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The Healthiest Non-Toxic Carpet and Rug Brands (USA and Aus)



Have you ever wondered about that distinct "new carpet" smell? It's not as harmless as it seems. This odour is due to 4-phenylcyclohexane (4-PC), one of over 40 chemicals synthetic carpets release (source).


Traditional carpets and rugs are often made from nylon fibres with a polypropylene backing, and glued down with toxic adhesives, these carpets also contain styrene, and both chemicals originate from the latex backing used in most carpets.


However, some clients JUST WANT CARPET, and I GET IT. It's cosy, it's warming, it's a softer surface for kids, it's sound dampening... it's a lot of things that other flooring is not; so rather than tell everyone to avoid carpet altogether, I have researched some 'healthier' options.


P O T E N T I A L H A Z A R D S I N C A R P E T A N D R U G S

Carpets and rugs can harbour pollutants and allergens, such as dust mites, pet dander, cockroach allergens, particle pollution, lead, mould spores, pesticides, dirt, and dust (source). Toxic gases in the air can adhere to these particles and settle into carpets, potentially becoming airborne during activities like renovations, vacuuming, or even walking on the carpet (source).


High-pile carpets and rugs (such as shag rugs), and those older than ten years tend to accumulate higher levels of these pollutants and allergens, and extensive carpeting throughout a home can make it difficult to eliminate indoor air pollutants and allergens effectively (source).


Children are particularly vulnerable to exposure as they spend a lot of time playing on the floor and often put their hands in their mouths (source).




H E A L T H R I S K S O F C A R P E T S

Some new carpets, carpet pads, and installation adhesives contain harmful chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs).


VOCs can emit odours and potentially harmful chemicals into the indoor air, posing health risks (source). VOCs like formaldehyde and benzene, cause respiratory and neurological issues and are potential carcinogens (source).


Carpets also trap allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, and mould spores, exacerbating asthma and allergies (source).


Chemical treatments for stain resistance and flame retardancy, including PFAS and antimicrobials, introduce additional hazards.


To repel stains, the carpet industry historically used poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS, similar to those in DuPont’s Teflon cookware). These chemicals include Scotchgard's PFOS and its close relative PFOA.


But the concerns don't stop at installation. Carpets and rugs can continue to emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for five years or longer (source). Everyday wear and tear slowly release these toxins, including persistent PFAS chemicals. The adhesives used to secure carpets are another source of trouble, often containing some of the most dangerous VOCs like benzene and toluene (source). These emissions can irritate your eyes and respiratory system and may even impact your central nervous system (source).


Moisture retention in rugs and carpets can also lead to mould growth, further contributing to respiratory problems.



W H A T S U B S T A N C E S T O A V O I D

The ideal carpet and rug should be free from the following harmful substances:


VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds): Present in various chemical additives used in conventional carpets, from dyes and fibre treatments to backing glues, materials, padding, and installation tapes and glues.


Flame Retardants: Harmful types are often found in polyurethane padding or felt backing. Aluminium hydroxide can be added to fibres, and antimony is found in some flame retardants and polyester fabric methods. Bromine is also sometimes present in carpets


Permethrin: A pesticide used for mothproofing in many wool carpets.


Antimicrobials: These can be added to the backing, glues, and face fibres. Common examples include pyrithione zinc and potassium oleate.


Stain Repellents: PFAS-based treatments are often used in the textile top layer. PFAS (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are known as “forever chemicals” and should be avoided. Note that Scotchgard is no longer PFAS-based.


Anti-Static Treatments: Quaternary ammonia is commonly added to fibres for anti-static properties.


SBR (Styrene-Butadiene Rubber): Found at the base of fibres in conventional carpets.


Off-Gassing from Padding: Materials like rebounded polyurethane, memory foam, and rubber can off-gas.


Phthalates: Typically found in vinyl/PVC backings.


Fly Ash: Added to backings and can contain mercury, lead, and arsenic.


Toxic Metal Stabilisers: Lead and cadmium are common toxic metal stabilisers.


Toxic Adhesives: Used for glue-down installation or at the seams.





W H A T T O L O O K F O R

Chemical-Free Fibres: Choose fibres that haven't been treated with toxic chemicals. Wool and other organic fibres like sisal and jute are excellent options.


Undyed Wool: Wool without pesticides is the purest option, though it does have a strong natural odour from wool oils.


Adhesives: Natural latex is often recommended as a safe adhesive between fibers and backing, but some have reservations about its use. It's essential to consider preferences and potential sensitivities regarding natural latex.


Polyester Fibres: PET and PTT polyester fibres are safer options in terms of off-gassing.


Solution-Dyed Polyester: This type of polyester is highly resistant to spills and stains, reducing the need for additional stain guard treatments.


