If you are allergic to house dust mites, or to moulds, these are the most likely causes of reactions to older furniture. Both house dust mites and moulds thrive in damp, dark, warm places. If pets sleep or rest on furniture, the cause may be allergens that they have left behind. Try the avoidance measures for all of these, especially airing, cleaning and vacuuming, to see if this helps.

You may be allergic or sensitive to the materials used to make the furniture – feathers and horsehair in upholstery are common allergens, especially in older furniture. Chemicals are also a common cause if you are chemically sensitive. People are often sensitive to fumes from synthetic foams and fillings, to synthetic fibres and fabrics, and to chemical treatments on fabrics, although all of these are much less troublesome on older furniture which has aired off. Most veneered furniture is based on chipboard, also used in fitted kitchens and bedroom furniture. It gives off free formaldehyde for some time after manufacture. If you are exceptionally sensitive, it may bother you even for years if you have a lot of chipboard furniture in your home. Office furniture and surfaces in shops are often made of coated chipboard. Melamine veneers and sheets give off fumes initially but usually air off fast. Adhesives on veneered furniture can also be troublesome at first, but well tolerated in the long term.

Solid wood furniture rarely gives problems. Some people react to resinous woods, such as pine or cedar, but these are rarely a problem once they are polished or varnished. If you think you react to wood, it is extremely rare. It is more likely that you are sensitive to the actual varnish or polish that has been used on the wood.

Reactions to metal furniture are also extremely rare. Some people are sensitive to the enamel paints used on metal surfaces, but these are usually only a problem when new, or if the furniture becomes warm for any reason.

Glass and marble furniture, mirrors, stone, slate and ceramic tiles or surfaces do not cause reactions.


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