The effects of flooring on air quality: Understanding VOCs

When we talk about creating a healthy home environment, we often focus on diet, lifestyle, and maybe even the quality of water. But what about the air we breathe? Specifically, have you ever considered how your flooring choice impacts indoor air quality? Today, let’s delve deep into the world of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) emitted from flooring materials, unravel their health impacts, and guide you towards making informed choices for a safer living space.

Understanding VOCs: The Invisible Intruders

VOCs are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at room temperature. This characteristic enables them to evaporate or off-gas into the indoor environment. Common sources in homes include paints, cleaning supplies, and yes, our focus today – flooring materials.

Flooring and VOCs: What You Need to Know

Different flooring materials emit VOCs at various levels, influenced by the materials used in their manufacture and installation processes. Here’s a closer look:

  • Carpeting: Often singled out for its VOC emissions, especially from the glue and dyes used. New carpets can off-gas significantly, impacting air quality.

  • Vinyl Flooring: While popular for its durability and ease of maintenance, vinyl flooring can release VOCs from the vinyl material itself and the adhesives used for installation.

  • Engineered Wood and Laminate: These materials can emit VOCs from the adhesives and resins in their composite layers. However, products meeting strict environmental standards can offer safer choices.

  • Bamboo and Cork: Generally, these are considered lower-VOC flooring options. They’re renewable resources and typically require less adhesive, reducing potential emissions.

  • Hardwood: Traditional hardwood floors are often viewed as a safer option, especially if finished with low-VOC sealants and adhesives.

Making Informed Choices: Steps Towards a Healthier Home

  1. Look for Certifications: Products certified by reputable organizations (e.g., GreenGuard, FloorScore) have met stringent emission standards. These certifications are your first line of defense.

  2. Ventilate, Ventilate, Ventilate: Whether you’re installing new flooring or living with existing floors, ventilation is key. Open windows, use fans, and consider air purifiers to reduce indoor VOC levels.

  3. Consider the Whole Lifecycle: From manufacture to disposal, every stage of a flooring material’s life can impact environmental and personal health. Choose products from companies that prioritize sustainability.

  4. Ask for Low-VOC Options: When shopping for flooring, don’t hesitate to ask retailers for low-VOC or VOC-free options. More companies are responding to consumer demand for healthier products.

  5. Do Your Homework: Before making a decision, research the VOC emissions of different flooring types. Information is power, and in this case, it’s also health.

Tying It All Together

Choosing the right flooring involves balancing aesthetics, cost, durability, and now, health considerations. By educating ourselves about VOCs and their impacts, we can make choices that contribute not just to a beautiful home, but also to a safe and healthy living environment. Remember, the goal isn’t to create a completely VOC-free home – that’s nearly impossible. Instead, aim for informed choices that minimize risks, ensuring your home is a sanctuary for both body and mind.


To learn more about VOCs and their impacts, check out some of these key sources:

  1. Certification Bodies and Environmental Organizations:

    • GreenGuard Certification ( Offers certification for low-emission products and materials, including flooring.

    • FloorScore® Certification ( Focuses on certifying flooring products that meet strict indoor air quality criteria.

    • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ( Provides extensive information on VOCs and their impacts on indoor air quality, including guidance for selecting low-emission products.

  2. Health Organizations:

    • The American Lung Association ( Provides resources on maintaining healthy indoor air and reducing exposure to pollutants like VOCs.
  3. Sustainable Building Resources:

    • U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) ( Home of LEED certification, offering resources and guidelines for sustainable building practices, including flooring choices.

    • BuildingGreen ( A platform offering articles, webinars, and guides on sustainable building materials and practices.

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