In a healthy home, I personally would not consider shelf and drawer liners made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride aka vinyl) including fabric backed with PVC, or paper coated in PVC, SBR rubber (which is high in VOCs), or cork (which is usually pressed together with a polyurethane or formaldehyde adhesive that offgasses as well).
I consider EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate), polyethylene, and polypropylene to be safe eco-friendly plastics, especially for this application.
Other non-toxic or natural options include paper, fabric, acrylic-coated wallpaper, and wood veneer.
The following options are made for shelves, drawers (kitchen and other rooms), dressers, and wire carts. Some can be used in the refrigerator.
I would consider all of these options safe for kitchens, kids’ rooms, and nurseries.
All of the options here are unscented.
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1. EVA Plastic Liners
I like non-PVC plastic with no adhesive on the back best for shelf liners.
I like this clear EVA one from Amazon.
You can also get a solid color heavy-duty EVA Drawer Liner (also non-adhesive).
IKEA also makes EVA liners.
I like EVA because it doesn’t contain phthalates or bisphenols like BPA. EVA foam does have a slight odor but non-foam EVA has practically no odor or offgassing.
EVA is used in medical and food packaging applications.
The only plastics that contain bisphenols are polycarbonate and epoxy (and about 3/4 of polycarbonate contains bisphenols, source).
2. Silicone Drawer Liners
Silicone is very grippy – it’s good for drawers, cabinets, refrigerators, freezers, desks, or anywhere where you want things to grip to it.
Silicone liners are non-toxic, I find I need to air it out for a few hours when it’s brand new. They do not contain an adhesive.
I like these pastel-colored ones which are made from food-grade silicone and have a high degree of heat resistance.
This bright blue one is from Amazon as well.
Silicone is not made with bisphenols or phthalates. Silicone does usually contain trace amounts of Cadmium which is a contaminant of the colorants or manufacturing process, according to Tamara Rubin who has tested silicone. However, when used as a shelf liner I would not be concerned about this.
3. Polyethylene (PE/PET) Liners
Polyethylene (PE) is easier to slide items across and so it’s better for kitchen shelves.
Polyethylene, including PET (polyethylene terephthalate/polyest), HDPE (high density polyethylene), and LDPE (low density polyethylene) are not known to contain BPA or phthalates (source). PE generally does not have an odor or offgas VOCs.
PE is widely used in applications where a food-safe, or food contact safe, plastic is needed.
4. Liners for Wire Shelves
These liners are a thicker and sturdier plastic used to add a stable layer to wire shelves.
Polypropylene (PP) is one of the safest plastics.
PP plastics are not known to contain BPA or phthalates (source). Rigid PP is odorless and does not offgas VOCs. It’s used in many food storage applications.
You can also find wire shelf liners made of EVA & PE (two plastics I mention in the above sections), like the Duck Brand Clear Classic Easy Liner Shelf Liner.
5. Paper, Cloth & Wallpaper
When I was a child we used paper to line our kitchen cabinet shelves and drawers, so I’m partial to this plastic-free look.
Some of the old-school ones are actual paper (this one is not coated with PVC) and they are harder to find. Many of the paper ones are now backed or coated with PVC. And many are scented now, so be sure to check.
You can use an actual wallpaper, and a non-toxic wallpaper glue if you prefer that look.
Spoonflower (pictured) makes a PVC-free peel-and-stick wallpaper that is available on Amazon. Their acrylic wallpapers have cute designs and work as shelf liners on many surfaces.
You can also use fabric to line shelves but you normally find this backed with PVC to make it stay in place. I would use a non-woven or cloth wallpaper (that is PVC-free) instead.
Buy non-PVC peel and stick wallpaper from Spoonflower.
Buy non-PVC liner from the Container Store.
(In terms of “contact paper”, usually used to line the exterior of cabinets or countertops, I have only seen that come in PVC vinyl. And that does offgas VOCs as well as contain plasticizers of concern – likely phthalates).
For bedroom shelves or drawers you can use a wood veneer liner.
This cedar liner is only wood, though the reviews describe it as finicky.
I would not use cork shelf liners as the glue used to press the cork together offgasses too much, in my opinion, to make it a truly non-toxic option.
Buy real cedar wood liner from Amazon.
Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist Practitioner with 8 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.