What can I do about carpet sensitivities?


What can I do about carpet sensitivities?

Asked by Andrea

My home is mostly tile, but there are areas of carpet that are in need of being replaced. I suffer with chemical sensitivities and have been searching for a retailer who offers carpeting that is chemical-free. There are online companies who offer it, but I want to see it in person to see what it looks like, what type (if any) odor it has, etc. Some offer samples, but they are very small squares. I would appreciate any suggestions you may have.

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Mick Dalrymple's picture

Hi Andrea. Your dilemma is very familiar. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Find a retailer who is familiar with people with chemical sensitivities. At last count, there were about 85 green-building retailers around the country (probably more than 100 by now). Some specialize in indoor air quality and most are more general to the range of sustainability issues.
  • Take a look at wool carpeting. There are some brands that are 100% natural and a few that have minor amounts of synthetics (like permethrin, an anti-mothing agent). Primary andsecondary backings used include jute and either natural latex rubber or polyurethane, so ask. Wool is naturally renewable and extremely durable. You can also find natural fiber rugs and carpets such as coir, sisal, mountain grass, seagrass and reed that are available, but they may also have treatments to which you might have sensitivities. Ask the store staff if they can provide you with samples to take home and live with for a few days.
  • Be careful with padding and glues, if any are used for installation. Very often, the glue and pad are more toxic than the carpet. You might try jutehair, camel hair or wool padding, but, again, take a sample home and live with it for a few days. Some people have reactions to specific natural products.
  • Talk with and manage your installer. Frequently, the benefits of environmental products are negated by installers who are not educated about environmental or indoor air quality issues. Make sure they do not use toxic glues to install the carpet.
  • If you can?t find or don?t choose wool, look for a carpet with a Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) Green Label Plus certification. The certification tests for chemical emmission levels. Again, you may be sensitive to a chemical that goes beyond those covered by testing.
  • Finally, consider an alternative to carpet, such as cork. Cork is a good insulator so it does not give the cold feel of tile, yet it has a softness underfoot and does not harbor dust and tracked-in chemicals like carpet will.

Good luck!