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Choosing A Rug For Your Kid's Room

by Aida Garcia-Toledo April 26, 2021 5 min read

Choosing A Rug For Your Kid's Room

by Aida Garcia-Toledo @NonToxicMunchkin

Full article by Aida can be found here.

Finding an area rug that won't expose you to toxins can be hard.

Finding a non-toxic area rug that is also environmental friendly  - extremely difficult.

Finding a non-toxic rug, that is environmentally friendly and child friendly (spills?  no problem!)…. OMG !

What makes a non-toxic rug? 

Well, let’s start by talking about the toxins that are commonly found in most carpets and rugs:

study  published in 2018 identified over 59 hazardous substances in carpets sold in the EU. “Based on the research, it appears many of the chemicals found in carpets may volatilize and/or migrate from carpets through typical use and abrasion of carpet as well as adhere to dust – making dermal, inhalation, and ingestion exposure to their toxic effects all possible.”

Among the chemicals found:

  • phthalates: commonly used in the backing materials of carpets. 6 types of phthalates were found in carpets. Four, (DEHP, DBP, and BBP) are classified as being toxic to reproduction & bioaccumulative, The other three (DINP, DIDP, and DNOPs ) are suspected of being toxic to reproduction, potential carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and developmental toxicants. Most are regulated in children toys in the US

  • Nonylphenols (NPs) and NonylphenolEthoxylates (NPEOs):  these are surfactants that have been phased out of cleaning products in the EU due to their hazard profiles, but are still being used as adhesives in carpet backing, and as cleaning, dyeing, and rinsing agents, as well as used within detergents in wool scouring where natural oils are removed from the wool and other textile fibres.  These chemicals are "endocrine disruptors and can cause feminisation of male fish. "

  • Antimicrobials/ Biocides: antimicrobial chemicals are often used on carpets to protect against dust mites, moulds, bacteria, fungi and are used in the treatment of carpet fibres and backings. These are especially commonly used in wool and plastic - based rugs.  Some are eye and skin irritants, others skin sensitizers and reproductive toxins

  • Flame Retardants:These chemicals are heavily used in carpet material such as plastic materials and polyurethane foam (carpet padding). The problem with flame retardant chemicals is that they don't 'stick' to whatever they are sprayed on and actually migrate away easily- exposing you and your family to more of them. Some have been linked to acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)

  • Stain Repellents:PFAS are used as stain repellent finishes for many textiles, including carpets. They are considered in the EU as suspected carcinogens, toxic to reproduction, and may cause developmental disorders as these substances persist in the tissues of organism. The California Department of Toxic Substances Control has identified carpets and rugs as the largest potential sources of long term and widespread PFAS exposures, especially for children

  • Heavy metals:Some heavy metals are used in dyes, pigments, mordants, catalysts in synthetic fabrics or carpet backing, synergists of flame retardants, antimicrobials, water repellents, or odour prevention agents.
    Some are neurotoxins, impair human fertility and/or cause harm to unborn children. Children, with the amount of time they spend crawling on, laying on, playing on and sitting on rugs and carpets tend to absorb even more of these toxic chemicals through skin contact, inhalation of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ingestion of carpet (micro) fibers through their hand-to-mouth behavior.

So, how do you identify a  low tox or non-toxic rug? 

  1. Certifications: GOTS certification would be ideal- but these are very rare (only one company makes GOTS certified rugs) and they are a bit more $$. Oeko Tex certification is another good certification that tests for a long list of chemicals and that more rug companies are embracing. For European rugs: the German government’s ecolabel Blue Angel, or the Nordic Swan eco-labels. This second group are not 100% non-toxic but they are a better alternative… The Blue Angel eco-label currently places the strictest chemical requirements on carpet manufacturers as it bans/limits 51 out of the 59 chemicals in the 2018 study I mentioned earlier and with the Nordic Swan eco-label comes in with a close second as it bans/limits 49 out 59.

  2. Natural materials: when certifications are not available, choosing natural materials is your next best option. Avoiding synthetic fabrics ( nylon, polypropylene, polyester) is ideal- for your health and for the environment. Cotton, wool, hemp, sisal and jute are better alternatives for interiors

  3. No added treatments: most interior area rugs ( including those made from natural materials) are treated with: water/ stain resistance , biocides and moth treatment, flame retardants and more. Labels can be vague and exclude this information so when in doubt: ask.

  4. No Backing: look at your rug- you want the underside to have the reverse pattern of the frontside . What you do not want to see is a solid backing that has been attached to the rug. These often require adhesives that require formaldehyde

  5. Natural Dyes

  6. Careful with rug pads! Look for rug pads that are made of wool. Earthweave’s Inertia paddingis a better alternative to traditional padding that is made of PVC and/ or other plastics. Green Building supplycompany also sells non toxic rug pads


WHAT MAKES A RUG both non-toxic and ECO FRIENDLY?

  1. Doesn’t require chemicals, dyes, materials etc that in any way harm the Earth

  2. Made of materials that will biodegrade

  3. Doesn’t create waste - especially waste that cannot biodegrade!

WHAT MAKES A RUG CHILD (and pet!)  FRIENDLY?

The main concern I have as a mother, and that I get asked about most often are stains.  We want the kids to be able to lay, run, play on their rugs but we don’t want to have to send it to be professionally cleaned constantly.

That often leaves 3 options - of which only #3 makes the ‘Non-Toxic Munchkin cut!:

  1. stain/free and water resistant treatments that often contain PFAS chemicals

  2. synthetic fabrics, like nylon or polyester, that are easier to spot clean but which are plastic and terrible for the environment.

  3. New trend of washable rugs. This is ideal, however, with these washable rugs that can be washed in your own washing machine at home, its important to make sure they are not made of synthetic fabrics like polyester. Every time you wash a single load of laundry, it could release hundreds of thousands of fibers from our clothes into the water supply. From there, these micro plastics make their way into the ocean.  In fact, a large portion of the microplastic problem is a plastic clothing/ fabric problem. So once again look for washable rugs made of natural materials.

Bottom line?

For parents looking for low tox, environmentally friendly AND child (and pet!) friendly rugs, there are not that many options.

One that it doing a great job is Lorena Canals Rugcycled collection.  They are world's first upcycled washable rug collection. Upcycled cotton rugs are made from scraps of cotton fibres that are biodegradable, hypoallergenic and the whole process is a zero waste production. The dye-free collection also saves up to 90% in water and energy in their manufacturing process, You can find them at @rugsbyroo   (and email subscribers:  you received an exclusive discount to Rugs by Roo in my April newsletter! make sure you are signed up to receive monthly discounts to companies I love and support)

More on Rugs by Roo

  • A mom owned company that cares about the quality of rugs they sell, your health, sustainability and crafts(wo)menship

  • While the only GOTS certified organic rugs are made by fellow mom owned company Organic Weave, Rugs by Roo has focused on selling safe rugs at affordable pricing

  • They ensure that no child labour is every used in the making of the rugs they sell (a common problem in the industry).

  • Always transparent with the materials that go into each rug so that parents are well aware of which rugs are suitable for their child's bedroom and house

and REMEMBER: if now is not a good time to replace your rugs you can still mitigate your exposure to toxins:

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Aida Garcia-Toledo
Aida Garcia-Toledo


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