Riding in a car is one of the most dangerous things we do each day, so protecting your little one while driving must be a high priority. Today’s infant car seats are designed better than ever to withstand heavy impacts and keep babies safe, but some still use harmful chemicals that can pollute our air and water.
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Here are the best brands and models of non-toxic car seats available today, based on our first-hand experience as parents of babies and toddlers. First, we’ll take a look at what’s really in your infant car seat and why choosing a non-toxic version matters in the fight against environmental degradation.
Non-toxic car seats are free from flame retardants
If you want your child to ride in a non-toxic car seat, you need to look for one that’s free of flame retardants.
Thankfully, that’s not as challenging as it used to be. As awareness grows that common flame retardants make their way into our water supply, companies are increasing their number of flame-retardant-free models, so you can choose a seat that’s safe in more ways than one.
Will these car seats keep your child safe from a fire? Thankfully, you aren’t compromising emergency protection when you go the non-toxic route. In place of flame retardants, most brands use naturally flame-resistant materials, such as merino wool, to slow down flames.
My Car Seat is on the Toxic List. Should I Replace It?
If you’ve gotten your car seat second-hand or have used the same model for several children already, there’s a good chance that it’s made with flame retardants and other unwanted compounds. For this reason, it’s usually wise to think about upgrading.
Many companies, including Target, offer car seat trade-in programs (check what programs are available in your state here). Many offer incentives for your trade-in. For example, not only will Target take your old seat, but they’ll also give you a 20% off coupon for new baby gear. The company recycles your old seat to make products like plastic buckets and carpet padding. To date, Target alone has recycled more than 17 million pounds of plastic from this program.
Is replacing your car seat not in the budget? It’s best to vacuum and damp dust it regularly to remove any traces of flame retardants that have sloughed off the fabric. This decreases the chances your little one will breathe in the airborne particles.
Note: Never donate or sell used car seats that are expired, recalled, or that have been in an accident. Likewise, never accept a car seat for which you don’t know the complete history. Car accidents can weaken the seats in ways that aren’t immediately obvious, which could compromise their safety for your child.
Our favorite infant car seats
Highlights: This ultra-light car seat is Greenguard Gold certified and available in luxe fabrics. It’s maneuverable, easy to setup, and a joy to travel with.
- Greenguard Gold certified
- Lightweight and easy to travel with
- Too small for toddlers
- Child Size Range: 4-32 lbs
- Carrier Weight: 5.3 lbs
The Nuna Pipa Light tops our list because of the “quality of life factor.” Especially for first-time parents, a car seat this mobile is such a blessing that some of its flaws can be overlooked. The Uppa Baby model listed below is slightly more green, but much more difficult to travel with and much harder to assemble.
For those who don’t want to feel burdened by their car seat, the Nuna Pipa Lite is the lightest in-class car seat available. Coming in at just over five pounds, it’s easy to move around but still durable enough for daily use. The heavy-duty shell is resilient to force to ensure your child stays protected in accidents and includes a removable, full-coverage UPF 50+ canopy for sun safety.
All Nuna car seats are Greenguard Gold Certified and have been free of flame retardants since 2019. This car seat’s interior is constructed from memory foam and GOTS-certified organic cotton fabric. Or, upgrade to the Pipa Lite LX for a luxurious blend of Merino wool and Tencel lyocell fiber blend (retails for $399). Both surfaces are 100% free of PFAs and other synthetic waterproofing materials as well, and the car seats comply with European REACH standards for minimizing chemical inputs.
For a fully versatile travel system, connect the car seat base to all Nuna and select premium strollers.
Those looking for a car seat that can grow with their infant should consider the Nuna RAVA convertible seat (available for $499), which works for kids up to 50 pounds.
Our founder, John, has used the Nuna Pipa Light for two babies now. His experience has been that the car seat is ideal for babies from birth through about 15 months. After that, you will need to upgrade to something larger, but it’s hard to beat the convenience of the Pipa Light. The car seat is easy to setup and clicks effortlessly into its base (as your child grows, most larger car seats don’t have a separate base, which means they become much trickier to setup). When traveling, or even wheeling a baby into a restaurant, John flattens the Mountain Buggy Nano stroller and drops the Pipa Light directly in. This is a great starter car seat for new parents.
