Choosing a Non-Toxic Carpet

Maia James | Gimme the Good Stuff
Written by Maia, President & Founder

Recently, I’ve had a few private consulting clients ask about non-toxic carpeting. As a result, I’ve spent some time more deeply looking into this.  I hope this post helps answer the big question: Is there such thing as truly safe, non-toxic carpeting?

What Makes Carpeting Toxic?

As my dad wrote in the flooring post about our non-toxic renovation undertaking, Project One-Eleven, carpeting is problematic for a variety of reasons, including:

  1. The chemicals and materials used to make the carpets and pads beneath them, including plastics, wool that’s laden with fungicides, synthetic rubber that may contain endocrine-disrupting phthalates, toxic dyes, and chemicals that are meant to repel flame, water, and stains.
  2. The materials used in the carpet installation process, including glues and other adhesives that contain formaldehyde and a range of VOCs that off-gas into the home environment.
  3. Carpet’s tendency that to accumulate dust mites, dirt, pesticides, and other toxins brought into our homes on our feet (and our pets’ feet!).

So Are All Carpet Bad News?

The older the carpets, the more likely they are to contain bad chemicals and pounds of accumulated junk. So I’d say that yes, old carpets are categorically bad news. But because we have some really safe options available these days, newer carpets can be a good choice for your home.

This is important:

In addition to choosing safe carpets, you should clean them according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This usually involves frequent vacuuming (make sure you use a HEPA-sealed vacuum that’s RoHS certified, like the ones from Miele) and occasional steam cleaning. You also might consider investing in a robust electronic air filter.

Non-toxic Carpeting Brands

We’ve done the research on natural, non-toxic carpeting, and we found three safe brands to recommend:

Earth Weave

Earth Weave is the gold standard among non-toxic carpeting. They simply make the very best stuff.

Earth Weave’s natural, non-toxic carpeting is made in the United States from carefully selected European wool, hemp, cotton, natural latex, and jute.

Earth Weave uses only safe dying methods for some of their colors; the other colors are natural wool hues. Even better, they don’t treat their carpets with any worrisome chemicals.

We used Earth Weave on the staircases and landings in our home in Lancaster, PA, and I’m someone who has never had a carpet (I’ve never much cared for it). I have to say that our Earth Weave carpet is beautiful, cozy, and great for my peace of mind when little kids are running up and down stairs! I’m considering carpeting the bedrooms next.

If you’d like to order Earth Weave through Gimme the Good Stuff, email suzanne@gimmethegoodstuff.org or click here. (We also offer our customers Earth Weave area rugs.)

  • Earth Weave Dolomite Area Rug - Snowfield Gimme the Good Stuff
    McKinley Natural Wool Carpeting from Earth Weave Wall-to-Wall
    $8.33$8.44 Per Square Yard
    Quick View
  • Earth Weave Area Rug Pyreness from Gimme the Good Stuff
    Earth Weave Pyrenees Natural Wool Area Rug
    $449.00$1,199.00
    Quick View

Nature’s Carpet

Nature’s Carpet’s Everest carpet from their “Dark Green” collections is made from a blend of European and New Zealand wool. It’s chemical-free with a cotton and jute backing as well as a natural rubber latex adhesive. The Aberdeen and Element carpets, also from the Dark Green collection, are made with 98% natural materials. These ones have a woven polypropylene backing. (I consider polypropylene to be an non-toxic plastic). All three carpet styles in the Dark Green category from Nature’s Carpet use un-dyed wool and do not contain any moth-proofing or flame-retardant chemicals.


Unique Carpet

Unique Carpets makes a Four Seasons collection that is less expensive than the others I’ve mentioned while still being mostly natural, with un-dyed wool from the UK and no added treatment chemicals. This carpet does have some polypropylene-based backing, although much of their backing is jute. Note that other collections from Unique Carpets are not as natural as the Four Seasons line, and I can’t call them truly non-toxic carpeting.

If you’re enjoying this guide, to be alerted when we publish or update our Safe Product Guides.

