For safe, non-toxic carpet, both natural and synthetic fiber options can be a healthy choice.
The post outlines my top picks in the zero and low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) categories for residential and commercial use. This includes a look at the carpet fiber, backing, products used during installation, and padding (underlay).
Even folks who are chemically sensitive can do well with carpet in the home.
This post contains affiliate links. Upon purchase, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
The Ideal Carpet Does not Contain:
- Flame retardants – the most harmful types are usually found in polyurethane padding or felt backing, but aluminum hydroxide can be added to the fibers. Antimony is a found in some flame retardants used in carpet.
- Permethrin pesticide mothproofing which is added to many wool carpets.
- Antimicrobials which can be added to the backing, the glues, and the face fiber. Pyrithione zinc and/or potassium oleate is often used in the fiber.
- Stain repellent like Scotchguard (perfluorobutanesulfonic acid) and other PFAS which are often added to the textile top layer. PFAS (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) aka “forever chemicals” are a priority to avoid in my opinion.
- Anti-static treatment like quaternary ammonia which can be added to the fibers.
- SBR (Styrene-Butadiene rubber) is at the base of the fibers in conventional carpet.
- Padding offgassing – polyurethane, rubber, and natural latex backings can all can offgas.
- Phthalates – usually found in vinyl/PVC backings.
- Fly Ash – which can be added to backings, and can contain mercury, lead and arsenic.
- Toxic Metal Stabilizers like lead and cadmium.
- Toxic adhesives which can be required for glue-down installation or at the seams.
- VOCs – a number of chemical additives are a part of conventional carpet – from the dyes and processing of the fibers to the topical fiber treatments, backing glues, backing materials, carpet padding, and installation tapes and glues.
What to Look for in a Carpet:
- A fiber that is not treated with toxic chemical treatments – wool and other organic fibers like sisal and jute are the best option.
- Undyed wool without pesticides is in theory the purest option, but it does have a strong natural odor from the wool oils.
- Natural latex is usually touted as the safe adhesive between the fibers and the backing. I have reservations about natural latex which are outlined in this post on mattresses, and I’m not sure if the same precautions need to be taken with carpet. I personally have a preference for backing without natural latex.
- PET and PTT two types of polyester are also a safe fiber (in terms of offgassing) which can be free of PFAS “forever chemicals”.
- Zero-VOC is ideal!
- Certifications? … are not useful in this situation. Green Lable Plus, a certification created by the carpet industry, has an upper limit of offgassing that it appears that all carpet in North America can meet. Greenguard is rarely used to certify carpets.
Wool carpet is a natural choice that can be untreated and undyed. It does not contain flame retardants and the best brands would not use topical treatments.
The backing will be a natural latex in most cases.
1. Earth Weave
Earthweave makes a wool carpet, with no mothproofing and no other treatments. It does contain latex. I always prefer the undyed wool option for the extremely sensitive. This is one of the top brands.
2. Nature’s Carpet
Another great brand, Nature’s carpet is also made of wool. The Dark Green line does not have mothproofing and uses undyed wool. The backing contains natural latex and jute.
The Medium Green line and Light Green line contain permethrin mothproofing. The Medium Green has jute, and synthetic backing adhesive. The Light Green has synthetic backing adhesive and synthetic backing (not jute).
3. Hibernia wool
I have sniffed Hibernia and it does have a wooly smell (as you would expect), but not a chemical smell. The company changed ownership in 2018. They do use mothproofing (typically permethrin is used on wool carpets).
Home Depot wool carpet – I tried the Natural Harmony brand Glacial wool/polyester blend and it did have a slight classic carpet chemical odor.
Seagrass & Jute Carpet
I really like seagrass carpet because of how it feels underfoot. The DMI brand makes one I like that is not dyed or treated with insecticides or other chemicals. It does contain natural latex.
There are also companies that make wall-to-wall sisal carpet. Sisal is stronger and more durable than jute (and not as soft), but looks similar.
You should ask about pesticides sprayed during transport. Topical treatments are not usually used but you could ask.
Most of the no or extremely low-VOC carpets are made from polyester (PET or PTT). There are a few polyester carpets that are too high in offgassing for me. I list out the ones I have found are the best.
In general, your typical nylon carpet (which is the most common carpet textile) is too high in offgassing for a healthy home in my opinion.
1. Home Fresh by Empire Today
One of my top picks for synthetic carpet (PET polyester), Homefresh carpet contains charcoal which absorbs some VOCs (up to a point) and was extremely low in odor and VOCs/offgassing. I can see how it is officially 0-VOC.
It has a built-in felt backing, which seemed benign to me. The felt is synthetic (polyester).
The carpet does have Scotchguard coating on it.
I got a sample that was a few months old, but it has stayed bagged up, and I did not pick up classic carpet offgassing at all. Though it is not 100% odorless to the most extremely sensitive, it is very close. If you don’t have an extreme sense of smell you may very well find this odorless.
I was actually quite surprised as I have sniffed many carpets. It’s available in the US (not Canada). For $350 off try this discount link.
It is installed by tack down or glue down methods, the company says in an email. Though until you do an in-home estimate the company will not say much in email or by phone.
2. Air.o by Mohawk
This carpet is very similar to Home Fresh and I’m happy to see another great contender in the synthetic category.
The carpet fibers are made from 100% PET (polyester), just like Home Fresh. It has a very similar felt padding which is far superior health-wise to typical polyurethane or rubber.
They claim it has no odor and is zero-VOC, and I would say it is very close to odorless.
