Toxins Under Your Rug: The Volatile Organic Compounds Hiding in Your Home

What are VOC’s

The words “Volatile Organic Compound” may sound like a throwback to Chemistry 101, putting your brain into a snoozing state, but wake up! These sneaky substances may be lurking in your home, causing illness in your family. But what exactly are VOC’s? Where do they come from? And most importantly, what can you do about them? The answers might surprise you!

Volatile organic compounds

You have probably guessed that VOC’s are chemicals that harm your body, but what you may not know is that they are the byproduct of many industrial materials degrading over time. As factory-made products age, they become less stable and experience a phenomenon called “off-gassing.” This is exactly like it sounds. The substance releases small amounts of gas into the air of your home, which is breathed in by you! In many cases, these toxic fumes are in such small quantities that you cannot detect them by smell, but they can affect the way you feel.


According to DIY Network, there are hundreds of different VOCs, “from formaldehyde and ethanol to vinyl, adhesives, and varnishes.” Most are not noticeable in the home, but a good example of VOC’s in the atmosphere is in that classic “new car smell.” The factory smell is actually caused by the materials in the car’s interior off-gassing in the small space. The same process happens on a larger scale when it comes to interiors in your home.

How VOC’s are Getting in Your Home

So where are VOC’s coming from around the house? The answer is: everywhere! But before you panic, it is critical to understand that, when it comes to VOC’s, size matters. While many everyday items do produce VOC’s, most will never impact your life. In fact, some of the worst culprits of off-gassing are implements like felt tip pens and super glue, but most of us use these items in such tiny amounts that the chemical danger they pose is virtually zero.

The real bad guys are those industrially produced products that surround us, but we hardly ever think about. Wall coverings, and most especially flooring, are the biggest danger to your family when it comes to VOC production. The toxic compounds are most evident when installing or removing wallpaper, carpet, tile, and laminate flooring, so it is vital to do your homework and take precautions before embarking on any home improvement project.

Protect your family against VOCs

Because there is a plethora of different dangerous chemicals you could be facing, you may spare yourself a headache by working with a professional. The trained and certified experts at Express Flooring offer a free, in-home consultation for a variety of flooring solutions. They provide guidance and service at every step of the project from planning through installation, putting your family’s safety first.

Choosing Floors with Minimal VOC’s

While home repairs often release VOC’s hiding in your floors, simply avoiding re-flooring may not protect you. Older flooring and carpets were not held to the same regulatory standards as the materials sold today and may be releasing toxins that are affecting your health now. Do you know what chemicals your current floors are releasing into your home? If not, make sure to do some research or contact a flooring professional to help determine if now is the right time to replace your flooring for a friendlier material low in VOC’s.

A trained expert can help you navigate the wide world of flooring materials, but a good place to start is checking the label. There are a number of certifications and labels you may see on home furnishing materials claiming “green” status and low or no VOC output. While these labels are a good place to start your search for safe flooring, as a savvy consumer, you should dig deeper.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cautions that “VOC labels and certification programs may not properly assess all of the VOCs emitted from the product, including some chemical compounds that may be relevant for indoor air quality.” Unfortunately, there is no universal system to determine which material is safest for your family’s floors simply by looking at the package.

That being said, some materials are generally safer than others. It probably will not surprise you to hear that the safest materials for your home are often those closest to nature. Real wood flooring, rugs woven from wool or other natural fibers, and even unusual materials like cork and slate make for low-VOC floors. The downside is that these materials can be pricey and require finishing to protect them. Many floor finishing products like polyurethane off-gas considerable amounts of VOC’s. No matter how natural and inert your flooring material, you can ruin your air quality with the wrong sealant.

Harmful VOC flooring

There are industrially produced alternatives, made with VOC levels in mind, but be careful and make sure you know what you are getting before you buy. Laminate flooring, synthetic carpets, and engineered hardwood flooring are some of the most suspect materials when it comes to off-gassing. If the product does not reference VOC levels in the description, you can bet they will be high. Once again, this is an area where research or the guidance of a professional will be critical to making the right choice for your home.

The Big Deal About VOC’s

It may sound like a lot of work to protect your home from VOC’s. After all, they are rarely noticeable in the atmosphere. It’s easy to ignore them, but you owe it to yourself and your family to be aware. The American Lung Association warns that VOC’s “can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat, can cause difficulty breathing and nausea and can damage the central nervous system as well as other organs.” Some are even known to cause cancer. While you may not feel the impact today, the repercussions of ignoring your VOC exposure may be serious tomorrow.


It’s time to get serious about VOC’s. There are things you can do in the short term to improve the air quality in your home. Consumer Reports advises that homeowners increase ventilation by opening windows, and reduce the temperature and humidity levels indoors to prevent faster off-gassing from furnishings. In the long term, however, consulting with a flooring professional about replacing high VOC products with safer ones is the simplest way to protect your family.

Express Flooring is committed to offering flooring that is eco-friendly and safe for your home and family. Request your free In-Home Estimate on Flooring and Installation today! You may even qualify for a fantastic Vacation Getaway!

Toxins Under Your Rug: The Volatile Organic Compounds Hiding in Your Home was last modified: February 20th, 2019 by Express Flooring