How to Choose PVC-free Pools, Floaties, Toys and Life Jackets

We never dreamed how difficult it would be to find PVC-free baby/kid pools, floaties, life jackets and toys.  After 5 years of searching, you'd think we would have quite a long list of options – but that's not the case.  Summer's here, so have a look ahead at our newly updated list along with tips for avoiding pool toys that are generally made from PVC.

Products Typically Made with PVC

Inflatable Pools, Floaties and Toys

We found that almost all inflatable toys are made from PVC (usually listed as Vinyl).  In fact, we didn't find a single one made from an alternative material, as there still doesn't seem to be a suitable substitute after five years of searching.

We realize that it's almost impossible to avoid them, so if you can't find an alternative product to meet your needs, we suggest you consider buying them used.  This gives them a chance to off-gas before using it with your children, and also helps reduce the use of PVC (which is regarded as the single most environmentally damaging of all plastics).

Keep in mind that buying used doesn't help with phthalates, lead and other toxins common to PVC. We don't have the man (or woman!) power to research every single inflatable pool toy to find out which are phthalate-free, so you may want to contact the manufacturer before buying used items. Please note that this category includes the spring style floats as seen here, here, here and here.  We confirmed with several manufacturers that the inflatable ring inside the nylon casing is made of PVC.

Dense Foam Life Vests and Mats

Most dense foam kickboards, life vests, and mats are made from closed-cell PVC foam and are covered in a layer of waterproof vinyl.  Even the floaties made from non-PVC foam were mostly covered with a layer of PVC on the outside. You can identify them by their slightly rubbery exterior that's sometimes shiny.  You can see an example of a PVC life vest here.

Life Vests with Neoprene or Nylon Covering

We were surprised to learn that most of our good old standby life vests were made with a PVC foam core.  Their neoprene and nylon covering hides the interior, so be sure to contact the manufacturer to confirm what type of foam is used for buoyancy.

PVC-free Foam Core Life Jackets

UPDATE: We're so happy to report that we've been able to locate a handful of completely PVC-free life vests since we first researched this subject. These life jackets are made primarily with Gaia foam, NBR (nitrile butadiene rubber) foam or polyethylene foam.

 
Mustang Survival
SeaDoo
MTI Adventurewear
Kokatat
NRS Ninja
Astral GreenJacket
Stohlquist
LandShark Dog Life Jacket
Canine Friendly Dog Life Jacket
 

 

PVC-free Pools, Floaties, Noodles and Mats

Polyethylene and EVA Foam Floaties, Noodles and Mats

Noodle style pool toys are usually made from polyethylene foam, which is PVC-free.  This material is often used in packaging and as insulation as well.  It can be identified by its more lightweight feel and porous appearance as compared to the dense, heavy PVC foam.  Also, it typically doesn't have an exterior covering like PVC foam does. We found these floaties, mats, and toys made from non-toxic EVA or polyethylene foam.

 
 

 

Hard-sided Polyethylene Kid Pools

Thank goodness there are still old-fashioned molded pool made with PVC-free polyethylene around!  They are getting harder to find, but we've seen them at Lowes here and here, at Academy Sports here.  There's a great hard-sided pool made by Little Tikes, the Butterfly Beach Sandbox and Wading Pool here, and also the Step2 Play & Shade Pool pictured below.

Be sure to look for recycling codes #2, #4 and #5 because some hard-sided pools like this one are made with PVC.

What PVC-free pool toys have you found in your own research?

*NOTE: Edited to remove the H2OGO! My First Frame Pool after receiving conflicting info on ingredients (sounds like there may be PVC in the lining after all too!).

 

Finding non-toxic pool toys

43 comments
  1. Thanks, John! It was a difficult process and a rather disappointing one too. It's amazing that there are virtually no alternatives to PVC in inflatable pool toys!

    Alicia

  2. you read my mind. i've been searching for safer beach toys for our upcoming vaca and was coming up short. i wound up settling on a swimways tube since it was the only product left in stock:)

  3. I have read that the Swimways Disney Nemo and Princess Baby pool is made of polyester and not PVC.
    Can anyone confirm this?

