If you suffer from allergies, it's important that the floors you install in your home can help prevent them from flaring
up. Now you can have "green" or eco–friendly flooring that contains low levels of volatile organic
compounds (VOCs)* and resists some of the most common household allergens.
What makes flooring "green"? Eco–friendliness can be determined by a number of different elements. These include:
energy used in production, source and sustainability** of materials used, and whether or not the final product can be
recycled. When it comes to measuring the eco–friendliness of a product, floors are generally either more, somewhat or
less green. Although many manufacturers are leaning towards a more eco–friendly approach, an entirely green floor (in
regard to resources used, production and transportation) is virtually non–existent.
*VOCs are carbon–based, chemical compounds that can be found in floor materials. For more on
VOCs see "Allergy–Friendly Flooring – Introduction" or the next section below.
**Sustainability refers to materials that are made from renewable and nearly inexhaustible resources.
Sustainable products are generally made to last for a long time (or as long as possible, depending on the materials).
Featured Allergy Friendly Floor Products
When it comes to eco–friendly flooring, cork ranks towards the top of the list. Cork floors are made
from the bark of cork oak trees grown primarily in the Mediterranean. The harvesting of bark does not require deforestation
nor does it disturb the natural environment. A typical cork oak tree will live up to 150–200 years, and the bark can be
harvested up to 20 times during its life.
In addition to being green, cork floors provide a surface that's hypoallergenic (allergy–resistant) and
antimicrobial. In other words, cork flooring resists household allergens such as dust mites, pet dander and pollen, while
also discouraging mold growth. Cork is unique in that it naturally contains suberin, a waxy substance found in the top layer
of cork that works as an insect repellant. Suberin can help deter pests such as mites and cockroaches, as well as other
critters that leave behind waste that can stir up allergies.
Most notably, cork flooring does not contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are carbon–based, chemical
compounds that can be found in floor materials, cleaners and adhesives. Allergy sensitive homeowners would be well advised to
avoid flooring that contains VOCs as they are known to induce allergy–like symptoms and contribute to health
It may surprise you to know that eco–friendly carpet types made from recycled
materials are now available. In addition, collaborative help from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Carpet and
Rug Institute (CRI), the Air Quality Sciences, and the American Society for Testing and Materials has led to a more reliable
regulation of the VOC levels present in carpet and carpet adhesives.
EPA– and CRI–approved carpet emits less harmful VOCs and chemicals before, during and after installation.
Carpets that have been successfully tested by these organizations should be marked with a "green" seal of approval. Look for
this seal when shopping for carpet for your home.
Note that carpet may hold onto dust mites, pollen, animal dander, and other allergens, which can be a positive or negative
aspect of carpet, depending on how you look at it. As a positive, carpet pile reduces the amount of allergens that are
stirring in your air. On the negative side, once the allergens settle deep into your carpet, they are difficult to
Make sure you dust and vacuum regularly with a HEPA vacuum to minimize the dust mite population on your floor surface.
Regular steam cleaning is also important to control allergens that may build up in your carpet. For those with allergies or
asthma, mold and mildew resistant fibers are available and recommended.
Generally fair–priced and resilient, linoleum flooring provides an eco–friendly surface that shouldn't be
overlooked. Made almost entirely from biodegradable and sustainable materials, linoleum floors are about as green as flooring
can get. Some materials used to make linoleum include pine resins, wood flour, jute fiber and ground cork. One of the most
important eco–friendly attributes of linoleum flooring is the fact it can be recycled and used to make new floors.
Linoleum's natural hypoallergenic and antistatic qualities make it a popular favorite with allergy and asthma sufferers as
it discourages dust, mites and pollen from taking root. Since dust and debris won't stick as easily to linoleum, it tends to
be an easier surface to clean and maintain.
Although similar in appearance to some hardwoods, bamboo is actually a type of grass shoot and not a wood.
Since bamboo grows at a relatively fast rate (taking just 5–7 years to mature) and will continuously renew itself as
long as the roots are not disturbed, bamboo is considered a "green" material.
Nevertheless, some bamboo flooring is not considered as eco–friendly as others. Some less "green" bamboo floors
- Those made from bamboo that was cut in a way which disturbed the root
- Those that are produced using toxic adhesives or glues (such as adhesives that contain formaldehyde)
- Bamboo flooring coated with a finish that contains a high level of VOCs