Best Low VOC Carpets and Rugs on the Market

Introduction

A fine carpet or rug adds luxury, style and comfort to a home. While a carpet might perform the more functional job of covering your floors, it also accentuates these floors with aesthetic appeal. There are many industrial materials involved in their production. Needless to say, a variety of decisions go into picking the perfect carpet or rug for your living spaces. First and foremost, it is important to consider one's health and comfort. A carpet or rug that includes toxic materials is surely not a good buy. The gauge for this toxicity is in the level of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) emitted by the carpet or rug. These are gases which can cause symptoms like nausea, fatigue and several allergies. There are several brands on the market that do provide low VOC rugs and carpets. Past this threshold, there are also options of fibre, thickness, design, and ecological sustainability. To guide you through the technicalities and styles of carpet choices, we decided to look into some of the best low-VOC area rugs and carpets on the market today.

Eco-Friendly, Low-VOC Area Rugs

By installing low-VOC or eco-friendly area rugs, a customer chooses to create a living environment that is safe and sustainable. The biggest names on the low-VOC area rug market are brands like Safavieh, Earth Weave, nuLOOM, Bloomsbury Carpet, Helios and Woolshire. These brands offer green-labeled carpets with low VOC toxicity levels, making it safe for anyone from pets to children to adults. Since VOCs enable a carpet to become a reservoir for several bio-toxins, special materials are used to make an area rug home-friendly. Here are some of the best low-VOC rugs by material.

Sisal: A natural carpet fibre extracted from the leaves of the Agave plant, sisal makes for highly durable area rugs. The rugs are usually bound with canvas board for a sophisticated looking structure. It is naturally eco-friendly, stain resistant, heavy duty, does not built static, and does not trap any dust or allergens. Because of its neutral color, it pretty much goes together with any decor of choice. On top of all this, sisal has a dense molecular structure that absorbs sound better than any other carpet fibre.

Best low-VOC sisal area rug: Safavieh Natural Fiber Collection NF525C Marble Sisal Area Rug (9' x 12')

Safavieh are renowned crafters of high quality rugs, so it is no surprise that the best sisal rug is their 9’x12’ basket weave from their natural fiber collection. The neutral marble color paired with a fringeless border makes the style casual and contemporary. Weighing about 64 pounds, the rug has matching body and border tones giving it the organic appeal with a modern look. Owing to the fibre, the rug is stain- and wear-resistant. The rubber backing is sewn onto the back, making it also slip-resistant and eco-friendly. While it is more on the expensive side, the sisal fibre and lack of adhesive backing makes it arguably worth the money.

Wool: With most traditional rug-fibre, wool area rugs are stylish, colorful and affordable. They are naturally fire, stain and soil resistant. They also absorb sound and offer a warm cosy accent to any decor. Not only are they easy to maintain but also come in a variety of styles. Wool also contains lanolin, a natural protectant against allergens and moisture.

Best low-VOC wool area rug: nuLOOM’s Contemporary Hand Tufted Wool Moroccan Triangle Rug, 5' x 8', Navy

While this area rug is only 90% wool and 10% viscose, it’s an ode to traditional Moroccan navy wool rugs. It is relatively cheaper and will brighten up any hallway or floor. It does not come with any adhesive pads to prevent sliding, which means you will have to buy your own low-VOC rug pads. It weighs 15 lbs with about 0.45 inches of thickness. Because wool is less durable, it requires some vacuum to shed out excess fibre. Overall, it is non-toxic and stylish.

Cotton: Cotton is the most common global natural fibre. It is mostly cellulose and has been used as textile for centuries. Cotton area rugs add a lighter lustrous effect than the regular thick rug. It has a soft and breathable texture, so it is more sensitive than durable. Cotton area rugs are easier to machine wash, making them extremely manageable.

Best low-VOC cotton area rug: Safavieh Rag Rug Collection RAR125A Hand Woven Light Blue and Multi Cotton Area Rug

Handmade and hand-woven, these rugs are stylish and durable with a range of size options (from 2’x3’ to 9’x12’). All rugs within this collection are made with premium cotton giving it a historic, timeless look. It is also easy to maintain, a simple cold hand or machine was will go a long way. A warmer wash will likely wash away the color, however. Yet, it is non-toxic and safe children. In fact, it generally is created with bright colors and is good for accentuating a children’s room. It is also highly eco-friendly with low pile height.

Jute: These area rugs are made from the jute fibre derived from the Jute plant common in India and China. The fibre is renewable, biodegradable, malleable and long-lasting. It is not as durable as sisal but the its consistency allows for small or chunky carpet braids. While there isn’t much design variability, it is highly eco-friendly.

Best low-VOC jute area rug: Safavieh Natural Fiber Collection NF114A Basketweave Natural and Beige Summer Seagrass Area Rug

Following the classic power-loomed basketweave look, this rug is an affordable version of the sisal area rug. It has a cotton border, neutral colors and a felt dotted backing. It will fit into any decor style. A tight weave allows for heavy duty use and durability. It also has a low pile height and can be used under furniture. The polypropylene backing keeps the rug from sliding and reduces VOC emissions due to standards followed by Safavieh on its use of polymers. Overall, the finish is smooth to touch, stylish, dust-resistant and rigid.

