Green Flooring Series: What is VOC?


Living Room with a Red Oak hardwood floor in Charcoal stain.

VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compounds and they are organic chemicals found in paints, along with other materials. When the paint dries the solvents get released into the air. This is due to VOCs having a high vapor pressure at a normal room temperature, the result of a low boiling point. These factors cause the molecules to evaporate into the surrounding air. VOCs can also be found in cleaning supplies, carpet, and wood.

When looking for a flooring option that is low in VOCs you can easily skip over vinyl and synthetic carpets due to their high VOC levels. Better flooring options are natural fibers like wool, sisal, and cotton.

If you really love hardwood floors, just know that although they are a breeze to clean, hardwoods also contain formaldehydes and all finishes emit VOCs. If you are a die-hard lover of the hardwood finished look but don’t want to VOCs, opt for alternatives like pre-sealed wood or hardwood sealed with water-based polyurethane.

Other tips to help keep your VOC levels low include choosing a low-VOC or water-based product. It sounds simple, and it is! Also, take a peek at some allergy-friendly floors like bamboo, cork, or recycled glass because they are low in VOC as well.

If carpet strikes your fancy, check out the Carpet and Rug Institute tag to make sure that it is a low-level emission. When choosing your carpet, look for ones that are free of low nap chemicals. Some other tips for carpet are to install the carpet with tack strips instead of adhesive, make sure you have a moisture barrier set before you install the carpet, and avoid having carpet in damp-proned areas such as the kitchen or bathroom.

This post was written by Thais Sousa. Follow Thais on Google.