Sustainable Rug Header

Sustainable Rugs For Your Home

By Tom Saxton Rise Writer
Mar 30, 2021

There is an increased awareness among consumers of the impacts of microplastics on the environment. We hear about plastic straws and plastic grocery bags, but what about microplastics from textiles like rugs, upholstery, or clothing? 

Hira Wool Rug Article
Hira Wool Rug. Photo Credit: Article

Why Buy A Sustainable Rug?

A study found that around 33% of the airborne particles in our buildings are microplastics originating from synthetic fibers such as polyester, polyethylene, and nylon-like those used in carpets and rugs. Synthetic rugs have also been known to off-gas VOCs and emit unhealthy chemicals that worsen the indoor air quality in our homes.

As awareness grows on microplastics' origins in synthetic fabrics and their implications on our health and planet, demand is growing for sustainable natural fiber textiles.

Let's dive in and learn more about this fascinating trend.

What Are Natural Carpet Fibers Made Of?

Natural fibers are sourced from renewable plant and animal sources such as wool, cotton, hemp, sisal, bamboo, seagrass, coir, and jute. Each originates in different parts of the globe. It's ideal to pick a material sourced closest to you to mitigate the embodied energy required for transportation. 

Synthetic rugs and textiles find their origins in fossil fuels and come in nylon, polyester, polyethylene, and triexta. Triexta is a hybrid material that combines corn sugar and polyester.

Cotton Blend Rug West Elm
Cotton Blend Rug. Photo Credit: West Elm

What Kinds of Natural Fiber Rug Materials Exist and Where are They Best Suited?

It can be tricky to sift through all the various rug options and decide where they fit best in the built environment.  Land Of Rugs, a rug retailer in the UK, provided advice on this front:

Land of Rugs Medina Wool Rug
Medina Wool Rug. Photo Credit: Land of Rugs

What Is Wool Carpet?

Before synthetic fibers, wool dominated the rug market. Wool remains the most popular natural carpet fiber and is the go-to option for comfort, affordability relative to other natural materials, and durability. Land of Rugs suggests that wool rugs are best used in living rooms and bedrooms. Wool is a soft material, making it a warm and comfortable rug option. Wool is heat resistant and doesn't melt while also offering thermal and acoustic insulation properties. Wool repels dirt and mold and is resistant to compacting and crushing but is best used indoors. Sheep are raised all around the world, making it a regional option in many locations.

Hemp Rug Fhygge Etsy
Hemp Rug. Photo Credit: Fhygge via Etsy

What Is Hemp Carpet?

Hemp is a growing trend in the natural fiber market that offers a great blend of durability and comfort. It is mildew resistant, and its anti-bacterial properties make it likely the best natural fibers outdoor option. However, if you are looking for an outdoor rug in a high-traffic area, jute might be the best option. Hemp carpet gets softer over time, so it's also a fantastic option for living rooms and bedrooms. Hemp is grown in many regions of the globe.

Hurst Abstract Braided Cotton Rug Wayfair
Hurst Abstract Braided Cotton Rug. Photo Credit: Wayfair

What Is Cotton Carpet?

Cotton grows in warm climates worldwide, with the majority originating in the US, China, India, and Uzbekistan. Cotton is a durable and soft rug option. While it is very breathable, it can mold in very humid conditions. So it shouldn't be exposed to excessive moisture and is best for indoor use in small to medium-sized rugs.

Bamboo Rug Amazon
Bamboo Rug. Photo Credit: Amazon

What Is Bamboo Carpet?

Bamboo is a fast-growing tree found in tropical regions is turning into a fast-growing niche in the sustainable rug market. This material is limited to small area rugs and isn't as soft as other options. Bamboo can be the right choice in high-traffic areas in kitchens and bathrooms and is a viable option outdoors. Bamboo rugs can also be spot cleaned with a damp cloth, making them easy for homeowners to maintain.

Ikea Vokslev Sisal Rug
Vokslev Sisal Rug. Photo Credit: Ikea

What Is Sisal Carpet?

Sisal fibers are extracted from the leaves of the agave plant, a cactus native to Central America. The fibers are durable, making them great for high-traffic locations like kitchens and bathrooms. Sisal is best reserved for smaller indoor rugs. If you live in a drier climate, sisal can be used outdoors.

Jute Rug Overstock
Jute Rug. Photo Credit: Overstock

What Is Jute Carpet?

Jute is a plant that primarily originates from India. They make an excellent option if you are looking for a hard-wearing rug for your kitchen, living room, or other high footfall areas. They are not the best choice in humid climates, but you can use them outdoors in a drier region.

What Is Seagrass Carpet?

Seagrass is a sedge grass grown in warmer coastal areas around the world. It is a highly durable and abrasion-resistant material. It's soft and more comfortable than sisal and is typically used in kitchens and bathrooms.

