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non-toxic carpeting

Non-Toxic Carpets: The Best on the Market

By Tobias RobertsRise Writer
May 28, 2018

Recent trends in the housing market clearly show a rising preference for hardwood floors over carpets. One study found that 54% of home buyers were willing to spend an extra $2,000 for a home with hardwood floors instead of carpets. Younger potential homeowners are much more inclined to opt for hardwood flooring. Nonetheless, carpets and rugs still have a 60% market share in the flooring industry. With over 11,000 billion square feet installed, carpets and rugs are still a staple in a large percentage of American homes.

From a health and sustainability standpoint, however, several red flags have become apparent in carpeted homes. From high VOC emissions of newly installed carpets to the accumulation of allergens in the house, carpets' warmth and extra insulation capabilities also come with a price. For homeowners who want the comfort and warmth of carpets and want to avoid the potent chemicals, several non-toxic carpet manufacturers are fortunately on the market today.

Table of Contents

  1. What Is In Carpets?
  2. Is Carpeting Toxic?
  3. What Are the Most Environmentally Friendly Carpets?
  4. Can Dirty Carpets Affect Your Health?
  5. Is Carpet Cleaner Safe?
  6. How Long Does A New Carpet Off Gas?
  7. Are Rug Pads Toxic?
  8. The Best Non-Toxic Carpet Options

What Is In Carpets?

Few homeowners ever stop to question what exactly makes up the carpet that you walk on every day. While carpets used to be made from wool fibers several decades ago today, carpets and rugs are manufactured from various synthetic fibers, including polypropylene, nylon, or polyester. During the finishing process, most carpets receive a heavy coating of latex, which improves the carpet's resistance to staining.

study by the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine found that newly installed carpets release a host of dangerous chemicals like volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Most potent VOCs release within the first 72 hours after installing new carpeting. Slow-release VOCs can continue to affect your indoor air quality for several years negatively.

Is Carpeting Toxic?

New carpets can contain several known carcinogens, including formaldehyde, ethylbenzene, acetone, toluene, and styrene. While the "new carpet smell" might be preferable to the musty smell associated with old and dirty carpets, this smell is produced by 4-Phenyl Cyclohexane (4-PC). 4-Phenyl Cyclohexaneis a gas produced from chemical reactions between the styrene and butadiene latex most likely used in the backing of your new carpeting.

Several carpet manufacturers and installation companies add several other chemicals to newly installed carpets, including flame retardants, stain protectors, and moth protectors. Most mothproofing pesticides contain high amounts of naphthalene, which have been shown to cause highly toxic reactions in newborns and toddlers. This chemical is a byproduct of coal tar and might negatively affect the human nervous system.

What Are the Most Environmentally Friendly Carpets?

The most environmentally friendly carpets are made using natural fibers, including organic cotton and wool, sisal, seagrass, coir, jute, and bamboo. These materials require few, if any, pesticides or fertilizer to grow. The Carpet and Rug Institute's (CRI) Green Label Plus program is an excellent certification to look for. The certification ensures carpets and adhesives meet high standards of indoor air quality.

Natural Wool Carpet Nature's Carpet
Natural Wool Carpet. Photo Credit: Nature's Carpet

Can Dirty Carpets Affect Your Health?

Dirty carpets can not only look and smell bad, but they can also negatively affect your health. Dirty carpets harbor dirt, dust, pet dander, dust mites, allergens, mold, and particle pollution. It's essential to regularly clean your carpets using a vacuum cleaner with an air filter to ensure you capture everything hiding in your carpets. Regular carpet cleaning can help reduce respiratory illness, asthma, skin irritation and weaken your immune system.

Is Carpet Cleaner Safe?

If your children continually track mud into your living room, you will likely have to invest in carpet cleaning. While every company is different, some of the most common solvents used for dry carpet cleaning have high amounts of butyloxy ethanol. Butyloxy ethanol is dangerous to both the liver and kidneys.

Recycled Face Fibers Flooring
Recycled Face Fibers. Photo Credit: FLOR

How Long Does A New Carpet Off Gas?

While off-gassing can occur for years, new carpeting can smell for 24 to 72 hours. The EPA recommends opening windows and using fans during this period to move air directly outside. Carefully selecting natural carpeting will allow you to enjoy your new carpet without worrying about VOCs and other potentially harmful odors.

