6 Ways to Sidestep New Carpet Smell (and Toxins)

Annie B. Bond by Annie B. Bond | February 16th, 2009 | 6 Comments
topic: Detox, Eco Decorating, Green Living, Healthy Home

istock_000003279897smallMany people give me a guilty look when they tell me they have wall-to-wall carpet in their homes. I always feel badly that they are embarassed, especially because there is so much misinformation about how toxic carpets are and why — and because I know that carpeting can be a lot cheaper than other types of flooring. I myself would have enjoyed wall-to-wall carpet in a few rooms when my daughter was younger, as I think that soft surface would have been cozy for her.

I’m not going to recommend wall-to-wall carpet in this blog. They can be a sinkhole of allergens, as well as for toxins tracked in from outside. And some carpets can be toxic, with ingredients ranging from glues used to attach the carpet to the floor to antimicrobial/fungicidal pesticides, 4-phenylcyclohexene (4-PC) from latex binders, or a general chemical soup.

One of the great mysteries about rolls of carpet, according to Rosalind Anderson, Ph.D., is that one part of it might be toxic while another isn’t. And some rolls have enough toxicity to make people sick, while other rolls don’t — even if they have been manufactured in the same way.

If you choose carpet, the healthiest choices are to:

1. Nail, don’t glue, the carpet down.

2. Choose natural fiber carpet when you can afford it (specify that you want organic wool carpet).

3. Buy low-VOC brands. Volatile organic compounds are toxic, and they commonly off-gas from furnishings including carpet.

4. Avoid styrene-butadiene-rubber latex combinations and polyurethane carpet backing.

5. Look for a Carpet and Rug Institute label.

6. Try a nontoxic carpet sealant. If you recently got new carpet and it still smells even if the glue has dried or it was nailed down, you may not know if it is toxic  — but you probably want the smell to go away. When a colleague of mine moved into an apartment that had new carpet, the smell gave him headaches and flulike symptoms. He used a nontoxic carpet-sealing product from AFM Safecoat that substantially reduced the smell. The sealant itself had no detectable odor. He needed an extra coat in the closets, but other than that the sealant really did the trick.


  1. When carpets are not emitting gases or after they have, I believe it has been shown that carpet does a very good job of removing dirt and allergens from the air. Once dirt or dust has settled into the carpet and been worked down into the fibers, it is never coming back up.

    The biggest and best air filter in most houses is the carpet. If it is vacuumed very regularly and cleaned I believe your air quality actually improves.


  2. this is great information to take into consideration when trying to keep a healthy home

    jessica | October 29th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  3. I too, agree with the other posters. I would like to know more about how to nail carpet. This probably isn’t possible for concrete floors, though. Do you have any suggestions?

    Christopher | October 7th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  4. @Christopher
    to install carpeting on concrete, use a Ramset/Hilti gun to secure the tack strips to the concrete.

    Jason | October 29th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  5. I wish I had read this article before having the new carpet installed in my basement after flooding. The new carpet smells bad and I’m suffering from bitter mouth, difficult breathing, running noise and fast heart beats. The company told me that the glue was not dried after a week and they are putting air scrubber and dehumidifier in my basement. If they do not work, they’ll take out the new carpet. I don’t know what to do. Any help will be appreciated.

    Wendy | September 13th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  6. If you are not cleaning the carpets,it will leads to lot of health problems including allergy,ashtma etc.The dust is the main enemy in causing diseases.

    tammyros | August 3rd, 2013 | Comment Permalink

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