Non-Toxic Windows, Blinds & Curtains

Updated October 2019


1. Window materials – Windows made of thermally broken aluminum are the top choice for non-toxic windows. Accoya wood is also a healthy window option. Some vinyl and fiberglass can be considered, though they do offgas.

2. Window treatments – Natural untreated fabric, natural fibre roll down blinds, non-painted aluminum blinds and aluminum screens. Blackout bamboo shades, polyester curtains, hemp, cotton and paper pleated shades should be considered. Avoid PVC shades/curtains, flame retardant and wrinkle-free finishes, and wood and aluminum blinds with finishes that offgas.

3. Window sealing – Polyurethane canned foam is the norm, which does cure quite well. The least toxic option is backer rod.

I recommend all of the products here, some products have affiliate programs and some do not. Upon purchase, I earn a small commission though affiliate links at no extra cost to you.

Non-Toxic Curtains and Blinds


The best non-toxic window coverings are natural untreated fabric, natural fibre roll down blinds, aluminum blinds and aluminum screens.

For blackout shades, bamboo shades with liners, polyester curtains, hemp, cotton and paper pleated shades should be considered.

Avoid PVC shades/curtains, curtains highly treated with flame retardants and other chemicals, and wood and aluminum blinds with finishes that offgas.

1. Fabric


Fabric curtains are usually treated with wrinkle-free chemicals and flame retardants. Natural fabrics do break down in UV light but are a healthier option. Look for Oeko-Tex or GOTs certified fabrics to guarantee no chemical treatments.

Libeco linen is not GOTS certified but is usually grown without pesticides and the natural colours don't contain dyes.






2. Blinds and Shutters


blindschalet.com
Bamboo

Green versions include bamboo roll down blinds that are not treated with chemicals like those from Earthshade and Blinds Chalet.

Check to see what the backing is if any.

Wood

I have not found wooden blinds with a 0 VOC finish since this is so hard to accomplish with something that holds up to UV. Real wood blinds are also prone to warping. Real wood is best used in shutters.

Faux wood blinds are PVC, but composite blinds can be made of a safer plastic mixed with wood.

www.earthshade.com
Aluminum

Aluminum blinds used to use powder coated metal which was very safe. You can find some older blinds like this. But currently all metal blinds in North America, Asia and Europe are made with a polyester based baked on enamel finish that does offgas. I have also seen additives, for example, Hunter Douglas ads an anti static additive to the coating. This may be something like Teflon, which would offgas as well.

You can find brushed aluminum blinds with no paint or coating, like those from Earthshade. At some retailers, brushed aluminum does have a coating.


3. Between the Glass


Between the glass is a really cool option that eliminates the worry of offgassing. Here is an example from Pella.

4. Screens


Conventional screens are very smelly at first. They can be left outside to offgas, or aluminum screens can be used instead. Marvin is one brand that makes aluminum options.

Non-Toxic Blackout Shades 


1. Bamboo Shades


blindschalet.com
Blinds Chalet blackout liner on the bamboo shades is PVC- free and they claim that it is environmentally friendly.














2. Polyester Curtains


Polyester with No PVC will work for many. If you can wash and or air them out first that will help:
West Elm 100% polyester curtains still have that new fabric toxic smell but will offgas.

These Eclipse polyester curtains from Amazon do not contain flame retardants, can be washed and aired out and should be tolerable after washing and airing for most people.

These Sleep Well polyester curtains do not guarantee no flame retardants or fabric treatments, but they are 100% polyester and free of PVC. They are washable. You can remove that new fabric smell by washing. Some have reported these having no smell and others more sensitive still can pick up the new fabric smell.

3. 100% Blackout Shades


earthshade.com
Earthshade makes eco blackout shades and rollers that are probably the safest ready-made option on the market. The blackout roller shades do contain 35 ppb formaldehyde which is produced when pressing the polyester sheets together to laminate them with heat. The shades have also been processed with bleach. Those are the only two treatments of the fabric.

Generally my recommendation on formaldehyde (as long as it's not urea) is to give it 3 months of offgassing. When installed with a proper blackout system these will get you the most light blocking of the list.




4. Something Simple for Light Blocking


Another option to consider is this paper black pleated shade - the company claims in an email they do not give off any hazardous chemicals (I bought the natural colour version of this - it has a slight toxic smell and needs to be offgassed only for a short while).