It is treated with what they call “Fresh Carpet Technology” an odor-neutralizing treatment of zeolite, similar to Home Fresh‘s charcoal. Some sellers list it as containing Scotchguard treatment and in 2018 Air.o did test positive for PFAS in the face fiber and positive for bromine (a component of flame retardant) in the backing. Antimony was also detected, which could be part of the flame retardants or residuals from polyester production. But as of Oct 1, 2019, no Mohawk soft surface products contain PFAS.
Unlike conventional carpet, these two brands do not require melting a glue on the seams nor glue underneath. Air.o is installed with double-sided tape that they provide.
FLOR makes carpet tiles that can be arranged as rugs or as wall-to-wall carpet.
Their regular carpet lines are made from nylon (polyamide), and most have a vinyl backing. Some have a bitumen backing which I found lower in offgassing than the vinyl.
FLOR has a different type of offgassing chemical odor than typical carpet, and I definitely find it offgasses faster.
All of their carpets are free of PFAS (aka “forever chemicals”) or any topical stain guard treatment. For flame resistance, they use mineral fillers like unrefined aluminum ore (bauxite) and calcium carbonate (limestone) in the layer below the yarn.
The Fedora is a specialty line made from recycled plastic (PET) and is very low VOC, it was far lower in that telltale carpet chemical smell than their usual nylon lines. It offgassed to “odorless” much faster as well.
This Fedora line does not look like it would hold up as well as other types, though some might prefer this carpet because of how fast it offgasses.
You will need to test their sticky tape “dots” that attach these tiles to each other. The backing of the tiles is a plastic layer (vinyl or bitumen) and they do not require glue or tacking down to the subfloor to stay in place (just the dots which stick to each other).
4. Mohawk SmartStrand
Another type of polyester carpet, SmartStrand is PTT (Triexta) instead of PET. Polyester carpets are consistently lower in offgassing since they are treated with fewer chemicals. I would say this one is extremely low VOC.
Assuming the samples were fairly new (which was not as clear in this case as it was with the other brands above), this is lower in offgassing than FLOR.
Air.o and HomeFresh both seemed better to me. This one had a very faint regular carpet chemical odor.
Since polyester is inherently more stain-resistant, there also seem to be fewer (or less harmful) stain-resistant coatings used on it. Their stain-resistant Nanoloc is described as a “spill-resistant shield made from nanoparticles”. It’s not clear what that actually is. It does not have Scotchguard and they are claiming no topical stain guard treatments which can wash out (and they have said no PFAS are used in an email).
It is OEKO-TEX 100.
Other Mohawk Carpet Lines
Mohawk EverStrand is also made of polyester (PET), it was extremely similar to SmartStrand to me. EverStrand does have Scotchguard.
On the other hand, Mohawk EnviroStrand was not as good in terms of offgassing, it was more like a conventional carpet odor in my experience, despite also being solution-dyed PET. However, it did test free of metals like lead and antimony. (Though positive for PFAS in 2018. Should be free of PFAS since 2019).
Mohawk Street Thread is a more conventional nylon carpet (with the usual offgassing) but their Duracolor stain-resistant technology did test free of PFAS.
Shaw Brand 100% High-Performance PET. Shaw is a competitor to Mohawk. They also have PET carpets. I got samples of their Bellera PET line. Based on the samples I got of both brands I would say that I picked up a more noticeable new carpet odor off of the Shaw PET. I personally wouldn’t use this one myself. (I am not affiliated with either brand and there is one big factor that I can’t hold steady and that is the age of the samples).
5. Engineered Floors DreamWeaver PureColor
The company Engineered Floors makes a solution-dyed polyester carpet that is free of PFAS. That is a chemical of high concern and it’s great to see companies eliminating this.
I am waiting to see samples of this product.
Other Carpet Brands Free of PFAS:
All of Home Depot and Lowes carpets and rugs are free of PFAS/PFCs. I would suggest getting samples of the polyester options by Home Decorators Collection, Lifeproof, Traffic Master (olefin fiber), Mohawk, and Stainmaster.
I tested all the polyesters/Triexta carpets from Home Depot. In my estimation, the Lifeproof lines including Petproof were lower odor than Traffic Master brand, but not as good as Mohawk SmartStrand, Envirostrand, and Air.o or HomeFresh.
My top choice from Home Depot is the Lifeproof Triexta with the Lifeproof polyethylene cushion option.
Some Lines by Shaw, Tarkett, and Bentley as outlined here are free of antimicrobials, flame retardant chemicals, fly ash, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyurethane, synthetic styrene-butadiene latex as well as PFCs.
Interface Carpet is free of PFAS and PFCs.
Staton Carpet LION indoor/outdoor nylon was low in odor & offgassing – definitely quite good for a nylon carpet. The company said in an email they are free of PFAS/PFCs.
6. Inexpensive Polyester Carpet
The Ribbed Carpet Tile from Flooringinc, also was odorless to me, based on the sample I received. It’s very thin with almost no backing and might not be the most durable of options but it is simple and cheap.
It’s a peel and stick and the adhesive part of the sticker was shockingly low in odor.
I also got samples of their Impressions Carpet Tiles, and the Ribbed Smoke Grey Indoor/Outdoor Area Rug, but is was more difficult to judge those as they arrived smelling like rubber from their nearby rubber stock.
If you have conventional carpet in your house that is still offgassing, reduce the VOCs by sealing them in with AFM Carpet Seal. It reduces offgassing by 60-80%.
Commercial Grade Carpets
It is a lot harder to find low-VOC commercial carpet. I have reviewed and sniffed a few of the ones that claim the lowest VOC levels.
FLOR: Most of their carpets are commercial grade. They claimed they have the lowest VOC levels in the industry in 2017, though in my comparison with the other types above, I do not believe that was true.
