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Is there anything missing from your baby's room? Besides a crib, changing table, dresser, and piles of baby clothes (soooo many baby clothes), a rug is an addition that many people miss. And if they don't miss it, they don't necessarily consider some of the toxicity issues that surround rug manufacturing. A beautiful rug not only ties the whole room together for the interior design minded folks among us, but adds warmth and comfort to a surface that gets a whole heck of a lot of use once baby arrives. As a parent of two, I was wholly unprepared for how much of my life would shift to the floor once my girls were born.
I've tried to put together the key attributes to consider while you shop to make your life easier.
Factors for Choosing the Best Rug for Your Baby to Crawl On
Wondering how to choose the best baby rug? Let's discuss the most important factor right off the bat:
Why Natural Baby Rugs are Best
If you are concerned about your precious little one and don’t want to leave him/her exposed to potentially harmful substances, you will want to choose something natural and non-toxic. Newborns, infants, and toddlers are especially sensitive to toxic compounds in their environment.
The toxic substances found in common rugs include:
- Synthetic fibers such as polypropylene release toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air. Some natural materials may also contain traces of pesticides and chemicals used to process their fibers and texture, so make sure the rug that you choose does not contain any of these.
- Synthetic rubbers. These are the types of plastic compounds that are used to enhance the texture and elasticity of the fabric and are often hidden from the eye, but may contain hormone-disturbing phthalates.
- Toxic dyes are typically used to give the rug a vibrant color--this is especially true for nylon, acrylic, and processed non-organic wool as these fabrics often resist natural colorings and need harsh chemicals to be colored. However, these dyes may cause skin problems, e.g rashes, allergic breakouts, and upper respiratory problems.
- Glues and adhesives. These are used to bind the fabric fibers together, but they often contain a substance called formaldehyde and other chemicals that release toxic gases to the environment.
- Pesticides and fungicides are not only present in factory produced food--they can sneakily hide in our clothes and rugs as well. Pesticides and fungicides are sometimes used in adult and baby rugs to make them more bug and mold-resistant, but they come with another cost. Studies have shown that babies exposed to these chemicals have a higher chance of developing behavioral problems, visual problems, and cancer.
- Flame retardant substances. Many types of synthetic rugs contain substances that are designed to repel and/or retard fire, in the unlikely event that the rug has caught fire. However, these substances are not as useful as appear to be and can even cause or increase the likelihood of the baby developing endocrine and thyroid problems, lower immunity, damage in the reproductive organs, and neurological defects, among others.
- PFCs (Perfluorinated compounds) are classes of chemicals that are used to enhance the water and stain-repellent abilities of the fabric. However, some studies have shown that these chemicals are potentially neurotoxic and may interfere with healthy baby brain development. These can also increase the odds of developing cancer and especially kidney and reproductive system cancer.
The above chemicals are often contained in rugs made of polyester, acrylic, viscose, or polypropylene, which are all synthetic materials. If you want to buy a rug that is safe and toxic-free for your baby, go for natural cotton or wool that is hand-knotted and not processed with extra chemicals. Recycled organic cotton or wool materials may also be a great choice not only for their safety but their lower cost too.
IDEAL Materials THAT ARE SAFE AND NON-TOXIC
A baby rug should be made of high-quality material that is is soft enough for their sensitive skin, yet solid enough not to slide around easily or wear out after a few uses or washes.
The best materials are cotton, wool, and sheepskin:
- Cotton is soft, inexpensive, versatile, comfortable, and breathable, it takes dyes well and adds warmth to any room.
- Wool is resilient, durable, uber-soft, luxurious, repels water and stains, and will last a long time. A wool rug is warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and helps to regulate the humidity of the room.
- Sheepskin is an excellent playmat for a baby, they can run their hands along the hairs and curl up in it's warmth. They add a coziness to any room and can be used for room decor even after baby is grown.
- Natural fibers such as jute and sisal are too tough and scratchy for a baby to comfortably crawl on.
For new parents, it's quite common to focus completely on the nursery and not consider the other places that your baby will eventually be "parked" while life plays out. The two other spots that are key candidates for baby rugs are in the kitchen, out of harm's way and in the family room where so much of life (and Netflix) tends to happen.
Baby crawling rugs come in different sizes, depending on the age and size of your baby. For instance:
- Babies that are less than 6 months will do best with a thick yet small in height (and width) rug that measures around 50X50-60 inches.
- For babies that have just started to crawl, a rug that’s between 6-70inches in width and length is a great choice.
- Babies that are more than 6 months old will do best with rugs that are slightly above 70X70 inches in size.
The older the baby is, the bigger the size of the rug you'll need. However, the age of your baby isn’t the only factor to consider when making your choice. Think of the size of your baby's room as well. For instance, too small of a rug may “cut” the openness of your space while too big of a rug will occupy extra amounts of free space that could be used otherwise.
When most people think of rugs, they think of rectangular pieces of thick fabric, but these aren’t the only shapes you can find. In fact, there are many other shapes to choose from: circle, oval, square, runner, triangle, and even random fancy shapes like animal heads, insects, human figures, hero figures, and so on. There is a shape for any preference and room corner.
