When it comes to choosing a rug, there are a lot of things to consider. But one of the most important things to think about is whether or not the rug is safe.
Polypropylene rugs are popular, but there are some concerns about their safety.
You probably have many questions if you’re in the market for a new rug right now.
In this article, I’m going to focus on are polypropylene rugs safe?, but I’ll also cover many of your other burning rug questions, such as:
Read on as I discuss the pros and cons of polypropylene rugs and try to help you decide if this type of rug is right for you.
Polypropylene is a type of plastic. It’s often used in food packaging and other products that come into contact with food.
It makes stain-resistant and durable rugs, making it an ideal choice for high-traffic areas.
It has the plastic recycling code of 5 and PP.
Whilst PP can be recycled, in practice, it rarely happens.
A polypropylene rug is made by weaving together strands of polypropylene yarn. This can be done by hand or machine.
As with mattresses and many other products in our homes, polypropylene rugs are often coated with a cocktail of chemicals to make them easier to clean, waterproof, flame retardant, etc.
These chemicals off-gas from a new rug into your home and can cause side-effects such as:
My top tips to speed up off-gassing article, while focused on mattresses, has plenty of practical tips on how to expedite the off-gassing process to reduce exposure to these chemicals (also known as volatile organic compounds or VOCs).
The same article also discusses numerous VOCs that might off-gas from a mattress. Again, many of the same chemicals can be found in polypropylene rugs.
Polypropylene is a type of plastic. And like all plastics, it’s made from petroleum.
Extracting petroleum and refining it into plastic releases greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.
The statistics show that plastics are also one of the most significant pollutants in our oceans.
As covered in my eco-friendly rugs article, there are plenty of polypropylene rug alternatives.
However, my absolute favorite is a wool rug.
Here are some tips when comparing and choosing between a wool rug and a polypropylene rug.
If you’re looking for a rug with a softer feel, then wool is the way to go. It’s also a good choice if you have young children or pets who might be playing on the floor.
You can find wool rugs in varying levels of thickness to meet your needs, but most polypropylene synthetic rugs are usually of uniform thickness.
Both wool and polypropylene synthetic rugs come in various colors and patterns, so it’s a matter of personal preference.
However, in my experience, the options for wool rugs are more subtle and varied than polypropylene synthetic rugs.
Both wool and polypropylene rugs are pretty resistant to stains and pretty easy to clean.
However, whereas polypropylene rugs often get their stain-resisting properties from added chemicals, wool rugs are naturally stain-resistant and hypoallergenic (great for allergy sufferers).
Wool rugs are significantly more durable than polypropylene rugs and last much longer.
Some polypropylene rugs only last a few years before looking worn and shabby. In contrast, some high-quality wool rugs can last decades…and beyond!
Polypropylene rugs are cheaper to buy than wool alternatives. However, this often turns out to be a false economy.
For example, my parents have had the same wool rug in their study for 30 years, and it looks like it could last another 30 years.
However, if they’d gone for cheap polypropylene rugs that only lasted a few years, they would have already had to replace them over ten times.
That’s a financial and environmental cost that soon starts to add up.
Wool is the better choice if you’re looking for an eco-friendly option.
Polypropylene rugs are made from petroleum products, while wool rugs are made from natural fiber.
Ensure that the wool used to make the rug has been sourced ethically and humanely. Looking for eco-certifications such as the Responsible Wool Standard can help with this.
Wool is an excellent sound and heat insulator, so wool rugs are ideal for cold and echoing houses with hard flooring.
Wool rugs are naturally fire retardant.
Polypropylene, on the other hand, can be incredibly flammable unless treated with harsh chemicals to make it fire retardant.
Consider ditching synthetic materials for one of the following more sustainable alternatives.
Another excellent eco-friendly alternative to polypropylene is jute.
Jute is a type of vegetable fiber that comes from the jute plant. It’s a strong and durable material often used to make burlap sacks, rope, and carpet backing.
However, it can also be used to make beautiful rugs.
Jute rugs often have a natural and rustic look that’s perfect for homes with a more organic and earthy feel.
Just like wool, jute is also an excellent insulator and can help reduce noise levels in your home. It’s also naturally fire retardant.
Jute rugs are usually cheaper than wool rugs, but they’re not as durable. They’re also not as easy to clean, so they might not be the best choice if you have young children or pets.
Organic Cotton is another excellent alternative to polypropylene rugs.
Cotton is a natural fiber that’s soft, absorbent, and durable. It makes excellent sustainable fabric for clothing, towels, and rugs.
Rugs made from recycled materials are also becoming popular.
They take materials destined for landfills (old plastic bottles, for example) and give them a new life as a rug.
Yes, energy and resources are used during the recycling process. However, the levels are still much lower than producing polypropylene from scratch.
Rugs made from upcycled materials are eco-friendly and often pretty unique.
Check out the upcycled flip-flop rug in my eco-friendly rugs article for a perfect example of this.
Bamboo silk is a luxurious fabric made from the finest bamboo fibers.
It’s light, soft, and incredibly strong, making it perfect for high-end fashion garments, bedding, and home furnishings (including rugs).
