Are solid wood cribs a better choice?

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Solid wood cribs solid wood cribWhen shopping for a crib for your baby, you probably have a lot of questions.


  • Is it that important to buy solid wood cribs?


  • A crib manufacturer says their composite cribs are CARB II certified, is that good enough?


  • Are all solid wood cribs very expensive?


First of all, if you have these questions, you are way ahead of the majority of parents. You should take a moment to praise yourself. Know that I believe you will be able to choose the right crib for your baby. You have done lots of research already and in a moment you are going to learn even more.


6 years ago, when I was shopping for a crib, I was in your shoes except that I could not find much help either on the Internet or offline. I was so frustrated with shopping for safe healthy baby products that it became my full-time occupation. I have forgone my career in finance to help you protect your family from potentially harmful substances and, ultimately, get the peace of mind that you are making the right decisions for your family.


Now let’s address some questions you might have.


Is it that important to buy solid wood cribs?


To answer this question, let’s look at what non-solid wood cribs are made of. They are made of engineered or composite wood, such as plywood or medium density fiberboard (MDF) or particleboard, made by gluing lots of small pieces of wood together. As you can imagine, it takes a lot of glue to do this. And, you guessed it! The glue usually contains formaldehyde.


The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified formaldehyde as “carcinogenic to humans,” based on nose and throat cancers in working populations. For more information about formaldehyde, visit here.


True, the amounts of formaldehyde would be small in comparison to occupational exposure; however, babies are much more vulnerable to VOCs because they need much more air per body weight. An infant takes 40-60 breaths per minute, whereas a healthy adult breathes about 12-16 times a minute.


We do not have information if and how much a particular crib may harm your baby but based on the potential harms, I think to be on the safe side, it is best to go for solid wood cribs or cribs with low formaldehyde emissions.


A crib manufacturer says their cribs are CARB II certified, is that good enough?


In 1992, California determined that formaldehyde is a potent toxin. The California Air Resource Board (CARB), a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency, regulates formaldehyde emissions in composite wood.


Recently, the California Environmental Protection Agency came up with a stricter standard, called CARB II, which set forth the following limits on formaldehyde emissions.


For hardwood plywood veneer core and hardwood plywood composite core, the standard prohibits formaldehyde in amounts greater than 0.05 parts per million (“ppm”); for particleboard, it is 0.09 ppm; and for medium density fiberboard (MDF), it is 0.11 ppm. (source)


Often, plywood or MDF is used to make mattress supports in cribs and the bottoms of dresser drawers.  By the way, in my experience, you should always double-check with a crib seller if their cribs are 100% solid wood including mattress support and dresser drawers.


Is CARB II good enough?


In the case of non-solid wood cribs, there is a better standard: Greenguard. Greenguard is not a government agency but an independent organization acquired by UL Environment (Underwriters Laboratories) in 2011. GREENGUARD certification helps buyers identify interior products and materials that have low chemical emissions, improving the air quality in which the products are used.


They have two standards: Greenguard Certified and Greenguard Gold (formerly known as “Greenguard Children & Schools”).


The formaldehyde emission limit for Greenguard Certified is 0.05 ppm, which is the same as CARB II’s for plywood veneer core and hardwood plywood composite core; it is better than CARB II’s requirement for particleboard (0.09 ppm), and MDF (0.11 ppm). The Greenguard Gold standard’s limit is only 0.0075 ppm.


You can search for any product in the Greenguard database to learn if it has been certified here.


As you can see, for cribs, CARB II is not the strictest standard. And it is best to look for either a solid wood crib or Greenguard Gold-certified crib. By the way, in addition to formaldehyde, Greenguard tests for VOCs (volatile organic compounds). You can learn more about Greenguard standards here.


Are all solid wood cribs very expensive?


Sometimes yes, but not always.


Over the years, I have looked into lots of cribs sold on the US market. Generally, solid wood is more expensive than pressed wood. However, there are very expensive cribs that are not solid wood cribs.


Green Cradle makes nursery furniture in Southern California by hand.  All the cribs and other furniture are made from 100% solid wood and finished with linseed oil.  If you decide to make a purchase from them, please provide them with the promo code “labels25” to receive $25 off on your order over $250.


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31 thoughts on “Are solid wood cribs a better choice?”

