Your Complete Guide to Low-VOC & Non-Toxic Flooring

VOCs (or ‘Volatile Organic Compounds’) are a group of chemicals found in many everyday items – including paint, upholstery, cleaning products, and flooring – that can evaporate into the air at room temperature, potentially compromising indoor air quality.

 

These compounds are a concern in both residential and commercial spaces due to their ability to cause a variety of health issues, from eye irritation to more severe effects after long-term exposure. To address these concerns, we have developed this comprehensive guide aimed at helping individuals make informed decisions when selecting flooring options for their spaces.

What VOCs Are in Flooring?

Flooring materials can be a significant source of VOCs in our homes and workplaces, primarily due to the variety of substances used in their manufacture and installation. The emission of VOCs from flooring is attributed to several factors, including the adhesives used to bond materials together, sealants applied for finishing and protection, and the actual materials used in the flooring itself. During the manufacturing process, VOCs can become trapped within the flooring material, only to be released or ‘off-gassed’ into the indoor environment over time. There is a notable difference in VOC emissions between natural and synthetic flooring materials. Natural materials, such as solid hardwood and cork, typically emit far lower levels of VOCs. This is because they often require fewer chemical treatments and adhesives in their installation and finishing processes. Synthetic materials like low-quality vinyl and carpet are known to emit higher levels of VOCs due to the petrochemicals used in their composition and the adhesives required for their installation. The manufacturing process for these materials often involves the application of multiple chemical layers, including glues and finishes, which can off-gas VOCs long after installation​​. Choosing flooring materials wisely can significantly impact indoor air quality. Opting for natural flooring options or those specifically designed to minimise VOC emissions, such as those found in our extensive catalogue, can contribute to a healthier indoor environment, ensuring the well-being of all occupants​.

Understanding the Health Risks of VOCs

According to Public Health England, exposure to VOCs in our living and working environments can lead to several health risks, affecting individuals to varying degrees based on exposure levels and personal sensitivity.

The Risks of Short-Term Exposure to VOCs

Short-term exposure to high levels of VOCs can result in immediate symptoms such as eye, nose, and throat irritation, as well as headaches, dizziness, and nausea. For some, especially those with pre-existing conditions like asthma or chemical sensitivities, these symptoms can manifest more severely and quickly​.

The Risks of Long-Term Exposure to VOCs

Long-term exposure escalates the risks significantly, potentially leading to more serious conditions. These can include damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. Some VOCs, such as formaldehyde, are known to be carcinogenic, raising the risk of cancer with prolonged exposure.

Are You At Risk?

Particularly sensitive groups, including children, the elderly, and individuals with pre-existing health conditions, are at a much higher risk than the average person. 

 

Children, due to their developing bodies and higher rates of respiration relative to their body size, can absorb VOCs more readily, making them more susceptible to adverse effects. Similarly, the elderly, who may already have compromised health, can find their conditions exacerbated by VOC exposure. Individuals with respiratory issues or chemical sensitivities may experience heightened reactions even to lower levels of VOCs, making it imperative to minimise their exposure in environments where they spend significant time​.

Our Top Low-VOC & Non-Toxic Flooring Picks

Bjelin Hardnered Wood

Bjelin Hardened Wood Flooring, available exclusively through V4 here in the UK, introduces an innovative approach to creating durable and sustainable floors with a low environmental impact. Utilising patented Woodura technology, the process compresses wood fibres under extreme heat and pressure, significantly enhancing the wood’s strength and durability without the need for high-VOC adhesives or finishes. This manufacturing technique not only makes the floors three times stronger than traditional hardwood but also ensures they are more water- and dent-resistant.

 

The materials used in Bjelin’s flooring come from FSC-certified European forests, and the combination of Woodura technology and the Välinge Compositek Core, alongside the 5G Dry floor locking system, contributes to a robust, water-resistant flooring solution that stands the test of time.

 

Featured Hardened Wood Flooring

Engineered Wood Flooring

Engineered Wood Flooring offers a safe, sustainable choice for modern homes and businesses. By selecting high-quality, sustainably sourced European oak and American walnut, and employing low-VOC adhesives and finishes, we minimise the emission of harmful chemicals without compromising the beauty and durability of our signature hardwood alternative.

 

Featured Engineered Wood Flooring

Laminate Flooring

The composition of our Laminate Flooring includes a dense core board that resists swelling, and surfaces treated with durable, low-VOC melamine coatings that withstand daily wear and tear.

 

Our laminate collections represent a significant advancement in low-VOC flooring technology. The Aqualock range, as its name suggests, offers an additional layer of protection against moisture, making it an ideal choice for areas prone to spills or humidity, all while maintaining low-VOC standards.

 

Featured Laminate Flooring

Cortejo Cork

Our brand new Luxury Cortejo Cork Flooring range combines innovative, eco-friendly practices with the natural benefits of cork, sourced sustainably from the cork oak forests of Portugal. This unique material is celebrated for both its durability and its low-VOC properties, making it an excellent choice for health-conscious consumers. The harvesting process involves removing the bark of the cork oak tree, a method that does not harm the tree and allows it to continue growing, thus ensuring a renewable source of material.

 

By avoiding harsh chemicals and opting for low-VOC adhesives and finishes, we ensure that our entire Cortejo range – whether you choose Pure Cork or our Wood-Look variations – contributes to healthier indoor air quality. Cortejo cork is also naturally resistant to mould, mildew, and pests, reducing the need for additional chemical treatments.

 

Featured Cork Flooring

Best Practice for Maintaining Low-VOC Floors

Here are some practical tips for keeping your low-VOC floors in top condition. By implementing these simple maintenance practices, you can significantly extend the life of your low-VOC flooring and ensure it remains a safe and attractive part of your home or business.

Use Gentle Cleaning Solutions

Opt for natural or eco-friendly cleaning products that are free from harsh chemicals. These products are less likely to emit VOCs or degrade the low-VOC finishes on your flooring.

Regular Dust and Debris Removal

Regular sweeping, dusting, or hoovering can prevent the buildup of dirt and debris that can scratch your floor’s surface. Use a soft-bristled attachment to avoid damaging the flooring while you work, and remember to only ever use a damp mop – never sopping wet.

Immediate Spill Cleanup

To prevent staining and potential damage to the flooring material, clean up spills immediately with a soft, damp cloth. For tougher stains, opt for appropriate cleaners that maintain the low-VOC integrity of the flooring – for example, our Bona or Rubio ranges are perfect for Bjelin hardened wood as well as engineered wood floors.

Avoid Steam Mops on Sensitive Flooring

High temperature and moisture from steam mops can damage certain types of low-VOC flooring, such as laminate and hardwood, so it is best to avoid them. Our ranges should never need more than a damp mopping semi-regularly.

Utilise Door Mats and Rugs

Placing mats at entryways can reduce the amount of dirt and pollutants brought into the home. Rugs in high-traffic areas can also protect flooring from wear and tear. Choose rugs and mats made from natural fibres with non-toxic backings to complement your low-VOC flooring.

Peace of Mind

Reduce stress over damage with ultra-forgiving floors.

Make the Right Choice for Your Space and Health

Choosing low-VOC flooring for a safer and more sustainable environment. From innovative Bjelin Hardened Wood Flooring to luxurious Cortejo Cork and eco-friendly laminates, we offer a wide range of options designed to meet the needs of any space while prioritising indoor air quality above all else.

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