Non-Toxic Rug Pads & Grippers

Rug and carpet sales people always recommend that you use rug pads and/or grippers to prevent slipping, increase cushioning, prolong the life of the floor covering, and protect the floor underneath. Most of these products are at least as toxic as conventional rugs and carpets themselves, but there is a safe alternative:

Earth Weave

Earth Weave makes natural rug pads made from a combination of wool and plant fiber. These pads contain no glues, dyes, flame retardant chemicals, or mothproofing chemicals. We also love Earth Weave’s natural rug grippers made from 100% natural latex.

  • Natural Rubber Rug Gripper from Gimme the Good Stuff
    Natural Rubber Rug Pad
    $34.00$210.00
    Quick View

Do you have experience with any of these–or other–carpet brands, or have other questions about non-toxic carpeting? Please post below!

Stay sane,

Maia_signature

P.S. Here’s our post on choosing a non-toxic area rug.




53 responses to “Choosing a Non-Toxic Carpet”

  1. Charlotte

    Problem is with natural carpets, the moths will have a field day and munch it all up, multiply, and then start on all your wool clothing 😥😥

  2. Carole

    HI,

    Great article! I too wanted a healthy carpet for my stairs and l finally landed on Earth Weave two years ago. When I received it, the smell of latex ( natural ) was too strong for me. I am allergic to rubber and didn’t know that the natural adhesive would smell that strong. I tried airing it out but it didn’t help. I have it in a back room and plan to get it out again. I am afraid I have spent a great deal of money on something I can’t use. Be careful of the natural rubber if you are allergic to latex. By the way, it’s beautiful.

    Carole

  3. Ben Richard

    This guide is absolutely amazing and very helpful! thank you guys!
    i would like to add to my home a new carpet for living room, i prefer 3meters at least. what your opinion about this https://www.vintagecarpets.com/ i think its a good choice, wbu?

  4. Caroline Bouckaert

    Hello! I’m in the same boat where we had a major moth infestation in our 2 year old, very expensive wool carpeting in our son’s room. It has wreaked havoc on our lives. We tore the carpet out and now need to replace with new carpet or potentially install wood floors. I want the lowest VOCs possible since we have two young kids and another on the way but I cannot deal with moths in wool again. If price were not an issue, what would you recommend?

  5. Savvy

    Are Flor tiles non toxic? Their website says they are low VOC. What is your opinion?

  6. Jill

    Do you know anything about Godfrey Hirst wool carpets and if they are toxic?

  7. Jenny Harding

    Hi, I live in the UK and am allergic to lots of chemicals in carpets such as moth and fire proofing so am really interested in your carpets. However, I live in a village and we do have a problem with moths. I have been told that moths really like wool carpets so am worried that if I put a wool carpet down it will quickly become infested with moths. Do you know of any non wool carpet which is non toxic and safe.

    Many thanks

    1. Suzanne Weaver-Goss

      Yes, we sell Earth Weave carpet which is safe. Not sure about what might be available in the UK.

  8. Maggie

    What is the safest carpet for people who are highly allergic to wool?

  9. Jay Ray

    I called Unique Carpets and they told me that the Four Seasons line of wool carpeting is treated with Permethrin to keep insects from infesting the carpet.

  10. Melanie

    What would you recommend in a basement that has a tiled floor? In the summer the floor isn’t bone dry. Everything I read says to use non-natural fibers in a basement – but I don’t want the off gassing/toxins as it will be our daughter’s bedroom. Really want to use wool or cotton but don’t want mildew/mold. Thanks in advance!

    1. Michelle

      I’d get a dehumidifier and use a natural material with backing and mop underneath it with vinegar water regularly.

  11. AJ

    Hello,
    Can anyone comment on the Couristan Purity Line,, namely the purity plus collection which indicates 100% non dyed wool and natural backing? …Curious if they treat with pesticides as well? Thx

  12. Informative article, thanks for sharing! We are Dri-Masters, a carpet cleaning company, and we loved your blog. Most people these days are looking for non-toxic carpets, cleaners, and almost everything else. Using products from your kitchen such as vinegar and baking soda can also do your carpet good on a budget.

