A Guide For Low-VOC Carpets

Low-VOC carpets are an eco-friendly flooring option for allergy sufferers. The best low-VOC carpets have CRI Green Label Plus and GreenGuard Gold certifications. Other ways to know if a carpet is low-VOC include checking the fiber and backing.

What Are Low-VOC Carpets?

What Are Low-VOC Carpets?

Low-VOC carpets are designed to reduce the emission of toxic gasses. VOC stands for volatile organic compounds. Volatile organic compounds are chemicals that carpets and other household items trap. The chemicals evaporate and lead to poor indoor air quality.

Synthetic fibers are more susceptible to volatile organic compounds than natural fibers. The emissions come from the carpet’s constituents, including the pile and underlay. Exposure to VOCs may lead to breathing problems, headaches, and skin and eye irritation.

Why Consider Low-VOC Carpets?

Low-VOC carpets reduce exposure to cancer-causing elements and reduce air pollution. Priority rooms for low VOC carpeting include the bedroom and children’s rooms. 

It’s best to pick a carpet fiber that doesn’t harbor harmful chemical compounds. Eco-friendly carpets reduce the chances of experiencing skin allergies and respiratory problems.

How Can I Tell If a Carpet Is Low-VOC?

Below are three tips for identifying a low-VOC carpet.

Check the Certifications

Checking the certifications on a carpet helps determine if it has low VOC emissions. The main third-party certifications include CRI Green Label Plus, GreenGuard, and GreenGuard Gold.

  • CRI Green Label Plus: The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) runs Green Label Plus, an indoor air quality testing program. CRI sets standards for the carpet industry on indoor air quality. The CRI label guarantees a carpet has the lowest emissions. It tests carpets for VOC emissions before awarding the certification.
  • GreenGuard: Underwriter Laboratories, a consumer protection company, operates the GreenGuard certification. The certification verifies that carpet emits low-volatile organic compounds.
  • GreenGuard Gold: GreenGuard Gold is the premium version with higher certification standards. GreenGuard Gold-certified carpet brands have the lowest emissions. Carpets that are GreenGuard Gold-certified have official seals.

Carpet Fibers

The best materials for low-VOC carpets are sisal, wool, jute, and cotton. Unlike synthetic fibers, natural fibers don’t emit volatile organic compounds, and most are free of toxic chemicals.

Wool contains lanolin, a natural shield against moisture retention and allergens. Manufacturers extract sisal fibers from the Agave plant leaves, making it a natural, eco-friendly option. It doesn’t generate static or trap allergens.

Jute fiber isn’t as durable as sisal, but it’s biodegradable. Most jute carpets have a polypropylene backing to reduce VOC emissions.

Carpet Backing

The common carpet backing types are polyurethane, thermoplastics, and latex. Most high-end brands sell carpets with a built-in backing made of natural latex. A carpet backing requires an adhesive during installation.

Adhesives contribute a lot to VOC emissions. Choose a carpet with a low-toxic adhesive binding. The adhesive should also be non-solvent. Cotton and hemp carpet underlays are inexpensive natural options with low VOC emissions.

Top Low-VOC Carpet Brands

1. Air.o by Mohawk

Air.o by Mohawk is a hypoallergenic carpet made of 100% polyester (PET). The material is also 100% recyclable. Polyester carpets are lower in off-gassing since they contain fewer chemicals.

The Air.o includes a 15-year warranty and has perforations for easier vacuuming. A vacuum gets rid of dirt even in the carpet’s padding. The perforations also allow airflow between the carpet and pad.

Air.o by Mohawk is a VOC-free carpet with a design that lessens the likelihood of mold or mildew growth. 

2. Proximity Mills

Proximity Mills carpets are low-VOC or VOC-free. The low-VOC carpets emit low Volatile Organic Compounds that are harmless to the public’s health. These carpets have the CRI Green Label Plus certification. The label guarantees the highest indoor air quality standard.

Proximity Mills manufactures carpets through sustainable methods, using old carpet and pre-consumer waste. The Nylon 6.6 carpets are recyclable. 

