Tips on Creating a Natural Baby Nursery

Make your nursery eco-friendly with these easy tips

natural baby nursery
Sarah Small/Taxi/Getty Images

If you're expecting, you may be looking for ideas on how to decorate your nursery. While some people focus on finding interesting themes and color schemes, some are concerned that products commonly found in a nursery, like fresh paint, plush carpeting, and new furniture, may emit chemicals such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. Also found in paint thinners, dry cleaning solvents, gasoline, and nail polish, VOCs may contribute to indoor air pollution.


But when looking for natural, eco-friendly alternatives, two of the biggest complaints people often have are that they cost more and don't look as good. Here are some great options for different budgets that can make your nursery eco-stylish:

1) Paint

VOCs, found in many paints, are released into the air as paint dries on the wall. Unlike conventional paints, the following paints are advertised as being lower in VOCs and odor.

  • One of the least expensive no-VOC options is Olympic@ Paints. Their standard Premium Interior Paint is a low-odor, no-VOC paint. (
  • San Diego-based AFM Safecoat® paint has no VOCs. According to the company, the paint also lacks some of the solvents, heavy metals, chemical residuals, formaldehyde and other preservatives found in conventional paint. The company offers over 900 colors. Some users report that the paint tends to separate in the can, which may be due to the different binding agents used, and just means that you'd have to mix the paint in the can more often. (
  • Colorhouse™, based in Portland, Oregon, was started by two artists. They have a wonderful selection of designer colors. Their zero-VOC paint comes over 40 nature-inspired shades, including Leaf, Air, and Water. (
  • According to their website, American Pride® paints were developed by scientists at the University of Southern Mississippi for the U.S. Department of Defense, who wanted a low-VOC, low-odor alternative to traditional paints. The company offers 940 colors and will match other paint company's colors. (
  • The Sherwin-Williams' Harmony® line is free of VOCs. It comes in their full range of colors. (
  • Benjamin Moore® has a couple of low-VOC products. (
  • ECOS Organic Paints, based in the UK, has a range of paints and finishes, with 109 paint colors available. According to the website, It's free of other solvents, heavy metals, phthalates, among other substances found in conventional paint. (

Other Tips (especially if using conventional paints):

  • After the nursery is painted, make sure the room is well-ventilated. Keep windows open and fans on until any smell is gone.
  • Children and pregnant women should avoid recently painted rooms for at least 72 hours or until there is no odor.
  • If painting after the baby comes home, keep him or her in a crib in a bedroom other than the painted nursery for a few weeks or until there is no odor.

2) Flooring

Infants and small children spend much of their time on the floor, so you may want to consider the following options.

Keep in mind that it's a good idea to contact the company to ask about their use of pesticides and other chemicals during the growing, manufacturing, and shipping process.

  • Cotton woven rugs are relatively inexpensive. Some of the more popular makers of cotton rugs include Pottery Barn® ( and Dash & Albert ( Many of them come in fun colors and patterns, which helps to hide spills and spit-up. The drawbacks: these rugs aren’t plush, so you’ll need to use a thick underlay. Also, some cotton rugs may contain pesticide residues. 
  • Nature’s Carpet from Colin Campbell & Sons in Canada offers biodegradable, 100% wool carpets and rugs. Instead of chemical latex, these products are made with a latex adhesive from a natural rubber source. The backing is made of jute, a natural fiber, and they aren't sprayed with pesticide. Only vegetable dyes are used. (
  • Earth Weave's Bio-Floor™ carpets are also 100% wool and biodegradable. They're free from dyes, pesticides, and stain protection, and are backed with jute and natural latex.  The company also makes wool-based carpet and rug underpadding and natural rubber non-skid rug pads that can be used with any rug. (
  • Carpet tiles are another option. Although they’re often made with synthetic fibers and cost more than regular carpet, individual tiles can be easily be replaced when they’re worn or stained, which makes them an eco-friendly option. A popular brand of carpet tile is FLOR® by Interface. Their 19.7 square inch, low-VOC carpet tiles, which come in a variety of fun patterns, textures, and materials, are a great option if you live in an apartment, because they can easily be removed when you decide to move. 
  • FLOR® tiles can arranged to look like a wall-to-wall carpet or an area rug. FLOR®'s Shirt Stripe is a colorful striped pattern that can be arranged parquet-style. Modern Mix and Walking on Clouds are other good baby nursery options. ( When you need to replace old tiles or if your baby outgrows the décor, Interface pays for you to ship the old tiles back to them for recycling.
  • Area rugs made from natural fibers such as jute, sisal, seagrass, coir, and hemp, have become very popular. They look good, are durable, and cost less than wool rugs. Be sure to check on how the rugs are made, including the use of pesticides.
  • Cotton rag rugs are another alternative. Minnesota-based Prairie Rugs ( offers rugs made of recycled rags from cotton bedding. According to the company, the rugs are dyed with a fertilizer-based dye and the dye water is then used to fertilize the fields around the facility. Rugs aren't treated with a stain repellent.
  • Although some users say that these rugs aren't as soft as other options, the denser weave also means they'll hold up over time. They come in a variety of solid colors, including nursery-friendly Seafoam, Pink, and Desert. 

Other Tips:

  • When buying a tufted rug or carpet, look for ones made with a jute or natural-latex backing and vegetable dyes.
  • If using a conventional carpet or rug, consider airing it out in a well-ventilated area for at least a week before it’s installed. If possible, ask the retailer to have it unrolled in the warehouse for at least a week before it’s delivered.
  • Look for products with a green label by the Carpet and Rug Institute ( It’s a voluntary program. Manufacturers can sign up and have their products independently tested for VOCs and other emissions.

3) Furniture

  • Cribs, dressers, changing tables and shelves made with laminated wood, pressed wood, medium density fiberboard, and particle board can emit formaldehyde due to the glue in the products. Avoid products made with these materials, look for formaldehyde-free products, or find products made with phenol formaldehyde, which may emit less gas than other types.
  • Opt for solid wood cribs and furniture with low-VOC paints or finishes.
  • Consider buying unpainted solid wood furniture and then painting it in fun colors using milk paint, which is naturally VOC-free. The Old-Fashioned Milk Paint Company ( is one of the more popular milk paint manufacturers.
  • Another option is to buy unpainted solid wood furniture and stain it yourself using a low-VOC stain such as one from the Livos line (
  • If you aren’t using a VOC-free product or aren’t sure, remove all packaging and air out the product for a few weeks in a well-ventilated, unoccupied area such as a porch, garage, or shed.

Although you can do many other things to make your nursery natural and chemical-free, such as choosing organic bedding and mattresses, these are some of the more basic, simple steps that you can take.

Note: Products and manufacturing and shipping methods may change from time to time. Also, always check with the company before purchasing any products, even those labeled "non-toxic", eco-friendly, or chemical-free, for confirmation regarding the use of chemicals.


National Geographic Society. "Carpets" Green Guide Product Report. National Geographic Society. 1 January 2005. <>

United States Environmental Protection Agency. "Organic Gasses (Volatile Organic Compounds - VOCs" An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality. United States Environmental Protection Agency. 22 May 2007. <>.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

Continue Reading