Carpets bring warmth and comfort to a home as well as providing insulation and sound proofing. However where there is carpet, there is also hidden, unwanted guests gathering in your carpet pile. Carpet acts like a filter and can improve air quality by trapping allergens, dust, pollen and pet hair, which usually circulate around in the air. However movement such as walking across carpet can be enough to redistribute some of these particles. For most of us this does not cause an issue, however for those who are sensitive to these types of allergens, carpet can add to their discomfort.
It can be quite unsettling to learn what is lurking in your carpet, especially if you have young children, as they spend a lot of time crawling around and playing on the floor. While allergies can be quite mild, some can lead to more serious conditions such as Asthma, so it is important to understand what is in your carpet and how to best manage cleaning to prevent allergies.
Allergens are antigens, which are substances (usually proteins) that enter the body from an external source. These antigens cause an immune response – the release of antibodies to fight the antigens. These antibodies are released to protect you from becomming sick or getting an infection.
When you have allergies, your immune system mistakes allergens, as harmful invaders and therefore it releases antibodies to fight them off. Your immune system produces an inflammatory response in places like your nasal passages or lungs, hence the wheezing and sneezing!
Dust mites are tiny little critters which are too small to see with the human eye. They are about 0.5mm long and close cousins of the spider & tick families. They love to feast on discarded human skin cells and thrive in a warm, humid environment such as your bed, carpet and soft furnishings! According to The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, an average adult person may shed up to 1.5 grams of skin in a day. This is enough to feed one million dust mites!
It is not actually the dust mite that people are allergic to, but rather, the waste they leave behind. Yes that is right – their poop is an allergen! In their short lifetime (around 2 months), dust mites can produce up to 200 times their body weight each day – that is a lot of poop!
Pets are a source of great joy and great mess! Their saliva, urine and other secretions are sources of proteins which can cause allergies, as are pet hair and dander (tiny skins cells). Pets carry dust, fleas, dust mites, pollen, etc. into the house via their hair and these allergens then become dislodged and trapped in the carpet. Dust mites feed on pet dander left behind in carpet, bedding and other soft furnishings.
Mould and mildew can also be allergy sources. You can usually smell mould before you see it – it has a musty smell and often lingers in areas of the home with poor ventilation such as bathrooms. It is important to ensure any liquid spills are attended to and dried as quickly as possible as mould spores thrive in moist environments like under your carpet after a water leak or spill.
These types of allergens all produce fairly similar reactions which can be a combination of any of the following;
Some allergens can cause asthma which typically has symptoms including;
To get a diagnosis on the cause of your allergy it is best to see your GP who can arrange for testing by a specialist.
When choosing new carpet, it is important to select a low pile carpet with a tight weave, so that there is less hiding space for dust mites, dirt and allergens. Long pile carpets and shaggy rugs are definitely a no no!
The type of fibre you choose is also an important consideration. Wool is a good choice if you are looking for a natural fibre as it has natural hypoallergenic properties. Wool absorbs common airborne contaminants such as smoke, VOCs, cleaning chemicals and cooking smells. This helps improve air quality. Wool is also resistant to bacteria, mould and mildew, however it does take longer to dry so if it remains wet for too long mould can be an issue. Dust mites are fussy little critters and do not like the coil shape of wool fibres.
Nylon is probably the best choice when it comes to allergy friendly carpeting. Nylon is more affordable than wool and is very easy to clean as dirt and dust does not become embedded in the fibres. This type of carpet is also resistant to mould, mildew and moisture so it dries very quickly.
The National Asthma Council of Australia have a program called the Sensitive Choice Program. This program recommends all sorts of products which are allergy friendly, including carpets and flooring options.
Brease Carpet is a range of carpets recommended by the Sensitive Choice Program as being asthma and allergy friendly. This carpet is made from short pile, solution dyed nylon and has a synthetic backing that does not support mould or mildew growth. Brease carpet also has the added benefit of being
pretreated with antimocrobials as well as “Active care”, which is a salt based treatment, designed to absorb and break down common household odours such as smoke and VOCs.
When installing new carpet it is important to consider the type of underlay and adhesives to be used. These both can off gas VOCs and chemicals which can impact allergies. The Sensitive Choice Program recommends Dunlop Comfort Choice underlay which incorporates anti microbial treatments to prevent mould growth.
Dry vacuuming is a very important first step when it comes to removing allergens like dust mites. Vacuuming should be done at least once or twice a week and preferrably with a vacuum that has a HEPA filteration system. If you are super sensitive to dust, it would be a good idea to let someone else do the vacuuming while you are out of the house, or wear a dust mask.
Carpet should be professionally steam cleaned every 3-6 months to eliminate dust mites and other allergens. Steam cleaning uses heat, chemical reaction, agitation and extraction to blast those little critters out of your carpet pile and then sucks them out of your carpet and your home. We give you the added benefit of using products which are non toxic to you, your family and your pets but not so kind and gentle to dust mites, mould and other allergens. We even include essential oils at no extra charge. These essential oils smell fabulous but also have natural anti bacterial properties.
It is important to ensure you use a professional carpet cleaner who has the allergy friendly products, equipment and experience to leave your carpet as dry as possible – quick drying carpet is important to prevent mould growth.
If your allergies are extreme then your best solution may need to also be extreme – you may need to remove your carpet altogether and replace with hard flooring. However those with mild/moderate allergies can usually keep the sneezes and sniffles at bay by following the above recommendations.
To allergy proof your bedroom, it is best to use allergy proof mattress and pillow protectors and to wash these covers at least once a week in hot water. Dry these items in direct sunlight where possible or in a dryer.
As dust mites love warm, humid conditions, it might help if you do not make your bed as soon as you get up – pull the covers back and allow your residual body heat to evaporate from the sheets. My kids tend to take this suggestion to the extreme and NEVER make their beds!
We offer and anti allergy mattress cleaning service which will help keep your bed clean and fresh. You should vacuum your mattress regularly, however a good steam clean twice a year will also help prolong the life of your mattress and remove allergens, stains and bacteria so that you can get a restful night’s sleep.
Our anti allergy matress cleaning service is non toxic and free from nasty chemicals and artifical fragrances. We can also add in essential oils such as tea tree and lavander which are naturally anti bacterial and help stop dust mites, while leaving behind a beautiful, sleep inducing scent.