However, in the conventional nylon carpet category, this very well might be the case.
They have Green Label Plus which every carpet can probably attain now and is not a low level of VOC in my opinion. It doesn’t help to distinguish between brands if all of them can reach this certification. This certification was made by the carpet industry.
However, when testing their carpet it did not have that tell-tale new carpet smell.
The initial offgassing was as strong as other regular brands but it seemed less offensive (I know everyone is different here). But, what did impress me was that the sample offgassed way faster than other brands that have the tell-tale new carpet smell. A few weeks outside and it is fairly tolerable for a conventional carpet.
Forbo makes this interesting product called Flotex. It’s a mix between a carpet and a vinyl sheet flooring.
The fibers are very very short, which you can see in my video on carpets.
From a distance, it looks like carpet, but up close it seems like a slighly hairy floor.
The ease of cleaning would be a huge upside with this flooring. For those with allergies who don’t feel they can get regular carpet clean enough, this would be a better choice. It’s also a good flooring for home gyms.
There is some offgassing in this flooring, but it’s minor compared to many carpets, mostly it seems from the backing.
You can buy Flotex at Green Design Center.
Wool can also be a good option for commercial spaces. Though commercial companies are more reluctant to use wool because of the price.
Godfrey Hirst wool commercial carpets showed test results with very low VOC levels. Though they did have that classic carpet smell, and it does contain mothproofing (permethrin). They have a full Declare Lable here.
Woolshire wool is also rated for commercial use, I found it much more tolerable than Godfrey – it smells wooly but not like chemicals. It does have moth-proofing in it. It smells similar to Hibernia brand.
Some of Earth Weave’s lines can be used in light commercial applications and those do not contain mothproofing or other chemical treatments. In a light commercial setting, this is the “greenest” way to go.
If I was choosing carpet for a commercial space I would consider Earth Weave first, then Woolshire, and then FLOR.
Can Carpet ever be a Healthy Flooring?
Because carpet does collect dust, mold spores, pesticides, flame retardants and all types of contaminants and allergens that ride on dust, a HEPA vacuum like the Nilfisk is essential for cleaning.
Mohawk has done some live demonstrations on how it’s very easy to vacuum the Air.o carpet. The fiber pile is high though, which is not the best type for those with allergies.
The FLOR tiles can be taken apart and even washed in the bathtub or outside. While Forbo’s Flotex can take a lot of scrubbing since the fibers are extremely short.
Chemicals used in the Installation of Carpet
Conventional carpet is either glued down or tacked down. The seams are melted together.
Wool Carpet Installation
Nature’s wool carpet is installed very similarly to a conventional carpet. It is stretched onto a tack strip. Seaming tape (standard latex) is used on the back and melted together.
The wool felt padding can be either glued or stapled down to the floor first.
On a concrete floor (basement, slab, or upper-level concrete) the company suggests attaching it as usual. They don’t recommend a plastic vapor barrier underneath.
I would not put wool carpet on a slab or basement floor. But I would put this on an upper-level concrete floor that has completely dried and does not have moisture coming up from a lower level.
They have the same installation instructions for their jute and plastic-backed versions.
Some brands of wool carpet can also be glued down.
Air.o Carpet Installation
Air.o is installed with double-sided tape, not melting of the seams. You can also glue this down. Mohawk sells the tape or glue for this installation. Not using their tape or glue would void the warranty.
I’m assuming Homefresh is also installed with double-sided tape, though this company is impossible to communicate with unless you do an in-person estimate.
Carpet Tile Installation
FLOR tiles are installed with tape onto the backing – they are taped to each other. It is not also taped down to the floor underneath/subfloor. It stays in place with traction.
The tape has the same odor as clear packing tape, but is well blocked by the vinyl backing. I review this in my carpet video.
Flocked Flooring Installation
Flotex is installed only with a glue-down system. See Forbo’s branded glues and recommendations.
Carpets with a conventional synthetic backing can be glued down with AFM 3 in 1, a non-toxic carpet glue.
Non-Toxic Carpet Pad/Underlay
Padding (Underlay) for Wool Carpet
Nature’s Carpet sells a (wool) felt padding. No chemical treatments.
Do not use rebond pad (bonded urethane) with jute backed carpet, as it’s incompatible.
Two other options apart from wool felt is a synthetic felt pad or a rubber pad.
For any Carpet type that requires padding
Synthetic rubber is recommended by Green Building Supply. This virgin rubber does have a slight odor. How long this takes to dissipate depends on the product and how sensitive the person is. I would test a new sample of this. The antimicrobial here is quaternary silsesquioxane.
Air.o and Homefresh have a built-in felt padding. No additional padding is needed/recommended.
FLOR tiles have a vinyl or bitumen backing. No additional padding is required or recommended.
Polyethylene carpet pad is zero-VOC, it’s certainly preferable to the usual polyurethane carpet padding. Lifeproof from Home Depot also has a polyethylene option, this is a foam and it can go under most carpets. That is a fantastic option.
EVA foam carpet pad – is not 100% odorless but is a low odor, low VOC foam that is preferable to polyurethane.
Felt padding can be purchased through some big companies and can be used under many synthetic carpets. This is often a mixed plastic that is recycled content. The one I linked to does not have an added antimicrobial.
I avoid memory foam carpet pad, rebonded polyurethane and most SBR rubber (especially the very dense kind). I would also avoid regular (solid, not rebonded) polyurethane if possible or if you are highly sensitive. It could be just fine for some people.
Under rugs, you can use a natural latex rug gripper
Where can you Install Carpet?
