-free faucets are pricy. MGS an Italian company and Waterstone Faucets also make 100% stainless faucets. Another one I have seen is this one called Jerry.

John A said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Harry Jack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

I have MCS and CFS and my big challenge is the range. I don't use gas ranges, but I struggle to find an electric oven that I can use without it making me very ill, with daily use for the first year. When I had to get a new one 5 years ago, I tried running it while I was out of the house, etc., but ended up giving it to a friend to off-gas. Hoping it will be okay now. Now in the market for a refrigerator, and not sure what to do. Don't have an outlet in the garage that can accommodate a fridge. Wish there were more options for people like us.

Corinne said...

A lot of people do the garage strategy. A small fridge using a regular plug.

JerryWalton said...

nice one....

Unknown said...

If you are looking at remodeling your kitchen and want to keep it safe without the chemicals and formaldehyde, email me at crbcabinets@suddenlink.net. We would be happy to help you.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing!

Maria Elena said...

Great work!

Anna said...

Ice Stone now includes a built in sealer. They said it was a new addition, to make it more convenient diverge consumer (no more yearly sealing). They were not willing to share with me the ingredient details, as they said it is proprietary info. However, t get did give me a generalized statement on it. May I share it with you? I am unsure if I should get they product because of the built in sealer.

Post a Comment