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For the rest of a non-toxic kitchen series, see dedicated posts on:
Butcher Block Counters
In butcher block countertops, the glues may or may not be tolerable for the chemically sensitive. Though most wood glues are very low in toxins.
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 Counters
More and more I’m seeing thick solid slab wooden 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.
Here is a non-toxic countertop mix that does not contain fly ash, vinyl or latex.
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 Counters
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.
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 Stone Counters
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.
Hemp Oil as a sealer 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 Counters
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.
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 odor 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 Counters
Paperstone and Richlite (pictured) are paper-based, claim 0 VOC, and are light options (ideal for trailers!).
Richlite is new paper, Paperstone is recycled.
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.
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.
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 counters are a unique and beautiful option that are totally natural and safe.
It needs to be a darker color 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 labor-intensive, if you do it yourself it’s very affordable.
Tempered Glass Counters
Tempered glass is costly but is a very pure option.
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 colors 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.
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