Over a Concrete Slab
Air.o carpet with a felt backing claims you can install it in a basement and that it’s very resistant to moisture. I don’t see how a felt backing can be very resistant to moisture and I would not install this over a slab or concrete basement floor myself.
Nature’s carpet, made of wool, also claims that it can be installed over concrete without a vapor barrier because it’s breathable. I would not install this over concrete, certainly not the ones with jute and or natural latex backing. A wool carpet with a synthetic backing will fare far better over concrete, in my experience.
FLOR carpet tiles have a vinyl backing (or Bitumen in some cases). The vinyl is a vapor barrier. If you are OK with installing a vapor barrier over your concrete slab or basement then this is an acceptable installation. I prefer not to block moisture in a slab/basement since it’s always trying to dry to the inside. I have seen a vapor barrier over a concrete slab become a mold risk in most homes.
On an Upper-Level Wood Subfloor
Carpet of any kind installed over a wood subfloor is much easier and is much less of a concern.
If you are installing carpet on a first floor with a humid unconditioned basement below, then you should be careful because moisture is making its way up.
FlOR and wool carpets can be installed as rugs and not as wall-to-wall carpet.
See my post on non-toxic area rugs for the full list of options for area rugs.
Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist Practitioner with 8 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.
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Hi, when you say your top pick of the Home Depot options is lifeproof pet proof triexta – do you mean the 100% triexta or one of the blends (50/50 triexta and polyester)? I’m having a hard time finding a 100% triexta from them that isn’t high pile..
the ones I sampled that I can track back to at this point were 50/50
Hi! Do you know if the felt padding underlay that you linked has added flame retardants? The person I am working with for installation asked Leggett and Platt and their rep said that they probably all have them per multifamily requirements
I don’t have more info then what the company will tell us. But email them directly to ask them, not through reps.
Thank you for this post! We were looking at Mohawk Everstrand carpeting when I came across this. The sales person told us SmartStrand and Everstrand were not treated with anything (such as Scotchguard). I emailed Mohawk to ask about PFAS when I saw your post, and they said this:
Thank you for your interest in Mohawk Everstrand carpeting. As of Oct 1, 2019, no Mohawk soft surface products contain PFA’s.
Do you think I can trust these claims? I can’t seem to find any press release or report about them changing their manufacturing.
Yes that sounds like an unambiguous message from them, I’ll try to confirm.
This is very helpful, thank you. I have a question about FLOR and Interface carpet tiles. It has “Intersept®
Protekt2®” That is some sort of antimicrobial and anti mold product. What do you now about it? When I try to get FLOR support to tell me more, I just get that they use it not what it is. Thank you in advance for any light you can shed on this carpet treatment.
I don’t know if they won’t reveal it. But this sounds like two separate things. One part is their stain repellant which sounds like it’s not PFAS which is great. The second part is the antimicrobial which could be one of the following (guessing based on other brands): Pyrithione zinc, titanium, dioxide, Quaternary ammonium compounds, Potassium cis-9-octadecenoic acid, nano silver, or something else entirely.
Hi! Do you have a recommendation for a rubber underlay for a stair runner? My installer says it needs to be thinner than the typical carpet pads. Not sure what they typically use for this! Maybe your synthetic rubber rec for carpet underlay would work?
I guess it doesn’t need to be rubber but those tend to be thinner! Their standard is a “double set”sponge rubber pad so trying to figure out what questions to ask and / or what alternative to suggest
I would avoid a dense SBR rubber.
Alton Broussard says
I wish you wouldn’t use these abbvrevations. You’re TEACHING, correct? Many of your readers don’t know VOC. PFAS, PVC!! If I were to teach you to fly an airplane, you wouldn’t know ILS from VFR.
It’s interesting how in order to make a suggestion/critique folks feel they need to yell and speak disrespectfully in order to be heard. I read all the comments on this blog, almost 5000 comments now and most of them are helpful in one way or another but it’s exhausting being yelled at when something could just be said normally.
Thank you for all of the information, Corinne. I hope your readers can
appreciate what you’ve offered and be polite in their commentary.
Have a lovely day!
Yeah, actually her readers do you
know what they are because we
are very allergic to them and that’s why we are here.
Also you can look this stuff up if
you don’t know what it is. And no,
she’s not here to teach!
She’s here to help us find
something good and SAFE, and thequicker she gets to it, the sooner
we can be healthy at home.
Keep in mind, with carpeting like the Mohawk Air.o brand, which I have in my house, it is extremely hard to vacuum. The different style padding underneath makes a stronger suction on the carpet. I have a good vacuum and even if I adjust some of the vacuum settings I can still barley push the vacuum. I really regret my purchase!
I’m thinking of going right Mohawk smart strand for my basement but I’m A Little worried about the nano particles. Do you know if they can be absorbed through skin? Also any tips on keeping carpet mold free in a basement while not using too many harmful chemicals. We aren’t getting the super natural carpet because that would get moldy in a basement and I’m sure insects will love it too.
Hi Corinne are you aware if this item you listed may be a source of heavy metals like lead and antimony? or if any of the other polyester ones carry this risk?
There’s no Prop warning on the website, where did you hear that it is a source of lead and antimony?
Thanks Corinne. I read that polyester carpets and rugs can be a source of antimony if new and if older lead as well…this was the post and on her site she says antimony in new.
I can email you a picture of the screenshot where she talks about the antimony if you would like since I can’t attach here? appreciate your help.
