Feature Article

The Chemicals on Our Carpets and Textiles

The array of water-, dirt-, and mold-repellent chemicals added to carpeting and fabrics is dizzying. Which are causes for concern, and how can we minimize exposure?

February 28, 2011

Commercial carpeting and textiles are subjected to dirt, spilled drinks, pathogens, cleaning chemicals, and a variety of other abuses. Fibers can absorb liquids or allow them to pass through into cushioning beneath, making cleaning difficult, particularly for furniture. Manufacturers add treatments that repel water and oils; antimicrobials to keep mold, mildew, and pathogens at bay; and flame retardants for safety. For architects and designers, specifying these products and understanding their complex chemistry and manufacturer claims is daunting.