They are not that great at blocking light compared to the other options and you will need to double them up to make a bigger difference. But these are super inexpensive, easy to install quickly, and worked perfectly in my tiny house.

5. Hemp


Another really safe option (truly the safest) would be to make your own blackout curtains with pesticide-free hemp fabric.

Though it's difficult to make traditional looking curtains from this thick, not very flexible fabric.








6. Cotton


IKEA Room Darkening Curtains are made with 100% cotton are somewhat light blocking. They should be washed or aired out before using.

Avoid: vinyl roller shades and vinyl mini-blinds, PVC and conventional blackout curtains.







Non-Toxic Window Frame Options


The top choice for green non-toxic window frames is aluminum (thermally broken). Accoya naturally treated wood can be considered another top choice, though wood is more difficult to upkeep.

Fiberglass and Vinyl are the next best choices - they do offgas, but some brands will cure quite quickly or be low enough emissions to not cause any issues.

Non-Accoya wood is treated with pesticides, insecticides and fungicides and it prone to warping and water damage. Let's look deeper:

1. Metal Window Frames


Aluminum windows are the healthiest, safest option. It is what I used in my tiny house (pictured left). On the interior, I added wood framing trim. You can also use decorative moldings around the windows.

I used DYG windows from Canada. Milgard is a brand that makes thermally broken all aluminum windows (US and Canada).

What is used in the windows as a thermal break is blocked by the glass and metal so there is no need to worry about much offgassing. Thermally broken aluminum windows are all aluminum with polyurethane inside.

Non thermally broken aluminum windows are not a good idea to use as they conduct heat and cold and easily condensate. Aluminum clad means there is an exterior of aluminum which usually has wood inside.

The most extremely sensitive clients can pick up the seal, PVC glass stop and some glues used.

The finishes I have seen on aluminum windows are baked on enamel, resin paints, powder coated and anodized. Some baked on enamel finishes and paints can offgas, the other two are considered safe. The gaskets are made out of rubber or PVC.

2. Wooden Window Frames


Wood windows are usually treated with fungicides, pesticides and insecicides. You could use a sealer that seals those chemicals like AFM Safe Seal, AFM Transitional Primer or Zinsser Shellac.

Safer Wood

Accoya wood used in some window brands uses a non-toxic process called acetylation to naturally provide rot resistance. They use no chemical fungicides or mildewcides and they claim this process helps to obtain less shrinking and swelling than most solid wood windows. Loewen is one of the brands that uses Accoya, and allows you to choose your paint brand.

Custom Wood

You could go with totally custom made wood windows to avoid fungicides/pesticides, but they are more expensive and you still have to consider what kind of sealer you can tolerate on the inside and outside. For an exterior sealer see my post on paints and sealers.

Problems with Wooden Windows

All wood (through and through) windows are not a good idea as they do not hold up well to moisture in the long run, Accoya wood claims to have solved this problem.

You can also consider ones that are wood on the inside and a more weather resistant material on the outside if you like the look of wood inside. Consider also the glue that is used in conventional wood windows could be irritating for the sensitive person.

Wood Treatments

Marvin's wood windows (which have aluminum on the exterior) are treated with TimberTreat pesticide, tebuconazole and propiconazole fungicides, an unlisted insecticide and mineral oil. Pella and Anderson also make wood windows that are treated with the same or similar chemicals (they are also aluminum on the exterior).

3. Fiberglass Window Frames


Pella Window frames from pella.com
Fiberglass offgasses VOCs and some sensitive people do report reacting to it. Though it may be tolerable for some. Some types and brands are better than others (in terms of offgassing) and this could result in a preference of fiberglass over vinyl or vice versa.

Marvin's Ultrex was not tolerated by the very sensitive though some less sensitive have done well with it. Marvin has two different kinds of fiberglass, one has an acrylic component and one has a polyurethane component. You may find them to be different with the polyurethane one being better tolerated. Pella fiberglass is tolerated by some sensitive folks.

Kolbe has their own fiberglass called Glastra which is mixed with another polymer (plastic).





4. Vinyl Window Frames



Vinyl is generally not healthy, but since this is a hard plastic, many very sensitive individuals report tolerating it. I did not pick up any offgassing on the vinyl windows I tested (and used in a little camping trailer).