Ah yeah, the Ecology Center has tested new carpets in 2018 and found that some have low levels of antimony or lead. The lead is probably from fly ash but it used to be added as a stabilizer. Antimony is probably part of some flame retardants or a catalyst in producing polyester. The problem is the companies are not exactly forthcoming with what metals are in their carpets. It’s not just polyester though, it’s all synthetic carpets – nylon or polyester. They should have a Prop 65 warning on the sales page if it contains lead or antimony.
thank you Corinne! I appreciate your input
Hi Corinne. My nylon carpet was installed 8 months ago with recycled foam under pad. There were many different issues with it and is now being replaced. It is being replaced with Natures Carpet medium green grade carpet as we found the Nylon to be too much off gassing. We avoided the 1700 square foot upstairs for 4 months until the smell went away after initial install. The nylon carpet was just removed today and the smell is back very strong coming from the under pad. I was planning to not change it. I thought the smell problem was just the carpet. Do you have an opinion with a brand of foam under pad called Healthier Choice. The company claims their foam under pad is the only one that is non toxic. The dealer I am using says it is very low in toxins compared to the recycled foam that I have now. I know wool pad is best but also pricier and usually thinner. I need at least 3/8″, preferably even 1/2″. Also I am allergic to dust mites and thought this would be easier to keep clean.
I would not use memory foam (or rebounded polyurethane). Look at the ones I mentioned in the article.
Thanks for your reply Corinne. I went down to home Depot to look at the lifeproof brand you recommended. It looks like a good option. I’ll ask Natures Carpet when I see them tomorrow. I’m in the Vancouver area where the head office is for
Natures Carpet. I mentioned the Healthy Choice brand as they recommend using it with their wool carpet. It’s claimed it’s very low VOC’s and doesn’t contain many of the other harmful chemicals. It is the only one that is Greenguard certified also. It is made with polyurethane which isn’t a good choice. This is very confusing with so many opposing opinions. And how it’s possible for Healthy Choice to make
these claims and being made with polyurethane. Thanks..
Are you just going off of your sense of smell? Or are you using actual numbers based upon testing done with an instrument that can detect these chemicals? I’m asking because I’ve used no VOC paints that were a lot smellier than those that weren’t low VOC. Whether something smells or not does not necessarily tell you if you’re detecting harmful chemicals. I wouldn’t trust my nose to detect everything. Please let me know how you’re determining which floorings are the safest.
Hi, I just wanted to give an update on Mohawk Air.o carpet for anyone who is worried about Scotchgard.. I called Mohawk and spoke with their customer service on 07/20/2022 and they stated that the Air.0 carpet is NOT treated with Scotchgard. It’s possible it was before but that they have discontinued doing so now. If true, this is a big win for sensitive folks 🙂
Update: Prior to calling I had emailed the same question re: Scothgard to Mohawk Customer Service and I received a conflicting answer. The email that I received from Mohawk states:
“Thank you for your interest in Mohawk Air.O carpet. Air.o does have Scotchguard. Scotchguard is not the product that generally takes away from air quality. Synthetic latex in the carpet backing can affect air quality. The Air.o has no synthetic latex.”
So much for transparency :\
Thanks for your carpet advice, so helpful! I am looking at getting a wool carpet for my new home but I can only access two types of wool carpet (I am not in North America) that have moth treatments. Untreated wool is not available. One is treated with Permethrin and the other with Bifenthrin. I would rather wool than a synthetic carpet, as I feel that would be the least toxic option even with the insecticide. I would consider synthetic but it just feels it would have more nasties in it. I am basically now trying to chose between the least nasty moth treatment applied to the wool carpet. Do you have a view of which of these two insecticides is worse? Thanks so very much for your assistance!
We have several Mohawk dealers in my area (Northern VA) , so I decided to check out the Air.o, since apparently there is no odor and it seems to meet my needs. To my surprise, none of the Mohawk dealers I talked to had even heard of it. I also can’t find a way to contact Mohawk when I looked at their website.
Hello Felicia, I am also in Northern Virginia and looking for Air.O carpet as well.
Were you able to find a Mohawk distributer ? If so I would like to know where you found it.
Hi, my mom is 80 with COPD( chronic lung condition). She was supposed to get her wool carpet installed today with what was supposed to be safe padding….. according to the carpet guy. She went over there to check it out and it was full on foam padding, probably recycled, and rebonded….It smelled horrid. She had the installer stop. We had to postpone the movers, etc. Dear Lord.
We are not sure what to put in. It’s two weeks to get a wool padding….but we can get a synthetic felt right away……..Will the synthetic felt be really bad? Is it any better than the foam?
I saw your comment. I’m in the same situation with a family
member. I need find the least non toxic
carpet etc… Have you had any luck? If so, is there a way we could connect? Thanks
Thanks so much for your post, it’s so helpful!!! Have you heard of Kaleen’s new pure life line of carpet? They say it’s wool and non toxic but would love to get your thoughts.
Simone Reyes says
Thank you. I’m hoping to find someone to hire someone to replace ( since I can’t seem to find any comfortable ones online ) all the cat trees / condos in my house. The smell is awful and I’m worried and upset I didn’t do this earlier. The problem i am having is places like Empire Today only do installations and don’t sell the home fresh carpet. I need to use synthetic but not sure how to go about this. Any ideas ? Thank you
Thank you for your interest in Mohawk. Unfortunately, we do not sell direct. The Air.o carpet can be purchase from a Mohawk retailer in your area. Let the retailer know the size of the carpet piece you need and he/she can give you an estimate and place an order if you wish. The Air.o carpet can not be manufactured with a special run without Scotchgard applied. All Mohawk carpets are Green Label Plus certified. Green Label Plus certification testing is performed on products after any stain protection has been applied. You may find Mohawk retailers in your area by calling 800-266-4295 or using the store locate feature at http://www.mohawkflooring.com. Thank you again for your interest in Mohawk.
