A guide to eco friendly carpeting

A guide to eco friendly carpeting

If you prefer carpet to hard flooring, make sure your choice doesn't come with a heavy carbon footprint

Jacaranda wool carpet

Wall to wall carpet can look very luxurious and inviting. Synthetic fibres may be more affordable but choose wool if possible and check the components of any backing material, since it can pose health and fire risks

Make the most sustainable choice you can
 
When it comes to wall-to-wall carpeting or area rugs, pure wool is probably the most eco friendly fibre to choose. And if animal welfare standards are important to you, look for New Zealand wool over Australian because the former has high welfare standards. Its wool is also considered the best for carpets, being soft and springy, and it takes dyes very well. Choose carpets and rugs that don't have a synthetic backing. And if you're offered a Scotchguard treatment to prevent stains, decline it! That's because anti-stain treatments are made with silicon which is highly flammable. 
 
As well as wool, plant fibre flooring looks great and has high eco standards. So think hemp, bamboo, organic cotton, jute, seagrass, sisal and coir. These fibres don't need any coatings; but note they are not water-resistant, so a jute or sisal rug shouldn't be subjected to spillages...i.e they're best keep out of children's bedoroms. 
 
Caring for your carpet/rug
 
Wool carpets are great for indoor air quality because they absorb toxins. Carpets do, however, need regular cleaning - vacuum every few days, especially if you have someone who suffers from asthma or allergies, and give them a deep clean every year. It's best to use an expert carpet-cleaning service because they'll know how to get the best cleaning using non-toxic detergents. Before you hire a carpet cleaner though, do some research and choose a firm with strong experience. You can find eco-friendly carpet cleaning companies that have been in the business for 10 years plus and they'll ensure you aren't left with carpets smelling of strong chemicals. For spot-cleaning any stains that appear, you can clean them yourself using natural ingredients you'll have in your cupboards such as baking soda, white wine vinegar or salt (great for absorbing red wine spillages). 
 
Why you should give synthetics a wide berth
 
A lot of more inexpensive carpets are made from nylon or polyester, which are petro-chemical derived fibres. They are often treated with chemicals to make them stain resistant, and as well as making the carpet more flammable (see above), these chemicals can go on off-gassing in your home for years. 
The majority of synthetic carpet brands use SBR (styrene-butadiene rubber) as a backing adhesive, while the carpet tufts can be glued to the backing using glues that again can off-gas VOCs - volatile organic compounds. One such compound is 4-PCH (4-phenylcyclohesene) and it's responsible for the new carpet smell that we are all familiar with. The smell alone may not bother you, but the chemicals in the carpeting can have impact on your health as they evaporate into the air you breathe.
 
Some adverse effects of 4-PCH include:
Breathing difficulties,
Nausea,
Headaches,
Skin allergies,
Stuffy/irritated nose,
Sore throat,
Fatigue,
Dizziness and more.
 
It is better for us and for the planet to choose flooring that isn't made from synthetic materials and that isn't impregnated with chemicals. For that reason look for natural/sustainable materials and check too that any backing materials aren't synthetic or chemical-filled.
 
 
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