I can pick up the offgssing in some of them used in apartments under one year old. Others have reported reacting with new ones, some let them offgas for a while before installing. Personally, with a bit of time to offgas, I find these to be good. Better than fiberglass, but not as good as aluminum.

Fibrex is a PVC and wood composite made by Anderson which some sensitive folks have reported being too high in offgassing for them.

Vinyl Components

Vinyl components can be used in any window frame type. Look into the gasket, window stops, jamb liners and tracks which can all be PVC.  I have seen some companies (like Alpine), replace the PVC stop with aluminum. More details on Alpine (which makes fiebrglass and vinyl windows) and other low toxin "High Performance" windows in this post on Passive Houses.

What are the High Quality Trusted Window Brands?


High quality window companies recommend by architects include: Marvin, Kolbe, Anderson, Pella, and Wasco. Alpine for High Performance windows.

Are Gas filled Windows Non-Toxic? 


Windows filled with argon or krypton gas have a higher insulative value and both gasses are considered non-toxic.

Are Low-E Coatings Non-Toxic?


The two main types of Low-E coatings are both non-toxic. The"soft coat" which is a mechanically applied silver coating that is within a double pane window system. You will have no exposure to the silver. A "hard coat" is a layer of tin oxide that is applied while the glass is still hot. The tin is a more integral part of the glass in this case, and is therefore not a risk.


Sealing Around Windows


Caulking


The first two I would test out are AFM Caulk and silicone. Silicone caulks all have different odours/offgassing and rates of curing. Try Chemlink and GE.

I have a post on caulking that goes into more detail.

Sealing Around the Frame


Plastic backer rod (polyethylene) can be used to seal around windows. This is non-toxic and odourless alternative to polyurethane canned spray foam.

Many people do tolerate the canned spray foams after some offgassing (give it 24 hours to cure or more). Great Stuff is a common one to find easily online and in stores. Handi-Foam is another brand, that is certified with Greenguard Gold for more assurance (but I cannot tell the difference between the two).

Wool is another option, if you are sure you won't have moisture issues around windows. I prefer not to have wool around windows.

Window Flashing


For zero-VOC window flashing use TYPAR AT. They do not recommend this being used in the rough openings, and it doesn't fit all building codes.





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


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28 comments:

Unknown said...

Where do you find Aluminum windows with the baked on enamel? What brand name?

Unknown said...

Hello! What do you recommend for renters? Should we run the risk of being billed by installing entirely different window coverings altogether? I want to do so much to change what my little one's are exposed to. I'm just unsure how to go about it as I do not own my home and it use to be military housing so lead paint was used in my home, though sealed. I appreciate any recommendations you have to offer! Thanks!

elle said...

Hello! What do you recommend for renters? Should we run the risk of being billed by installing entirely different window coverings altogether? I want to do so much to change what my little one's are exposed to. I'm just unsure how to go about it as I do not own my home and it use to be military housing so lead paint was used in my home, though sealed. I appreciate any recommendations you have to offer! Thanks!

Corinne said...

Can you talk to them about what you would be allowed to do? The paper ones would be easy to take down. Or can you swap out curtains and put the old ones back?

manyfires said...

Hi there! I loved this article. I recently emailed a manufacturer to ask about my blackout shades and got this response: The Sound Asleep™ Blackout Window Curtain Liner does NOT contain any PVC/vinyl, phthalates, BPA, lead or flame retardants. It is made of 100% Polyester with a foam lining which is polypropylene acid ester/titanium oxide."

Based on that, do you think the product is still toxic... and should be replaced? I'm thinking of getting an Earthshade product but wanted to ask your thoughts. Thanks!

Corinne said...

This sounds generally non-toxic, however I am wondering if the polyester is glued to the plastic. For the extremely sensitive the plastic will also have a smell. I would judge this product based on how it smells to you.

manyfires said...

Thanks so much! In general, neither my son nor I seem sensitive to the material, but I'm working on phasing out toxins in the home and wanted to be thorough. I think our solution will be to get an Earthshade roller (on rails - so it blocks out as much light as possible) and keep the darkout curtains to pull around the edges.

Tory Field said...

