Babies spend a significant amount of time on the floor playing and learning to crawl. Wanting to create a safe, comfortable area for them is natural, particularly since babies’ immune systems are underdeveloped and more susceptible to environmental hazards. Not only should crawling surfaces be free of impediments to create safe zones, they should also be easy to clean and free of as many pollutants and toxins as possible. If you want or need a rug, natural woven options are best.
Natural fibers, such as wool, for example, are both inherently strong and stain-resistant. They don't have to be treated with chemical stain treatments and preventatives, which can off-gas volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that prove harmful if baby puts treated fibers in his mouth. Wool is also hypoallergenic and naturally flame-retardant.
Organic cottons, which can be treated with vegetable-based dyes and made into braided or ragged rugs, are colorful, playful alternatives. Cotton rugs have another distinct advantage: They can be easily washed. If they are too large for the washing machine, they can be tossed into the bathtub or scrubbed with a firm brush.
Be mindful of the softness of the fiber. Though coir, jute and sisal are all natural fibers that wear well and need not receive any type of chemical bath to minimize stains or abrasive marks, their fibers are generally very coarse. This rough texture may prove less comfortable on which to crawl than an uncovered wood or laminate floor.
Weaves and Backings
Carpet and rug fibers collect and trap dust and dirt. A long shag rug may feel soft under foot -- or hands and knees -- but it is more difficult to clean than are many other rug weaves. Better options include a low pile, a short, tight loop rug, or a commercial-grade option such as carpet tile.
Braided and ragged rugs do not require a backing, but many weaves are affixed to some sort of base. Pay attention to the backing material and the way in which the carpet fibers are attached if chemicals are a concern; hand-knotted rugs do not contain the same glues or potential toxins that attach some carpet fibers to their backings.
Man-Made Fibers and Rug Alternatives
- Nylon or polypropylene are often more affordable options. While generally easy to clean, many have been chemically treated to help ward off stains.
- Non-typical “rug” choices include cork area rugs or tatami mats, which are grass mats that originate from Asia.
- Cork rugs are made from cork fabric, which is formed into a super soft, leather-like texture. Similar to many other natural products, cork area rugs are stain-resistant, hypoallergenic, fire-resistant, anti-static, slip-resistant and water-resistant.
- Tatami can be crafted from different grasses or straws, such as wara or rice. The mats are very easy to clean, though they can be more slippery underfoot, particularly if wet or damp, and they provide a smoother, harder surface than a woven fiber rug.
Easing Rug Burn Discomfort
Regardless of flooring type, uncomfortable skin-to-surface friction may occur. The degree of irritation may vary from slight redness and broken skin to something akin to first-degree burns. Gently clean the injured area to minimize the risk of infection and treat with antibiotic ointment. While it is often recommended that burns be allowed to breathe, avoiding bandages or covering the wounds with clothing are not realistic options; if possible, opt for dressings designed to treat burns.
When treating severe rug burns, do not apply lotion, powder, baby oil or scented products with alcohol.