Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Dirt on Carpet

I'm going to come right out and say it now: I hate carpet. In particular, I hate the carpet in our house. Once an off-white cheap Berber, it's now a mottled gray, worn, smelly, disgusting cheap Berber with a real attitude problem. Some of this is due to the children, who are under the impression that somehow they alone of all youngsters have the coordination and grace that exempts them from the rule that "NO CHILDREN MAY HAVE DRINKS IN THE LIVING ROOM". Some of this is due to the cat, who is just stupid. But frankly, I just think carpet stinks.

A week or so ago, I found myself vacuuming the stairs with the hand-held vac, and so getting an up close and personal look at the carpet. "This carpet is repulsive!" I thought. "What kinds of vile life-forms might be living where the vacuum can't reach?" Well, DarwinCatholic exists so that you, the reader, don't have to do this kind of research. Here's what I came up with after a brief Google search of "carpet allergen asthma":

A BBC report gives us the lowdown on dust mites:

Dr Warner said up to 100,000 dust mites can live in just one square metre of carpet alone.

The droppings of these tiny creatures are believed to stimulate asthma and other allergic responses.

Carpets also harbour material from pets such as cats and dogs which is also thought to be a leading cause of allergy.

Dr Warner told the BBC: "House dust mites like to live in dark and damp environments and we find a lot of them at the base of the carpet.

"When you consider that each one of them produces 20 faecal particles every day, and that is where we find the allergen then there are an awful lot in a house full of fitted carpets."

Here's a little Q & A from the Carpet and Rug Institute FAQ Page:

My child has asthma, I want carpet but what do I look for?

CRI is not aware of any published scientific research demonstrating a link between carpet and asthma or allergies. Look for green label carpets and cushions, plan for good ventilation during the installation process and plan for routine vacuuming with a green label vacuum. We are not aware that any particular product is better than any other.

I have dust and pollen allergies, I want carpet but how will this affect my allergies?

People that have allergies should vacuum their carpet at least twice a week and have their carpet cleaned the way the manufacturer specifies approximately every 12 to 18 months. Carpet is an asset for allergy sufferers as it traps the dust versus a hard surface where dust lays on top of the surface to be kicked back into our breathing zone. We recommend using a vacuum with good dust containment and performance properties such as those in our green label vacuum program.

A article at Care2, an environmental website, recommends against wall-to-wall carpet:
"Wall-to-wall carpets are a sink for dirt, dust mites, molds and pesticide residues. I much prefer smaller washable carpets of natural fiber," says Philip Landrigan, M.D., director of the center for children's environmental health at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Washing in hot water kills dust mites, microscopic creatures whose plentiful droppings are a top asthma and allergy trigger, Dr. Landrigan explains. Another benefit: you can also regularly clean the floor underneath, defeating dust buildup. Just be sure to put a non-slip pad under area rugs.
I was already prejudiced against carpet, but I'm glad to find my suspicions confirmed. In fairness, however, I must note that a doctor in the BBC article stated that beds harbor far more dust mites than carpet. Yeah, but I like my bed! I'd rather get rid of the carpet.

Here's what I really want:


Anonymous said...

My previous house had hardwood floors. The great thing about them was that they were not beautiful and pristine. They had seen a lot of wear already, so I wasn't worried about what the kids were going to do to them. It's so wonderful not to have carpeting when you're toilet training toddlers!

bearing said...

We have engineered "hardwood" flooring on the first floor, carpet on the second floor (not in bathrooms) and on all the stairs. My house often has babies and toddlers running around bare-bottomed, and this is best accomplished in rooms without carpet.

The engineered flooring looks great but gets dents in it depressingly easy. This is especially apparent after living in an old house with solid maple floors (which, incidentally, badly needed refinishing the entire time we lived there, and which of course are newly refinished to a GORGEOUS luster now that we're SELLING it).

The carpet and the vinyl in the bathrooms are both mid-priced industrial-grade. I like them a lot, especially the vinyl, which is smooth and speckled, with no fake grout lines. It looks like vinyl, and you know what? Vinyl that says "I'm vinyl" is, in my opinion, classier than vinyl that says "Don't look too close! I'm really a Tuscan earthenware tile!"

Pro Ecclesia said...

When I first saw the title of this post, I thought it referred to a freakish sculpture of Britney Spears on a bearskin rug.

mrsdarwin said...


Hmm. We've been thinking of putting in engineered hardwood here -- I'd love to have solid wood floors, but this house doesn't really merit them. I can't stand Pergo or its equivalents because they simply don't look or sound like wood at all.

We live in a not-too-expensive suburban box, and the kitchen and one of the bathrooms still have the original vinyl floor. This floor doesn't even have pretensions of being a Tuscan tile -- it screams, "The builders were cheap!" Plus, the vinyl is gouged, discolored, nicked. I wouldn't mind the vinyl if only the floor didn't look like two small children had fought WWIII on it. But that floor is on Our List Of Things To Do, so one day I'll wake up and find that it's magically tiled itself, and then I'll be happy.



bearing said...

I'm just sayin', don't rule out vinyl when you do get around to doing the kitchen and bathrooms. Tile isn't all it's cracked up to be, and lots of modern vinyl is actually nice --- it's not the same kitchen floor that you and I grew up eating cheerios off of. New vinyl flooring isn't a complicated or expensive project, especially in small spaces.

Besides, tile looks out of place in a lot of houses. It would in mine.