Would you guess that your carpet is a safe habitat for bacteria, viruses, dust mites and other microorganisms? When you run the vacuum, you expect to see gray clumps of dust or lint, but what you might not know is that a number of microorganisms are living in everything sucked out of the carpet.
The tightly woven carpet fibers that provide comfort to our feet and visual appeal in rooms also gives these organisms a safe place to live, and sometimes all the moisture they need to thrive.
You probably already know that keeping carpets clean can be nearly impossible. Pets, family members that don’t take off their shoes inside, spilling food or drink, or you have poor indoor air quality all affect the cleanliness of carpets. With all the terrible ways that we treat out carpets, some researchers decided to answer the question: “What exactly is living in our caprts?”
Organisms Living in Your Carpets
Research from several sources has identified some of the most common things found living in carpet.
Researchers have found E. Coli, salmonella, and other potentially harmful bacteria living on dust found in carpet. Some of these bacteria are found in fecal material that is in the air, while others are released from mold or other biological sources. Contact with these can cause skin irritation, digestive and respiratory problems.
Fungus can cause infection at the site of contact or result in more serious complications. Aspergillus, a common strain, can cause sinus infections, best pain, difficulty breathing, and low birth weights in pregnant women. Penicillium and wallemia can both cause healthy problems or result in allergic sensitization that increases the possibility of developing an allergic reaction.
Anything that is in our air might be found in our carpet. When we move around on carpet, we either embed these particles deeper into the carpet fibers or disturb them and they reenter the air. As noted in the study above, allergens like dust can harbor microorganisms that can trigger allergies or cause more serious health problems.
Many carpets today are made with synthetic fibers because they are sometimes cheaper than using wool or another natural fiber. When manufactured, dyes and other chemicals may be added to carpet that over time will evaporate into the air. Formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, benzene, toluene, and perchloroethylene are some of the most common chemicals found in carpets. These are known as volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) and can have a negative effect on the respiratory system.
5. Flea Larvae and Eggs
If you have pets, there is a chance that bugs, like fleas or ticks, have attached themselves underneath the fur and are being transported inside. Fleas are a nuisance because they can leap 2 inches into the air but are small enough to hide in the fibers of the carpet. Effectively jumping between a source of blood and back to carpet where they lay eggs.
Eliminate Organisms and Chemicals in Carpet
A study published in 2013 found that organisms like bacteria and fungi found in carpet originate from outdoor air, pets, and bathroom and kitchen surfaces. In particular, the study examined the role of floor dust in harboring bacteria and fungi, and humidities role in promoting the growth of biological colonies.
The study concluded that both humidity and floor dust plays a significant factor in the growth of organisms. At relative humidity levels above the 30-50% range (considered the ideal range for comfort in homes), bacterial growth and fungi increased. As floor dust grew, the risk of exposure to pet and humans also increased due to physical activity that stirred these particles back into the air.
In a 1999 study, researchers found that vacuuming alone was very effective in reducing dust by up to 94% in some tests. Another study looked at the effectiveness of vacuum cleaning and dry steam cleaning and found that both methods were equally effective in reducing aromatic hydrocarbons (benzene, acetaldehyde, formaldehyde).
Research indicates that along with improving indoor air quality, maintaining indoor humidity levels between 30-50%, regular vacuum cleaning and steam cleaning are the most effective methods of reducing exposure to allergens and microorganisms. If you are looking to keep a clean home and support your health, carpet cleaning is another important factor as you build a defense against dirt and grime.