Highlights: UPPAbaby car seats get attention, and the brand’s Mesa line doesn’t cut corners with its nontoxic materials and chic color combinations.
- Several color options
- Meets European REACH standards
- Slightly heavier than Nuna
- Child Size Range: 4-35 lbs
- Carrier Weight: 9.9 lbs
UPPAbaby is the premier brand for infant luxury items, and for a good reason. Not only does the brand offer models of car seats that are completely free of flame retardants, but it also achieves European REACH standards for reduced chemical inputs.
The UPPAbaby Mesa seat comes in several color variations, of which Jordan (charcoal mélange, merino wool) and Henry (blue marl, merino wool) are naturally fire-resistant. This blend of 60% wool to 40% polyester fibers passes federal safety standards for fire protection while naturally wicking away moisture to keep babies cool on hot days.
Beyond its fire safety features, the MESA car seat includes a tightness indicator and self-retracting LATCH connectors to make taking it in and out of vehicles easy. Parents will know their child is safely secured when the indicator window changes from red to green. And, thanks to its low harness positioning, it’s perfect for preemies.
Feeling unsure about your design preferences? UPPAbaby will ship you up to four fabric swatches free to make the decision easier.
Again, our founder, John and his family tested the Uppa Baby car seat. Pictured below is a Knox Covertible car seat for their toddler. The Knox model is for slightly older babies and toddlers (starting at 14 lbs.). And yes, this car seat is filthy! Yours will be too once a real-life baby is deployed in the backseat, trust us.
Highlights: This budget-friendly car seat comes from a trusted brand, is Greenguard gold certified, and is compatible with dozens of strollers.
- Child Size Range: 4-35 lbs
- Carrier Weight: 10lbs
Chicco-brand car seats have long been a trusted choice for parents, and now, as part of their Sustainable Parenting Initiative, the company offers models that are fire-retardant-free, thanks to an innovative blend of polyester fibers.
The KeyFit 35 ClearTex model passes government flammability standards without the use of chemical treatments, ensuring your child stays safe in more ways than one. It’s Greenguard Gold Certified and tested for low chemical emissions to ensure good air quality for those sitting in it.
This car seat comes with a removable ergonomic newborn positioner as well as an easy-extend headrest system that expands as your child grows. Its one-hand, click attachment system makes it simple to mount in your car or attach to compatible Chicco strollers for easy transportation.
Highlights: Clek car seat’s Mammoth collection boasts a luxurious blend of Merino wool and Tencel fibers that’s guaranteed non-toxic. However, it loses points for being pricy.
- Child Size Range: 4-35 lbs
- Carrier Weight: 9 lbs (newborn insert removed)
Clek car seats are made in America with the quality to match. They are Greenguard Gold certified and include a natural moisture barrier that is resistant to water stains and odor-causing bacteria.
Regarding fire protection, Clek’s Mammoth Collection is made from an environmentally-friendly blend of biodegradable Merino wool and Tencel fibers to act as a durable, all-natural flame retardant. The cover is Oeko-Tex certified and free of all PFAs and other treatments. Note: other Liing Collections may contain flame retardants.
Best of all, Clek has an end-of-life plan for every car seat. Once your car seat (of any brand) reaches the end of its functionality, Clek offers a recycling program to sustainably dispose of it.
Highlights: Britax car seats utilize a “Safewash” technology to keep little ones safe without flame retardants, but this protection will wear off over time.
- Child Size Range: 4-35 lbs
- Carrier Weight: 10.9 lbs
Britax car seats are made in the United States with domestic and international parts. It’s easy to install on the included base and offers two layers of side-impact protection to keep little ones safe in worst-case scenarios. You can also click the base into any Britax brand strollers for extra portability.
In 2019, the company introduced its SafeWash car seat covers, a new line of machine-washable covers that are completely free of flame retardants. Not only does this protect babies from potential toxic compounds, but they ensure the cleanup isn’t stressful for mom and dad.
Note: the covers are made from synthetic fibers and are only guaranteed to be washable for up to 30 washes. The company also doesn’t ensure that the rest of the car seat is free of flame retardants.
The bottom line
The bottom for choosing an infant car seat is the type of material used in the seat’s fabric. Most all car seats use memory foam of some kind, but job #1 is to ensure the product is free from flame retardants. The best way to do this is to know the certifications, like Greenguard Gold and European REACH standards, to look out for.