Question

Which carpet cushion is low emitting, other than wool pads? I am replacing my 20 year old carpets with new wool carpeting.

Asked by E Luongo
Fairmont, NC

My flooring retailer has recommended Stainmaster. How does it compare to others in the industry for emmissions?

Answer

Cynthia Phakos

Answered by Cynthia Phakos

Los Angeles, CA

Koffka Phakos Design

June 24, 2013

The EPA recommends three basic strategies to improve Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) of your home.

  • First, as you are doing, consider what you bring into your house;
  • Next, improve your ventilation with outdoor-vented fans or air-to-heat exchangers to bring fresh air in; and
  • Keep a clean house, frequently changing linens, restricting animals from bedrooms and using HEPA-filtered vacuums.

There are several considerations in your selection of carpet pad. Carpet and pad not only can off-gas VOCs , but they are also collectors of VOCs,  dust and other irritants such as animal dander, dust mites, and mold, to name a few.

Three types of carpet cushion

Carpet cushion is placed underneath the carpet to provide longer life, additional comfort, insulation, and noise reduction. In some cases a cushioned secondary backing is integral to the carpet backing.  

There are three types of carpet pads:

  • Foam (polyurethane foam)
  • Rubber (sponge rubber)
  • Fiber (felted fiber – synthetic and natural fibers)

For a primer in these different types of Carpet pads visit this page.

An important issue is the type of pad your carpet's manufacturer recommends in regards to its weight (density), thickness and force it takes to compress. Having the proper pad for your carpet is important for the life of your carpet. Check with the manufacturer for these requirements.

Green Label program

The Carpet Cushion Council Administrator of the Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI) issues a Green Label for carpet pads that meet the EPA’s requirements for the Total Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOC’s) and the three mandatory  IVOC’s (Butylated Hydroxytoluene , Formaldehyde, Phenylcyclohexen).   

When a product is tested and meets these requirements a Green Label may be used in product literature, and on sample backs.  

The Carpet Cushion Council annually collects a sample and reassesses the product by an approved laboratory. It should be noted that the degree to which a product exceeds these requirements is not available for comparison. This is the only certification system available for carpet pad.  So look for that label when selecting your carpet pad

I looked up the Stainmaster Select  Carpet Cushion you asked about (here) and found that it meets the Carpet & Rug Institute's Indoor Air Quality carpet cushion testing program.

Another product similar to Stainmaster Select Carpet Cushion is Healthier Choice Carpet pads. They also carry the Green Label for Carpet Cushion.

Maintenance

When selecting a carpet pad of equal importance to off-gassing is its long term maintenance. The latter consideration is often overlooked in the selection of a carpet pad but can be the most critical in creating a healthy home.

Stainmaster’s Select Carpet Cushion is a foam pad treated with a breathable moisture barrier which keeps liquids from penetrating the cushion to the subfloor as in the case of household spills or pet accidents.

  • This layer helps to protect the cushion from mold and mildew formation by allowing water vapors (in the case of a concrete slab on grade) pass through the cushion and evaporate.
  • The pad also has an antimicrobial treated core, which prevents the growth of mold and mildew.

Finally, The Carpet & Rug Institute’s Seal of Approval for cleaning equipment (here) will inform you on the proper care and equipment  for your Carpet and Pad.

Do you have a question about greening your home? GreenHomeGuide invites you to Ask A Pro. Let our network of experienced green building professionals – architects, designers, contractors, electricians, energy experts, landscapers, tile & stone specialists, and more – help you find the right solution.