Many of us take great pride in keeping our homes clean. We scrub and dust, mop and spray, vacuum and polish until our homes appear shiny and warm and welcoming. But sometimes looks can be deceiving – especially when it comes to carpeting. Even regular vacuuming – the single most important thing you can do to keep your carpet clean – isn’t enough to get the job done. What vacuums leave behind could be compromising your health.
Let’s consider what your vacuum is up against. Do you and your family wear your outdoor shoes inside the house? Do you have pets? If so, you’ll be depositing material onto your carpets each and every day – material from sidewalks, parking lots, public bathrooms, and other surfaces we’d prefer to keep at a distance. We deposit grime, cleaners, chemicals, oils, pesticides, allergens, bacteria, fungi, and other substances that will cling firmly to that carpet when the vacuum rolls overhead.
Even if these substances remained in and on your carpet, down at your feet, they could compromise your health. But they don’t. These substances evaporate into the air we breathe. They’re stirred into the air as we walk, and especially as we vacuum. And living substances like bacteria, fungi, or mold can continue to grow. It’s no wonder that the air in our own homes is substantially more harmful than the pollution we face outdoors
So what else can we do to keep our carpets clean?
Leave outdoor shoes at the door. When you stop tracking in substances on your shoes, you’ve eliminated a major source of unhealthy substances in your carpeting.
Wipe down your pet’s paws. Dogs can be a primary source of moisture and other substances we would rather keep outside. Wiping down paws can substantially reduce what your dog tracks onto your carpet.
Place washable mats near doors. Before shoes are removed and paws are wiped, mats can absorb moisture and substances before they reach the carpet; but unlike carpet, these mats can be kept clean with machine-washing.
Schedule annual carpet cleanings. The extraction equipment used by the pros is much more effective than even the most powerful vacuum; professional cleanings can remove what our vacuums leave behind.
Because they penetrate deeply, carpet cleanings can be highly effective at removing pollutants, allergens, and other substances that can adversely affect our health. Dr. Chem-Dry, my local carpet cleaner, cites a study where their processes remove 98% of allergens in carpets as well as 89% of airborne bacteria. This could mean the difference between feeling good or suffering mightily from allergies.
It’s worth noting that even professional carpet cleaners can bring harmful substances into your home, so do your homework. Look for services that specifically note that their carpet cleaning solutions are green, eco-friendly, child-friendly, pet-friendly, or non-toxic. While the trend is toward green carpet cleaning, some methods continue to employ chemicals, solvents, detergents, or other substances we’d rather not touch.