PFAS-Free: Opt for carpets free of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which has become more available in recent years.


Zero-VOC: Ideally, select carpets with zero volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to minimise indoor air pollution.

Certifications: Be cautious with certifications. While Green Label Plus is a common industry certification, its standards are broad. Greenguard certification is rare for carpets and may not always be indicative of low off-gassing.




A U S T R A L I A N B R A N D S

Wool

  • Blessed Earth: Organic wool GOTS-certified organic broadloom carpets, in cotton, wool and silk, designed for wall-to-wall fitting.


  • Godfrey Hurst: Look for collections that are 100% wool, jute backing, PVC free, Declare Red List Free, GreenStar Level 4 and GBCA Compliant. 




Jute, Seagrass, Coir, Sisal:

  • International Floor Coverings Australia: 100% just, seagrass and coir options. made from renewable or plentiful resources, are low in embodied energy and pollution impacts, also the dyes used are acid-free and conform with all European standards. 



Rugs:

  • Armadillo: Declare label. All rugs are 100% Red List free, meaning they do not contain any materials, chemicals and elements known to pose serious risks and toxicity concerns to human health or the environment. .B-Corp. Filter by 100% wool or jute. 


  • Blessed Earth: Certified organic wool and cotton, certified organic vegetal dyes




  • Kip & Co:  Look for 100% wool, jute or coir with 10% cotton underside, Ethically made in India. Proudly carbon neutral. Independent and female-founded. No chemical treatments or mothproofing.

  • Lorena Canals:  97% cotton, eco dyes”, no chemical treatments of any kind. Rugs are washed and dried with biodegradable detergents and no added softeners. Washable


  • Milk & Sugar. Australian owned. OEKO-TEX Certified. Wool and jute options.   NO chemical additives. 


  • Miss Amara: Look for a 100% wool and or cotton range with no synthetic chemicals, and natural backings. Fumigated on import. No chemical treatments (I would check before ordering as they couldn’t confirm this was for ALL rugs, just ‘most’ rugs)




  • Pampa: High-quality sheep’s wool, natural dyes.  No chemicals or mothproofing. 


  • Pottery Barn Kids:  Look for a wool range, recycled canvas fabric with odourless synthetic latex adhesive. No flame retard, stain-reducing, and/or mothproofing chemical treatments are not applied to any rugs.

  • Under the Nile: GOTS-Certified 100% pure organic Egyptian cotton, Free of Azo colourants, BPA, flame retardants, formaldehyde, fragrance, PVC and lead.  

  • Wild Throw Co.: Australian-owned, Ethically handcrafted in India & Morocco, 100% natural cotton, dyed using natural vegetable, plant, and tree matter. 


  • Willaby: GOTS-Certified. safe non-toxic dyes, no chemical treatments or stain-resistant coatings



U S A B R A N D S

WOOL


  • Earth Weave:  Either raw natural coloured wool or OrganoSoftColor™ dyes (organic),  no toxic stain, moth proofing or fire retardant treatments 

  • Flor: Made from ECONYL® regenerated nylon, made from nearly all recycled waste, like fishing nets or textile scraps, lowering the environmental impact of brand-new nylon that uses new resources. Green Label Plus Certified


  • J Mish:  Signature collection  100% European wool (except 2 styles which are wool and tencel), no formaldehyde or toxic dyes, biodegradable. (Heathers, Riviera and Alfa  Collection have been treated with  insecticide, usually permethrin-based)


  • Kaleen: Wetherby Cove Collection. 100% all-natural wool, G.O.T.S certified organic dyes, zero VOC; no formaldehyde, insect repellents, mildewcides, fungicides, toxic dyes, PFAS or PBDEs (flame retardants).  Synthetic latex backing so be aware if chemically sensitive. 


  • Nature’s Carpet: Dark green range: 100% undyed wool pile, No chemical additives, insecticides or mothproofing. Natural jute secondary backing. Natural latex adhesive. Biodegradable. Low-VOC emissions (certified). 


Jute, Seagrass, Coir, Sisal


Synthetic

  • Doma: 50% Wool, 50% Polypropylene, CRI Green Label Plus-certified and sustainably produced.