Hi Simone, Air.o cannot be made without Scotchguard?
Caryl Brown says
I really appreciate your research!. I am trying to replace my carpet and found the MOHAWK New Beginnings 2
But it is made from recycled plastic and supposed to be VOC free.
Just confirming that this is the same as your 1st pick!?
It’s been so difficult to decide, I was just thinking about keeping the existing 25 year old carpet. Now that you mentioned mold spores….. there are some black spots and dirt that will not come out after cleaning…. What should I do!!?? Its a small room….
PLEASE email back your thoughts! AS I probably won’t be able to find you again! THANK YOU!
That is part of Air.o
What about the scotchguard ?
We are finishing our basement (cement floor). I went with wool carpet and felt padding to eliminate toxic chemicals (we have young kids). The carpet installer came and to my shock, used Taylor 720 padding cement to glue my felt pad to the cement floor. I understand, that’s as bad as it gets from toxicity view point. I feel like all my efforts to keep our floors non toxic went out of the window. Do you have any recommendation for non toxic pad glue? I really don’t know what to do at this point. Any ideas would be appreciated.
Green Building Supply. Call them. They know all the things.
Jorjia Blom says
Hi Corinne. We are living in a rental with light coloured wall-to-wall carpeting on the stairs and top floor. No problems with off-gassing, but the carpet is now looking dirty despite regular vacuuming, and we have to clean it. We absolutely want to avoid any mould formation from carpets not drying out in under 24 hours, and to this end , we are thinking of the Hoover Smartwash Carpet Cleaner (FH52001), as it has a heated drying feature, not just an extractor. Do you have any thoughts about this, or alternative suggestions?
I haven’t looked into that one.
Donna P. says
What do you think about Ruggable washable carpets? I wrote and asked about the carpet contents (100% polyester) and they wrote, “Our low-pile and lightweight Rug Cover is stain-resistant, water-resistant, and designed to fit conveniently in your home washing machine—even the 9×12!” They also state, “The rug pad is made of polyester (95% recycled fiber). The Cling Effect™ texture is created by heating the surface (think Crème Brûlée dessert). The nonslip backing is made of Thermoplastic Rubber (TPR) a latex-free synthetic material that is commonly used in yoga mats.”
I would use those
Jessica Katz says
Hi! Great article, thank you. Can you explain more about why you would use Ruggable?
The blog is first and foremost for people with chemical sensitivities. When I hear from folks who are extremely sensitive that they did well with a product that is something I will list. The section on plastic rugs is based on that. The only exception would be if the product was tolerable for the chemically sensitive but contained a significant amount of a toxin that has no odor and that folks don’t react to in the short term like lead.
what do you mean about the exception? are you saying if chemically sensitive folks tolerated a product but it was highly toxic you wouldn’t list?
what do you think about the Ruggable rug pads?
Laura D says
Well you are just wonderful! Thanks for this life- and home-saving advice! I became MCS when spray foam install went wrong in my home reno and have a staircase with no carpet for a year while we’ve been trying to make the house habitable.
I want to buy you cups of coffee but when I try it just says “go back” under where you would pick how to pay. I’ll watch for a response. Thank you again!
Donna Vogel says
Hi Corinne, I need to carpet my stairs. Would any of the carpets above work on stairs? I wish I could afford to do the stairs in hardwood like the rest of my floors but that is not in my budget yet. Thanks! Sending a coffee your way. 🙂
Yes most will work on stairs. Not the shag ones though, and not FLOR. But with the one you like just check with the company.
Hello! Since you know so much about chemicals in carpets, I wonder if you could give me your opinion on olefin fabric for couches. Is it toxic?
I don’t consider olefin to be toxic at all but the fabric treatments can be.
Thanks for responding! I am concerned because there is a strong chemical smell in the fabric. The company, Burrow, says that they do not use flame retardants or formaldehyde or any stain resistant treatments (because olefin is inherently stain resistant and water resistant). I’m not sure if there are VOC’s involved but it smells like it. Please let me know if you have any thoughts. Here’s the link to the couch:
Hello– I’m installing carpet in a small basement and trying to figure out what would be a good non-toxic carpet padding for it. The store is insisting that I use Karastep and claim it’s green label plus certified. I know that certification isn’t meaningful, but is there a type of pad you’d recommend for a basement setting? I know carpet in a basement isn’t ideal, but it’s our only option right now due to other factors. Thanks!
Hello, I am also looking for non toxic carpet padding to be placed under the Mohawk Smartstrand. Was there a helpful outcome or recommendation here? I would love to know!
Everstrand does have scotchguard. Smartstrand does not. I have verified. “On the other hand, Mohawk EnviroStrand was not as good, it was more like a conventional carpet odor in my experience, despite also being solution-dyed PET. It also does have Scotchguard, unlike EverStrand and SmartStrand.”
I just purchased an area rug and runner by Everstrand, and there is an odor, although this is a PET rug. Any suggestions? I didn’t think there would be harmful chemicals, so what would contribute to the odor? Would a product like Smelleze be an option?
Yep Everstrand has an odor, that’s why I listed it as not as good as the others.
Joy Swanson says
You have an important typo. You reference Air O as your top pick under the Home Fresh sub-heading making it confusing as to which brand is actually your top pick. Just FYI.
Also, are you talking about smart strand and smart strand silk?
I sampled both, they seem the same to me (in terms of chemicals).
Thanks for the very informative post. Like others in the UK it’s proving extremely difficult to find a low VOC/chemical never mind a VOC/chem free carpet over here.
