Did you know that homes with smooth surface flooring are often better for allergy sufferers and the overall health of your home? While I love hard flooring for health reasons, I still like a cozy home too. This is why I love adding a natural rug to my space. But just like carpet, there are many types of rugs and not everything you shop for falls into the organic rug category.
Often if you don’t do your research, you’ll end up bringing a rug into your space that has chemicals and toxins in the fibers and backing. This is why I thought it would be helpful to start you off the right foot with my own research regarding natural rug options. Today I’m breaking down which toxins we need to be watching out for in most rugs. I’m also sharing the positive side of this including types or natural rug fibers you should shop for as well as organic rug pads you can find.
TOXINS FOUND IN MOST RUGS
Rug fibers: Most rugs are made of synthetic fibers, meaning they are man made materials as opposed to natural rug materials. Nylon is one of the most common synthetic fibers, however it is petroleum based. It also received chemical treatments using sulfuric acid and formaldehyde during manufacturing, which stays in the fibers. Nylon is also in the plastic family, meaning it contains many of the same chemicals that are found in plastics, such as phthalates. And to top it all off, nylon materials emit VOCs due to the residues that are retained in the material.
Polyester fibers are another textile that is extremely popular when it comes to rugs and carpet. Polyester is manufactured with antimony, which is a carcinogenic. It’s a material that’s toxic to the lungs and heart. Polyester is made from petroleum byproducts. The fibers are basically a type of plastic that off gas chemicals if the material and fibers are warm at all. Phthalates is a HUGE contributor to the toxins in polyester rugs and as we know, these phthalates cause a number of health concerns, including hormone disruption.
Rug backing: This is an often forgotten about part of rugs, but it can be the MOST toxic in many cases. The backing is often adhered to the synthetic with glues that contain BPA, which is a neurotoxin and has been linked to endocrine disruption.
Rubber backing on rugs also contain Styrene, which is a known carcinogen and has been linked to cancer.
Flame Retardants: A while ago I did a large post all about flame retardants and WHY you want to keep them out of your home. Basically these chemical additives contribute to
Dyes: Rugs come in SO many different, beautiful colors. But regular dyes that are used on the fibers can contain many different chemicals such as lead and cadmium, which are heavy metals. These dyes are not only toxic to our health, but especially the health of our kids as the toxins build up more quickly within their systems. Dyes are also very hard on the environment during the processing and manufacturing stages, adding to the problem of water pollution.
Stain & Waterproof Treatment: I remember when we purchased carpeting for our home (*cringe*) and the sales rep talked us into this great treatment that would make the carpet virtually waterproof. We went for it and I was amazed at how liquid seemed to bead on top of the carpet and never soak in. But what I didn’t know was that the treatment contained PFOAs, the same chemical in teflon, a known carcinogen.
Other treatments added to rugs include antimicrobial preservatives to prevent mildew and mold. The chemicals often used in this treatment are in the triclosan family, which cause endocrine disruption and hormone disruption. Formaldehyde is another agent used for preserving carpet, which has been linked to cancer.
TOXINS FOUND IN RUG PADS
One thing I’ve learned over my years of purchasing rugs for our home is that when you get a new rug, a high quality rug pad is a MUST. But if you’ve ever shopped for a new rug pad, you know that there are MANY different materials and brands. It can take almost as much time to pick out a natural rug as it does to find an organic rug pad.
Many rug pads contain PVC (polyvinyl chloride), a type of plastic that off-gasses toxins into your home. I recently wrote about PVC toxins and their link to childhood obesity, hormone disruption, increased risk of cancer, neurological toxicity and abnormal reproductive development.
That list above is enough for me to cut as much PVC out of my home as possible.
Another material that is quite common for rug pads is synthetic latex. This is not to be confused with natural, organic latex from rubber trees. Synthetic latex is completely man made and is made from petroleum based chemicals. These chemicals often contain styrene, which is a known carcinogen. It also emits VOCs into the air, putting us in direct contact with this toxin which also causes neurotoxicity.
BEST MATERIALS FOR A NATURAL RUG
Now that we know all the stuff to avoid in rugs, it’s time for the good news. The good news is that there are SO many options when it comes to natural rug fibers. And to be honest, there’s more available now than ever before.
Wool: Wool is probably the most common natural rug fiber and for good reason. It’s an extremely resilient material in terms of wear and staining. In fact, because wool has a natural lanolin coating, it naturally resists stains and dirt from penetrating the fibers.
Natural rug fibers made of wool are also resistant to dust mites, mildew and bacteria growth, making it a perfect hypoallergenic fiber. I personally like wool rugs as a natural rug option because of the excellent insulating barrier they provide. The fibers help moderate the temperature and humidity within your home by absorbing and releasing moisture as necessary.
Another added benefit of having a wool fiber natural rug? It’s naturally flame resistant and doesn’t require additional chemical flame retardants to be added to it.
Jute: If you’re looking for a really low maintenance natural rug, jute may be a good option. It’s a relatively soft material that is made of dried plant fibers. One of the benefits of jute is it’s completely renewable and grows abundantly without the need for pesticides.
Often this is a woven rug that requires very little maintenance in comparison to natural rug options because of its natural fibers. You do need to be careful not to get this type of rug extremely wet however. Jute is generally a softer rug fiber and can be great for high traffic areas.
Sisal: When you’re looking for an extremely durable natural rug, Sisal is a perfect material. Sisal is often used in rope and twine, so you know it’s a thicker, resilient fiber. Sisal is a rougher texture than jute, cotton or wool when you’re comparing natural rug fibers, so it’s more ideal for an entry rug than
Cotton: Cotton is a very soft and versatile textile hoption for a natural rug. The best option is an organic cotton that has been certified. This will ensure there have been no pesticides used on the fibers.
Cotton rugs are good for spots that you want to have a softer feel, such as a kids’ room or living space. Cotton fibers are also quite strong and breathable, which means it doesn’t hold on to added moisture.
SAFE MATERIALS FOR ORGANIC RUG PADS
100% Natural Rubber: Finding an organic rug pad that’s 100% natural rubber will add some extra cushion to your natural rug and also keep it in place if it’s on a smooth surface. Organic rug pads are made from the rubber tree and will contain no pesticides or toxins. Top Pick: Super Lock Natural Rubber Rug Pad
Natural Wool/Felt: Getting an organic wool material is also another great option when it comes to an organic rug pad. Make sure it’s an organic wool or felt material to ensure no chemicals or pesticides have been added to it. However, make sure you’re not getting a rug pad made up of recycled carpet fibers, which likely has some chemicals in it. Top Pick: RugPadUSA Natural Non-slip
Jute Blend: Many organic rug pads are made with a few different materials, one of which being a blend of jute and rubber. This type of rug pad makes for a great non-skid surface and holds your rug firmly in place if it’s on a smooth floor. Top Pick: Nature’s Grip
TOP PICKS FOR RUG BRANDS
Organic Weave: My friend, Linda, founded her company and continues to be the only GOTS certified area rug available. Her beautiful rugs are handmade and they are completely toxin free with no pesticides, flame retardants, chemicals or dyes. (Use Code AMANDA for 5% off your purchase)!
Hook & Loom: This is a great website to visit for organic rug and natural rug options. They have their rugs sorted into cotton and wool. They also have different patterns, thick weave and loom hooked variations.
Etsy: Etsy is one of my go to places for home decor and now for natural rug options. I use the term “organic rug” in the search bar and then filter through the results to find the size and material you want. One of the reasons I love these rugs is that they are all handmade. Below are some of my favorite finds: