Hardwood floors, carpets and allergies

Spring is around the corner, promising flowering trees, warm sun and flaring seasonal allergies. Anyone who sneezes at the sight of flowering daisies knows the aggravation of being unable to escape allergens.

Nearly one in five Americans suffers from allergies or asthma, according to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America. These can range from reactions to food like peanuts to hay fever, which leads to sneezing when pollen is present. Some allergies are more common than others — about 8.2 percent of adult Americans and 8.4 percent of American children were diagnosed with hay fever as of 2015, according to the AAFA.

Some people find relief by avoiding recreation during certain times of the year or in certain parks; others rely on medication to alleviate the swelling and sneezing. But for many allergy sufferers, allergy season lasts all year long and they don’t realize that allergens also reside in the home. Changing some of the aspects of your home, including flooring, may help reduce allergies in the place where it matters most.

Carpets and allergies

A number of studies have shown that carpets can accumulate allergens over the years despite cleaning under the surface. No amount of vacuuming can truly clean what going on underneath and there could be many of issues in the carpet that can’t be seen. This follows common sense that the dense fibers of carpet would hang onto microscopic irritants better than hard surfaces like tile or wood.

Mold, dirt, pollen, pet dander and other pollutants can build up in the carpets over time, especially if people walk on them with shoes on. This may be more or less severe depending on the kind of carpet — a study published in 2000 showed that carpeting with low pile density and height, with fluorocarbon-coated fibers, were the easiest to clean of allergens like cat dander. Modern carpeting may retain allergens differently as well, according to a January 2018 scientific review published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

The January 2018 review concluded that while some styles of modern carpet may not hang onto irritants the way older styles did, there’s no literature to show that it’s gotten significantly better, either. Therefore, the study concluded, wall-to-wall carpet is likely not the best choice for children or people with allergies.

Hard flooring is a great option

Of course, ripping carpet out and leaving the bare floor isn’t the best option for homeowners — replacing it would be the preferable choice. The Mayo Clinic recommends replacing carpeting with solid floors and area rugs for allergy alleviation. Wood and tile are both options to help reduce allergens.

According to The National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), “wood floors have the added benefit of not harboring allergens, microorganisms or harmful pesticides that can be tracked in from outdoors. In addition, dust, mold and animal dander contamination is minimal in homes with wood floors, which can significantly improve indoor air quality.”

Hardwood floors are also easier to clean than carpet, which requires ongoing maintenance and occasional professional cleaning. Frequent sweeps with a dust mop and/or vacuum should do the trick for keeping superficial irritants at bay.

Consider your lifestyle

While both types of flooring have their merits, each has advantages over the other in certain circumstances. It’s important to consider what’s happening daily inside your home before deciding on flooring, which can be a significant investment.

If anyone in your home has allergies, it’s worth considering how carpets affect their conditions. Young children also spend significant time on the floor, whether they’re crawling or playing. If you have pets or a busy life where lots of dirt or plant material is brought inside, carpet may not be the best choice. Hardwood may help keep allergies tamped down and may keep children safer from other pollutants like mold and pet dander.

If allergies are not a consideration and your home is quiet, with little foot traffic and not many people sitting on the floor, carpet may be an option for you. Carpet can lend a softer look to homes and is a traditional look many people desire.

Hardwood floors, though, are a rising trend that many modern homebuyers are looking for specifically. It’s worth considering as an option if you plan to sell your home eventually, as the trends among buyers will affect your home’s market value. Even if you don’t have allergies, the buyers might.

Like the changing of the seasons, allergies are unavoidable and aren’t going away any time soon. However, there are things you can do to make them easier. While hardwood floors won’t eliminate your allergies, the floor will be easier to maintain and clean than carpet and may lessen the symptoms over time.