Hardwood vs. Softwood: Which Non-Toxic Wood Is Healthier?

Hardwood vs. Softwood: Which Non-Toxic Wood Is Healthier? by Angela Cummings #TheWellnessUniverse #WUVIP #WUWorldChanger #Hardwood

Are you buying nontoxic wood furniture for the bedroom, kitchen, or living room and want to consider all of the factors for choosing organic, nontoxic furniture?

Wood type is one of four factors you should consider. Why?

Woods, by nature, off-gas volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. Therefore, when choosing your organic wood furniture, you’ll want to choose a nontoxic wood type.

In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of choosing the right wood type, the two types of natural wood, and which is healthier for your home.

Why is Wood Species Important to Consider?

So many people think that only human-made materials produce VOCs, but that’s not true.

VOCs are found naturally in our outdoor environment. Mother Nature has created things that off-gas VOCs into the air. Wood is one of those things.

Like anything, a little bit is manageable for our bodies to process. A lot is not. Natural VOCs have been linked to health conditions that are similar to illnesses created from human-made VOC chemicals. Therefore, you want to find nontoxic wood types that off-gas the least VOCs.

Types of Natural Wood for Nontoxic Wood Furniture

There are two types, or classifications, of wood that are grown in the World, hardwoods, and softwoods.

Deceivingly, the names do not indicate the hardness of the wood. Rather, they indicate the type of seed that the tree produces.

“Hardwood trees are angiosperms, plants that produce seeds with some sort of covering. Softwoods, on the other hand, are gymnosperms. These plants let seeds fall to the ground as is, with no covering.”How Stuff Works

Healthwise, it’s important to know that all woods off-gas VOCs into the air. These natural VOCs have the same health effect as those from human-made chemicals. The wood classifications give us an indication of the number of VOCs that the wood naturally off-gasses.

Let’s take a closer look.

Hardwood vs. Softwood

  • VOCs

Hardwoods give off fewer VOCs than softwoods. That’s exactly what we want when choosing nontoxic wood furniture.

  • Types

Ash, birch, maple, oak, walnut, and cherry are all types of hardwood species that are commonly found in indoor furniture. There are actually 17 different types of hardwood that are commonly used to make furniture that is sold in the U.S.

  • Finishes

The density of wood, along with other factors, determines the type of finishes that will work well for that wood species. Different species of hardwood have different density amounts. For example, maple is a highly-dense hardwood.

Natural finishes, such as linseed oil, do not penetrate into the dense wood easily. Therefore, linseed oil would not be a good finish for maple wood furniture.

Instead, a manufactured finish that is zero-VOC and no-HAPs will be better absorbed and more effective, and a good furniture finish that is healthier (creating good indoor air quality compared to conventional products).

Oak hardwood furniture is a softer hardwood (when compared to maple) that absorbs finishes more easily. Therefore, 100% linseed oil can be used effectively on oak furniture.

  • Lifestyle Tips

Use coasters when setting glasses or mugs on wood that is finished with 100% linseed oil.

Realistically, coasters should always be used when setting beverages on wood surfaces, but it’s especially important to protect the wood with natural finishes.

It’s a small and simple trade-off to the many great benefits of using 100% natural finishes.


  • VOCs

Softwoods give off more VOCs than hardwoods. Some species of softwood off-gas significantly higher amounts of VOCs. Studies show that these natural VOCs from softwoods have the same effect on health as VOCs and SVOCs from human-made chemicals.

  • Types

White pine, Douglas fir, pacific yew, cedar, spruce, sugar pine are a few of the softwoods commonly used to make indoor furniture.

  • Finishes

Softwoods contain higher amounts of turpentine and knots than hardwoods. This affects the type of finishes that can be used as well as how those finishes will change (or not change) over time.

“Knots in many species contain an abundance of resins and other highly colored compounds. These compounds can sometimes cause paint to peel or turn brown.” – U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Products Laboratory, Finishing of Wood

Look for stains, sealers, or paints that are zero-VOC and no-HAPs. Alternatively, choose low-VOC finishes. While zero-VOC is much more preferable, low-VOC is better than conventional finishes.

Your Next Steps

You can use these simple tools and tips when choosing any wood furniture, including bed frames, tables, chairs, couch frames, TV stands, and more.

Buying furniture made of hardwood is one of the four key factors for creating a healthy bedroom, kitchen, living room, and household. Read all four simple tips for choosing organic nontoxic wood furniture here.

Are you ready to transform your house into a healthy home? Share about it in the comments section below!

– Angela

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