Monday, September 29, 2008

Beware of Autumn Allergens… Advice for Carpet

Fall Leaves originally uploaded by DGMiller777.
Last week over dinner in Dalton, GA, Paul Friederichsen and I got into a discussion about carpet myths. You know, bad advice from folks in positions of authority - like doctors and editors.

We exchanged personal stories. In my case, the pediatrician told us to rip out all of the wall-to-wall carpet in our house to alleviate my daughter's allergies. I knew this information to be wrong from having written
Carpet Alleviates Allergies [and contributed Is carpet worse for people with allergies? to ExpertVillage a few years ago].

Yet, too often this misinformation is taken seriously because of whose mouth it comes from.

Paul expressed so much passion for the topic that I invited him to write a post for The Carpetology Blog.

Beware of Autumn Allergens... Advice

By Paul Friederichsen

A few days ago, I was reading my September 17 edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and came across an article entitled “Autumn Allergens” in the Living section of the paper. Written by Helena Oliviero ( the piece was impressively done with graphics, microscopic photos of mold spores and various statistics. At the end of the article, she provided advice apparently compiled by another writer (Howard Pousner, This portion of the article contained a common mistaken belief about carpet.

Under the subtitle “Allergen War Indoors Aids In Fight Outdoors,” among the suggestions listed for controlling allergens indoors was to “remove carpets and drapes (or wash the latter frequently in hot water)”. This is what the Carpet and Rug Institute (located just 70 miles up the road from the AJC in Dalton, GA, the carpet capital of the world) calls an urban myth. And it’s not just any harmless or amusing urban myth that circulates on the Internet. This one has people who are suffering from allergies or asthma (or concerned that they will) ripping up their carpet and replacing flooring at the cost of hundreds or thousands of dollars … for no substantial health benefit. And yet, here it is, passed along as legitimate advice from a respected news media source. Sad.

Had the writers bothered to research this extreme measure they are advocating, they might have tempered their advice, left it out altogether or even addressed it by presenting the other side of the argument. That side is that carpeting, when properly cleaned and maintained, actually helps trap allergens from the air by natural gravity and hold them until vacuumed away. Conversely, non-carpeted surfaces, such as hard wood, laminate or ceramic floors can actually aggravate conditions because there is nothing to trap and hold the allergen particles. Simply walking through a non-carpeted room will stir-up the allergen-filled dust particulate into the air – and into your eyes, nose and throat.

The key, of course, is correct installation, maintenance and cleaning of carpet. Every manufacturer of carpet gives specific instructions on how these things should be done for their products. If carpet is installed in areas prone to be damp, if spills are not properly taken care of and if carpet isn’t vacuumed regularly and cleaned by a professional once or so a year, then it likely won’t perform as it should and problems may occur. Carpet makers insist, however, that if the owner treats his or her carpet well, the carpet will treat them well. After all, no other floor covering provides the warmth, comfort, quiet and cushion of carpet.

The myth that carpet contributes to allergy and asthma problems has been perpetuated by many in the medical community and passed along by well-meaning writers and editors because of this. And unfortunately, many people looking for relief to their symptoms are only too eager to remove perfectly good carpet from their homes. Before resorting to such an extreme and unproductive measure, get all the facts. The Carpet and Rug Institute’s Website is loaded with good information and research studies on this subject. Go to


Paul, thanks very much!

I first heard of Paul from his marketing commentary on [in fact, you might listen to his recent series of interviews on TalkFloor about the importance of branding], and then got to meet him in person because we both serve on the Surfaces Education Advisory Council. He is president of BrandBiz, Inc., a marketing communications company located in Atlanta, Georgia, where he interacts with flooring and non-flooring organizations.

Paul can be reached at paul [at] brandbizinc [dot] com.

As Paul recommends in his article, beware of carpet misinformation! Beware of extreme recommendations from those in positions of authority. Do your research first and you may be surprised to learn that carpet does not contribute to allergies. Instead, it alleviates them!

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