Have you heard of NuSilk by a company called Sylka? They are the only ones from all those I’ve contacted that have supplied a VOC certificate and have told me their carpets are entirely formaldehyde free.
Other than that the next best option I’ve found (besides the natural/untreated wools) are the plant fibre ones but these shed a lot and some are quite rough to touch so not very soft – not very practical overall depending on the application.
Thanks again 🙂
PET and PTT carpets have been far lower in offgassing than nylon from all the brands I have seen. I would start there.
If you wanted to install Earthweave wool carpet over a concrete slab what would be your choice for padding? The earthweave padding is so pricey and I can not find it in stock!
Leaning towards the synthetic felt pad you linked here-fibertek Are there any chemicals in the synthetic felt that would be concerning? Or would the dmx polyethylene padding be better over concrete? Thank you!!!
I wouldn’t put any carpet pad on a concrete slab. They are either prone to mold or they block moisture which often causes mold underneath.
Would any of those carpet pads I mentioned have the greatest impact on helping even to reduce the chance of mold growing under the carpet? The polyethylene?
For kids rooms, we are wanting carpet so they can have a cozy place to spread out and play on the floor. (It’s Lego town galore here!) I understand the mold issues with a slab foundation but I just don’t think tile or polished concrete is a good option here.
It would ideally be something breathable and not be make or organic material.
Hillel Abrams says
Any non-toxic recommendations for covering a 30ft ADA outdoor ramp? Both myself and my elderly dog use the ramp (I am not in a wheelchair), but the aluminum can get very hot for the dog’s pads. Most artificial turf (rubber backing or not) is highly toxic, so I am looking for alternatives to that. Thank you for considering this request.
Phill Weaver says
You commented that you “have seen a vapor barrier over a concrete slab become a mold risk in most homes.”
I am confused. I thought a vapor barrier or concrete sealant would eliminate moisture coming up and therefore reduce the possibility of mold.
You often see or smell mold and bacteria festering under the vapor barrier, in my experience. Cheryl Ciecko architect talkes about this more.
Your article is incredibly helpful – thank you so much.
Do you have any recommendations of no/low VOC carpets available in Europe ? We live in London, UK and are having a hard time finding suppliers of carpet free of PFOAs, permethrin and phthalates.
We have contacted Mohawk and are awaiting their reply.
Do you know if Smartstrand technology from Mohawk is the same as Smartstrand from Lano (a company in Belgium – who say they use nano technology in their low VOC Freedom carpet though are unwilling to tell us what their carpet and backing are actually made of ! ).
Thank you 🙂
Just keeping up with all North American brands is a full time job, so I’m not sure about that.
Did you ever find anything suitable? What did Mohawk say?
I found a brand called Sylka who use a proprietary version of Nylon called NuSilk and they are the only ones so far that have sent me a VOC certificate. it seems pretty low on all counts but I have to admit some of the info is beyond me. They’re also very expensive starting at £125+VAT per m2!!
Thank you. 🙂
Did you manage to find anyone that stocks a carpet to your requirements?
I am looking at a 100% wool carpet from Brockway carpets which is undyed and untreated. The only issue I can see if that they use SBR for their backing material, and they don’t have an official VOC report, but the one they shared was not tested for formaldehyde :/
Robert Hogward says
Thank you so much this information was certainly helpful. Carpet is for comfort and to prevent slippage. It also minimizes the noise.
You’re welcome Robert.
Betty Smith says
Wanted to put a 3×5 rug on each side of a queen bed, with the feet under each rug. Easier to clean and your not paying for so much rug Under the bed which is harder to clean. Would this be a good idea?
Dorothy Casura says
I suffer with Environmental Illness / Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. In the past I have been given a couple of cat trees that had synthetic materials used in the making. Due to the age of the trees, i had no problem with outgassing. I need to rebuild / recover one and figure to do both trees at one time.
I want clean materials: the rope and the carpeting. Where are sources of carpet pieces and rope that is organic? I don’t want to play around with toxicity at all with the recovering materials!
This post lists all the brands of carpet that are non-toxic or less toxic.
Mary Osbourne says
I wanted to put a rug in each of my bedroom closets that could only accommodate a 22″ x 6′ rug which is not a manufactured size. What would be the best option to protect my solid wood flooring in the closets?
I am looking for information about Durahold carpet pads – are they a good green option in terms of low toxicity?
Hi Corrine! I was so relieved to find your post on wool carpets. We have been in search of a safe carpet option and after visiting several stores in the bay area, we were thoroughly confused with the number of options and types available. I am learning to read their certifications but constantly get backtracked as whenever we ask the salespeople about them, they tell you a new story about the certifications or lack thereof – it is difficult to discern whom to believe.
We recently saw a small stock of wool and wool combination carpets at a store and some had a CRI certificate (in addition to the floor score, green council, etc). When we asked the salesperson about this he said the CRI is created by the people who’ve earned the certificate and so it is not a real mark of quality. Is this true?
Further, he mentioned that wool carpets are very difficult to clean and that you cannot run a normal Shark or Dyson floor vacuum on it as the wool fibers get shredded. His recommendation (contrary to the Maintainance documents for Earthweave, etc) was to only steam clean, which sounded very impractical to us. Could you shed light on the best practices to keep wool carpets clean?
Another recommendation – to buy a pure material carpet (i.e. either wholly wool, or nylon), but not a mix as the cleaning for each component thread should ideally be different, but when they are mixed together in a carpet, it leads to suboptimum cleaning results. Is this true ?
It would also be really informative if you could write about the different industry certifications in this space and which are the one’s to be sought out. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge on this!
