Safe Room - General Instructions

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General Instructions for making a "Safe Room"

These are basic directions for making a "Safe Room", whether that room is in your home, school, hospital or doctor's office. This information is from the experience of a person with severe chemical sensitivity. I am not an environmental engineer. I am sure that there are alternative products to all those listed, but these are things which worked for me. This is presented to you to help get you started quickly..

Keep in mind that not every chemically sensitive person reacts the same. Therefore, individualized testing should be done, where it is possible, prior to any massive application or expense. One way to test a potential product is to put a sample of it near where you sleep and see how you feel in the morning. Keep all variables to a minimum.

Air Cleaners:

Use a good air cleaner, HEPA is for particulates, and Activated Charcoal is for fumes. Do Not use ozone. Negative ion generators are ok. I personally prefer my Aireox air cleaners because they avoid plastics. Many other excellent air cleaners are available. NEEDS or Nontoxic Environments are good sources for these (see Resources below).


Organic cotton mattresses and mattress pads (it takes doctor's prescription to avoid fire retardants and other chemicals), and Organic Futon pads are available from Nontoxic Environments and also from Dr. Rea's Environmental Health Center catalog (see Environmental Health Center). Use no synthetic materials on the bed. Water beds (once the plastics have out-gassed) are preferred by some. I have wrapped a new-smelly water bed with Denny/K-foil (a strong vapor, reflective heat insulation barrier available from Nontoxic Environments) and it stopped the outgassing/smell.

Check out for information about the organic beds and furniture they offer.


In a home, paint with two coats of a product from AFM such as Zero VOC paint, Hard Seal (clear glossy), Safe Seal (stays a bit tacky though) or Penetrating Water Stop. If the room has sound proofing, you should probably contact an Environmental Engineer for suggestions.


Do not make a good room toxic by using normal cleaning products or air 'fresheners'! Wood floors can be cleaned with Floor Milk (The Natural Choice 1(800)621-2591). Linoleum can be cleaned with Tonic water or a safe soap (Granny's, Solutions-4-You Ultra-Safe Solution, AFM, etc.) and water. Furniture can be dusted and cleaned with half vinegar/half olive oil. Solutions-4-You Ultra-Shield is also an excellent polish for furniture and can be used on glass, chrome, etc. as well. Bath room fixtures can be cleaned with Bon Ami, 20-MuleTeam Borax, Ultra-Safe Solution, an AFM cleaner, etc. Cloth can be laundered with Granny's Old Fashioned laundry products, laundry disks, or Ultra-Safe Laundry. AFM makes a good glass cleaner, or use vinegar/water. I prefer Ultra-Shield. Please see Resources below for where to buy these things. A great book on cleaning safely is Clean and Green (available from NEEDS and Nontoxic Environments). To neutralize formaldehyde in new cotton, add milk (1 cup) to the wash and soak for an hour. To neutralize perfumes, add dry mustard (3T) to the wash and soak for an hour.

Floors, several alternatives:

Ceramic or porcelain tile is probably best. Thin set and grout can be by Laticrete (#317, 280, 272 and any others which have minimal additives). AFM's Safe Seal can replace up to 25% of the water when mixing grout.

Hardwood, such as oak can be sealed with AFM's Polyureseal BP. Chemically sensitive person should have someone else seal the wood, OK once cured. AFM also carries a line of stains.

Solid Oak Parquet flooring. Glue to particle board substrate with AFM's 3 in 1 glue. The glue seems to seal the particle board from outgassing. I've also used this glue on PVC and shoes! :-)

Generally it is best to avoid all carpets. However, if you need a carpet, try Nature's Carpet which can be found on the WWW at Other carpet is available from Nontoxic Environments catalog.

Fresh Air:

There must be access to fresh air (window, vent, door, etc.). If the room is in a building where there are no windows which open, get a vent (Nontoxic Environments carries some with filters) and install it.


Check out for information about the organic beds and furniture they offer.

Generally use metal, glass, and real solid non-fragrant woods. If the wood has been 'finished' using customary toxic finishes, it can be sealed from outgassing with two coats of Hard Seal by AFM using a sponge or foam type paint brush. Avoid foam cushions, poly stuffed cushions, synthetic fabrics, stain resistant or fire retardant treated fabrics and all glued wood products such as particle board (these are either petrochemical and/or outgas formaldehyde). If this is a hospital or doctor's office and the sink/storage table is already installed, seal the fumes in the unit by painting the object inside and out with two coats of something from AFM (Zero VOC paint, Hard Seal, Safe Seal, etc.)

You can get unfinished furniture kits to make from Yield House (see Catalogs).


Do Not use gas. Any electric heat should be some distance away from normal seating or sleeping (due to Electro-Magnetic Fields or EMF). Many prefer Radiant Ceramic heat (see Nontoxic Environments or NEEDS for these).


Full spectrum bulbs are best. Gentle lighting is best as many chemically sensitive people are also light sensitive.


Do price compare different sources as they do vary.

AFM (American Formulating and Manufacturing) products can be purchased from NEEDS catalog (800)634-1380, Nontoxic Environments catalog (800)789-4348, and many other places. AFM has a complete line of building and maintenance products which are pretty safe for the chemically sensitive person. Write or call them at AFM Consumer Resources, P.O. Box 124698, San Diego, CA 92112, (800)239-0321 for more information or a distributor near you.

Granny's Old Fashioned products (shampoos, conditioners, laundry, rug cleaners, etc.) can be purchased from NEEDS catalog (800)634-1380, Safer Alternatives (530)243-1352, Mountain People's Warehouse (wholesale co-op available in many states - call (800)679-6733 to see if available to you locally).

Laticrete (thin set and grout) (203)393-0010 to find local distributor or to get technical information.

'Green' Drapery Fabric (not necessarily Organic) available from Nontoxic Environments, and Harmony (was called Seventh Generation) catalogs.

Harmony (was Seventh Generation) catalog sells safer paper products (paper towels, napkins, bathroom tissue, etc. which don't smell of chlorine). They can be called at (800)456-1177.

Environmental Health Center catalog (see Environmental Health Center).

Nirvana Safe Haven, Chemical free and nontoxic environmentally safe beds and mattresses. Also carries air purifiers, dehumidifiers, water purifiers, nontoxic paints, wool carpet, etc.

Solutions-4-You Ultra-Safe Solution (cleaner) and Ultra-Shield (polish).


AFM's Zero VOC paints (also free of formaldehyde and ammonia) with pastel colors. Two coats of this special paint prevents the fumes from the substrait (sheet rock, etc.) from outgassing into the room. Avoid wall paper because of the glues.

Porcelain, steel, perhaps brick or cement if sealed with something from AFM.

Any woods should be free of turpines, such as poplar. Redwood seems to be ok. Avoid cedar or pine.

Window coverings:

Curtains can be made of Organic Cotton. Metal blinds are probably best. Avoid synthetic materials and insulated materials.

These listings have been gathered from various sources and are presented here with the intent to provide hard won information to anyone whom it may help. If you find that the names, phone numbers, addresses or such are out of date in any way, or you feel there is a significant change or addition which should be made to these resources, please be so kind as to Contact Us.

Disclaimer: We do not endorse people, products or services. We do not give medical advice. What works for one person does not necessarily work for another. Please check with health-care professionals of your own choice. I am not a doctor and I do not give medical advice. The author is a chemically injured person who is extremely chemically sensitive (reactive) and who has just had a lot of personal experience in trying to survive chemical insults and toxic exposures.

This page has been accessed times since 9/15/98.