Carpet Vacuuming and Cleaning
by Building Inspector and Indoor Air Specialist, Dan Schilling
© Copyright 2002 Residential Inspections LLC, All Rights Reserved
Vinyl, wood, and ceramic floor coverings are quite common, but the largest areas of most homes are covered with carpet. It seems most people prefer the warmer, more comfortable feel of walking on carpet.
New carpet and the foam under-matting can be a source of airborne chemical gasses. These gasses can emit for quite a while but will eventually dissipate. During this period of off-gassing, copious amounts of fresh air should be brought into the home or workplace. This can be accomplished by opening windows often, or through fresh air ventilation systems such as make-up air vents, or air-to-air exchangers. Depending on the design of your home or weather conditions, you may not have all of these options available. Well, remember that nature uses safe levels of ozone outdoors to continually eliminate all of the gaseous odors outdoors, whether from caustic volcanoes, forest fires, or waster matter from every living mammal on the planet. Air purifiers which replace natural levels of ozone to your indoor air, can help control all odors in your home or workplace, including those of new carpet and other new construction materials.
It is very important to maintain carpet, not only for appearance, but for health reasons too. In fact, some allergy doctors instruct patients to remove carpet from their homes altogether. The misperception is that carpet is a "source" of biological indoor air contamination. The truth is, carpet does not create biological contamination but rather traps it, whereas hard surface flooring has no ability to hold contaminants, thus allowing them to more readily re-circulate into the air. Other than in kitchens and bathrooms, which should not be carpeted for sanitary reasons, carpet is actually better for those with allergies. To be clear however, this all depends upon maintenance.
Unfortunately, most people only clean their carpets for cosmetic reasons after they have become quite visually soiled. At this point, the carpet is likely past due for a cleaning. While carpet has the ability to hold air contaminants, it can reach a saturation point. Much like a furnace filter, carpet needs to be regularly maintained to be effective.
Carpet maintenance should start with a powerful vacuum cleaner that has HEPA allergenic filtration. If you do not have a vacuum like this, it is time to upgrade for health reasons. When you consider that each human being will shed approximately 40,000 skin cells every second, and that mold and mites feed on this dust, you begin to understand the importance of a quality vacuum cleaner. An inefficient vacuum will pull microscopic contaminants out of the carpet and blow them directly back into the breathable air, as well as, leave grit in the carpet which causes premature wear. Vacuuming should be done frequently, not just when you see the big stuff on the floor. The more people and pets present in the home, the more important frequent vacuuming becomes.
Carpet cleaning methods, equipment, and strategies can vary depending on the type of carpet, the location, and whether there have been any unusual circumstances like damage from pet urine or fecal matter. A professional carpet cleaner can explain the advantages of various services, products and methods.
Perhaps of most concern with carpet cleaning is residual moisture. Moisture can lead to biological growth within carpets. This is especially true in finished lower levels where carpet may be installed over concrete. Good air circulation, and perhaps dehumidification, should be used after carpet cleaning to be certain it dries fast.
Carpet that is old or does not appear to have been properly maintained should simply be replaced. When old carpeting is being pulled, vacuuming (not sweeping) the sub-flooring underneath will help to prevent the accumulated dust from becoming airborne. Lastly, when installing new carpet over concrete surfaces, mold growth can become an issue. Consult with a carpet dealer as to the most suitable type of carpet to use over concrete and seal the concrete prior to installation to help prevent dampness on the underside of the carpet.
with those you care about.