Wool Rugs – a Simple Way to Reduce Toxic Chemicals at Home

Historical narratives even before written records show how man used animal fur to isolate from the cold and uncomfortable surface of the ground.  

The earliest woven carpet ever discovered is the famous Pazyryk carpet found in Siberia, that was woven around the 5th century B.C. and is now exhibited at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. It is approximately 5 by 6 feet, woven of vegetable dyed wool threads.

Then and now wool is still the absolute timeless classic for carpets. At times when the future of the planet is at stake and people are realizing more and more that going back to nature and keeping it simple and pure is the way to provide a healthy future for our kids and for the planet, natural and sustainable materials are becoming more and more valuable.

What is it that makes wool carpets so special?

Wool is a natural, renewable, and sustainable material.

In the end of its life cycle wool is a nutritious biodegradable product. In soil it would fully decompose in a period of 3 to 6 months. And what is even better is that while decomposing pure wool would become a source of nutrocious fertilizer. Did you know that some farmers even use it for their vegetable gardens? 

Clean and dry wool fibers, however, can live forever. How long is the life cycle of wool fiber? Well if taken good care of it lasts for generations. In Bulgaria, where we make our wool filled mattresses and woven wool rugs, most families have at least one wool piece left from parents, grandparents, and grand grand parents. 

Wool purifies and improves the quality of the indoor air, a valuable material for overcoming Sick Building Syndrome. 

We spend at least ⅓ of our lives inside, sleeping. And if you keep track of your daily routine you will most probably notice that the time we spent indoors is actually much more both for kids and adults. That is why it is extremely important to have good air quality inside our homes. 

Unfortunately that is not always the case and dangerous volatile organic compounds are lurking in every corner of our homes. Volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) are actually gasses that release slowly at room temperature. Some of these gasses like Formaldehyde are not only causing long term harm to the environment, but are also dangerous to human health in the short and long term.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency the health effects of the VOC’s might include: eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, loss of coordination and nausea, damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system. Some VOC’s can cause cancer in animals, and some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.

Most of the synthetic carpets on the market are a great source of VOC’s for months and even years despite the regulations applied recently.

In 2009 a scientific case research was conducted and published in the Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine. The author of the research, Dr Rosalind Anderson tested and analyzed with mice a sample of 125 carpets. The breathing rate of the mice significantly decreased when they were exposed to the samples. “Other alarming symptoms included swollen face, altered posture, hyperactivity, loss of balance, convulsions and even death. In the course of her studies, Dr Anderson identified over 200 different chemicals being given off by modern carpets which are capable of producing a variety of toxic effects. In humans, common reactions include flu-like symptoms, muscle pain, headache, fatigues, tremors, memory loss, concentration difficulties.’’ (Thomas, 1999) 

Pure wool carpets, on the other hand, are completely safe and they absorb some of the VOC’s of your other household products. 

Many scientific research and testing have been done on wool’s ability to absorb VOCs. In one of them after testing sheep wool insulation, a group of researchers concluded in 2016, yet one more time that wool is “able to absorb a range of potentially harmful chemicals from the indoor environment. This has important considerations for the prevention or reduction of sick building syndrome at a time when this issue is becoming more prevalent.’’ The use of wool in buildings may therefore “have an important role not only in imparting thermal efficiency but also in the improvement of indoor air quality,’’ the researchers concluded (Mansour, Elie & Marriott, Ray & Ormondroyd, Graham, 2016)

Even before that, another group of researchers have found out that wool carpets have the ability to improve indoor air quality. That is because wool carpets can absorb some of the common pollutants like formaldehyde and nitrogen oxides. The research was done by the AgResearch in New Zealand in 2015 and suggests that wool fibers neutralize these compounds and what is more important is that they do not re-emit them, even when heated. It is like a trap for VOC’s. ‘’Wool carpet may continue purifying the air for up to 30 years.’’ (McNeil, 2015)

Home of Wool Handmade high pile wool rug - set up 1

Wool is durable and strong, making the wool carpet an investment for life. 

Wool carpets are very long lasting and durable. Wool fibres compress over time but they are also elastic and resilient and that is the reason they can keep the good looks of the wool carpet for decades. 

The natural oils of wool fibers keep them resistant to dirt and repellent to soiling. A good benefit is that your wool carpet will look clean most of the times, since dirt will be harder to notice due to the fact that wool is an opaque fiber. 

Wool carpets are naturally dust mite resistant, anti-microbial, and anti-bacterial. 

Wool is the perfect fabric to keep you warm and isolate you from the cold floor. It brings comfort and coziness to every home. It is naturally fire resistant and thus can increase the fire safety of your home.

It seems wool carpets check all the boxes!

With history and science on its side the wool carpet offers unparalleled comfort with an added value – purer air indoors and most probably a healthier future.

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McNeil, Steve. The Removal of Indoor Air Contaminants by Wool Carpet. 2015

Mansour, Elie & Marriott, Ray & Ormondroyd, Graham. Sheep wool insulation for the absorption of volatile organic compounds. 2016

Thomas, Pat. Headaches – The CommonSense Approach: Become Your Own ‘Headache Detective’. 1999

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