Don’t Toss ’em They’re Awesome! The science of indoor air quality is very interesting and relatively new. In the past, the focus was on the quality of the outside air and the interest was in lowering emissions of all types into the air. I suppose the latter statement is still very much active today also. However since we usually spend more time indoors (an average of 80% of our time) indoor air quality has become a concern to the EPA, as well as government and private health organizations; especially as it relates to allergies.
Current construction practices for buildings and homes are now focused more on being air-tight, leaving little opportunity for diluting the indoor air with fresh air from outside. Indoor air has thus become more polluted. Even though many new homes draw outside air indoors; the exchange rate is simply not enough to put a dent in the allergen pollutant count.
But what’s the connection between indoor air quality and carpets? In the past, physicians recommended that their asthma and allergy suffering patients remove carpeting from the home. It was erroneously thought that carpet exasperated their conditions. Recently, the EPA performed a study of hundreds of homes, schools and office buildings and concluded that the choice of carpeting as a floor covering was actually beneficial in the fight against asthma and allergies. When scientifically tested, the air in the breathing zone; just above the carpet was found to contain fewer allergens than the air above hard surfaces.
Carpet tends to collect and hold the allergens out of the air, where they remain, until the carpet is vacuumed or professionally cleaned. In contrast, allergens that settle on hard surface flooring tend to be redistributed to the breathing zone with normal foot traffic or the simple act of running a broom over the flooring surface.
One unfortunate result of the EPA’s study is that we now know that many families removed carpet from their homes in an effort to reduce allergy symptoms, only to find that they gained no improvement in their conditions. Their carpet was an asset, rather than a detriment, to the quality of their indoor air.
In concluding that carpet is a benefit to indoor air, the EPA now recommends that carpets be cleaned at least every 6 months – in most homes – to rid the carpet of these allergens. A carpet that is not regularly maintained has a reduced ability to collect indoor air pollutants.
Tips for Reducing Indoor Allergens
Following, are some tips for reducing indoor allergens in your home and specifically, in your carpet – helping you to keep your ‘home sweet home’ a healthy one for you and your family:
Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum! This cannot be stressed enough. You should vacuum at least twice a week, more often if you have pets.
Vacuuming helps rid your carpet of dust, dust mite feces, animal hair and dander, human hair and dead skin, mold spores, dead bugs and abrasive sand and soil. Make sure that you use a vacuum cleaner that has a high efficiency HEPA filtering system and ensure that the brush setting is low enough to agitate the carpet fibers.
Don’t sweep your hard surface flooring. Sweeping redistributes allergens into the air. Vacuuming your floors, followed by a damp mop or swiffer, will help keep the air your family breathes cleaner.
Adopt a no shoes policy in your home; this will keep outdoor pollutants from entering the main areas of your home. You may also consider adding an air-scrubber as this machine will continually circulate the air in your home through the air filters, removing airborne particulates. Make sure that you change the filter often. Also consider using high-efficiency HEPA air filters in the furnace and adding filters to the intake and output ducts to further reduce circulation of contaminants.
Follow these simple tips, and not only will you have a healthier home, but your carpet will last longer also.