Also, when produced by an ethical manufacturer using sustainable methods, Bamboo silk is eco-friendly, as the bamboo plant is fast-growing and sustainable.
Unfortunately, bamboo silk is not as durable as true silk, and it can be more expensive. But if you’re looking for a natural fiber rug that’s environmentally friendly and has a luxurious feel, bamboo silk may be the perfect choice for you.
’Eco-friendly’, ’green’, ’environmentally friendly’, and ’sustainable’ are all terms that are thrown around by manufacturers, but do they really mean anything?
Well, that depends on the manufacturer.
Because there’s no strict definition of these terms, many disreputable manufacturers will try to greenwash their rugs by misusing these terms deliberately.
Non-toxic means that the rug you’re buying has been made with non-toxic materials.
This should result in minimal to zero VOC off-gassing.
The way I like to summarize eco-friendly and non-toxic is this…
Eco-friendly rugs are made from sustainable materials that have a low environmental impact. Non-toxic rugs are free of harmful chemicals and VOCs. Some eco-friendly rugs may also be non-toxic, but not all non-toxic rugs are eco-friendly.
If you want true peace of mind that your new rug is eco-friendly and/or non-toxic, you should choose one with well-known and respected eco-certifications.
Some of the best ones to look out for include:
Inspect your rug regularly to ensure that it’s not become a trip hazard.
Check the edges to see if they’re rolled up or frayed. If they are, either fix them or replace the rug.
Also, keep an eye on the backing. If it’s coming undone, that can also create a trip hazard.
If you use your rug on a hard floor, use a rug pad underneath it.
This will help keep the rug in place and prevent it from sliding around. It’ll also protect your floor from scratches.
Always be mindful of real fires when deciding where to place your new rug. Even fire retardant rugs can be damaged by real fires (wood-burning stoves, log burners, coal fires, etc.).
If you have a fireplace, be careful not to let your rug get too close to the flames. The heat can damage the fibers and cause the colors to fade.
Hot sparks can also fly from real fires that can melt holes in polypropylene rugs and damage the appearance of wool rugs (and other naturally fire retardant rugs).
When it comes to keeping your rugs clean, you can do a few things to prolong their lifespan and keep them looking their best, such as:
So, to summarize, there are both pros and cons to using a polypropylene rug, including:
Polypropylene rugs are often compared to wool rugs because they are both soft and durable.
However, polypropylene rugs are not as dense as wool rugs, and they have a more synthetic feel.
Polypropylene is also a less expensive material than wool, making it a popular choice for budget-conscious shoppers.
Polypropylene synthetic rugs are safe for vinyl floors.
However, you should still use a rug pad under your polypropylene rug to stop it from slipping and also protect your floor from scratches.
Yes, you can use polypropylene synthetic rugs outdoors. However, the synthetic fibers will fade and deteriorate in direct sunlight and may mildew if they stay wet for a long time.
For these reasons, using polypropylene synthetic rugs in covered outdoor areas such as porches and patios is best.
Natural and sustainable products are usually more expensive than their mass-produced and plastic-based counterparts. And this applies to wool rugs. Ethical wool is costly to produce because the welfare of the sheep is paramount.
Also, many high-quality wool rugs and wool carpets are hand-woven from natural fibers in small batches by artisan craftspeople.
Again, a costly process…but well worth the investment if you can afford it. Machine woven wool rugs are usually cheaper.
According to King Plastic, the potential health effects of polypropylene include:
- Eyes: Contact of powder or fines with eyes may cause mechanical irritation. Contact with hot or molten material may cause severe injury, including possible blindness.
- Skin: Contact of powder or fines with skin may cause mild to more serious irritation that is increased by mechanical rubbing or if the skin is dry. Contact with hot or molten material may cause severe thermal bums.
- Ingestion: Ingestion of this product is unlikely. However, ingestion of the product may produce mild gastrointestinal irritation and disturbances.
- Inhalation: Inhalation of fine particles may cause respiratory irritation. Fumes produced while thermal processing may cause irritation, pulmonary edema, and a possible asthma-like response.
They excel in wet conditions but don’t last well in high-traffic areas.
So, what’s the verdict? Are rugs and carpets made from synthetic material such as polypropylene safe?
Well, the short answer is yes. The longer answer is yes…but be careful!
Polypropylene is an artificial polymer that’s classified as a thermoplastic.
It’s made from a process called polymerization, which uses high temperatures to join small molecules together to form long chains.
This makes polypropylene synthetic fibers very strong and resistant to heat, chemicals, and stains.
The amount of chemicals, oil, and plastic used to produce polypropylene rugs is pretty scary. However, these chemicals are broadly considered to not be damaging to human health at the levels they’re found in rugs.
Especially if you ensure you fully off-gas them before bringing them into your home!
However, with so many non-toxic and eco-friendly rug options available, why take the chance with polypropylene?
After all, who wants to walk on a rug made of the same material as their Tupperware?
Where do you buy your polypropylene synthetic rugs? Do you have a favorite synthetic rug at home, or have you already ditched the synthetic fibers for something more sustainable and less toxic? Drop me a line and let me know.