We bought a new rug about 3 months ago. I wanted to make sure it
was made of natural materials as my two little ones would be on it all
the time. We got one made of wool and cotton and some jute (I think).
To my dismay there are large amounts of white powder under the rug
on a weekly basis. I vacuum the rug once or twice a week and in the
past couple of weeks I have also be sweeping up underneath the
rug. I will change the rug and would like your advice on a healthy rug
for children but my first concern now is if the children could be
harmed by this white powder. It's underneath but I'm still worried.
Your suggestions on what kind of rugs are okay for children would be appreciated.
I love your site! I hope to hear from you soon.
Thanks for the inquiry, this is a very good question.
Wool, Cotton, Jute, all natural materials for the "most part." They may go through refining and processing before implimented as fibers in your rug, but generally should be okay. However, it's what sometimes gets sandwiched inbetween all these fibers which may account for your "powdering" rug. Sounds to me like it may be a hand tufted carpet. Some say the powder comes from a "packing" process to buffer the back of the rug and canvas. From my experience in tufted rugs, this has almost always been accompanied with other signs of deterioration such as cracking/brittle areas, odor, etc. Although I am unaware of any specific studies on this powder, it's often attributed as degraded latex which was used to glue the pile of the rug to the base. I do not believe this to be harmful, but it's not so nice to have in the home.
You are wise to question your current rug. The cons of tufted rugs are clear, as are the fibers of synthetic rugs which have been known to contribute to VOC's and off-gasses.
Being thoughtful of both health and environmental aspects is important. My opinion is that hand knotted wool pile is the best way to go. For the most part, it's a self-sustaining process using renewable resources. You could go machine made, but more often than not somewhere in the rug there are synthetic fibers, and it's not uncommon for wool to be treated heavily with multiple chemicals. Although there's not specific evidence to indicate problem, I would also consider avoiding rugs with "antique washes." Also consider asking the seller if the rug has been treated with infestation preventative measures such as moth flakes or crystals as children should not be exposed to these chemicals. If you have the means, you may want to consider rugs dyed with natural or vegetable dye, although only take the word of the seller if they're reputable.
If you want as friendly a rug as possible, here are our top suggestons:
Top Picks for Children Rugs in this Order:
1. Hand made Dhurries
pros: inexpensive, fairly durable, reversible, often good designs for children. cons: Often found with pastels more than other colors, lightweight, no pile.
2. Hand Knotted Oriental Rug
pros: durable, come in many investment ranges, have a pile cons: some designs are limited for children, investments may get higher. Check out gabbeh's.
3. Hand made Kilim
pros: often friendly with "natural dyes", modest investment, reversible cons: typically found in smaller sizes, colors often very bold, sometimes more fragile, no pile & lighweight
I would avoid hand tufted and synthetic rugs myself. They're meant to be at a lower price point, but they are often wasteful and disposible: between higher transportation costs, 'inferior' construction, health concerns