  4. Hi luwolfe,

    We confirmed with Swimways their entire list of PVC-free products (as listed in the article above).

    We also asked specifically about the Swimways Disney Nemo Spring Floating Kid's Boat (is this the one you're wondering about? http://www.swimways.com/product-detail.asp?cid=…). They explained that the inflatable ring is PVC, which is covered with a layer of polyester (and some nylon mesh is used too).

    The key with pool toys is to remember that if it's inflatable, it's probably made with PVC.

    Hope this helps,

    Alicia

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  6. Great article Alicia! I've also found that some molded pools are made of HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) which I think is a #4… the one we have at home is made of this and we found it at Toys R Us.

    Oddly enough one of my readers pointed me to an online store in Italy that sells vinyl and phthalate free blow up pools and toys.

    http://www.ipiccolissimi.it/root/ricerca.php?ar

    1. I wish I could speak Italian… or at least read it. I can’t seem to find any inflatable water toys that are “safe”, and can’t get that website to work (plus I can’t read it).

  7. For heaven's sake, Tiffany! What a fantastic invention – thank you so much for sharing it with us! We'll definitely be trying that one out ourselves and will be spreading the word. What an ingenious way to reuse those darned disposable water bottles – and it's PVC-free too!

    Alicia

  8. Hi Everyone ~

    I went on a personal mission this summer to find swimmies/ floaties that were not made of PVC. We live near the ocean so it is necessary for my daughter to be safe in the water. Mission successful 🙂 I found 100% cotton swimmies (Oko-Tex certified) which I now sell at my online store:

    http://www.peaceloveorganicearth.com/SCHLORI.html

    Hope this helps!!

    ~ Beth

    1. Hi Beth, I clicked on the link, and it didn’t work.  Can you please tell me your site again but without the hyperlink?

      Thanks
      Karrie

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  10. Hi! We loved your post over at KiwiLog and decided to feature it as part of our weekly mom blog roundup. Thanks!

  11. Just contacted swimways today because the links of items llisted above in this article no longer linked to their site. Swimways informed me that all of their products contain pvc…just thought I would share that updated information.

    1. Hi Monique,

      You’re right – some of the links are definitely broken. We called Swimways to re-confirm our information product by product, and each of them is still PVC-free as we first reported.

      The broken links represent items that have been moved on their website (and one item that has been discontinued).

      We let the customer service rep know that you were given incorrect information by someone there. She said she would be sure to let each of the other reps know of the error so they don’t make it again.

      Alicia

  12. Your links to the Kids Vests: Swim Sweater, Swim Vest and Power Swimmer don’t work. Would you please share those links again? I’m in real need of some safe swimwear products for my toddler. Vest and such. Thanks in advance!

    1. I just had the same problem…but if you use one of those links that does work to get to their website, you can click on the left column where it lists the different categories of products and find the items that way.

  13. From what I’ve researched, the Schlori Swim Cushions are completely non toxic, excellent design, and not made in China.

  14. You people are so worried about inflatable toys but they aren’t an issue compared to the real threats. For example, plastic cooking ware, plastic beverage bottles, plastic vehicle interiors that gas off when closed up and heated. clothing, furniture and many others. pool toys are the least of the worry’s here… Plastic baby bottles, toys and pacifiers, come on people look around at the real problems. pool toys are used in the water and in open areas, yet when you microwave a plastic container it releases toxins right into your meal.

    Wake up and smell what you’re shoveling here, there are way more ways to die than a pool toy and most listed are much more reverent.

    1. We agree that plastic cooking ware, plastic beverage bottles, plastic vehicle interiors can be problematic too, Dylan. You might try taking a look through the rest of our website to see that we’ve also written about those items before condemning us.

  15. I wanted to get the H2OGO! My First Frame Pool that you mentioned, but on the manufacturer website Support>FAQ’s on this item, it mentions there is a PVC liner in addition to the polyester 🙁 . Also, I called the company, and the rep said the liner was made of vinyl “the same material for blow-up pool” (AKA PVC)

    1. Well gosh dang it, D! We got different info when we called a couple weeks ago. That’s super disappointing, but we sure do appreciate you sharing the info you received. Guess this means we’ll have to remove it from our guide 🙁

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