  13. What about Earth wave carpets, how much lifespan do you claim?

  14. Aoife

    Hello,
    Thank you for this helpful article.
    Could you please comment on flor carpet tiles?
    Per website:

    Most FLOR face fibers are nylon, PET and nylon blends. Our backings are a vinyl composite, increasingly made from recycled materials. FLOR carpet tiles meet or exceed the Carpet & Rug Institute’s Green Label Plus standards for VOC emissions (Volatile Organic Compounds).
    FLOR carpet tiles are made from two types of backing, Graphlar and GlasBac. Graphlar is made from a Bitumen composite with up to 40% pre-consumer recycled content. GlasBac is a vinyl composite with up to 40% post-consumer recycled content. Most FLOR carpet squares use a GlasBac backing, which is 100% recyclable.

  15. Sara

    Following on Judy’s post, what are the best carpets that are.not.wool? Every wool rug we’ve ever had has been eaten to bits by wool beetles and wool moths, so that material really isn’t an option for us.

  16. Evelina

    Hi,

    Thank you so much for all of your hard work, the information your website provides has been invaluable to me and my family.

    Do you have a recommendation for a non-toxic carpet cleaning solution? I am thinking about purchasing my own carpet cleaning machine and would really like some recommendations for “good stuff” solutions that actually work!

    Thank you so much!
    Evelina

    1. Hey Evelina,
      I sell a product called Norwex. Completely non-toxic. I use their laundry detergent in my carpet cleaner! Work great! Jennaiello.norwex.biz. You can get a full refund if your’e not satisfied too.

  17. Amanda Wearly

    Hey there

    My family lives in Alaska and shipping healthier products to us gets expensive. We’re 3 hours away from the nearest big city.

    I’ve been researching and visiting our local home depo and no one can help me find a brand they sell that is Non-Toxic / low voc. I’ve been reading labels and feel totally lost.

    Anyone have any suggestions for this mama? Needing to replace the carpet in our new 3 bedroom home. Previous owner was a smoker.

    TIA! Cheers

    1. Dean Mindock

      If the carpeting is in good shape and more than 5 years old, it should relatively toxin free. Off-gassing does taper off fairly rapidly so that over time it should become nearly harmless. For the smell, get a carpet washer for $150 or so. Make you own non-toxic mix for the cleansing soap. We use a mix of white vinegar, Thieves Household Cleaner (by Youngliving.com ), and hot water. Vacuum the carpeting before washing it.

      1. johnlockegoss

        It might be worth checking the ingredients of Young Living cleaners.

    2. Jennifer Siptroth

      If luxury vinyl plank is an option instead of carpeting Coretec is a very low voc brand.

  18. Ericka

    Earth Weave is the only carpet manufacturer that claims to be 100% non-toxic. They do not add insecticide to their wool carpets.

  19. Ericka

    You have to be careful when purchasing wool carpets as many brands are made with wool that has insecticide in it (they dip the wool fibers in the insecticide) to “moth proof” the carpet. I verified this with Unique carpets. I appreciate their openness about what is in their products. From checking, it seems to be standard practice with many carpet suppliers. I was going to buy wool carpeting but now I’m not sure. It seems that all of these flooring products are going to have something toxic in them.

  20. Judy

    I have had EarthWeave Dolomite carpeting for 10 yrs or so.
    Pros:
    1. It is beautiful, I love that the fiber is the natural color of the sheep, it just makes me smile.
    2. I love that the pad is natural too.
    3. It looks good even when I have put off vacuuming a bit.
    4. It’s soooo easy to clean.
    Cons:
    1. there were walking wear patterns pretty quickly.
    2. I don’t know if the company has a newer process for installing but our installers used very strong smelling heated tape to join the seams. It faded within a few days but I was not happy with it after I had gone to such lengths to get no voc carpeting.
    3. Saved the worst for last. Carpet beetles have destroyed the carpet in all the areas under furniture, in closets, and around the perimeter. Not only that, wool clothing that we’ve never had a problem with now have holes in them. The beetle eggs must have come with the carpet.
    I live in a cold climate so we don’t have a problem with carpet beetles, I don’t know anyone that has issues with beetles that eat wool in general in this climate.
    When we first noticed the damage and the adult beetles (it is the larvae that munch on wool) I used diatamatious earth mixed with essential oils sprinkled on the carpet, swept it into the pile and then vacuumed up the residue. Around the parimeter, I use a squeeze bottle to leave a large amount of the DE and oils in the unseen areas. When I vacuum, I reapply those areas.
    I don’t know if there is a nontoxic way to treat wool carpeting before and after instillation, but I will never get wool carpeting again because I won’t have toxic treated wool either. Dang.

