A natural rug by Minna Frames Rug

Natural, Non-Toxic Rugs for a Conscious Home

posted:

4/18/2022

Most of us spend the majority of our day inside our home. And the reality is that indoor air quality is often worse than outdoor air quality because of synthetic materials and harmful chemicals used in our products. According to the EPA, indoor pollutants are often 2 to 5 times higher than outdoor pollutants.

The good news? Our home environment is one we can control—especially when it comes items like cleaning products and decor we bring into our homes!

While you may not have control over your wall paint if you are renting, you can consciously choose natural, non-toxic rugs! 

The vast majority of rugs on the market are made from synthetic materials. In fact, 94% of rugs sold today are made with plastic and toxic chemicals that release toxins into our home all day, everyday!

Finding a non-toxic area rug takes a little digging. That’s why we put together an article with everything you need to know about them: the differences between synthetic vs. natural rugs, differences in materials, and even which are our favorite brands for each material.

We hope this information is useful to you!

A natural rug by Minna Frames Rug

Minna Frames Rug

Why choose a natural rug?

Synthetic rugs are typically produced with man-made fibers like polypropylene (olefin) —while it is a cheap resource it comes with questionable ingredients and releases toxic VOCs (volatile organic compounds) into your home and into the air you breathe.

Synthetic rugs are:

  • made from plastic and petroleum
  • colored with toxic dyes
  • treated with fungicides, pesticides and flame retardants
  • contain phthalates that are endocrine disrupting chemicals
  • made with glues that can contain formaldehyde (typically the backings)
  • increase plastic output into the environment and ocean

Natural rugs are made from natural materials like wool and cotton as well as plant based materials like jute, seagrass and hemp. Natural rugs are durable, sustainable and eco friendly and don’t release VOCs into your home.

VOCs can off gas for 5-6 years, which means your body is coming into contact with these chemicals for a long time! —> This also makes vintage rugs a good option!

What’s the difference between synthetic and natural rugs?

Synthetic Rugs

Fabrics: polypropylene, acrylic, polyester, nylon

Pros: cheap, resist dirt, stain resistant, can be steam cleaned

Cons: off-gas VOCs (Volatile organic compounds) which can harm your health and the environment, often treated with flame retardant and stain resisting chemicals, made of plastic and petroleum, backings are often composed of carcinogenic chemicals, toxic and synthetic dyes, use of formaldehyde and other chemical based glues

It is not the best choice health-wise, but if you are going to purchase a synthetic rug, we recommend looking for a vintage or antique rug that has already had time to off-gas some VOCs and choose one with a natural backing (without glue or chemicals).

Natural Rugs

Fabrics: wool fibers, cotton, silk, jute, sisal, seagrass, bamboo, hemp

Pros: durable and long-lasting, made from biodegradable resources, emit low or no VOCs, keep your indoor air environment clean, they are pet and human health safe, made from natural and environmentally-friendly materials, soft feel

Cons: more expensive, more difficult to clean, or can require professional cleaning

What is the Oeko-Tex standard and is it really worth it?

One of the best options that are also a great place to start, which is also pretty easy to find clothing, textiles and rugs that are Oeko-Tex certified. A global network of laboratories operates Oeko-Tex, a certification system for textile producers. They test for harmful substances which are prohibited or regulated by law and chemicals which are known to be harmful to health. This process surpasses all other standards. Under the umbrella of Oeko-Tex there are different levels of standards and certifications.

Oeko-Tex tests for carcinogens, pesticides (insect repellents), heavy metals, and more, so while it’s not the gold standard it’s a great starting point when you are searching for a rug and typically pretty easy to find one at a good price point.

Does Oeko-Tex mean organic?

No. Oeko-Tex tests the end product only and does not take into account farming or manufacturing practices.

Does Oeko-Tex mean organic?

No. Oeko-Tex tests the end product only and does not take into account farming or manufacturing practices.

Graphic of Natural, Nontoxic Rugs for a Conscious Home

How to choose a natural, non toxic rug for your home

Chemical free rugs mean a happy home. There are plenty of beautiful rug designs and a variety of colors made with the best materials to choose from—choose the fabric based off the locations needs, amount of traffic, feel, and your style.

Look for natural fibers like the ones we mention below. Make sure that the backing and underlay pads are also made with natural materials, and that they are sewn and not glued. If possible, look at the certifications, like Oeko-Tex. These certifications guarantee that your rug is natural and non-toxic.

Favorite brands: ParachuteLoomyLorena CanalsHook and LoomWest ElmMinnaSerena and LilyNew England LoomWillaby

*Materials can vary from brand to brand, so always double check!

Wool

Wool rugs are soft, come in beautifully dyed colors, require minimal cleaning, are durable and naturally flame resistant. Wool rugs are very common, but always double check the backing.

Wool rugs are a great choice in high traffic areas like the bedroom, living room, and hallway.

Favorites: Akshay Area RugMini Pebble Wool Jute RugBraided Wool RugBerber ShaggySand In Your FeetTextured Wool RugMore Than VanillaBlush and White by Magnolia HomePark Hand Knotted Rug

Cotton

Cotton rugs are inexpensive, soft and easy to clean but they are not as durable or long lasting. They can cozy up a room and come in beautiful colors and patterns.

Cotton works best in the bedroom, bathroom and is great for a kid’s room or playroom.

Favorites: Lorena Canals washable kids rugsBrighton Eco Cotton RugRyder Denim Rug (made of wool and recycled denim), A to Z rugFrames Rug – SpringHand-Loomed, Washable Rug

Jute 

Jute is the softest of the plant based fibers and very inexpensive.

Jute is best in pet-free homes and lower or unusual traffic areas like the dinning room.

Favorites: Zahari Rug (with recycled cotton backing), Diamond Lattice RugRound Jute RugJute Boucle RugStriped Jute

Sisal

Sisal rugs are very durable, naturally flame retardant and made from a biodegradable resource.

Sisal is great for high traffic areas like hallways and the living room.

Favorites: Custom Sisal Rug (choose your own size), Sisal Almond RugNatural Fiber Sisal Area Rug

Seagrass

Seagrass is incredibly affordable, environmentally friendly and water resistant—great for high traffic areas—you don’t have to worry about water damage, dust or stains.

Seagrass rugs are great on the feet and perfect for the kitchen, entryway and living room.

Favorites: Custom Seagrass Rug (choose your own size), Color Bound Seagrass Rug

Hemp

Hemp does not attract dust and dirt like other rugs, so this is a great option if you have asthma or pets! However like many other plant based rugs, hemp is not a soft, cozy feel.

Hemp requires little maintenance and is great for high traffic areas like entryways, kitchens and hallways.

Synthetic vs Natural Fiber Rugs: Natural, Nontoxic Rugs for a Conscious Home

Favorites: Custom Hemp Rug (choose your own size), Tulum Rug
In conclusion, natural area rugs can be as beautiful – or even prettier – as synthetic rugs. With the information we just provided, you’re probably more than ready to find the type of material that fills your needs best. If there is anything else we didn’t cover and you’d like to know, leave us a comment! 

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  1. Maria Wright says:

    Great post with such helpful information! What would be a natural backing example? Latex?

    • Caroline Potter says:

      Yes, latex, rubber (natural substance), cotton or wool! Most natural fiber rugs don’t have a backing. It’s mostly the glues that you really want to watch out for in a backing!

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