  1. When I try to use the MSDS site, what should I be typing into the keywords? Names of products? Materials they list?

    Also, were you able to find dressers that also fit these criteria?

    1. MSDS site is a library of MSDS (material safety data sheet) forms with data regarding the properties of a particular substance. In the product keyword field, you can type any chemical you would like, e.g. sodium laureth sulfate. And if there are too many results, you can narrow them down by the name of a manufacturer. I hope it helps. Thank you for asking!

  2. $845 is entirely too much for a wooden crib built of wood subjected to a 1/3 of the manufacturing processes other woods are subjected to, IF that. That’s just greed.

    The alarmist tone of the Green Cradle site was also deplorable. This from the site:


    -SIDS, also known as ‘Crib Death,’ is still the Number #1 cause of death for infants 1 month to 1 year.

    -In older children, rates of Autism, ADHD, Asthma and Cancers, like Leukemia, have all exploded.
    Rates of Autism have risen to staggering rates of 1 in 110 according to the CDC.

    “CRIB DEATH”??? Really?? Classless! I will never reward these dirt bags with $850 for that kind of mean, crappy profiteering. Posting a floating list of facts in such a way that new parents might draw specious correlations to the product in question just so you can turn a buck is gutter level exploitation of the anxiety new, inexperienced mothers and fathers bear over the wellness of their newborns!

    I was actually and seriously debating spending almost a grand on a flipping crib until I read that. Embarrassing.

    And zeal is one thing, but if they were genuinely concerned about getting these cribs out to new parents in order to PREVENT CRIB DEATH they’d price their NON-LETHAL cribs more reasonably so that more babies could be SAVED(!!).

    I hate immoderate capitalism.

    1. Solid wood pieces cost more money than the leftover scraps glued together to make plywood. If you know anything about real wood furniture, you know it’s always more expensive for better, bigger, more artistic pieces. You can think of it like diamonds, tiny little diamonds (cheap), tiny little diamonds made to look bigger by settings (cheap but more expensive), one big diamond (expensive). I’m guessing I know which one you bought your partner.

  3. My husband and his father are building our baby’s crib and we bought boiled linseed oil as the wood finish, I was wondering if you had to put an additional varnish or finish overtop to protect the linseed oil or can we simply put 3 coats of linseed oil and it will last through the baby scratching or chewing on it?
    Will the linseed oil yellow a lot after drying?

    1. Hi, Tammy, this is very timely question because I found some products that would work great on a crib. Did you buy the linseed oil that I recommended on my site? The reason I am asking is that boiled linseed oil is generally made with lead containing drying agents. Please let me know which linseed you bought. Thanks.

        1. Ironically they call linseed oil that was never boiled “boiled.” Instead, it has heavy metal dryers. Confusing terminology. I am glad you did you not use it yet. What is your time frame? I can publish a post on this with details and links to specific products I recommend. Make sure you are subscribed to the blog so you do not miss the post. Thanks.

          1. My due date is in 2 weeks we were planning on applying the varnish tomorrow but not sure what would be the best choice for a clear safe varnish

          2. I recommend Tried and True. They are sold on Amazon or hardwood stores. I do not know your location so I can’t recommend a place to buy them. I will change my schedule to publish a post that would be helpful to you. May I ask why you decided to buy unfinished crib and what crib it is? Alternatively, you can contact me privately for paid consultation. Again, I highly recommend staying away from linseed with lead in it. Lead is very toxic to pregnant women and infants and everybody else.

  4. Would you recommend the green cradle organic footprint crib innerspring mattress? I know you had previously recommended the naturepedic mattress but I noticed that it contains polyethylene and hydrated silica. The green cradle organic crib mattress seems like a good option but I could be missing something.

    1. I’ve looked at footprint crib mattresses before and did not see anything concerning in them. It should be good. I confirmed with Naturepedic that their crib mattresses do not contain hydrated silica any more. As for polyethylene, I also prefer plastic-free mattress and Naturepedic carries non-waterproof mattresses. In fact, we have it and are very happy with it.

  5. I really love reading your webpage with all this interesting info. Thank you! I know this article is already over two years old but I am currently searching for a non-toxic crib for our first baby and I came across the Nest Crib by Room and Board

    and the Baby Mod Modena crib seen on the Walmart page

    I would really appreciate hearing your opinion. Many thanks!

