While low-tox flooring comes in all types, today we are looking at your low-tox timber flooring options.
This is my personal preference as I believe timber is easy to clean and therefore low-tox for longer. Ideally purchasing hardwood timber flooring from a sustainable forest and be careful to put a low or non-toxic varnish to seal. Compared to carpet, it needs to more maintenance but should be a lot better lasting. Carpet holds more dust, stains and dirt. I personally have cats so it will help manage their fur too.
What to look out for when choosing low-tox flooring
Easy to maintain and keep clean, ceramic tiles SHOULD be a safe option. Always feel free to ask the store for specifics to ease your mind. Ceramic tiles are generally non-toxic so they aren’t harmful to your health. The main problem is the glue and grout used to fix the tiles. If it is really important to you, I suggest you specify to your tiler what products you would like to use upon quoting. To also make sure they are happy with the decision and can point out any possible issues right at the beginning. Tiles are often used in bathrooms, kitchens and living areas but often not the chosen option in bedrooms. Consider the interior design carefully when choosing the product for you.
Hardwood timbers are awesome low-VOC floor option BUT not very sustainable. Ideally, buy natural timber floors derived from sustainable forests. Bamboo flooring is a really good alternative. Whilst not having quite the same visual charm as other timbers it looks very similar AND incredibly sustainable. Hardwood floors generally need more maintenance and upkeep, if you’re lucky enough to already have timber floors – opt for a non-toxic varnish.
Laminate floors come in all colours, shapes and sizes, normally adopting a hardwood appearance. Unfortunately, as they are made from synthetic fibres they are not natural and sometimes associated with harmful VOCs.
There are some Low – VOC laminate floorboards on the market, look out for an E0 rating. While being lower in formaldehyde ommissions, Low-VOC laminate flooring is still likely to have other toxic elements that potentially can disrupt your body. It is down to the user to make the decision on how low-tox they want to go. Laminate floors are a good long-term option so good to reduce waste and upkeep. They also look much more realistic these days than when they first hit the market.
While a popular option, there are a number of options against carpet (as I mentioned above). To add, the fibres have been known to contribute towards allergies and asthma and generally known to be a larger contributor to indoor air pollution than other options. If you really prefer the softer feel under your feet, look at opting for an eco-friendly rug instead. Look for carpets made from natural wool and dyes, “certified organic” can help distinguish how natural it is.
Natural “Lino” or Natural Linoleum flooring is surprisingly natural and made from biodegradable materials – linseed oil, cork dusk, limestone, pine resin and wood flour. It’s known as the healthier flooring option in the building industry. It is usually used in high-density areas like shop fittings and office blocks rather than houses. It is known to last well for 30-40 years but often not the most visually appealing product and therefore not a popular option.
A term you will hear about in your Low tox interior research is low-VOC. VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) put simply, are the toxic gasses or vapours that chemicals emit days, weeks and years after manufacture.
Every item exudes vapours, just that some are more harmful than others. As you can imagine, a beautiful natural timber is much lower in VOCs than say, man-made laminate floorboards.
While VOCs don’t have an immediate reaction, living consistently in a high VOC space can have long-term effects on your health. That’s why in this modern age, it’s really worthwhile considering all your options.
While natural and un-coated timber is visually stunning, it is not always the practical option either. Therefore we toss up again the battle against low-tox vs. sustainability as we try to find the best option for both.
Note – Businesses can get a testing done to help certify their low-tox product. Look out for E0 rating (no emissions, VOC free) is best.
Sometimes it’s not the product but the process
There are so many things to consider when tossing up the options as I have briefly mentioned above. The process also needs to be considered
- Say no to anti-stain, water, fire and bacteria resistant treatments, there are no natural alternatives that I have found as yet.
- Dyes or Varnishes can also have an impact on your choice
- How is it fitted? Look for low VOC Glues, sealants or grouts
- Ensure a mask is used when cutting any flooring, however natural the particles shouldn’t be inhaled
View our article on Low-VOC or Zero VOC wall paints
Do you have a low-tox, sustainable or eco-friendly product we should know about? Get in touch and let us know more