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Rest Easy: Know Your Futon, Mattress and Upholstered Furniture Facts

California law requires futons, mattresses and upholstered furniture to meet consumer-protection standards, including flammability requirements.

College students may be buying such home furnishings for the first time, or taking on personal responsibility for safe use of the products. Knowing some basic facts about consumer protection standards for home furnishings can help college students save money, and it might even save their lives.

Upholstered Furniture: Upholstered furniture must have a label stating the product meets the state flammability standard, Technical Bulletin 117, that requires filling materials inside the product to be flame and smolder-resistant.

Futons and Mattresses: Many students love the versatility of dual-purpose seating and bedding that futons provide, particularly in shared living areas where space is at a premium. Dual-purpose products like futons must have a label stating the product meets state or federal flammability requirements.

Futons, mattresses and box springs manufactured after July 1, 2007 must also meet the federal standard, 16 CFR Part 1633, for resistance against ignition by an open flame source, such as a candle, match, or cigarette lighter. Although products that meet the federal standard are not fireproof, they help prevent worst-case scenario fires. In addition to having the California law label, these products must be properly labeled with a federal flammability label certifying that the product meets the requirements of 16 CFR Part 1633.

California residents of college and university dormitories may also be protected by a California flammability standard titled Technical Bulletin 129 (TB 129) for mattresses used in public occupancies. TB 129 is a voluntary standard and colleges may require that mattresses they purchase meet this standard.

All Products: No home furnishings are fireproof. Our flammability standards are designed to help delay flashover, prevent worst-case scenario fires and increase your chances of escape. Mattresses that don't meet the federal standard 16 CFR part 1633 may ignite quickly with an open flame, even though they resist smoldering cigarettes. Upholstered furniture that meets flammability standards can still ignite and burn. Items used on top of beds and furniture, such as comforters and pillows, can add to the fuel load and be highly flammable. So, always use caution with any potential source of ignition, including matches, candles, lighters, appliances and cigarettes.

Consumers can take two easy steps to ensure that the products they purchase meet state and federal requirements:

  • Look for the Label: Verify that the futon, mattress or upholstered furniture have flammability labeling, and always check for the required "California Law Label" listing the materials inside. It's the label that says, "Under Penalty of Law, This Tag Not to be Removed, Except By Consumer." We recommend you leave the label attached, because it has important information that identifies the product manufacturer.
  • Check the license: A business that sells upholstered furniture or bedding products with filling materials in California must be licensed by the Bureau. Manufacturers of these products must also be licensed. Consumers should ask the retailer to provide proof of licensing. Retailers are required to have the license posted at their business location.

If problems or concerns about the product arise that can't be resolved after contacting the store, students may want to consider filing a complaint with the Bureau.

Consumers can check license status, file a complaint or obtain more helpful consumer tips at the Bureau's Web site, www.bhfti.ca.gov, or by calling toll-free (800) 952-5210.

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