3. Earthweave

Earthweave sells eco-friendly, zero-VOC carpets made of 100% natural fiber. Bio-Floor™ carpets are free of pesticides or stain retardants. They don’t contain synthetic dyes and chemicals. Earthweave carpets are ideal for homeowners with sensitive skin and allergies.

Unlike most brands, Earthweave sells wool carpets in their natural fleece colors. Their OrganoSoftColors™ line features carpets with organic dyes.  No Earthweave carpets have latex adhesives or formaldehyde in the backing. Instead, they use low-VOC seam tape for installation.


FLOR uses sustainable materials to manufacture its carpets. The brand uses three types of rug backing, all carbon neutral. Rather than emitting carbon dioxide into the air, the carpets draw the greenhouse gas.

The company uses electricity from renewable sources during production. Also, FLOR carpet fibers are recycled into new products.

5. Nature’s Carpet

Nature’s carpets sell VOC-free carpets and rugs made from 100% wool. Although the company uses synthetic fibers in its Andorra, Marseille, and Terrazzo carpet collection. 

Nature’s carpet uses the best quality wool from Europe and New Zealand. The company rates its carpets through its “green spectrum.” Dark green options are VOC-free, while light green carpets are blended with synthetic fibers.

6. Paradiso

Paradiso is the best low VOC carpet brand with luxury carpets. The carpets are CRI Green Label Plus-certified. All Paradiso carpets are woven rather than tufted and glued.

Some collections are hand-woven from 100% wool or wool blends. They are chemical-free and have soft textures with a comfortable underfoot. The brand features over 550 products produced through sustainable means.

7. Mohawk SmartStrand

The Mohawk SmartStrand line consists of triexta fibers. The collection features a recyclable and reusable VOC-free backing made from non-absorbent latex and backed by a lifetime warranty.

All SmartStrand carpets have the OEKO-TEX Standard 100 label. They contain fewer chemicals, making them free of toxic substances.

Alternatives to Low-VOC Carpets

Carpet Tiles

Non-toxic carpet tiles are among the best low-VOC flooring options. Most carpet tiles consist of recycled nylon, which reduces waste in landfills. They’re also made from organic wool, polypropylene, and recycled polyester (PET).

Carpet tiles contribute to high indoor air quality and reduce allergens. Like hardwood floors, their surface harbors less dust and dirt.

Recycled-content Carpets

Recycled carpets contain pre- and post-consumer recycled content. Pre-consumer is the waste from production. Post-consumer is waste collected from recycling bins. The amount of recycled fiber in a carpet varies and is indicated in percentages.

Recycled-content carpets have the NSF/ANSI 140 or Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) label. Recycled carpets contain at least 10% of recovered material in the fibers and backing.

Cork Tiles

Low-VOC cork tiles have the BREEAM or Greenguard Gold certification. They’re free from urea-formaldehyde resin and toxic adhesives. Such cork floors don’t emit any VOCs, which improves indoor air quality.

Like carpets, cork tiles keep the room warm and have a comfortable underfoot. Cork absorbs noise. It’s the ideal flooring for multi-level homes and commercial buildings.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

How do you reduce VOCs in carpets?

Carpets with CRI Green Label Plus and GreenGuard Gold certifications emit low VOC levels. Allow air circulation during installation to allow VOCs to escape. Vacuuming, steaming, and using low-VOC detergents also helps limit VOCs in a room.

Do all carpets have VOCs?

Yes, most do, but some carpets have low emissions of VOCs. Low-VOC carpets have fewer chemicals and off-gas for a few hours after installation. VOCs from carpets cause the “new carpet smell” and impact indoor air quality.

How do I choose a low-VOC carpet underlay?

Choose carpets with wool, felt, or cord underlay. Low-VOC carpet padding options made from polyethylene are also ideal. Avoid toxic padding made from styrene-butadiene, which irritates when inhaled.

How long does it take for VOCs to dissipate in a carpet?

Natural fiber carpets and untreated carpets off-gas for 24-48 hours. But, carpets with absorbent fibers emit VOCs for five years or more. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) cause headaches, respiratory problems, and allergies.