The Importance of Clean Carpet for Good Health
Carpet can make an interior space feel very luxurious and comfortable. It remains one of the most common types of flooring used in homes, upmarket retail stores and hotels.
However, in recent years, there has been a growing concern about the health impacts of using carpet in indoor spaces. Some people believe that carpet can lead to a deterioration of indoor air quality and may increase the number of allergens present in a room.
While this may be true of very dirty carpets, it is not true for well-maintained and regularly cleaned carpets! If you have a sensible carpet cleaning regime in place, you can enjoy the comfort of a carpeted floor while maintaining a very healthy indoor space.
The Dangers of Dirty Carpet
Dirty carpets are notorious for harboring allergens. An allergen is a substance that can trigger a strong immune system response in a person. That immune system response manifests as a variety of side effects like sneezing, coughing, a runny nose, red eyes, hives, rashes and other skin conditions. Allergens that may be found in dirty carpets include:
- Dust mite excretions
- Animal fur and hair
- Dander (animal skin cells)
- Mold spores
- Plant pollen
- Dirt, dust
- Bacteria and viruses
- Bugs including fleas and cockroaches
- Droppings and urine from cockroaches, mice, and other small creatures
Some of these substances are tiny and can become airborne — impacting the air quality of indoor spaces. Once inhaled, they can trigger various health problems including asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis and allergic rhinitis.
Dr. Thomas A. Platts-Mills, head of Allergic Medicine at the University of Virginia Medical School, suggests that the allergens found in carpet may contribute to between 500,000 to 1,000,000 hospital visits each year in the United States. Most of these trips to the hospital are caused by allergens triggering a person’s asthma.
Dr. Michael Berry of the US Environmental Protection Agency suggests that most indoor air quality problems are related to dirty carpets — however they can be fixed through proper maintenance and restoration.
Cleaning Carpets to Create Health Indoor Environments
Unfortunately, many property owners do not clean their carpets appropriately to remove the allergens that are present. In many cases, they only clean their carpets when they look dirty, which does not account for the fact that many allergens are microscopic in size.
There are some simple steps to maintaining clean and healthy carpet:
Clean your carpets regularly with a high-quality vacuum cleaner
A modern, high-quality vacuum cleaner will achieve far better results than a clunky old vacuum from the 90s. If you have an older vacuum cleaner, upgrade it to a powerful new model with a HEPA filter. Regular cleaning will extend the lifespan of your carpet and prevent substances from becoming trapped in the deeper layers of your carpet.
Alter the frequency of cleaning based on property use and environmental factors
You should alter the frequency of your regular carpet cleaning based upon how your property is being used and the local environment surrounding it. For example, a busy day care centre must be vacuumed much more frequently that a private residence.
A property located in a humid or dusty part of the world may require more frequent cleaning. Properties that have young children or pets will also require more frequent carpet cleaning.
Have your carpets professionally steam cleaned
Steam cleaning is an effective way to remove allergens from the carpet’s deeper layers. Ideally, this should be performed by a professional janitorial service.
How often you require carpet steam cleaning will vary depending on the property use and environmental factors. The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) has a set of guidelines which inform property owners how often a deeper cleaning of carpet should be undertaken.
They suggest that the purpose of the building, the number of occupants, location of the room and various environmental factors determine how often a building should have their carpets professionally steam cleaned. For example:
- Day care centres with a normal environment should steam clean carpets every 2 weeks. If they are located in a humid or dusty environment, that is reduced to every week.
- Private homes with non-smoking occupants should steam clean their carpets every 6-months.
- Offices on the ground floor should steam clean their carpets every 3-6 months. On higher floors, that is reduced to 6-12 months.
- Food establishments should steam clean their carpets every 1 month or 2 weeks if in a dusty or humid environment.
It is important to note that these time frames are just estimates. A professional janitorial service can give you a better understanding of how often your carpets should be professionally cleaned.
Use preventative techniques
Preventative techniques can be used to stop certain allergens making their way into the carpet at all. For example:
- Don’t wear shoes on the carpet
- Don’t let pets into carpeted rooms
- Use a stain protectant on your carpet
Understand that different substances require different techniques
A domestic vacuum cleaner tends to be quite effective at removing dirt from the top layers of the carpet, but it does not perform as well for removing viruses, bacteria, and chemical residues. The Healthy Facilities Institute has a useful table which highlights the kinds of substances that require steam carpet cleaning to remove.
Clean spills quickly
Spills that are not cleaned immediately can make their way to the lower layers of the carpet and promote the growth of bacteria and fungi. If you see a spill happen — address it immediately.
Consult a professional
If you are unsure how often your carpet should be cleaned or the best technique to use — contact a professional. They can help you develop a cleaning schedule that keeps your carpet clean and healthy!
Platts-Mills, Thomas A.. (2016). Med.virginia.edu. Retrieved 17 May 2016, from https://med.virginia.edu/faculty/faculty-listing/tap2z/
ANSI/IICRC S100 Textile Floor Coverings Cleaning - IICRC. (2016). Iicrc.org. Retrieved 17 May 2016, from http://www.iicrc.org/standards/iicrc-s100/
Carpet Cleaning: Health Benefits of Carpet Maintenance - Healthy Facilities Institute®. (2016). Healthyfacilitiesinstitute.com. Retrieved 18 May 2016, from http://www.healthyfacilitiesinstitute.com/a_37-Health_Benefits_of_Carpet_Maintenance