Q. I have a strong allergic reaction whenever I clean my floor. What could be causing this?
A.There are several possible reasons for your reaction. Five main types of allergens can be found in
common household dust: mold, dust
mites (microscopic creatures that excrete wastes that can cause allergy symptoms), animal dander (from dogs
and cats), pollen, and cockroach skins and droppings.
If your reaction is occurring when you are vacuuming your carpet, make sure you are using a vacuum with a High Efficiency
Particular Air (HEPA) filter. HEPA filters remove at least 99.97% of airborne particles (which will include most allergens)
and prevents them going back into the air. Also ensure that your vacuum bag or canister is tightly sealed to reduce the
amount of allergens released back into the air while vacuuming.
Some hard–surface cleaning products can cause allergy–like symptoms, such as watery eyes, runny nose, and
headaches. Try using non–toxic cleaners with natural ingredients. Also, many floor types contain volatile organic compounds
(VOCs). VOCs give off gases that that can cause long– and short–term health issues, including allergies. If a
product is marked E1, it meets or exceeds the acceptable standard for these emissions. If it is not marked E1, check with the
vendor or manufacturer. If this still doesn't solve your problem, you may want to consider changing your floor to something
that is VOC–free.
Q. Is it true that carpet only makes allergies worse?
A.Most doctors and allergy experts recommend that homeowners with allergies replace their carpets with
hard–surface flooring, since carpets can trap dust mites, animal dander, and other allergens. Carpet specialists argue that
carpet holds these allergens securely in the carpet until they are vacuumed, unlike hard surface flooring which allows them
to circulate freely in the air.
As with almost any type of flooring, carpet releases Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). For those with allergies or
asthma, you should choose carpet that has been certified to have safe levels of VOCs.
We must also look at the possibility of mold and mildew growing in or under carpet that has gotten wet or been exposed to
high levels of humidity. To help combat this problem, many flooring manufactures offer mold and mildew resistant carpet
fibers such as nylon, polypropylene, triexta, polyester, and acrylic.
Regardless of what carpet you choose, it is important that carpet is cleaned on a routine basis using a vacuum that uses a
HEPA filter and professional steam cleaning.
Q. Will installing allergy–friendly flooring cure my allergies?
A. Allergy–friendly flooring will not cure your allergies, but neither will your favorite allergy
medicine. However, both can help reduce allergy symptoms. To get the most benefit from allergy–friendly flooring,
you'll need to sweep and/or mop it on a weekly – if not daily – basis. Don't wait until you can see dust
build–up before cleaning your floors; some allergens are microscopic and lurk in every floor and surface crevice
imaginable. A little care and maintenance can go a long way towards
minimizing the amount of allergens on your floor surface.