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That couch my neighbor just threw out has lots of light, fluffy material that superficially seems similar to the light, fluffy stuff behind my drywall. Could it be used similarly? And what about the gobs of couches that get thrown out each year? Reclaimed material from old furniture could be used as insulation for garages or workshops that might otherwise be too expensive to insulate.

Obviously upholstery materials, whether foam or poly fill, aren't designed to have insular properties. That doesn't mean they're useless as insulation. But how bad/good would they be? I can't find great sources on anything but materials designed to be used as insulation.

What other downsides would there be to reclaiming upholstery materials as insulation? Are there ways to treat the materials to mitigate these downsides? E.g. if there's a problem from a fire safety perspective, is there a way to apply a flame retardant?

This is all assuming the materials can at least be confirmed hygienically safe (no bed bugs, mold, etc.)

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  • a neighbourhood fire would become similar to a fire at a chemical plant
    – jsotola
    Jan 9, 2022 at 18:26
  • Probably the law that bans the sale of second hand stuffed furniture would apply here.
    – Chenmunka
    Jan 9, 2022 at 18:29

2 Answers 2

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Well generally, insulation is all about preventing air from moving. If you don't have insulation in a stud wall, it's big enough to allow air convection - air on the cold side falls, and air on the warm size rises, creating a tall oval circulation pattern that eventually puts warm air against the cold wall and siphons your heat away.

The insulation itself doesn't insulate at all - e.g. fiberglass mashed down with 50 tons of force is just slightly pink glass, and you know glass is the worst insulator in your house lol.

So in fluffy insulation, the air does all the serious insulating. The fluff is just there to keep the air immobile so it can't convect.

So in theory, anything fluffy will do.

However in practice, using fluffy things which are flammable is a terrible idea. And cheapo furniture is a huge factor in this, reducing the "time to escape" a typical house fire from 17 minutes to 3.

Using that stuff in your walls is just going to turn your house into a tinder-box.

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Well, fortunately for your neighbors most older furniture contains flame retardant chemicals with a dubious safety record. Nonetheless your garage will likely make quite a show as it burns, and fast.

For legitimate reuse in the insulation world look to Bonded Logic UltraTouch™. You can ship them a pile of your neighbor's discarded blue jeans, and feel vindicated for offsetting your personal contribution to consumer culture, without turning your garage into a roman candle:

UltraTouch™ Denim Insulation patented manufacturing process... These fibers contain inherent qualities that provide for extremely effective sound absorption and maximum thermal performance.

UltraTouch is also a Class-A Building Product and meets the highest ASTM testing standards for fire and smoke ratings, fungi resistance and corrosiveness. UltraTouch™ Denim Insulation contains 80% post-consumer recycled natural fibers making it an ideal choice for anyone looking to use a high quality sustainable building material. (Source https://www.bondedlogic.com/ultratouch-denim-insulation/ )80%

Plus the stuff does not itch like fiberglass, and if fibers get into your lungs, your body will know what to do.


Yet another state has decided to ban certain flame retardants in selected consumer products. Massachusetts has decided to ban more than 10 brominated, chlorinated, or organophosphate-based compounds that provide flame retardancy to children’s products, bedding, carpeting, residential upholstered furniture, and window treatments. (Source https://www.exponent.com/knowledge/alerts/2021/01/massachusetts-latest-to-ban-certain-flame/)

Now if that couch was a mattress, and in California, it would have a place to go:

California requires a statewide mattress recycling program designed and implemented by mattress manufacturers with CalRecycle oversight. The Mattress Recycling Council (MRC) is the manufacturers’ stewardship organization that implements the program. (https://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/mattresses )

But it's a couch, and thus the best place for it is deep in a landfill, until the furniture industry steps up and starts to disassemble their old product for use in creating new ones.

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