What Is Coir Carpet?

Coir rugs are made from the husks of coconuts from tropical regions. They are very durable and can handle exterior conditions, and are excellent in high traffic areas as small to medium-sized rugs.

The Elegant Nomad
Photo Credit: The Elegant Nomad

How Long Natural Rug Materials Last?

Durability comes down to the material choice, rug quality, and how it is used. Synthetic materials like polyethylene and polyester are said to last anywhere from 5 - 15 years. Nylon is the most durable synthetic material, and a mid to high-quality nylon rug can last 8 - 15 years. Triexta rugs can last at least 10 -15 years.

Wool is the king when it comes to durability. High-quality wool rugs and rugs are said to last over 20 years and even well beyond that when properly maintained. Wool can bend over 20,000 times before breaking, making it ideal to withstand high traffic areas. The other natural-fiber options are comparable to synthetics in their lifespan and typically don't last as long as wool.

At the end of their service life, natural fibers are biodegradable and can sometimes even be composted. You could even use them as a weed block material in your garden!

Some types of synthetics, like nylon, can potentially be recycled. The majority, however, will end their service life in a landfill, unable to decompose like all other plastics in the world.

Natural Rug

Are Rug Dyes Eco-Friendly?

The textile dye industry produces hazardous and toxic wasteincluding carcinogenic metals and oxygen-demanding substances (which pose a significant threat to beneficial microorganisms in water sources). Although many are aware of the multitude of dangers the dye industry poses to humans and the environment, the available supply of natural dyes can only meet 1% of the global demand. 

Natural dyes have benefits for textiles beyond providing color, including anti-microbial properties that prevent mold and fungi' growth, reducing odors and allergies, to name a few. 

While natural dyes might be a better alternative to chemically manufactured synthetic dyes, even natural dyes pose an environmental and health threat. These risks are due to the methods necessary for extraction and color fasting using chemical solvents. Mordant is a substance commonly used in the process of binding dyes to fiber. Mordant contains heavy metals used in high concentrations and is dangerous for human health and the environment's health. However, there is research being done to develop natural mordant from tannins. The interest in this research is growing. There is a tremendous amount of potential in non-toxic natural dyes for the textile industry. 

When it comes to the color of your rugs, the most sustainable and environmentally friendly gesture would be to choose a natural, dye-free color - until the dye industry creates a truly non-toxic process.

Indoor Outdoor Jute Rug Handloom India Etsy
Indoor/Outdoor Jute Rug. Photo Credit: Handloom India via Etsy

Are There Environmental Certifications for Natural Rugs?

There is a wide array of various certifications for rug textiles.

  1. Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): This comprehensive set of standards includes socially and environmentally manufacturing processes.  
  2. GREENGUARD Gold Certification is a certification that places a limit on VOC emissions in textiles.
  3. Green Label and Green Label Plus: Ensures that customers purchase among the lowest emitting rug/carpet, adhesive, and cushion products on the market.
  4. GoodWeave: Child labor is a real problem in the hand-made rug industry. GoodWeave assures no child labor, forced labor, or bonded labor was used to make the product and provides education and opportunities to at-risk children. GoodWeave is a member of the ISEAL Alliance and complies with its Codes of Good Practice, ensuring its transparency and quality control. 
  5. OneCert International: OneCert offers certifications for ethical Global Textile Standards, as well as Textile Exchange Standards. Certifications include GOTS, Content Claim, Global Recycled, Organic Content, Recycled Claim, Responsible Down, and Responsible Wool standards.  
  6. FSC (Forest Stewardship Council): A certification for sustainable management of the world's forests. Their certification assures forest products are obtained from responsibly managed forests. This certification would apply to bamboo rugs.
  7. NSF/ANSI 140 - 2015: Sustainability Assessment for Carpets/Rugs: This commercial carpet/rug standard incorporates the VOC emissions requirements of Green Label Plus, requires ingredient disclosure down to 1%, prohibits persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) substances above 0.1%. The standard does not address rug adhesives or padding.
  8. Oeko-Tex 100This standard bans or restricts heavy metals, flame retardants, phthalates, certain long-chain PFAS, and numerous other chemicals of concern from textiles.
Thom Browne Cable Knit Effect Rug The Rug Company
Thom Browne Cable Knit Effect Rug. Photo Credit: The Rug Company

What Are Some Good Sustainable Rug Brands?

Luckily, many companies are making sustainable rugs that we can get behind. Some of them include Hook and Loom, Organic Weave, Earth Weave and, Nature's Carpet. We will look at each below.