    1. Abigail

      Thank you SO MUCH Judy, for sharing your experience. Your last con was my biggest concern (even if I could afford Earth Weave). Unfortunately, carpet beetles are why we can’t consider a natural carpet as much as I want to. I have chemical sensitivities but our new house has wool bugs (carpet beetles) from the previous occupant. Sigh. I really don’t know where that leaves us.

      I wish GGS and other helpful non-toxic sites would list realistic, affordable alternatives that are MOSTLY good so that those of us who are low-income or have other restrictions (vegan, carpet beetles, etc) can have something better and less toxic than Home Depot carpet. If you can afford the purest and best, great, but most people can’t.

      Please, help the rest of us. Does anyone have any “almost good” or “less bad” carpeting suggestions? Someone asked about FLOR–any feedback on that (despite the vinyl)? We have to replace the carpet in our toddler’s room (cat pee that soaked into the subfloor) and due to her being on the 2nd floor, wood/laminate floors are out of the question (even if we could afford them). Thanks!

      1. Jennifer Siptroth

        Hey try Luxury Vinyl Plank called CoreTec. It’s one of the best out there for low voc. I’m planning on this for our nursery and an organic rug of some kind…

  21. One important factor not mentioned here (or maybe I missed it?) is the toxicity of the adhesive used to attach carpet fibers to the carpet backing. Most manufacturers use petroleum-based SBR (styrene butadiene latex/rubber) adhesive, which is loaded with toxic chemicals. Earth Weave and Nature’s Carpet use natural rubber as the adhesive, but based on the Unique Carpets website it appears that Four Seasons carpet uses synthetic latex, which is most likely SBR. It also appears their carpet has pesticides applied (permethrin). Do you have information from the manufacturer about these issues that does not appear on their website?

    1. John Goss

      Hi Liz, John here from GGS… Thanks for the good questions and research! You are correct…toxins in carpet are not limited to the ingredients used to make the part of the carpet you walk on. Toxins can be found in every aspect of carpet construction; from the pile to the backing and even the carpet pad (or cushion) that is laid down under every carpet and most rugs. Carpets and rugs are one of the top contributors top indoor pollution/sick building syndrome.

      Even manufacturers that market themselves as “Natural” often only offer one level of improvement over standard carpet. Wool is the original version of carpet and remains the best nontoxic option but modern wool carpet is usually treated with all sorts of nasty stuff…and some of the materials used in production leave a lot to be desired.

      Our research informs us that when it comes to nontoxic carpet, nobody is doing it better than our friends at EarthWeave…https://gimmethegoodstuff.org/choosing-a-non-toxic-carpet/

      Their carpet/rugs are as good as it gets…from the pile to the backing and anchor coat (adhesive). Even their padding is nontoxic.

      Full disclosure… We are EarthWeave dealers…but those of you who know us know that we are not going to offer Sneaky Stuff. We did the research and wrote our carpet review well before we ever considered offering carpet/rugs to our readers. As often happens, when we discover a really great product through our research, we get to know these folks pretty well. Like EarthWeave, many are small/very small manufacturers who are seriously committed to nontoxic living. We have found that these entrepreneurs really “get it”. We have learned mountains of valuable info from them.

      We are pretty excited about a new development with EarthWeave. Gimme the Good Stuff is now the connection for our Canadian friends. In the past we’ve been frustrated when trying to ship carpets to Canada, but we have recently worked out how to make it happen! Yay!!

      Feel free to contact me directly with any questions. john@gimmethegoodstuff.org

  22. Rae

    Do you know if the rug pads are treated with flame retardants?

    1. Maia James

      Not the ones we recommend or sell.

  23. Lauren

    Have you done any research on Godfrey Hirst? Their wool carpet seems to be safe but I wanted to be sure…thanks for all you do!

    1. CM

      I am curious about the same!

