What Lies Beneath – Healthy/Sustainable Carpets

There is nothing like getting out of bed in the morning and feeling the softness of a carpet under foot.  There is something about its texture, which stimulates a sense of calmness and relaxation.  Texture can affect our impression of situations and objects, whilst also influencing how we react to things.  With so many different types and styles of carpets to choose from, your relaxing weekend can become filled with visiting carpet stores or ordering samples on line.  When choosing a carpet, we generally ask our-self questions like… will it survive our favourite four-legged family member? Does the colour match the room design?  How much does it cost?  Probably the most important question for your partner.  But what about… what is the carpet is made from and how is it made?

Some carpets can have a negative effect on the internal air quality of our homes.  Traditionally, carpets were made from lamb’s wool, silk or synthetic fibres.  What are synthetic fibres?  Synthetic fibres comprise nylon, polypropylene or polyester, which are manmade from petroleum.  Synthetic fibres contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs).   VOCs are released into the internal air of your home.  It is not just the synthetic fibres, which release VOCs, the adhesives used for gluing the backing onto the carpets also contribute.  Why?  Some adhesives contain the chemical benzene toluene.  Dyes used in the manufacture of carpets may be synthetic, natural plant-based or a mixture of the two.

Once a carpet is made, it is given a fire-retardant coating. What does fire retardant consist of?  Fire retardants are made up of chemicals, including brominated flame retardants.  These chemicals are man-made.  What effect can these chemicals have on our health?  Zanolli (2019) writes:

“exposure to flame retardants can affect the nervous and reproductive system and more”.

Is there an alternative to chemical based fire retardants?  Scientists are currently working on a fire retardant, which is plant-based.  No data was available at the time of writing this article.  In addition, stain resistances can be applied, which further comprise toxic chemicals.

What about the underlay?  Traditional methods include felt or foam.  However, you can now buy an eco and vegan friendly underlay.  What is it?  It is a natural product made from wood fibres manufactured by Breathe and available from flooring warehouse direct.

So, what are the alternatives to the traditional wool, silk and synthetic fibre carpets, which are considered to be sustainable and vegan friendly?

Natural Woven Carpets

Made from plant fibres, including jute, sisal, seagrass and coir.  These carpets can have either a soft or rough texture.

Bamboo Silk Carpet

Made from cellulose found in the bamboo plant.  It is made into a paste, which is then dried out, forming silk fibres.  The silk fibre is soft, hard wearing and is hypoallergenic.

Banana Silk Carpet.

A natural product, which is made from the wood pulp of the banana plant.  Banana silk carpets are 100% eco-friendly and are bio-degradable

Recycled Waste Material Carpets

This can include recycled plastic bottles, old carpets and disused fishing nets (found on the bottom of our oceans).   For instance, Ferreira de Sa Carpets and Econyl have just joined together to create a sustainable carpet made from fishing nets, fabric scraps, carpets and industrial plastics.

In you prefer a more bohemian design style for your interiors, why not include an organic cotton or recycled cotton rug.  This will add contrast and colour.  To ensure the product is 100% organic cotton, look to see if the product is Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified.  What is this?  This is a worldwide recognised standard, which ensures the product is of “organic status textile”.  This ensures the product is both socially and responsibly made, from harvesting to finished item.

Top Tips

I’ve included a quick checklist that you might consider for your next carpet purchase

  • What is it made from?
  • If in doubt contact the supplier about what the carpet is made from.
  • If you are working in a space which has just fitted with a new carpet, keep it well ventilated.
  • When choosing the floor covering for a nursery, it is advised to not carpet it from wall to wall. Why?  Babies spend a lot of their time on the floor for the first few months of their life.  Therefore, increasing their exposure to the chemicals used in the manufacturing of the carpet.  Why not choose an alternate flooring, for instance a wooden floor.  Ensure it is finished in a sustainable (chemical and toxic free) and vegan friendly finish.  Then add an ornate rug.
  • Consider what dyes have been used to create the carpet?
  • Has it been coated in chemicals?
  • Consider its life cycle, can it be recycled or is it biodegradable?
  • What adhesives have been used for its backing?
  • Use Breathe alternative underlay.
  • Do you really need it?
  • Can you source it locally?


We all want a happy and healthy environment within our homes.  Selecting a carpet, which is both sustainable and animal friendly will promote healthy interiors for you and your family.  For those of you who love that soft and cosy texture underfoot, this can still be achieved, but with new sustainable and humane alternatives.

From your Happy place

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