Hook and Loom
Photo Credit: Hook and Loom

Hook and Loom

Hook and Loom provide 100% natural undyed environmentally responsible wool rugs - hand-woven and hand-bound edges eliminate the need for hazardous synthetic backing, glues, and other chemical bonding agents. They also make recycled Eco Cotton rugs out of reclaimed textile fibers - hand-woven on a wooden loom with no dyes, chemicals, or latex. No harmful waste is produced in production and keeping existing cotton out of landfills. Visit their website to learn more about their perspective on why recycled cotton, and even organic cotton, was not the most environmentally friendly choice compared to their Eco Cotton alternative.

Organic Weave
Photo Credit: Organic Weave

Organic Weave

Organic Weave is one of the best sources for natural fiber rugs. They are made of certified organic wool, cotton, and silk. They use GOTS certified organic wool and cotton and FSC certified natural rubber for bonding the rug to the organic cotton canvas backing. They are GoodWeave certified, ensuring child-free labor and supporting skilled women artisans in India's cooperative. Organic Weave offers beautiful, durable, high-quality products while maintaining social and environmental ethics.

Earth Weave Catskills
Catskill Collection. Photo Credit: Earth Weave

Earth Weave

Earth Weave is committed to 100% natural wool carpets and area rugs, renewably sourced with no toxic chemicals.

Nature's Carpet
Photo Credit: Nature's Carpet

Nature's Carpet

Nature's carpet carries a collection of chemical-free 100% undyed wool rugs with jute backing and a natural rubber adhesive system. They provide a transparent Green Spectrum to clarify the degree of environmentally friendly standards among their products.

Living Room Rug

Natural fiber rugs offer a renewable and sometimes biodegradable alternative to synthetics - and do not emit VOCs and microplastics in our homes. If you are looking for ways to reduce your environmental impact and create a healthier living environment, consider natural fiber rugs.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-10-26T13:40:07+0000
Stories
Shop
Home of Wool Striped 33.5 x 77" Flat Woven Wool Rug
Home of Wool Striped 33.5 x 77" Flat Woven Wool Rug
the Home of Wool Wool Striped 33.5 x 77" Flat Woven Wool Rug is handmade to order, this flatwoven rug boasts timeless stripes that effortlessly complement any interior. Beyond its stylish aesthetics, this rug offers unbeatable functionality, being inherently flame retardant and resistant to dirt and crushing. Crafted from pure wool, it's a hypoallergenic choice perfect for parents seeking chemical-free alternatives for their children's spaces. Whether gracing a living room or a child's room, this rug is an exceptional choice that combines elegance with peace of mind.
$268
Organic Weave Stained Glass Handtufted Wool Rug
Organic Weave Stained Glass Handtufted Wool Rug
Our Stained Glass rug features warm neutral greys colors in a soft pile & plush rug. Made to order in India, our organic wool rugs are naturally hypo-allergenic, stain & soil resistant, flame retardant - they will stand the test of time, even with a busy family (kids and pets) walking on it. Delivery: 12 weeks About this rug: Ultra-soft certified organic wool rug Colors are created with all-natural dyes Handcrafted in India GoodWeave certified GOTS certified Colors may vary slightly from the images shown on your screen Finished with an organic cotton backing The backing is attached with GOTS approved latex glue All orders are custom made to order. As such, we do not allow returns except in the case of quality issues.
$1,549-$4,749
Organic Weave Trellis Wool Handtufted Rug
Organic Weave Trellis Wool Handtufted Rug
Inspired by an ancient Chinese trellis pattern, this organic wool rug is hand-crafted, in a textured cut and loop pattern. This rug brings worldly sophistication and charm to any room. Delivery: 12 weeks About this rug: Ultra-soft certified organic wool rug with organic cotton dots Colors are created with all-natural dyes Handcrafted in India GoodWeave certified GOTS certified Colors may vary slightly from the images shown on your screen Finished with an organic cotton backing The backing is attached with GOTS approved latex glue All orders are custom made to order. As such, we do not allow returns except in the case of quality issues.
$1,549-$4,749
Organic Weave Aspen Plaid Cut Pile Handtufted Wool Rug
Organic Weave Aspen Plaid Cut Pile Handtufted Wool Rug
Mad for Plaid! Our Aspen Rug is handwoven in shades of blue mixed with ivory in a classic plaid design. Sink your feet into the super soft plush pure organic wool pile! Handmade in India, our organic wool rugs are naturally hypo-allergenic, stain & soil resistant, flame retardant - they will stand the test of time, even with a busy family (kids and pets) walking on it. Delivery: 12 weeks About this rug: Ultra-soft certified organic wool rug Colors are created with all-natural dyes Handcrafted in India GoodWeave certified GOTS certified Colors may vary slightly from the images shown on your screen Finished with an organic cotton backing The backing is attached with GOTS approved latex glue Made-to-order items are non-refundable All orders are custom made to order. As such, we do not allow returns except in the case of quality issues.
$1,549-$4,749
Shop Sustainable Products