How can a clean carpet make you healthy?
Carpets can be toxic. Whether it’s a new carpet or an old carpet, you run the risk of getting ill not because of any other environmental or biological factor, but because of your carpet. Many people claim that they fell sick within 1-3 days after a new carpet installation in their house. A lot of people find that their new carpet seems wet and blame the carpet manufacturer for doing a low-quality work.
But what’s the real truth behind all this? Can carpets make you sick? And can we just get over this general line of how ‘something’ can make you sick? Anything, when used in a particular way, can make you sick. If you overeat that delicious pie you got for the weekend; you’ll be sick. If you keep sitting in a dark air conditioned room for days, you’ll get sick. If you stop exercising your body, you’ll get sick. There are so many use-case scenarios here (wait! did I use a software related term?)
So, what’s there in that beautiful carpet of yours, which by the way eats a significant chunk of your earnings through carpet cleaning and maintenance after that one-time investment of buying a new carpet and getting it installed, that makes you sick?
What components in a carpet deteriorate your health?
I believe a lot of you will just skip reading this section for you think a new one is a clean carpet and wouldn’t cause any health issues. Pat yourself on the back for still reading it.
1. Presence of carcinogens
First thing in a new carpet that worries me and should worry you is these compounds called ‘carcinogens.' What are they? They are compounds that are responsible for causing cancer. Acetone, Benzene, Ethyl Benzene, Formaldehyde, Styrene, Toluene and some other chemicals constitute this widely used term ‘carcinogens’. Their most severe impact is, as earlier mentioned, cancer. However, this isn’t all. These have been proven to cause fetal abnormalities in the animals exposed to these chemicals; which is why I suggest you never get a new carpet installed while you’re pregnant.
Carcinogens can also lead to respiratory disorders, nerve damage and cause hallucinations.
2. The ‘new carpet smell.'
Do you know what causes this smell? It comes from 4-PC which is a component used in the latex of almost 95% of carpets made in U.S. This 4-PC can cause eye irritation, nose irritation, and respiratory disorders. Now do you know what made you sick after that new carpet installation?
3. Additional compounds that can affect your health
Above were the two primary reasons why having a new carpet in my house worries me. But there a lot of other compounds that are added to your carpet to provide those ‘additional features.' Everything comes at a cost; it’s just that with carpets, that cost has to be paid via money and your health.
Stain protectors, adhesives, mothproofing chemicals (contain naphthalene), fire retardants, artificial dyes, sprays and antimicrobial treatments; all of these can be responsible for deteriorating your health. The PBDEs that constitute the flame retardants can cause damage to your immune system, thyroid gland and even to the functioning of your brain. Naphthalene used in mothproofing chemicals is known to produce harmful reactions in newborns.
Now, all the chemicals which can affect your new carpet are loosely put into the category of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), and it has been claimed that these chemicals ward off within a few days of carpet installation. But does that make your carpet any safer?
Do you know that a carpet can hold dust and toxins up to eight times of its original weight? Painted your room? The toxic fumes from the paint will stay in your carpet for years. The same is with floor laminating and pesticides spray. Don’t forget that with every step you take on your carpet; you bring in the dirt and what not!
The external components you bring in inside your home, through your shoes mainly, deposit on your carpet and cause health issues. These might include respiratory disorders, immune system disorders, headaches, nausea, allergies and what not!
How to be healthy around the carpets?
- Go for natural wool carpets. Wool repels liquids, is naturally flame retardant, and is durable. Do note that wool isn’t a good choice for carpets for the kitchen, entryways, and bathrooms.
- Just because the carpet is made of wool doesn’t necessarily means that it’s chemical free. Look for an all-natural carpet that hasn’t been chemically treated.
- Prefer green carpets. They will still have dust and other disease-causing microorganisms brought from outside, but they will at least be free from the harmful compounds. Solution to dust and such microorganisms is a clean carpet.
- Go for certified carpets. Some carpets in the market are certified to produce minimal toxic compounds and are completely safe to use. Invest in such kinds of carpets.
- Lastly, ensure that you don’t use harmful carpet cleaners. A clean carpet can still be dangerous if you use low-quality cleaning products and ineffective cleaning methods. For example, a carpet cleaner with toxic chemicals will suddenly contaminate your carpet and affect your health. If a professional carpet cleaner doesn’t do his job correctly and leaves the carpet wet, mold growth can damage your carpet and house’s environment. So, pay attention to maintenance.
While maintaining a clean carpet
- Minimize the dirt that enters your house. An effective way to do that is to use doormats at the entryways and restrict the entry of shoes on the carpet.
- Vacuum your carpet regularly. This will do a great job to remove dust particles just when they land on your carpet and prevent them from settling deep into the carpet fibers.
- Use a HEPA filter in your vacuum. This filter has been government approved and makes vacuuming an even better and health-friendly practice. Do you know that a lot of vacuums have leaks? Even before you notice, a lot of minute particles just make it back to your carpet. Learn proper vacuuming techniques and be consistent.
- Go for hot water extraction cleaning method when you opt for professional carpet cleaning. This is, in fact, the most recommended and commonly used professional cleaning method. A hot jet of water is sprayed on the carpet fibers that flushes out the dirt, which is immediately sucked in by the vacuum hose. The cleaning action is very strong and can pick out dust settled in deep down the fibers. And as the dust is immediately removed, it has minimum chances of making it back to your carpet.
All in all, a clean carpet can help you avoid getting sick. But the tricky part here is that you need a carpet which is thoroughly cleaned, not the one that looks 'clean'. For example, optical brighteners used in dry carpet cleaners make your carpets look clean through that trick played by light, but they still have those disease-causing organisms.
So, invest your time and money in getting a good quality carpet that has a minimum use of harmful chemicals and then do the same in maintaining a clean carpet. That’s how a clean carpet can make you healthy or maybe I should rephrase this - that’s how you can make yourself healthy with a clean and fresh carpet. Good luck!