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Carpets, although nice and soft on the feet to walk on, may be a source of air pollution in your home. Carpets consist of the carpet itself, underpadding and adhesives. A carpet basically works as a sponge to indoor air pollutants.  The carpet and upholstry in your home acts as a trap for airborne particles grounded through natural gravity.  Floating particulates like dust and allergens eventually settle into the carpet as well as substances that may be spilled or tracked in from outdoors.

Studies have shown that carpets are breeding grounds for mould, dust mites and other allergens if not properly cared for.  If you have ever removed a carpet yourself or have been present while this is being done, you would have been amazed at what you find underneath!

When carpets and upholstery are manufactured, many chemicals are added such as stain protectors, fungicides, and fire retardants. The underpad and adhesives used in installation are also guilty of emitting dangerous products.  These chemicals slowly release VOC’s into the air that your family is breathing, such as styrene, benzene and formaldehyde and that is why they smell so strongly after delivery or installation.  In time, the release of VOC’s from a new carpet will disappear (the amount of time varies with ventilation and cleaning).

Some health affects from the chemical exposure include eye, nose and throat irritation, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, depression and weakness.  Older carpet polluted with allergens can lead to symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, headaches, watery eyes and can lead to a life threatening asthma attack for people with extreme environmental hypersensitivities.

Asthma rates have increased significantly in children over the years, and poor indoor air has a role to play in it. After knowing all of the pollutants found in carpets, let us use common sense to solve this issue. A baby or toddler is still developing their lungs and breathes at a higher rate than adults, play on carpets and upholstery.  Since their noses are often inches from the floor, however, they breathe in all of these pollutants with very little dilution.  Care should be taken to keep them clean and install new carpet with the lowest possible VOC off-gassing. 

Carpet, however, has been given a bad reputation over the past years in our indoor air quality industry for collecting and breeding pollutants.  The flip sides however, are hardwood, laminate flooring and ceramic tiles- not perfect options otherwise.  The down side to hard floors is that dust and debris stays constantly in the air.  Each time air circulation occurs in the home (which in a healthy home should be constant), these particles become airbourne.  If your home has a great Central Air Filtration System, this may not be an issue, but if not, keeping the air clean can be a losing battle.  Also, chemicals used to treat hardwood and laminate flooring, glues and grout for installation and especially lacquer used on high-end hardwood have extreme chemical release, just as standard carpet has.  Hard floors are also not as comfortable for people with problem feet or small children prone to 'clumsiness'.  The carpet vs. hard floor battle is a tough one to award victory and ends in a matter of personal choice for the family's specific needs.  A dry, well-maintained carpet with low VOC's is as good of a choice as some of the hard floor options out there. 

The following are some tips on keeping your carpet healthy:

New Carpet Installation

1. Choose - You can test this yourself by taking a piece of carpet and placing it in a glass sealed container in the sun for a day. When you open the container, judge how strong the smell is and compare a few if possible.  Many manufacturers are becoming aware of the needs of the chemically sensitive and have products designed with low VOC's.   If you have just moved into a new home and the smell from the carpets are giving you the above symptoms, having an Ozone Treatment performed on the home, (which will accelerate the off-gassing process of the carpets and all other products used to construct your home) will help alleviate these symptoms.


2. Prepare – Before removing your old carpet, vacuum it first. This will help limit the amount of particulates released into the air. Once removed, vacuum the floor and even wet mop if possible. This way, any contaminants from the floor will not work its way into your new carpet or be stirred up during the new installation.


3. Ventilate –
If possible, open up windows, run an exhaust or run a Central Air Filtration System, during and after the installation.  Always try and have the installation done when you and your family will not be home, such as a weekend in the summer. This way, you can leave the windows open to ventilate and your family can stay outside while your new carpet ‘airs out’ (entire off-gassing process can take up to 18 months without professional assistance, however).

Ongoing Carpet and Upholstery Maintenance

1. Keep carpets clean and dryRegularly vacuum all carpet and upholstery once a week and emphasize on traffic areas a second time per week; clean up spills promptly and keep the humidity in your home at acceptable levels (35-50%).  Use a HEPA filtered vacuum or a central vacuum system (that is vented to the outside of the home) to keep exhausted particles to a minimum.

2. Call the ProfessionalsWe recommend you have your carpets professionally steam cleaned every 6 months. This method of cleaning allows your carpets to be cleaned below the surface without the use of harsh chemicals (heat, water, agitation and extraction only). Be wary of renting equipment to clean the carpets yourself.  Improper cleaning is the number one problem in carpet maintenance.  (If too much product is used, it will attract new dirt faster; if the water is not extracted properly and carpets stay wet for long periods of time, it can lead to mould growth, etc.)

3. Watch for Water – If you ever have a flood in your home, the underpad must be removed permanently.  There is no way to salvage underpad, as it takes too long to dry (even with professional equipment).  The carpet itself may be salvaged if dealt with immediately by a professional.  It will need to be lifted, dried, cleaned, dried again and reinstalled.  Once mould begins to grow in a carpet or its underpad, it is impossible to remove adequately, as the spores will be embedded unfortunately thwarting the cleaning process.

If you are concerned that the carpet in your home is affecting your indoor air quality or have had a flood and need immediate assistance in the drying, removal and cleaning process, call Home Heroes today for advice specific to your family's needs!
 
 
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