"All I want is a rug that doesn't try to kill me in my sleep." I read this comment on a message board recently. This poor chap was lamenting all the recent exposés on phthalates, BPA, brominated flame retardants, and other VOCs that tell us how poor and potentially harmful our homes' indoor air quality has become. All he wants is a little bit of understanding and control over what he's bringing into his home, and maybe have it be something relatively stylish, too. Is that so hard?!
I think we've all done the proverbial throw-our-hands-in-the-air-and-cry-for-some-peace-of-mind in the face of these reports. But it doesn't have to be all doom-and-gloom. There are more companies now creating beautiful, healthy, and environmentally-sensitive products than ever before, including rugs. And I'm not just talking about crunchy rugs that look like they used to hold a bushel of oats. If you're shopping for a beautiful eco-friendly rug, here are a few pointers that should help you in your search, as I wrote about in this shopping guide for environmentally-friendly rugs. (Click through to that post for more information on each of these points.)
- Look for natural fibers like wool, organic cotton, jute, seagrass, sisal, and coir.
- Look for non-toxic backing and underlay pads— wool, jute, or natural latex for example—that are sewn, not glued, to the backing.
- Look into the chemical treatments used, as it's possible that even if the rug was made with a natural fiber, those fibers could still have been treated with stain, insect, or flame repellents, all of which can emit VOCs.
- Look at the certifications. The best certifications guarantee that the rugs in question are made from renewable resources and that the company has taken steps to reduce pollutants and waste from the manufacturing process
But just because a rug is environmentally-friendly doesn't mean it has to be boring! The following rugs are mostly colorful examples that prove that green can be... well, green! Or blue. Or red. Or patterned. Although, truth be told, there's nothing I love better than a plain ol' wool-felted cream-colored rug, even though I know I'm walking into heartbreak when that inevitable wine spill or baby spit-up happens. For those of you who want a neutral color, the last option in this list, the Bio-Floor wool rugs, may be the greenest of them all: chemical-free, untreated and undyed wool rugs when you just. want. the. healthiest. rug. period.
In general, the following rug companies are great places to start when shopping for natural fiber area rugs:
- IKEA, Pottery Barn, and Crate & Barrel: all of these stores carry 100% wool rugs and natural fiber rugs, but it's unclear what other chemicals—pesticides on the wool, for example— may have been used in the rugs. It is known that IKEA banned the use of brominated flame retardants from their carpets in 1999, and their selection of 100% wool rugs with cotton or latex backings is probably the most affordable of the bunch. (I've always been partial to the IKEA Stockholm Rand rug.)
- Classic Rug Collection
- Peace Industry Rugs
- è bella
- Earth Weave Rugs
1. Myriad Alpaca/Wool blend rug, $30-$75/sf from è bella: they use only 100% organic alpaca fleece, and source most of their dyed yarn from local factories where strict environmental regulations are regularly checked and enforced.
2. Handwoven Abaca area rug, $1,068 for 5x8 at Merida Meridian: Abaca products are undyed, use no backing material, and are finished with a handwoven edge. No binding is required.
3. Betty hand-tufted wool rug, $349 and up from Angela Adams: made with naturally durable, stain resistant and flame retardant 100% New Zealand wool.
4.Denim 100% vegetable dyed hemp rug, price upon request from Classic Rug Collection, Goodweave certified. View product details [PDF].
5. Dhoku 9 wool rug, price upon request from Loom: handwoven from organic wool, typically left undyed and not overly processed.
6. Willow felt rug, $1,715 from Peace Industry: all of Peace Industry's rugs are handmade from 100% lamb's wool and natural dyes. They are earth-friendly, chemical-free, and fair trade.
7. Stripe Mosaic felted wool rug, price upon request from Odegard: this hand-felted, hand-sewn rug is made from 100% recycled strips of wool in a style inspired by traditional artisan craftwork.
8. Handwoven hemp rug, $920 AUD from Cloth: Australian company Cloth works almost exclusively with natural fabrics, including hemp, linen and organic cotton, and use only water-based, non-toxic inks and dyes.
9. Deck Red wool rug, $895 from IndiB: made with 100% wool, cotton backing, and are certified child labor-free by GoodWeave. View product details [PDF]
10. Bio-Floor wool area rugs, $200 and up from Earth Weave: all-natural, non-toxic carpet, area rugs and padding using undyed, untreated wool, hemp, cotton, and jute. They were one of the first carpet manufacturer in the United States to introduce a product line incorporating 100% natural materials, including hemp/cotton backing and no-VOC rubber adhesives.
(Images: as linked. Top image in email is Tree of Life rug from è bella. Originally published 2010-10-26)