This is a list of non-toxic eco-friendly desks and office chairs by type and material.
For healthy desks there are a number of options:
- Solid wood is a classic. Most water-based finishes used on solid wood furniture cure rather quickly. This isn’t a cheap option though, especially if you want drawers. But cheaper furniture is made from MDF which is rather high in formaldehyde.
- Metal and wood is another combination if you want to cut down on complexity and cost. Metal legs are generally safe, especially if they are made of a metal that doesn’t require a finish or they are powered coated.
- Glass and metal desks are a totally inert option. The desk top is made of glass and the legs of metal.
- All glass desks are also available for those wanting a completely inert and purist option. Those extremely sensitive to chemicals will appreciate not needing to worry about metal finishes or the factory oil residue that can sometimes be left on the metal.
Desk chairs are not quite as simple, you will have to choose the materials that suit you best:
- Metal is usually used as the chair base, especially on chairs with wheels.
- Solid wood is an option for the seat as well as part of the base in one brand on this list. If it has a water-based polyurethane finish it’s likely safe. Natural oil options can also be used, especially by Amish companies.
- Plywood is more commonly used in chairs than solid wood because it can be molded to make rounded backs and seats. Plywood is now made with phenol-formaldehyde which offgasses quickly. I expect that to be cured by the time it gets to you.
- Hard plastics are popular now as the molded chair seat. Almost all hard plastics are considered safe, including acrylic and polypropylene. Though sometimes they need a short time to offgas the plastic odor. The wood-plastic composites may not be safe (they are PVC).
- Rubber is commonly used as the casters and sometimes as the armrests. SBR rubber does have an odor due to the VOCs. For some people, this will be minor and for others, it could be necessary to avoid. One option on the list has polyurethane castors, which is much healthier. Some options use safer plastics for the armrests. (You can also seal rubber with shellac)
- Polyurethane is the foam most commonly used in seats that have cushioning. For many who are not too sensitive, the level of offgassing of polyurethane is low enough to be acceptable. The offgassing does come to completion after some time.
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Solid Wood Desks
- Pottery Barn has a solid wood desk with one small drawer. The website claims it’s pine and veneer. Anything from Pottery Barn needs to be double-checked with the company to make sure it’s not actually MDF and veneer.
- Urban Natural carries solid wood desks.
$800 for options without drawers.
- Viesso carries a number of solid wood desks. A simple solid bamboo option is their most affordable desk.
$1000+ for more complex designs with drawers.
- Medley carries hand made options made out of solid maple or walnut (with drawers).
- Vermont Woods Studio makes solid wood desks.
$1000 and up
Wood and Metal Desks
- Amazon sells metal legs that you can attach to a solid wood desk top of your choice.
- West Elm makes a simple solid wood top (mango wood) with metal legs desk.
- Staples has a sit/stand wooden top desk (with metal legs).
- Uplift makes sit/standing desks with solid wood as an option for the top, and metal as the legs. The finish has been reported as extremely low odor and has GreenGuard Gold certification. Those with severe chemical sensitives may pick up the offgassing odors from the mechanical parts that raise and lower the desk.
$670 and up
Glass and Metal Desks
- Amazon sells a simple glass and metal computer desk.
- Staples carries a metal and glass L shaped desk.
- Amazon (Canada) sells this more stylish looking glass and metal desk.
Low $200s CAD
All Glass Desks
- Wayfair Canada and Wayfair US sell an all-glass desk (pictured above).
- Walmart also carries the same style all glass desk.
Non-Toxic Desk Chairs
Acrylic and Hard Plastic Desk Chairs
- Amazon sells this clear acrylic chair.
- Amazon also sells a simple black solid plastic chair.
- IKEA doesn’t sell a pure plastic option but they do carry a wood plastic composite chair. Usually, a wood plastic composite is PVC based, so you would want to check this out in person first to make sure it’s acceptable.
Upholstered Office Chairs
- IKEA makes a simple option that is mostly plywood (plywood offgasses formaldehyde but cures rather quickly I would expect this is already finished offgassing by the time it gets to you). The small seat cushion has some polyurethane foam.
- IKEA also makes a more traditional office chair that is all padded. It’s made from polyester fabric and polyurethane foam.
Faux Leather Desk Chairs
- Amazon carries a PU leather with metal arms chair. This is quite comfortable while still being simple in its material composition.
- Wayfair (Canada) sells this wood and PU leather option that is more cushiony (with foam inside).
Mesh Desk Chairs
- Amazon carries mesh chairs. The plastic mesh will work well for many people. This particular chair is made with polyurethane castors, eliminating that smelly rubber that is usually used. The armrests look like solid plastic (not rubber-based).
- IKEA makes mesh chair that doesn’t have synthetic rubber arms, the plastics here are much safer than rubber.
- Amazon sells an inexpensive mesh chair (with no rubber), that has a cushioned seat (polyurethane).
- Herman Miller makes a very simple mesh chair with no foam. The mesh is nylon with some polyester.
Wood-Based Office Chairs
- Eames inspired wood and polyurethane faux leather (pictured) can be found on Amazon.
- Amish companies make all-wood chairs. This could be an option for the purist. You can then add your cushion of choice.
- Viesso carries a relatively affordable fixed leg solid wood chair (with metal legs).
- Eames makes classic leather chairs. This is one of a few companies using truly non-toxic (real) leather. My leather post goes into more detail.
$1700 and up
Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist Practitioner with 6 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.
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