Here is a general guideline on the most common rug shapes:
- Round rugs are whimsical and playful, they can be used in a small space to make it appear larger. Best paired with other similar round shapes, can be used to offset rectangles and look great in a circular room. In general, round rugs shouldn't be used in large rooms.
- Rectangular rugs are most common and traditional, they are great for large spaces, and work well in hallways and kitchens as runners.
- Square rugs work well in square rooms, and are best when paired with other square furniture.
Style & Color
Choose a color that will compliment your decor for years to come. Neutral tones are best for retaining their versatility through the years, but colorful rugs are fun and can be used with other neutral elements.
Safety is paramount when choosing your baby’s rug--you don’t want to choose something that will cause your baby any allergies, rashes, or other problems that may be lurking because of the use of toxic materials. Some materials can be potentially harmful as they often contain chemicals that are harsh and not good for human health in general, let alone baby health. Natural materials are typically safer than their synthetic counterparts, so choose preferably a baby rug made of a natural material, e.g., cotton or wool.
Ease of Cleaning
In general, most types of baby rugs are designed to be easily cleaned. This is especially true with cotton and wool rugs. The most common method that works with nearly all materials is using a vacuum cleaner, which only takes a few seconds and 2-3 times a week.
If your rug material has dirt resistant properties, e.g. wool, the process of cleaning it will be much easier, and you’ll only need a wet wipe sanitized with an organic baby-safe detergent and water. Read the label and instructions of the manufacturer on proper ways to clean your rug as this depends on the material used and the safety of the cleaning method for your baby.
If you wish to make a great investment and perhaps keep your baby’s rug in case of having another baby, you want to buy something that lasts.
Woven cotton and wool, or a sheepskin rug are the most durable choices you can make as they can withstand lots of hours of playing, rolling around, and cleaning in-between uses.
Between the choices of cotton, wool, and sheepskin, cotton is your most affordable choice. Wool and sheepskin will last the longest, but are more pricey. Don't be afraid to spend money on a rug that will last you many years to come, a rug is a useful piece of decor in your home, and money is never wasted on a quality rug.
The Best Rug Brands for Non-Toxic, Safe, and Comfortable Rugs for Babies to Crawl On
Hook and Loom is a Massachusetts-based brand that creates eco-friendly **and now ORGANIC** cotton and wool area rugs. They produce their rugs in carefully selected workshops in India that do not involve child-labor. Their rugs are free of latex, dyes, pesticides or other potentially harmful chemicals for baby health.
Rugs are made from wool that is processed only mechanically and is not dyed or enhanced with chemical fillers. Some of their rugs are also made from recycled cotton fabric. The majority of their rugs have a classic western style that matches any room ambiance as they play mostly with soft and neutral hues.
With the motto of “responsible designer rugs with personality,” Loomy Home aims to offer something beyond the ordinary. Their rugs are made of sustainable materials that are eco-friendly, hand-made, or made from natural recycled materials, and do not involve the use of toxic substances that are commonly found the vast majority of rugs nowadays.
The company also has a high respect for social ethics and responsibility. Every step of the rug production-from picking to looming is done by the hands of indigenous people and expert artisans that have dedicated their lives to master the art of rug-making, in a traditional and unadulterated way.
Not only are their products ethical and eco-friendly, but they also come in a wide range of sizes, colors, and styles. From neutral western styles to Scadinavian art and ethnic art, there is something for everyone. They also have a collection of vegan rugs in case wool, silk, and sheepskin are a no-no for a true vegan like you.
Ecowool sheepskin rugs are environmentally-friendly and made exclusively from New Zealand sheepskins. They’re manufactured 100% in New Zealand, to ensure every stage of their supply and production, and unlike some inferior sheepskins they’re not tanned using harsh chemicals like arsenic and formaldehyde.
All Ecowool branded sheepskin rugs come with their own Eco-Certificate, confirming their ethical, safety and environmental credentials.
Ecowool sheepskin rugs are super-soft, natural and warm creamy white, also available in a range of great colours.
Like any long term investment, buying the best rug for your baby takes some time and mindful planning. The most crucial factor of all is the safety of your baby rug. Ultimately, babies end up crawling around wherever you are. (Well, for the most part.) So whether it's the nursery, the family room, that area off to the corner of the kitchen or that long hallway that is so great for pushing a toy truck, a safe, natural baby rug is critical.
The sad reality is that more than 90% of today’s adult and baby rugs are sneakily infested with toxic chemicals. However, there are a few natural and toxic-free alternatives, such as the ones we mentioned above, that will let your baby safely crawl and roll around without being exposed to toxins. And a great side-benefit is that everyone else in the family and anyone who visits your home won't be exposed to toxins either.
Make sure to check out Hook & Loom and Loomy Home for your new rug - they are bucking the trend of common manufacturing and focusing entirely on providing natural, organic, eco-safe rugs that are exquisite.
This post was originally published on January 14th, 2020.