Allergens and Carpets – A New Look at an Old Topic

Conventional wisdom has held for years that if you have allergies, you should have hard surface floors. Everyone from doctors, nurses, and the National Institutes of Health recommended that carpets and rugs be removed from the homes of people with allergies.

The thinking has been that carpets contain fibers and because fibers are known to trap allergens any room with carpets would have a higher amount of airborne allergens. It has been supposed that as the carpet fibers are disturbed by people walking across them the fibers would release the allergens into the air.

A recent study shows that carpets might not be as bad as previously thought. First is the disclaimer. The study was conducted on behalf of Shaw Industries Group, the largest manufacturer of carpets in the world. Shaw is wholly owned by Berkshire Hathaway. Link to official study. 

Both new and used carpets were part of the test. New carpets were soiled on purpose. Used carpets were taken from places as diverse as Las Vegas, Nevada and Knoxville, Tennessee.

Allergies and carpetsOne of the first things noticed by the researchers was that the age of the carpet reflected how deeply the allergens were imbedded. With newer carpets, the allergens were nearer the surface of the carpet. In older carpets, the allergens were more deeply embedded in the fibers. This suggests that with age, the fibers migrate to the bottom of the carpet, closer to the backing.

The carpet samples were “disturbed” to simulate what happens when people, pets, and furniture are moved across the carpets. Air samples were taken before and after the disturbance. It was surprising to find that the older carpets released fewer allergens into the air than the newer carpets. In the case of fungi and bacteria the newer carpets released considerably more fungi and bacteria than cat and dust mite allergen. The researchers hypothesized that changes to the fiber structure as a result of wear and tear cause the carpets to capture more allergens, bacteria, and fungi. This is in addition to the allergens being more deeply imbedded in the carpet.

Next, the effectiveness of cleaning was tested on these carpets. The testing was to determine if cleaning made a change in the quantity and distribution of allergen particles and microbes on the carpet surface and in the air. In the used carpets that were subjected to the cleaning process, there was a reduction after disturbance in airborne dust mite allergen levels. There was not much change in the cat allergen levels. For the new carpets that were cleaned there was a more noticeable reduction in airborne allergens of all sorts.

So, the carpet companies will now begin their campaign to convince health care professionals that carpets should not be banned for people with allergies.

While the carpets in my home were not part of this test, over the last 20 years I have had a combination of carpet, ceramic tile, hard wood and wood laminate floors. I can tell you from personal experience that I definitely saw a reduction in my allergy symptoms and the amount of dust I see in my home after removal of the carpets. I don’t currently have any carpet in my home and I don’t plan on having any in the future.

Based on the results of this study we make the following recommendations if you have carpets:

If you have new carpets, vacuum them regularly and thoroughly and treat with ADMS Anti-Allergen Spray. Since the study showed that the allergens are at the top layer of new carpets, the spray can reach the allergens and effectively neutralize them on contact.

If you have older carpets, vacuum them regularly and treat them every 3 or 4 months with X-Mite Powder. Since X-Mite Powder is worked into the fibers of the carpet, it will penetrate deeply where the allergens are embedded.

No matter the age of your carpet, regular vacuuming and cleaning should be part of your maintenance routine.

Wishing you the best of health




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