What type of flooring is the best and safest flooring for dogs?
That's a very big, big question. Believe it or not there are lots of options!
Occasional oopsies on the carpet, dents and dings on the wood floors, worries about injuries sliding across slippery floors - it all comes with the territory if you have dogs, big or small.
But those aren't the only concerns. Us dogs spend a lot of time on the floor, we snooze there, we eat there, we play there. So having a green, healthy, eco-friendly floor is very important to our health and well-being.
Here are some things to consider when deciding what type of flooring is best for your dog loving home:
- Wall-to-wall carpet - In 2008 the Environmental Working Group performed a first-of-its-kind study and discovered family pets in homes across the country could be absorbing industrial chemicals from the carpets and synthetic household materials they spend so much time on. Scientists believe the higher levels are a result of the pets frequent contact with household comforts like wall-to-wall carpeting, some new furniture, and other pretreated, synthetic items, the study said.
- That beautiful wall-to-wall commercial synthetic carpet that is so nice, soft and clean? It takes a lot of chemicals to keep it looking that way. From the creation of the fibers from petroleum products, to the latex and formaldehyde in the backing, to the 'easy-to-clean' chemical treatments of stain protectants, anti-bacterial and flame retardant (Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs)) baths - these carpets are a chemical haven.
- Some pressed wood floor can emit dangerous concentrations of formaldehyde. And, inexpensive, engineered wood products...contain adhesives that emit hydrocarbons.
- Those nice shiny vinyl floors? They can contain phthalates which are shown in lab studies to disrupt reproductive systems, particularly in male offspring. It also can contribute to respiratory problems in children. Vinyl, also known as polyvinyl chloride or PVC, creates toxic byproducts such as dioxin, a potent carcinogen during production and disposal.
So, what are some eco-friendly, safe, healthy, dog-friendly options?
Generally speaking, the safest, healthiest and most environmentally sound types of flooring are untreated hardwoods from recycled or reclaimed wood, true linoleum, ceramic or glass tile, marble, stone slate, and resilient cork tiles - all either unfinished or finished with water-based, low-VOC finishes. Or you can look into carpet made of a sustainable untreated fabric, like wool.
Let's take a look at them individually:
Linoleum - Natural linoleum can be made from various combinations of natural materials, including softwood powder or sawdust, linseed oil, pine tree resins, cork, and chalk. Linoleum usually has a jute backing which is a sustainable material.
Carpet - Natural carpets are those made from plants, including grasses and cotton, or other products such as wool. Just make sure they haven't been pretreated with stain resistant and other chemicals, etc.
Wood - Recycled, reclaimed wood is a great choice. Just make sure it's a hard wood to show less wear and tear, and also be sure to refinish the wood floor utilizing a natural oil- or water-based stain and finish, like a good hard wax finish with sunflower, soybean and thistle oil, and a natural waxes like carnauba or candelilla.
Cork - Natural cork is made from the bark of the cork tree. Make sure your source obtains their cork through sustainable forestry practices in their harvesting. The cork oak should be harvested by hand, leaving the tree unaffected by the harvesting process and allowing the cork oak to grow back, leaving the cork oak to live on and on. Cork is naturally durable, yet a soft product, and may not be the best option with dog's nails, unless you like the naturally distressed look.
Bamboo - This can be quite good as bamboo is a rapidly renewing resource that matures in three years, and appears to be very strong if you purchase the strand woven variety. Just do your homework and make sure the source is from a sustainable bamboo forest and that no VOCs are used in the laminate. Also consider the source of the grown bamboo, as it is usually grown in Asia and the carbon footprint of transportation should be a consideration.
Stone - Another good option for dogs is stone. Stone flooring can be yielded from reused and recycled materials, and it can last nearly forever, with little maintenance and care making it one of the greener more dog friendly options. However the carbon footprint of procuring the stone should be considered.
Ceramic Tile - Ceramic tile, particularly tiles made of recycled or reused materials are another option. Again, just take into consideration the weight of the product in transportation and location, and the materials used in sealing and grouting making sure low-VOC finishes are used in installation.
What about adhesives and finishes for installation?
Make sure all finishes for wood, cork, bamboo and more are installed using water- or oil-based finishes and adhesives, as they are the least-toxic alliterative to installation. Look for no-VOC brands or don't use any glue at all, or focus on mechanical fasteners such as tack strips or double-sided tape for carpet when possible, cement mortar instead of glue for tile, or tongue and grove installation for sustainable woods. Good finishes for wood, cork & bamboo are sunflower, soybean and/or thistle oil, and a good natural was like candelilla. They leave a nice strong matte finish that easily repaired if needed.
Here are our top tips for seeking out the safest, greenest floor for you and your dog:
- Find a green, dog-friendly product that has a natural character, that won't show little dents and dings.
- Keep your dog's nails trimmed and filed to reduce the amount of markings.
- If you have a slick floor, be sure and protect your dogs joints and bones by putting down an organic, untreated sustainable fabric rug, so they don't slip and slide through your house incurring potential injury.
- Select a floor that will last and hold up to the wear and tear of dogs.
- Clean up messes utilizing non-toxic and non-abrasive solutions that won't harm the finish of your flooring and keep it healthier for you and your dog.
- If you decide on a flooring with tongue and groove, or a pieced linoleum, make sure to seal the cracks with a good eco-friendly and safe sealer to keep the 'messes' from penetrating to the subfloor.
Source for reclaimed wood and other materials.
Online source for sustainable flooring materials.
Research reports from the Environmental Working Group related to pets.
Keeping It Clean - cleaning resources from Raise A Green Dog