Hi Corinne!
You mention using aluminum windows with baked on enamel finish. I'm wondering where you found those? I've been calling around and having a hard time finding a place to source all aluminum windows....
Thanks so much,
Tory

Corinne said...

Yes, I have heard they can be hard to source. I got mine in Vancouver, Canada.

Jason said...

I see that you recommend "between the glass" window coverings and link to the Pella Designer Series wood windows. How do you feel about the windows themselves?

Corinne said...

They have wood, fiberglass and vinyl, the same precautions would apply as mentioned in the post. I have not tested this brand. It was more an example of between the glass window coverings.

Unknown said...

Thank you for this useful information! Could you please share where in Vancouver you found your aluminum windows, or the manufacturer? I have been able to find powder coated, but not baked enamel.
Thank you! Hannah

Unknown said...

Thank you for your excellent website! You recommend aluminum or steel windows. However, there is a lot of info out there about condensation gathering on metal (due to the way it conducts the cold from outside, which produces condensation when it meets the warm inside air). And...where there is condensation, there is often mold or mold potential. (The mold seems to grow on any wood, drywall, etc. that the water drips onto--not, obviously, on the metal itself). Any suggestions to avoid this? Thanks!

Corinne said...

The ones for houses (not RVs) contain a thermal break. I did not have condensation on mine.

Unknown said...

Corinne: Thank you for your answer to my question re thermal breaks and condensation! I'm having trouble finding local aluminum windows that are also relatively energy efficient. So, I'm wondering if you think SCS Global Services Indoor Advantage Gold windows from Andersen (https://www.scscertified.com/products/cert_pdfs/AndersenCorporation_2017_SCS-IAQ-01638_s.pdf) are safe for 1) the chemically sensitive, and 2) reducing mold risk. The ones I'm looking at are 100 series (made of Fibrex) and A series (solid wood core, outside covered in fibrex, inside covered with your choice of stain, paint, or smooth vinyl type finish. Andersen assures me that the windows still meet the Indoor Advantage Gold certification, even when they have one of these indoor finishes: pain, stain, vinyl type coating). Can also leave bare wood on inside, paint oneself). I'm about to make a decision on replacing all windows in my house, and would greatly appreciate your input. Thank you again
for this amazing site!! (I will be doing all my Amazon shopping using your link!)

Thomas Venney said...

Thanks

Unknown said...

Hi there I bought 100% poliester blackout curtains for my baby room. And I am wondering how safe they could be in the nursery. They have very distinct smell and I afraid to put them in the nursery since they will be above the heat vent. Do you think they might start to spread toxins in the room?

SewMyOwnCurtain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CT said...

Don Young windows in San Antonio TX manufactures one of the nicest aluminum windows I have seen. The website is a little dated. Also, Milgard I believe has a nice baked on enamel finish aluminum window.

Unknown said...

Hello. You speak about aluminum for windows being a safe option...but what about the aluminum blinds? Are they a safe option?

Unknown said...

It's also a good option to buy curtains , sheets or material at the thrift store or second hand else where to make your own black out window shades. I have fibromyalgia and bad chemical sensitivity so I use a lot of second hand materials.

Corinne said...

That can work for some, I would not be able to use second-hand Fabrics to to contamination.

Kelly and Kurt said...

Hi, Do most shades contain flame retardant? I've been removing those cellular shades from my house because I assumed they did?

many thanks,

Kelly

Corinne said...

Probably do. What are they made out of? You could ask the company if you know where they are from if they are compliant with flame resistant standards. Many polyester items have flame retardants on them.

Unknown said...

Hello, decent article.
1. "Avoid vinyl mini-blinds" why not?
2. Why people keep stating that you recommend "offgas aluminum blinds" as I understand offgas is a bad thing, isn't it? meaning blinds will give off a chemical, especially a harmful one, in the form of a gas.
thanks

Corinne Segura said...

They do offgas - emit VOCs, but you might be able to offgas them, as in let them fully offgas.

Vinyl is a much stronger odour and chemical.

Unknown said...

Which aluminum window manufacturer did you use? I'm looking for double hungs Milgard only makes singlehung there's Crystal in NY but they don't have flange type in DH availble at present.

Corinne Segura said...

These are the windows I used http://www.dygwindows.com/aluminium-windows/

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