ICS Magazine

Healthy Carpets: It All Comes Down to Proper Care

October 7, 2005

Carpet is Good wants to set the record straight. A coalition of carpet manufactures, Carpet is Good wants everyone to know that if properly maintained, carpeting is a healthy, viable flooring choice for nearly any commercial facility.

"Building managers must take responsibility for the maintenance of their facilities and quit blaming indoor air quality problems on carpeting," said Alison Woolford of DuPont Antron, a carpet manufacturer and member of Carpet is Good. "Proper [carpet] maintenance will keep allergens out of the breathing zone."

Although many of the IAQ concerns about carpeting have subsided, some persist and have resulted in rather drastic changes. For instance, Sweden banned the use of carpeting in public schools in the late 1980s. Ten years later, Florida and Vermont were told their carpets were contributing to respiratory problems in children, so carpeting was removed in some schools.

The Truth Surfaces
We now know that not only does carpeting not cause IAQ problems, it helps remove them. Why? Because with carpet, particulates become trapped in the fibers and don't get stirred up - thereby becoming airborne - as can happen with other types of flooring.

Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, proved this in a 2001 study. They determined that "as long as facilities use vacuum cleaners with high-efficiency filtration and keep the carpets clean, carpets can be healthy, safe, and economical floor coverings in most any facility."

Keys to Proper Maintenance
Because it all comes down to proper maintenance, here are some suggestions for keeping carpets clean and healthy and for improving IAQ.

  • Use Water-Based Spot Removers. Carpet spotting is often performed during business hours. Traditional spot cleaning chemicals can adversely affect occupants in buildings. Instead, use water-based compounds that are combed into the fibers and then later vacuumed. This is less harmful to IAQ.
  • Use High-Filtration Vacuum Cleaners. True-HEPA vacuum cleaners (with airtight casing) remove particulates imbedded in carpet fibers, preventing them from becoming airborne. If a true-HEPA vacuum cleaner is not available, high-efficiency micro-filtration vacuum bags will also trap very small particulates, stopping them from becoming airborne.
  • Use Low-Moisture Carpet Extractors. Low-moisture carpet extractors release less water into the carpet for faster drying times. Use machines that maintain hot water and release as little as 0.8 gallons per minute at 300 to 500 psi. Additionally, machines that maintain close proximity to the carpet with powerful water lift, help assure fast and effective water recovery.