  6. Hi Irina, many thanks for your quick reply. I will buy your e-book, without a doubt. Are you writing another article where these two cribs will be included? If so, when? Since I am very keen to make this purchase soon! Thanks so much!

      1. Thanks Irina, I bought your ebook which contains very useful information, also about the cribs I had mentioned before. Many thanks. One question please regarding the IKEA Singlar crib, do you know if they use any glue which contains formaldehyde or if it is 100% formaldehyde free? This crib almost seems too good to be true!

        1. Singlar crib used to have mattress support made of pressed wood certified to CARB II. Now it is all 100% solid wood. Because the crib has to be assembled, I do not believe much glue used in the construction if any. I sent them a message to confirm that. Thank you for asking! It is a great question! Oh, and the “catch” is that not much wood is used to make the crib. So it is flimsy looking. But some of my followers bought it and they like it.

  7. Ikea has an unfinished wood crib called the singlar. Coat it in some mineral oil and it’s ready to go. It does use a board to hold up the mattress, but for 79.99 you can just air it out really good and top it with a good mattress.

  8. Hello,

    I came across this blog after extensive research for non-toxic cribs. I’m assuming that it’s possible there may be newer models since I am reading these articles 2 years after the research.

    I am curious as to the most budget friendly option for non-toxic cribs for 2017. I’ve noted that some companies have some of the models as Greenguard certified, while other models not having it. Is it safe to assume that any crib being “Greenguard” would be to acceptable non-toxicity standards?

    I looked at Green Cradle and they look perfect, however, I cannot afford the $1200+ price for the crib alone.

    Does anyone recommend the cribs from Land of Nod? Again, expensive. I am more interested in seeing if the other less expensive cribs are recommended (Da Vinci, Nest Crib, Baby Mod, Million Dollar Baby). If one is better than others, what one?


  9. Tatiana Plamadeala

    Hi Irina,
    What you do takes a great deal of time, effort and dedication, so thank you for that. I would love it if you could write an e-book on non-toxic furniture in general. I’d be first one to buy it. I’ve been searching high and low for some non-toxic and affordable furniture (specifically, for a sofa/sectional and some furniture for my toddler’s room), but I run into some sneaky or just cost-prohibitive stuff (i.e. $6,000-$7,000 for the sofa is a bit too pricey for me). I believe you reported buying a Cisco Brothers sofa some time ago. Does it have coils and what is your opinion on coils (acting as antennas) in sofas? Also, what is your opinion of the ‘The Futon Shop’ furniture? Just a bought a bed from them for my son, but now i am worrying that the linseed oil they use as finish might not be the true boiled linseed oil without heavy metal driers… Appreciate your feedback! Tatiana

    1. Hi, Tatiana: The Cisco Brother model of sectional that we own does not have coils. It is pricey but we love it, and it will last a lifetime. You can get a discount if you buy it through Rowena Finegan of the Pine Street Natural Interiors. We have coils in our mattresses though. I did a very extensive research on the issue including hiring specialists with EMF measuring devices. In short, coils do not act as antennas. However, they may increase electric fields that are already present in the house, especially if your bed is close to electrical outlets. We turn off circuit breakers at night. I can’t speak about the Futon Shop. I would have to revisit them. And I can do that, and answer all your other questions in a phone consultation: ~Irina

  10. Hi Irina! Thanks for such a helpful article. What are your thoughts on an iron crib? I’ve only been able to find one that is Greenguard Gold Certified but it is rather expensive. My thought is that even if an iron crib doesn’t have GG Certification, the only two concerns would be (1) toxicity in the paint/finish and (2) if the mattress support is made of something other than solid wood. Do you think that’s a fair assumption? I’d like to reach out to the companies with metal cribs that are in my price range but am unsure about what specific questions to ask to obtain the information I need to move forward. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you so much!

    1. Hi, Ainslie: I do not think I like iron for cribs. It seems to be such as an unforgiving and cold (temperature-wise) material. I would be afraid that my child would hurt himself. A wool bumper would need to be used. And those are very expensive. And also if you have EMF issue in your house, iron cribs would probably make it worse. That would need to be investigated. ~Irina

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