  • Mohawk: Air O carpet fibres are made from 100% PET (polyester) with zero-VOC, treated with what they call “Fresh Carpet Technology” an odor-neutralizing treatment of zeolite, as of Oct 2019, no Mohawk soft surface products contain PFAS


Padding / Underlay:

  • Earth Weave Coarse naturally pigmented wool mechanically needled (not glued) together, free from dyes, fire retardant, glues, moth-proofing or adhesives. Average Thickness: 7/16" 

  • J Mish: 100% wool carpet. 50% pure virgin wool, 50% post-industrial recycled wool yarn. 100% bio-derived with no chemical additives or treatments. Thickness: 3/8" 



Rugs:

  • Earth Weave: 100% wool with no mothproofing and no other chemical treatments,  organic  dyes



  • Home of Wool: 100% natural undyed and unbleached wool rugs,  100% cotton base, not treated with Permethrin or other mothproofing chemicals. VOC-free


  • Lorena Canals97% cotton, eco-dyes, no chemical treatments. Rugs are washed and dried with biodegradable detergents & no added softeners. Washable


  • Nordic Knots: Look for 100% wool or jute.  Goodweave™ Certified. 


  • Organic Weave: GOTS-Certified organic hand-tufted wool and cotton, GOTS-Certified dyes, no chemicals used in the cleaning of the raw material, dyeing of the yarn or the final cleaning of the rugs. No synthetic moth treatments or chemical flame retardants are used. 



  • Rugs by Roo: Look for the range that is GOTS Certified organic cotton and dyes, washable.  Oeko-TECertified. 


  • Willaby: GOTS-Certified. safe non-toxic dyes, no chemical treatments or stain-resistant coatings


O P T I O N S I F Y O U C A N N O T C H O O S E A

N O N - T O X I C C A R P E T

Several certifications indicate that carpets are non-toxic or have low levels of harmful chemicals. Here are some key certifications to look for:


GECA (Good Environmental Choice Australia)

GECA certification ensures that products meet stringent environmental, health, and ethical standards. Carpets with this certification are tested for low levels of VOCs and other harmful substances, ensuring a safer choice for indoor air quality.


Green Star Rating (GBCA - Green Building Council of Australia)

The Green Star Rating system evaluates the sustainability of building projects, including the materials used. Carpets that contribute to achieving a Green Star Rating have low emissions of VOCs and meet other sustainability criteria.


Carpet Institute of Australia Limited (CIAL) Environmental Certification Scheme

This certification focuses on the environmental impact of carpets, including their chemical emissions. Carpets certified under this scheme adhere to strict guidelines regarding the use of low-emission materials and sustainable practices.


EcoSpecifier GreenTag

Gr eenTag certification is an internationally recognized eco-label that rates the environmental impact of products, including carpets. It covers a range of criteria, including toxicity, VOC emissions, and sustainability. GreenTag-certified carpets are a reliable option for those seeking non-toxic flooring.


GreenGuard

While originally a US-based certification, many products sold in Australia also carry the GreenGuard certification. GreenGuard certifies products for low chemical emissions, contributing to healthier indoor air quality.


Oeko-Tex Standard 100

Oeko-Tex is a globally recognized certification that tests for harmful substances in textiles. Carpets with this certification have been tested for various harmful chemicals and are considered safe for human health.


Australian Carpet Classification Scheme (ACCS) Environmental Certification

The ACCS provides environmental ratings for carpets, focusing on sustainability and low emissions. This scheme helps consumers choose carpets that are both environmentally friendly and low in toxic chemicals.


Green Label Plus (USA)

The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) offers the Green Label Plus certification, which involves a three-tier testing process to monitor the manufacturing, materials, and production of carpets and rugs. This certification addresses some toxic chemicals, though not all mentioned in this post, making it a good option for those seeking a safer, low-toxin product.


No Added Topical Protection

If non-toxic carpet options are not feasible, choose carpets without added topical protection, such as stainguard or waterproof coatings. These treatments often contain PFCs, which are highly toxic, so avoiding them helps reduce toxin exposure in your home.


Install Without Adhesives

Regardless of the type of carpet you choose, whether non-toxic or synthetic, opt for installation without adhesives or glues. This can be challenging to arrange, but it is healthier for your family. Many carpet toxins are linked to the adhesives used, so eliminating them can greatly improve indoor air quality.


These certifications help ensure that the carpets you choose are safer for your health and have a lower environmental impact. When shopping for carpets, look for these labels to make informed, non-toxic choices.





C A N C A R P E T E V E R B E H E A L T H Y ?

Caring for your natural carpet is essential once you've installed it. One crucial tip is to avoid allowing your carpet to stay wet for an extended period. If using a carpet cleaning machine, refrain from saturating the carpet entirely to prevent mould and mildew growth.


Additionally, opt for natural carpet cleaning solutions or create your own. Alternatively, you can make your own solution by mixing three parts of water with one part of vinegar in a spray bottle.


Given that carpets collect dust, mould spores, pesticides, flame retardants, and various contaminants and allergens, investing in a HEPA vacuum cleaner is essential for thorough cleaning and maintaining healthier indoor air quality.

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