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Carpet or no carpet? Timber or tiles? Vacuum or mop? Making decisions about the right flooring for your home can be tricky when your family has asthma or allergies.
Some sources say people with asthma and allergies should replace carpet with hard flooring. But this is not necessarily the best option.
Carpets can trap allergens in their pile, while hard floors allow the allergens to float around. Also, some modern carpets contain products to reduce mould and dust mites, which are common asthma and allergy triggers. As with any product that may help with allergies, you need to consider what the important triggers are for your household to make sure the product is suitable.
Here are some of the main advantages and disadvantages of different floor types by key trigger type.
Natural materials include wool, seagrass and Sisal.
Natural fibres can absorb moisture, which may encourage mould.
Issues such as pile height, backing, and treatments are also relevant. Consider the backing (if any) that may be another material. Seagrass and Sisal are frequently marketed as hypo-allergenic, as the plants from which they come have anti-microbial properties, but it is unclear whether these properties exist in the final product.
Regular vacuuming is recommended. Cleaning methods that leave natural fibre carpets moist may encourage mould.
Nylon is probably the most common man-made fibre for carpet. Carpets with treatments to suppress fungus and mould, combined with a relatively short pile height are a better choice. Issues such as pile height, backing, and treatments are also relevant. Consider the backing (if any) that may be another material.
Regular vacuuming is recommended, as well as less frequent deep cleaning.
Natural hard floor
Man-made hard floor
The cushioning layer under carpets and timber flooring. Materials differ and include rubber, felt, jute, cork, and foam. Natural fibres may absorb moisture and grow mould.
Some underlays are treated with an anti-microbial to guard against mould growth.
Vacuuming is unlikely to affect underlay as it won’t work through the carpet or timber.
Not only are pets a source of dander, they are also the source of allergens.
Carpets and rugs
Carpet may be better at trapping these, with regular vacuuming recommended.
Pet allergens will blow around a hard floor, but cleaning is easy, with many options including vacuuming, mopping, steam cleaning (not on all surfaces) or using an electrostatic cloth.
Natural materials are less likely to emit VOCs, although you need to consider all the components of a product (coatings, glues, backings etc). For example, engineered timber is a laminate glued together. That glue may off-gas VOCs.
Man-made flooring is more likely to emit VOCs. Some low-VOC options are available.
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