  24. Heather Angelo

    We have researched and found Pure Nature Carpet out of California. They are newer I believe but so far they are chemically and dye free, mothproof free, jute backing, no glues with fermaldahyde and I am impressed! I am still researching but this far think we are going with this one.

  25. Rosemary lawton

    Do you have an opinion on FLOR carpet tiles? Their web site suggests that they are low VOC.

    1. Maia James

      Unfortunately, Flor’s backing is made of vinyl, which I can’t consider Good Stuff.

  26. Kathleen Kokot

    Was wondering about the general cost of the wall-to-wall carpeting per square yard?? I heard that it was extremely expensive???

    1. Heather Angelo

      That is dependent upon what you buy. You can look at anywhere between $18-$70 and more for carpet get sq yard. The main difference is that wool lasts long but costs more. My father has been a carpet flooring contractor for over 40 years and he will tell you wool is best, nylon second, and polyester just stay away from and that’s not looking from a chemical standpoint just quality.

  27. Thank you for all this great information about non toxic carpets! I really like your point about how many carpets that aren’t non toxic include chemical and materials that could hurt my family, even if they are meant to provide safety from fire. My husband and I have never thought of being concerned about the health or side effects of choosing the right carpet. We’ll keep this in mind since we hope to buy new carpet by the end of the month.

  28. Meaghan Lorenz

    What about the fact that most wool is treated with very dangerous pesticides? Sheep are “dipped” usually twice a year- sometimes in organophosphate pesticides. Shepherds have been completely debilitated by exposure to the chemicals. Doesn’t this render most wool toxic unless it’s organic?

  29. Tina

    Hi there,

    Would Lorena Canals rugs be considered safe? They claim:
    “Our eco-friendly, machine washable and non-toxic rugs are all handmade by artisans using 100% natural cotton and natural dyes with non-toxic chemicals. All of our rugs have the AITEX Certificate (Technologic and Textile Institute), which safely authenticates the compliance for products intended for children. By following a socially conscious manufacturing process, which entails boiling the dyed water to a specific temperature per color so no harmful chemicals are used in the dying process, each rug comes out slightly different.”

    Your advice would be greatly appreciated!

  30. Victoria

    Hi, my interest is in area rugs. I bought an Under the Nile carpet for baby to play on. I know some you listed above have area rugs or custom cut, but as wondering if there are other safe brands. Maybe wool, but it’s difficult to tell what’s safe with the dye and tufting, etc. Thank you.

    1. John

      I just came across this company recently. Hope this website helps….
      https://hookandloom.com/product/deerfield-eco-cotton-rug-denim-taupe/

  31. John

    You did your homework, Maia, A+ 😉 thank you so much for doing this article. Many people consistently believe if their conventional carpets are “aired out”, then they are safe. Not true. Carpets off gas for years. They contain carcinogens and neurotoxic chemicals that can damage the central nervous system. Some of these chemicals are benzene, perch, acetaldehyde, toluene, xylene, and formaldehyde. Buying conventional carpets is a health hazard which threatens indoor air quality from toxic VOC’s. They should be a law against selling poison to unsuspecting families. The pads are another “soup” of toxic chemicals. Just say, “No”, to conventional carpets.

  32. JDP

    Hi! I’ve often aired out my rugs before placing them in my home as I suspected gross ingredients – not sure if that helps at all, but worth a try. Can you name the exact materials we should look out for? I know there are a few different things rugs are made out of, but it would be good to know what is safer and what to avoid totally.

    Thanks so much for all the work you do!

  33. Katherine Rodríguez

    Hello,

    Do you have any non-wool-based suggestions? We have a vegan home.

    Thank you 🙂

    1. Joanie

      If sheep are sheered responsibly and humanely, they are getting a hair cut. In summer, they are surely appreciative.

      1. Carol Ghes

        Wool makes me itch. Any non-toxic carpets without wool?

        1. Suzanne Weaver-Goss

          Yes we have cotton rugs too. Usually wool bothers people when it’s worn next to their skin. Here are our cotton rugs.https://gimmethegoodstuff.org/store/brand/lorena-canals-rugs-gimme-the-good-stuff/

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