Selling Safe Used Furniture

Upholstered furniture is subject to stringent safety standards under the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988. These regulations cover the flammability of upholstered furniture, and both new and used furniture has to comply.

What The Law Says

Used furniture must meet the same stringent standards as new furniture on sale in the shops.

The Regulations apply to furniture which is intended for private use indoors, including beds, divans, sofa beds, children's furniture, cots, cushions, high chairs, mattresses and pillows. They also cover outdoor furniture which is suitable for indoor use (such as upholstered dining sets for use in conservatories and gardens).

In general, the safety provisions require that upholstery must pass the cigarette test, fillings must be fire retardant, and the covers must pass the match test. Some of these requirements are relaxed or varied for mattresses, bed bases, pillows, cushions and insulated bags for carrying infants under the age of six months.

Furniture made before 1st January 1950, materials for upholstery of furniture made before that date, and goods for export are excluded from the controls.

In addition to the specific rules on flammability, furniture must be safe in all other respects - for example, free from sharp edges and splinters. The general safety requirement is imposed by the General Product Safety Regulations 2005.

How to Tell Whether Furniture Complies

Upholstered furniture which meets the requirements of the Regulations will normally carry a permanent label with the heading 'carelessness causes fire'. In the case of mattresses, look for a label stating compliance with BS 7177.

Any items not bearing this labelling may not comply, and you are advised not to sell them until you have obtained expert advice (for example, from the original manufacturer).