Are Rug Pads Toxic?

Many carpet manufacturers and salespeople recommend using rug pads to prevent carpets and area rugs from moving during regular use and to prolong the carpet's life. Like many mainstream carpets, rug pads can also contain dyes, toxic glues, mothproofing, or flame retardant chemicals. Look for rug pads made with natural fibers and without toxic glues or dye.

The Best Non-Toxic Carpet Options

Are you worried about your home's indoor air quality but still want to enjoy the comfort of carpeting? The natural carpet manufacturers below offer quality products for the sustainable home.

sisal carpet 2
Photo courtesy of Sisal Carpet

Sisal Carpet

Farmers and rural populations from Mexico and Central America have been using the sisal plant's natural fibers for hundreds of years to make ropes or different matting products. The sisal plant is a type of Mexican agave (think tequila) whose leaves are used to extract long, durable, natural fibers. Sisal Carpet is a Seattle-based company that sells carpets made from 100% natural sisal fibers. Several Sisal carpets also have a natural latex backing, which further reduces the potential VOC emissions associated with their carpets.

While some synthetic carpets are more inexpensive, the Livos Weave offered by SisalCarpets.com costs $38 per square yard for a wall-to-wall installation. This cost is on par with the estimated average price of a carpet in the US.

carpets in dalton
Photo courtesy of Carpets in Dalton

Carpets in Dalton

Carpets in Dalton offers non-toxic carpeting alternatives sourced from a blend of sisal and seagrass. This Georgia-based company extracts the natural fibers and then uses machines to weave the fabrics into a durable and healthy carpet or rug. The natural fibers that make up these carpets are anti-static, non-toxic, and colorfast. Because the carpeting is sourced from organic plant materials, this helps regulate indoor humidity levels and prevent static accumulation.

While sisal and seagrass carpets might not be as soft underfoot as polypropylene carpets, they are stronger. They have a natural stain resistance, reducing the need for chemical stain repellants.

bloomsburg carpet
Photo courtesy of Bloomsburg Carpet

Bloomsburg Carpet

This small and family-owned business uses a high percentage of sustainable fibers from renewable sources such as sheep wool. Besides incorporating a unique weaving technique allowing for different texture and color combinations, they meet Green Label Plus standards for indoor air quality and VOC emissions.

earth weave carpet
Photo courtesy of Earth Weave

Earth Weave

It is important to mention that many natural carpet manufacturers focus on the environmental and health benefits associated with the carpet's actual fibers. Unfortunately, many natural carpet designers resort to using chemical-tainted carpet backings, which also release VOCs.

Earth Weave is one natural and non-toxic carpet company that also markets a carpet backing made from 100% natural latex. Their rubber rug gripper is sold separately and can give any carpet or rug a durable and all-natural foundation.

Natural Wool Broadloom Carpeting by Nature's Carpet
Natural Wool Broadloom Carpeting. Photo Credit: Nature's Carpet

Nature's Carpet by Colin Campbell and Sons

Nature's Carpet offers over 60 styles of colors and has supplied natural wool broadloom carpet and wool carpet blends in North America for more than 30 years. Made from sheep's wool, Nature's Carpet is suitable for both residential and commercial use. It is geared towards consumers looking to make ethical flooring decisions without sacrificing style and quality.

Natural Coir Flooring by DMI
Natural Coir Flooring. Photo Credit: Design Materials Inc

Design Materials Inc (DMI)

DMI has been offering a wide range of carpets, rugs, and wall coverings made from sisal, seagrass, jute, coir, and wool since 1979. They use natural latex backing, are extremely durable, and don't use dye. DMI products can be found at independent suppliers throughout the United States and through independent partnerships in Canada and the Netherlands.

Natural Carpet Tile Flooring by FLOR
Natural Carpet Tile Flooring. Photo Credit: FLOR


FLOR operates on the principle that a beautiful rug doesn't have to come at the expense of the earth or your health. Their rugs are low on VOCs, contain no harmful chemicals, and they can even recycle your old carpet into something new. Their manufacturing process has achieved carbon neutrality. Through carbon offset investments, their products are carbon neutral across the product lifecycle.

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: 2021-07-10T04:39:11+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.