Air Quality Problems Might Be Stemming From Under The Rug

ByVivian McNeil


My husband and I were trying to figure out the exact age of our master bedroom’s wall to wall carpeting. He claims that it is forty years old. I was a bit more realistic and explained that my youngest son was already born when we moved into our new home. However, he is not yet forty so the carpeting could not yet be forty years old. In any case, it’s definitely gone through several presidents and has been on our floor for close to forty years.

Wall to wall carpeting needs quite a bit of maintenance. We have gone through numerous professional carpet cleaning jobs only to find some of the stains resurfacing. Another problem was that the carpet had to be tightened by a professional as it was buckling; carpets need more maintenance than floors. The dirt may be hidden but it will come back to haunt you in the end.

We have been discussing the possibility of removing our bedroom carpeting for close to five years after doing the same in a smaller bedroom in our home when our son -in- laws complained that their allergies were acting up when sleeping in that bedroom. It was the best investment we ever made, not only for health reasons but for practical reasons as well. A quick whisk of the vacuum or broom, a bit of water and the floor is free of dust. What an amazing improvement. I recommended this switch to anyone who was about to throw away their bedroom carpeting and purchase a replacement. It could be an authentic wood floor or the very realistic looking vinyl imitations; whatever the choice, it will improve your home both aesthetically and health-wise.

When we built our home originally, we installed durable wood flooring on the main floor and ceramic tiles in the kitchen and playroom. These have held up beautifully and have not needed replacement only maintenance. The wood floors did need to be scraped and stained. Once in a while we will get a professional floor cleaner to clean our kitchen floor tiles and grout but other than that we wish we would have bare floors in our entire home.

We were fortunate to retain a contractor who we trust, and he began the tedious job of removing the old carpet and under padding. According to the statutes of our town’s rubbish removal company the carpet had to be cut in four-inch widths, rolled up and piled on the curb for proper disposal. The padding was so disintegrated that it became a huge job to remove since it crumbled when touched. The biggest, unexpected shocker was the answer to the question I asked the contractor about the sand he was sweeping up from the bare floor. “This is sand that has been accumulating all the years coming from footsteps from the outside”, he responded. The answer sounded quite far-fetched since our bedroom was situated on the second floor, we wiped our feet well before entering our home, and there was carpet on the steps which should have taken care of any additional dirt on our shoes.

According to the contractor, dust, dirt and sand seeps through the tiny holes in the carpet then through the padding and on to the floor. If I would not have seen the pile of sand, I would have been quite skeptical about his claim because the padding seemed solid and non-porous.

No matter how careful a home occupant is about wiping their feet, dust, dirt, grime, and sand penetrate the most luxurious and heavily weaved carpets. Years of wear and tear on the best carpets increases the openings in the fibers. Hidden in the best carpets are bags of sand and other potentially harmful byproducts caused by daily footsteps in the home.

We live within walking distance of the beach, so it is very likely that winds bring the sand into our home in addition to ours and other guests’ tracks. Whenever a door or window is opened sand enters the home. As much as it is healthy to have fresh air coming in through the windows, at the same time the sand enters along with it. Even if you are meticulous and always take off your shoes before entering your home and bedrooms, sand will manage to contaminate and dirty your home. I have a feeling that those of us who have our carpets shampooed regularly are causing the sand to get ingrained deeper into our wall-to-wall carpeting. The pressure of the brushes and machinery of professional carpet shampooers is also a reason for the integration of sand and dirt into the carpet.

Our contractor attempted to use our household vacuum to remove the sand and dirt from the raw floor that remained after the carpet was removed but informed us that he would have to come back with his industrial vacuum cleaner to get to the bottom of the dirt. In fact, my sister advised me to get out of the house when she heard about all the sand.

The flooring in the home makes a huge difference in the air quality of the home. Vinyl, stone, and wood floors should be dusted and washed often. A bit of water is all it takes to remove harmful dust and grime. Next time you wash your floor, cover the mop with a white or light-colored cloth and you will be able to see how much dirt comes off of a supposedly clean floor. This will save you time, money and breathe since you should see improvement in allergy symptoms, lessening the amount of time spent at doctors and cost of allergy medicines.

We tend to think of air quality as pertaining to the air around us in our home. The air quality of the home has more to do than what’s apparent in the air around us. What’s going on in the air ducts of our air conditioning systems and beneath the surface of objects and items in our homes is even more important. The air ducts should be cleaned every so often by professional air duct specialists who will be aggressive and at the same time careful not to puncture any holes in the ducts. Carpets, especially wall to wall, are harbingers of all kinds of minute particles that are not seen superficially. Very powerful vacuum cleaners with high suction are imperative to remove sand and dust from home carpeting. At the same time, heavy equipment such as professional shampooing machinery and upright vacuums can cause the grime to go deeper into the carpets instead of removing it. Only by regular everyday vacuuming would you be mildly successful in keeping out allergens and dust from your carpets. It would be worth your while to purchase a quality robot vacuum to be used daily to keep your house dust and sand free. The very fact that this type of vacuum is lightweight is beneficial since it roves lightly and continuously on the carpet and will not rub the dirt deeper into the carpet itself. The trouble with this type of vacuum cleaner is that it does not necessarily hit every single part and corner of the room. Only with a special attachment to your vacuum cleaner will you be able to get to every nook and cranny of the room.

Final Words

Nothing, yes, nothing beats the health and practical benefits of a floor versus a carpet. No matter how meticulous you are and how often you clean your wall-to-wall carpet, age and outdoor pollutants will eventually contaminate it beyond repair. Rather than spending money on replacing your wall-to-wall carpets, think seriously of buying clean floors. Whether it is wood, vinyl or ceramic your nose and throat will thank you profusely. No matter where you live there are pollutants outside your window. Even if you live on a farm in Montana where the air is fresh and sweet, the sand and soil will come easily into your home. Living in the city will give real soot and other contaminants entrance to your home which will not only blacken your home but your lungs as well.

Living near the beach is a real treat in the summer but remember this locality will cause sand to come in through your window even if you have good screens. If you insist or already have carpeting that you are keeping, make sure to vacuum each day. If not, the grime will get deeper into the fibers and be harder to remove. Even a good vacuum like a robot style will not be able to pick up the microscopic specks once they are deeply ingrained in your carpet. Industrial and professional cleaning companies may claim to be the best way to keep your carpets dust free but beware that their heavy instruments can push the dirt deeper into the carpets. To assure the health and safety of your family, have your air quality checked regularly by a reliable and recommended air quality company.

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