Hi! I don’t find CRI useful at all, every carpet can meet that. Here is my post on certifications https://www.mychemicalfreehouse.net/2020/12/what-green-certifications-mean-for.html
Can the Empire Home fresh be tacked down as you mentioned. I would really like to get the Empire home fresh but I cannot put double-sided sticky tape or glue on my wood floors. If it can really be. Tack down I would like to know.
They said tacked down or taped down, but it’s hard to get a lot of info out of them without doing an in-home estimate.
Just had Empire Home Fresh Non-VOC installed – USF Incomparable Sphinx. It was taped down with wide double-sided tape. Problem is we can’t find any cleanup instructions for accidental spills specific to that type carpet. Also, we achieved a much better appearance by first removing bull nosing so carpet was measured/cut to base boards. Then added new bull nose atop carpet
thank you for sharing that about the tape. You can look up cleanup for polyester carpet more generally.
Jody Hunter says
Carpet can be installed in your bedrooms, stairs, etc. In my years as a carpet installer, carpet is usually installed on stairs. Some of my clients have kids or live with elderly people.
Kristen Harte says
What would you suggest for someone who has mild asthma/allergies? Is wood OK.
Builder initially put in wall to wall over a concrete slab 21 years ago…do not know if there is something between the concrete and the rug.
Thanks so much. I love the wool.
PS I so appreciate your vast knowledge on the subject!
You should get a sample to test for allergies.
Hi Corrine! I have carpets already in the home we bought a couple of years ago and I’m wondering how I can have it tested to determine if there are PFAs on it or not – I’m in Canada- any suggestions? Ty SO much!!
We moved into a rental with (conventional) light-coloured carpeting, and though we vacuum it regularly with a hepa-filtered vacuum, we need to find a way to clean it. Is steam cleaning the best option for those with chemical sensitivities and dust and mold allergies? If so any steam cleaners you recommend?
LaTanya Cox says
Hi, I’m looking for a flooring for my childcare center that is economical, safe/healthy for children, free of VOCs, Phthalates, or other harmful chemicals– which would include any adhesives that are used for installation. Can you help me? I know I’m asking for a lot.
Check out the main flooring post, you also have to consider your subfloor, budget, and how durable you need it to be. https://www.mychemicalfreehouse.net/2019/09/zero-voc-flooring.html You can always set up a 30 min email consult here if that would help https://www.mychemicalfreehouse.net/contact-me
I am currently looking for a 100% wool carpet, and have found ideal options which have no mothproofing, no chemicals, etc. (thank you for your advice!)
There’s an option to add Intec stain protector on top – I’ve emailed them and they’ve said the below:
Intec SI is a micronised emulsion of reactive siloxane molecules.
Intec SI does not contain any residual cyclomethicone’s ( D4, D5 or D6) or any SVHC substance or PFOA.
Intec is waterbased, so it does not release any VOCs in use.
I would like stain protection if it’s safe – as the carpet colour will be light – but NOT at the risk of undoing all of the good effort of finding a healthy carpet in the first place!
Do you know if this protection is safe?
How did you get on with your project? did you ever find out if Intec is any good?
Douglas Glassford says
I have experienced some health problems which seem to be caused by carpeting in the homes where I have lived recently and which seem to have affected the screed to concrete floors.
After lifting the carpets, I found that the ‘rubber’ underlay was very old (40+years) and the odour appeared to be coming from this rather than the carpets.
Lifting and removing the underlay / carpets from the ground floor rooms reduced the noxious smell but the screed still smells after cleaning with a variety of agents. When the temperature and humidity in the house are low, the problem is negligible. However, when both are elevated the smell returns strongly and, if a bedroom is not well ventilated overnight, I get gastritis.
There is no problem with areas of the house where floors have been tiled. Nor do I have any problem when I stay in other carpeted homes. Is the leaching problem known to you and / or is this something you can provide advice? If not could suggest someone who might be able to help?
I would have to look at this in person to figure out what was going on there. I have heard this from others. It could be an interaction between different compounds or it could be moisture coming up from below causing mold and break down of the foam.
Douglas Glassford says
Many thanks for your reply Corrine. Unfortunately I am living in the UK. I am sorry that others are having similar problems but it is reassuring to know I am not alone! If I do get to the bottom of this I will let you know.
Suzanne Taborsky-Barba says
I’m not sure if this is an appropriate place to ask a question or if I need to set up a consultation, please let me know! I am currently looking for carpeting for a house that I won’t be in more than 2-3 more years. However, I need to replace carpet in an upstairs with 3 bedrooms, hallway, and stairs. I’ve found a carpet called Triexta at Home Depot that claims to be non-toxic. However, my research shows it is made of : “Triexta is a synthetic carpet fiber made from polytrimethylene terephthalate, which has some similarities to polyester.Sep 17, 2020” Do you know anything about this? Thanks so much for this resource!!! Hope you are well in these uncertain times 🙂
I would need to see it in person to really compare it to the others. I don’t see much info other than CRI certificate which they all have now!
Eric Miller says
Your advice is what I have been looking for – moved into a rental studio with ‘renovated’ floor which I think is called vinyl plank tiles and though there was a bit of order, it was not as bad as many apartments which now reek of this stuff. But I wish I could seal off the odor that still emanated from it. Is the carpet seal on your website usable on this vinyl floor:, or is there another product? Cannot change the floor as it’s a rental, but could apply something, I would think, while I’m living here. Do you think if I got one of the nontoxic rugs on your website that might ‘cover up’ the odor? Appreciatively, Eric
In the post on remediating offgassing there are options but in a rental those won’t be acceptable. I would do something temporary.