You’re getting ready to bring a new baby home, and naturally, you want everything to be just right. As a vigilant parent, you’ve bought the new and improved car seat. You’ve decided to use cotton diapers to keep her bottom clean while reducing landfill deposits. You’ve even inspected the paint in your house to make sure it contains no lead. But what about your floors?
Babies have an underdeveloped immune system. They are at risk for sensitivities to a host of chemicals and synthetic fibers often found in new rugs. Bamboo and foam underlays are just two materials that are potentially toxic for babies, according to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy group in Washington that funds research and advocates for our youngest citizens.
The safest flooring for new babies to crawl around on may be plain hardwood, but even wood floors can be dangerous and not just because of the bumps and bruises your baby can get when venturing beyond your arms. Finished hardwoods often are treated with layers of UV toxins and polyurethane. Pre-treated wood floors can release dangerous levels of formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are harmful to all humans. Laminates are made with toxic glues and chemicals.
After all that, rugs may seem like a better alternative, but then you have to deal with the toxic protectants, such as the Scotchguard or Teflon-coating that is supposedly great for rinsing off the spit-up and food your baby drops. Fire retardants that keep your baby safe from nearby flames also are made with toxic chemicals.
So what do you put on your floors to protect your baby’s health? Start with natural fibers such as wool, jute, hemp, or sisal. Skip the latex padding and go for an organic pad or a wool underlining. You don’t really need your rugs to have any fire-retardant, spill protectant, glues, or toxic dyes, so leave them out.
A hand-tied natural wool rug with no adhesive backing adds warmth to your lovely new nursery and will be so inviting that you will want to join baby on the floor as often as you can. Look for hand-knotted rugs from India or Pakistan made with the wool from New Zealand sheep. The wool is extremely durable and your baby will love the soft texture. New Zealand wool is hypoallergenic and can be spun in a wide range of patterns when dyed with natural food coloring.
Wool/sisal rugs are a good choice for your baby’s room as well. Since sisal can be rough on little hands and knees, the wool blend gives the rugs a softer feel and the natural woven threads are stylish and durable. Wool/sisal rugs are an ideal option when your budget won’t allow you to splurge on a New Zealand-wool rug. For example, you can adorn your new baby’s room with a 5×8-foot wool/sisal rug for about $400. As a bonus, wool/sisal rugs are naturally flame-resistant, non-toxic, anti-bacterial, and non-allergenic.