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Low VOC underlays for a healthier home

Low VOC underlays for a healthier home

Stand in your lounge and take a long, deep breath.

Can you smell any fumes? Probably not – but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) first became a household concern back in 2014, when a specific type of laminate was linked to toxic levels of formaldehyde in the air.

The incident made people aware that everyday items – particularly flooring – can emit toxic fumes, potentially having a negative impact on short- and long-term health. And as a result, the industry has seen an increased focus on products that are ‘low VOC’ – including low VOC underlay.

If you’re shopping for new flooring for your home, it’s certainly something to keep in mind. The best defence against these toxic fumes is prevention. So be sure to do your research, choose your floor coverings wisely and ensure your home is as VOC-free as possible.


What are VOCs?

Essentially, VOCs are a group of chemicals, which are found in most industrially made materials – and are released into the atmosphere via a process called ‘off-gassing’.

Ever noticed that distinctive ‘new car smell’ or the scent of a freshly painted room?

Both of these can be attributed to the off-gassing of VOCs.

Lots of different household items contain VOCs, including everything from disinfectants and aerosol sprays to paints and solvents – but they can be particularly prevalent in flooring. And once such flooring products have been installed in your home, it’s difficult to detect their harmful fumes.

One of the most common toxic VOCs in flooring is formaldehyde – which is typically used for its antibacterial and preservative properties. But they can also include toluene, benzene, acetone and more. And no matter which VOCs are present, over time, exposure to these invisible toxic fumes can lead to a range of worrying health concerns.

For example, short-term effects can include throat, eye and nose irritation, dizziness and nausea. Long-term effects can include prolonged irritation, chronic headaches, liver, kidney and central nervous system damage and even some types of cancer – depending on the VOC concentration and length of exposure. And symptoms can be particularly severe in those with pre-existing asthma.


Minimise VOCs with low VOC carpet and underlay

Want to know the easiest way to minimise these toxic fumes in your home?

By shopping wisely.

A few years ago, solid hardwood, concrete and tiles would have been the only flooring types suitable for those concerned about air quality. But nowadays – due to increased awareness of these chemicals and their negative effects – flooring companies have worked hard to improve their manufacturing processes and a wider range of eco-friendly, low VOC options are now available.

Carpets, in particular, have come a long way with regard to VOCs.

Historically, synthetic products made using carpet dyes and glues were notorious for having a high concentration of VOCs. But these days, most carpets are now deemed low VOC carpets – practically free from these harmful toxins and highly unlikely to have an adverse effect on your health.


Low VOC carpet


It’s also now possible to find a low VOC underlay.

Some foam underlays can (and often do) still contain high levels of VOCs, especially formaldehyde – as this is one of the easiest ways to make the foam feel softer underfoot. But once again, due to increased awareness, the industry has started to take notice and underlays that contain a very low level of these toxic chemicals are now readily available on the market.

Here at Carpet Underlay Shop – as a leading UK supplier – our online collection features an extensive range of such low VOC carpet underlays. And for customers eager to improve air quality and limit VOCs in their homes, there are three options we typically recommend.


1. Plushwalk 12mm Carpet Underlay

Plushwalk 12mm - Low VOC carpet underlay

Regarded as the industry’s ‘gold standard’, Plushwalk 12mm is a fantastic carpet underlay that excels in all areas.  

Made from a unique ‘bounce back’ memory foam, it boasts a 3.5 TOG, reduces noise by 49dB, and delivers astonishing levels of underfoot comfort. But aside from these impressive credentials, it also meets strict safety standards – with low levels of VOCs and formaldehyde detected during testing.

Available for just £6.99 per m2, it’s the perfect choice for home projects where both performance and air quality are a priority.


2. Multirich® underlay

Eco-friendly and low VOC underlay

The ultimate eco-friendly underlay.

Multirich® is both 100% recycled and 100% recyclable. Densely packed with wool fibres, it acts as a great natural insulator – and delivers excellent levels of softness and durability.

More importantly, though, it’s a breathable option with very low VOC statistics.  

The underlay is needle punched, which means it requires no glue, and no chemicals are added during its manufacture. As such, it adheres to strict standards – with no VOCs or formaldehyde emissions detected above the legal limit.

Available from £2.86 per m2, it’s an affordable choice for comfort, longevity and safety.


3. ThermalStream Underfloor Heating Underlay

Low VOC underlay for underfloor heating

A revolutionary product in more ways than one.

Designed for use with underfloor heating, ThermalStream® is made from a unique 10mm perforated foam – which allows heat to transfer quickly and easily into the room, without having to compromise on underfoot comfort.

In addition, it’s also one of the first underlays of its kind to demonstrate low VOC and formaldehyde emissions – rigorously tested by an independent company in line with ISO International and British Safety Standards.

Currently priced at £126.99 per roll, it’s a savvy choice for those looking to maximise energy efficiency – and ensure the air in their home is as warm and VOC-free as possible.


Want to learn more about VOCs in flooring?

If you’re about to start a new project and are concerned about VOCs in flooring – and how they could impact the air quality in your home – please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

We’re by no means experts in the science behind VOCs. However, we do have in-depth knowledge of the products available in our store. And if breathability and air quality are important to you as a customer, we can certainly offer further information, and advise on the best low VOC underlay for your needs. Whether that be one of the options listed above or another underlay from our extensive range.

To chat with a member of the team, simply give us a call on 0203 887 0994. Alternatively, send an email to and we’ll respond to your enquiry as soon as possible.

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  • Alex Illidge