 

Eco-friendly Low-VOC Carpets

While rugs are partial floor coverings, carpets are usually tacked down to the floor and cover it wall to wall. This means that a lot of adhesive and padding is needed to install the carpet. Unfortunately, this also means that the carpets become reservoirs of VOCs as well as allergens, bacteria, dust and mites. Having eco-friendly carpets with low VOC mitigates health risk as well as enables environmentally friendly comfort living. Choosing or installing eco-friendly carpets begins with checking for a low-emissions label indicated by a small greenhouse icon. This icon means the carpet has been tested by the Carpet and Rug Institute's (CRI) Indoor Air Quality testing program. Most low-VOC carpets come as wall to wall carpets or carpet tiles. Brands producing these carpets include Mohawk, Earth Weave, ShawFloors and Flor.com. Here are some of the best eco-friendly low VOC carpets:

Earthweave’s BioFloor Wool Carpets

One of the first carpet companies to incorporate only 100% natural materials, Earthweave fulfills its claims of eco-friendly, natural, and low-emission carpets made from organically dyed yarn that is moth-proof, stain-proof, durable and mold-resistant. The BioFloor natural carpet is unique in its focus on health above all else, but it does not compromise in its ample selection. The bio-floor collection includes:

  • Dolomite, 300 oz/sq yard. Textured loop and Undyed yarn.
  • Pyreness 380 oz/sq yard. Textured loop and Undyed yarn.
  • McKinley 440 oz/sq yard. Textured loop and Undyed yarn.
  • Rainier 440 oz/sq yard. Tip Shear. Undyed yarn.
  • Catskill 650 oz/sq yard. Variable cut-pile. Organically dyed yarn.

Mohawk Smartstrand
Giving nylon a run for its money, Mohawk’s SmartStrand scientifically enhances the core component of a carpet: the fiber. It is essentially an eco-friendly version of nylon. The worry-free low VOC carpet from Mohawk allows permanent stain resistance and long-lasting durability. There are mainly two types: SmartStrand Silk Forever Clean and SmartStrand Silk Reserve. “Silk Forever Clean” is packed with 700 silk-like fibers while “Silk Reserve” is made for maximum durability. The fibers are OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certified free of harmful substances and has a pet protection warranty. With no dye sites, the carpet will never lose stain protection. It is also engineered with a deep foam cushion. Scientifically, these carpets are the future of all easy-to-clean, eco-friendly and low-VOC flooring.

BCF Nylon

Shawfloor’s nylon carpets are some of the best in the market. Made with BCF or “bulk continuous filament,” the carpet is constituted by sections of one long continuous strand of fiber. While it is a higher cost fiber, BCF is easier to clean since it does not fuzz or shed. Say goodbye to constant vacuuming. Child and pet friendly, the carpet has natural insulation and a soft carpet padding to minimize noise and give excellent comfort. With the best stain-fighting technology in the industry, the Shawfloors carpets’ LifeGuard benefit also makes them 100% waterproof, perfect for wine, paint or any liquid spillage.

Buyers’ Guide

Carpets are a crucial influencer of air quality in a home, potentially acting like a storage for dust, bacteria, allergens, mites and other chemical toxins. Often, there is high VOC content in the adhesive backing of most carpets. While dusting or vacuuming can keep a place clean, they barely cover VOC emissions that are bound to the carpet. As a result new construction and renovation projects have now incorporated carpets with the lowest volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Low VOC carpets also tend to have short lived emissions, within 24-48 hours after installation.

When choosing carpets it is important to check the label making sure it's been tested by the Carpet and Rug Institute's (CRI) Indoor Air Quality testing program. An icon with CRI within a greenhouse verifies this standard for low emission. If not CRI, then SCS Global Services certification also qualifies.

Generally, one should look for natural or low-VOC emitting synthetic options. Sisal, wool, cotton and jute are important natural fibers and Mohawk, ShawFloors and Earthweave are leading brands in the synthetic department. Apart from material, look for low-toxic adhesive binding to the secondary backing. An example of secondary backing can be a primary backing of hemp & cotton, followed by a natural rubber adhesive backed by a secondary jute backing. This maintains a low-VOC carpeting process without the need for spending too much on expensive synthetic fiber carpets. It is also important to air the carpet before installation; this can be as easy as a pre-delivery request to the carpet distributor.

It also pays off to look for non-toxic carpet and rug padding like felt, cord or wool. Styrene-butadiene rubber is what one must surely avoid as some even have the same toxicity as formaldehyde. Alternatively, there are various chemical-free, low-emitting and non-solvent adhesives in the market.

 

Installation

It is crucial to provide a healthy indoor environment for all residential spaces. The long term health effects of a living space can affect a person for a very long time. Therefore, in terms of carpet installation, your choices should also be influenced by installation and ventilation. Here are some important things to remember:

  • Adhesives are the main reason for VOC emissions. For low ventilation areas like basements and attics, it is crucial to select really low VOC non-solvent adhesives.
  • If installing a carpet in the basement, check if installers can air-out the carpet in the warehouse for 48-72 hours. You can do this yourself, but the installers usually do not mind doing this for you.
  • It is important to run a test for moisture and alkalinity on the concrete substrate before installation. A good carpet installer will do this, but do not forget to ask anyway.
  • By standard, the Carpet and Rug Institute requires all carpet supplies to unroll and air-out carpets in the warehouse. This diminishes emissions that would occur in your house and it minimizes off-gassing.
  • Dust, pet dandruff, and allergen particulates can get trapped in carpets. Carpets can also act as a basin for VOC emitted materials, so keep in mind that your paint, sealers, furnishing and other household materials also contain low VOC.
  • Lastly, regardless of all installation measures, you will want a carpet that is easy to manage. Example, a wool carpet can be stain resistant but it is not a good idea in the damp basement.
  • Always choose a non-VOC carpet cleaner.