Is Your Carpet Making You Sick?

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Your carpet is one of the largest surfaces in your home - and a hidden cause for illness.

According to Dr. Jonathan Bernstein, professor of medicine at the University of Cincinnati, "Floor coverings are a major reservoir for indoor and outdoor allergens, including animal dander and dust mites."  He further adds, "And certain carpet materials give off gaseous volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which can cause headaches and respiratory problems for susceptible people."

We spend so much time cleaning our home and going out of our way in this health-conscious age to make sure we're as fit and healthy as possible.  This is doubly the case for allergy sufferers who feel like they're walking on egg shells trying to avoid any allergens.  So naturally it comes as a surprise that the thing we're walking could be such a host for all things creepy and crawly.

What's in Your Carpet?


Dust is the worst allergen in any household because its nearly invisible.  What you see on your furniture is only a collected version of what's constantly filtering through the air you breathe. However, there are some actually some simple measures to take which can help eliminate the dust in your home, such as:

  • Getting rid of all carpets. If this is not possible, make sure you vacuum and clean your carpets regularly. And, if you've rugs on hardwood flooring, you need to remember to have them cleaned or washed frequently.
  • Getting covers for mattresses and pillows. Covers can be cleaned easily, and can protect from dust build-up.
  • Washing and steam cleaning sheets, drapes and blinds often.
  • Using a HEPA filter in your furnace, and making sure to change it regularly.
Pet Dander

Many more people are actually allergic to their pets than they realize since many allergies develop over time.  There are some pet-friendly habits you can easily keep up with, including:

  • Keep pets out of your bedroom by either closing the door or using baby gates.
  • As soon as you've hugged or cuddled with your pet, clean your clothes with a lint roller. Go around and remove all fur and hair from furniture and blankets.
  • Don't have carpets if at all possible, but if you can't get rid of them, make sure you vacuum regularly.

Pollen isn't only found outside - it can be brought indoors on clothing, hair and pets. Take extra care to keep it out of your house, especially during peak pollen season.

  • Bathe pets often.
  • Again, use a HEPA filter in your home, and make sure it's changed frequently.
  • Don't hang bedding and clothes outside to dry.
  • Don't leave windows and doors open.

You can find mold in many places in your home, but chances are there will be a lot more mold in your house than you're even aware of. Mold can grow in places that you can't see, but can cause a lot of problems for those living in the home. One very common place for mold is in your carpet, especially under the carpet and in the padding where water may have leaked to undetected.

What You Can Do

It's such a simple answer, right? But truly, cleaning is one of the main ways to just keep allergens and contaminates under control.  One of the biggest mistakes people make is not cleaning their carpet, simply because it 'looks' clean.  However looking clean and being clean are two different things.

You should ideally be vacuuming your home at least once a week - more if you have young kids or heavy traffic. Make sure you have a vacuum with a HEPA filter. One vacuum that you might want to consider is the Bissell 3950 Upright Vacuum Cleaner with multi-cyclonic technology, microban antimicrobal protection, and an airetight HEPA filtration system.

Low Pile Rugs vs. Plush Rugs - Because it's more difficult to remove allergens from large plush rugs, those seeking to reduce in-home allergens may want to get low-pile rugs.  Low-pile rugs have fewer allergens stuck to them - the same is true for natural materials.  Try favoring rugs made of natural fibers such as cotton, hemp or sea grass.

Green Carpet - When you're getting carpet for an entire room, it's important to look for natural fibers, like wool, or synthetic products that have earned the Green Label or Green Label Plus from the Carpet and Rug Institute, which ensures that floor coverings have low-VOC emissions.

Two sides of the problem - Thorough cleaning helps control allergen levels, so vacuum at least once a week with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter. (Flip area rugs over and vacuum on the back, as well as the front.) Professionally clean wall-to-wall and area carpeting once a year. Some cleaning agents are now nontoxic, says Gene Cole, Ph.D., professor of environmental health science at Brigham Young University.

Air it - If you do end up with a floor covering that reeks, there is no need to panic. Most carpet gets rid of VOCs within several weeks, says Richard Shaughnessy, Ph.D., director of the Indoor Air Program at the University of Tulsa. (Just make sure that the adhesives used to install wall-to-wall carpet are no- or low-VOC.) To help, crack open a window to let in some fresh air. If you have a new area rug, store it in the garage or basement until the odor is gone.

Getting rid of allergens completely is impossible, but it's very easy to get the problem under control if you have the right tools and if you're well-informed on what to look for.

Carpet Maintenance Tips
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