Can Carpet Affect Indoor Air Quality? A Guide for Homeowners

Mizuki Hisaka
Written by Mizuki Hisaka
Updated March 24, 2022
Father and son playing on carpet
Photo: iStock / Getty Images

Highlights

  • Carpets affect indoor air quality because it can trap pollutants.

  • Dirty or old carpet can worsen asthma and allergies.

  • You should clean and maintain your carpet regularly.

  • Brand new carpet emits toxic fumes that affect air quality.

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You might be a huge fan of carpetit’s soft to walk on and it makes a room look inviting. But did you know that carpet is one of the major factors that determine the air quality in your home? Without proper care, carpets can become a breeding ground for bacteria, debris, and allergens.

How Does Carpeting Impact Indoor Air Quality?

Carpet traps pollutants that can release into the air, negatively affecting your indoor air quality (IAQ). Most people can enjoy their carpeted home in peace with regular cleaning and maintenance. 

However, if you or your family members have allergies or are susceptible to respiratory issues, you may need to pay closer attention to the carpet in your home.

Carpet and Indoor Air Quality 

According to an analysis of scientific studies by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, pollutants in carpets worsen IAQ, which in turn, can lead to a variety of health complications.

The most commonly reported issues are allergies and respiratory illnesses like asthma, bronchitis, and chronic cough. Other side effects include skin rashes, inflammation, and headaches.

Generally speaking, children are more vulnerable to the health effects of bad air quality than adults. Notably, a study on environmental predictors of asthma suggested a correlation between carpeted homes and the early onset of asthma in children.

Types of Pollutants in Carpet 

The many different types of pollutants that end up in your carpet come from outside your home, pets, spills, cleaning solutions, pests, and more. Some of these are avoidable, whereas others are just a part of life.

Here’s a look at some of the possible pollutants in carpet: 

  • Dirt

  • Debris

  • Dust

  • Bacteria

  • Pet dander

  • Pollen

  • Mold spores

  • Fungi

  • Dust mites (dead or alive)

  • Cockroach allergens

Common Problems With Carpet

As you go about your day-to-day life, you may not give a second thought to your carpet. But if you think about it, your carpet takes the brunt of almost everything that you do inside your house. Consider these common problems that could be affecting your house and IAQ.

Carpets in Damp Rooms

It’s wise to avoid installing carpet in damp environments because carpet is prone to mold growth. Damp places in homes include bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, and basements.

Once the carpet becomes wet, the moisture can leak down to the carpet pads and even damage the subfloor. Without proper cleaning, mold and mildew can grow in just two to three days. Then, the spores escape into the air. This can trigger allergic reactions in some people like a sore throat, stuffy nose, and eye irritation. 

Note that you may not visually notice moldy carpeting because mold can grow underneath the carpet, but you will likely be able to smell it.

Carpets and Pets

Make sure to clean up thoroughly every time your pet has an accident. Dried urine has concentrated amounts of ammonia that give off fumes. And when you inhale these fumes, they can cause eye and skin irritation, respiratory problems, and coughs.

Additionally, old pet urine is a haven for bacteria and the moisture can become a breeding ground for mold.

Carpeting in Bedrooms

If someone in your household has asthma or respiratory sensitivities, you may consider getting rid of the carpet in that bedroom. We spend a third of our day asleep and breathing in our bedroom air, so opting for smooth flooring may help alleviate symptoms.

Maintaining Your Carpet for the Best Indoor Air Quality

Vacuuming carpet
Photo: REDPIXEL / Adobe Stock

Your carpet manufacturer will recommend a specific cleaning schedule to keep it in the best shape possible. But depending on your household activities, you can also determine how often you should clean your carpets, whether it’s multiple times a week or less. 

In addition, it’s vital to deep clean your carpet every 12 to 18 months or so to ensure the best possible IAQ in your home.

Vacuum Cleaner

It’s important to use the right vacuum cleaner to get as much of the pollutants out of the carpet as possible. Vacuums with high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are most effective as they capture 99.97% of all airborne particles.

Some vacuums are rated for clean emissions, which means that the amount of dust and contaminants that it releases into the air is minimal.

Professional Cleaning

It’s advisable to call in a professional carpet cleaner every 12 to 18 months. Cleaning services range from $120 to $235. The deep cleaning will remedy any mold or heavy staining in the carpet, as well as suck up any debris that your vacuum couldn’t handle. There are several services available such as dry cleaning and steam carpet cleaning.

Replacing the Carpet

Carpet usually lasts about 10 years. As you near the end of that timeframe, you should pay attention to the signs that you need to replace your carpet. By installing brand new carpeting on a regular schedule, you can enjoy the best possible IAQ in your home.

Brand New Carpet and Indoor Air Quality

Brand new carpeting may have volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions, which can negatively impact your air quality. These VOCs are easy to detect because they emit a specific “new carpet” smell. This smell is often due to chemicals like benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, and 4-Phenylcyclohexene (4-PCH).

These VOCs can cause a range of health effects like headaches, breathing issues, and dizziness. However, with good ventilation, the new carpet smell will mostly dissipate in 24 to 72 hours. 

You can also minimize air pollution by requesting that the local carpet installer you hire air out the carpet for 72 hours before bringing it into the home.

Low VOC Carpet Options

There are low VOC carpet options on the market for anyone looking to minimize chemical emissions.

Look for products with the Carpet and Rug Institute’s “Green Label” or “Green Label Plus” marks. These products undergo rigorous testing and have some of the lowest levels of VOCs on the market. You can find carpet, adhesive, and cushion products with this label.

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