Is Your Carpet Making You Sick?

The argument for and against the healthy environment of a home and the presence of carpet is a hotly debated topic. Who knew?

It’s easy to find arguments online that both support and detract the statement that carpets are unhealthy in regards to indoor air quality and health. Therefore, there are no absolutes. A myriad of factors come into play when it comes to the materials and processes that bring a carpet to market, and just as important, what happens after the carpet is installed.

One of the largest complaints about carpeting is the presence of formaldehyde, which then is subject to offgassing in the home or office. The simple fact here is: Formaldehyde has not been used in the manufacture of carpeting since 1978. At all. Period. And if your abode is still sporting a fabulous shag from decades ago, any formaldehyde that was present has long since dissipated and is no longer a worry. If tests in a home are registering formaldehyde, look to building materials such as certain types of wood products, like plywood, as the source.

Another concern is that carpet harbors more dirt than a room without carpeting. This is where the “after it is installed” bit comes into play.

Carpet is yarn, whether it is made of wool, nylon or polyester. Just like sweaters! Sweaters need to be cleaned to keep out the dirt of everyday wear, and the same is true for a carpet. If it isn’t cleaned, it’s going to be dirty.

The same care goes into mold. If there’s a troublesome leak in your house, mold is going to grow whether there is carpet, or not. If your home is mold-free otherwise, the presence of carpet is not going to create an inviting environment for it alone.

Finally, allergens. Carpet can trap allergens the way it traps dirt, deep in the fibers. If they aren’t being kicked up, then they aren’t contributing to allergens in the air. Bare floors have less places for the allergens to get trapped. This is good for dirt, let’s face it, cleaning a wood floor is easier than fastidious deep cleaning a carpet, but allergens are much freer to roam the room with floors left bare. The caveat here is that when cleaning is in progress, allergens can be temporarily kicked up by the cleaning. Using a vacuum with a HEPA air filter will help trap allergens as they are released from the carpet, and not leave them spinning merrily in the air until things settle down again.

The takeaway? Carpet is not going to make your home environment less healthy, unless you don’t take care of it. Regular cleaning and watching for leaks and moisture in the home, as part of general home care will make sure your carpet adds to the beauty and health of your home, instead of detracting from it.