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The most common allergens live in the home. For the allergy sufferer, the right flooring choice can mean the difference between sneezing, sniffling, runny noses, and breathing with ease.
Common allergens and asthma triggers include pet dander, mold, and dust mites. The best way to improve indoor air quality is to reduce the number of places for the triggers to hide in your home – anywhere fabric, include carpet may be, along with places where moisture build up is a problem.
Which Floors are Best for Allergy Sufferers?
Hardwood flooring is an excellent choice for allergy suffers. There’s nowhere for allergens to hide, it cleans easily, can be sealed against moisture, it’s durable, and highly desirable in terms of resale value. If you can’t afford solid hardwood, engineered hardwood provides a more cost effective solution, with a few layers of hardwood on top, and a compressed composite material making up the rest of the plank.
Laminate flooring is made by gluing together multiple layers of wood composite. It offers an affordable solution to create a beautiful floor, as it is available in several patterns and colors. It’s easy to maintain, and durable enough to last for years. The hard surface makes it impossible for allergens to hide, so it’s a great alternative to traditional or engineered hardwood.
A word of caution, however. Some adhesive chemicals used during the manufacturing process may trigger asthma or allergy issues. To combat this, look for flooring options that are CARB Phase 2 compliant, as these have lower emissivity of chemicals.
Vinyl flooring offers the benefits of a hard surface. It’s easy to clean and care for, and there aren’t any pockets for allergens to collect. For the most allergy protection, install it using a VOC free adhesive. VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, can release into the air for years after their first installed, potentially harming your indoor air quality. Keep in mind that lower-end products are likely made with VOCs, so ask questions about the emissivity when choosing the product you want to purchase.
Bamboo flooring offers the benefits of a hard floor, but unlike hardwood, also offers water-resistant properties. There aren’t any pockets for allergens to hide in, but manufacturing practices could mean VOCs are introduced. Quality matters here, just like with vinyl. There are some brands made without VOCs, and those are the ones to look for.
Cork is a great floor choice for those with mold and mildew allergies, because of the naturally occurring substance, suberin, that provides antimicrobial properties. It reduces the growth of other bacteria and allergens, as well. Its hard surface is easy to clean. Though cork is a porous material, the floor’s finish prevents allergens from being trapped and collected.
Stone tile looks great, but not all options on the market today are allergy friendly. Look for smooth stone like granite or marble, because they’re easier to clean, and there are no places for the allergens to hide. However, these stone floors are expensive, and do require special maintenance to prolong their life. Plus, they’re incredibly slippery when wet, so there’s always a fall risk.
If you like the look of natural stone, there are tons of nooks and crannies for dust mites and other allergens to hide in. Even when sealed, natural stone maintenance isn’t exactly easy, and you still have the slippery factor and fall risk to consider.
Porcelain and Ceramic
Among the best choices for allergy prevention, porcelain and ceramic tiles are easy to care for. When dust accumulates, it’s easy to see and clean up. Like several other flooring options, however, you’ll need to be sure it’s installed with a VOC-free adhesive. Another thing to consider with tile is the grout. The grout can provide a place for allergens to hide, so it should always be kept in good condition. When left in poor condition, it also provides a way for moisture to seep in, creating a breeding ground for mold and mildew.
The Case Against Carpet
Though there are several types of carpet, it is the perfect environment for dander and dust mites to collect. Even regularly vacuuming the carpet cannot completely rid the carpet of the potential allergens. Not only this, but carpet has the ability to retain a great deal of moisture, which it’s bound to be exposed to eventually courtesy of spills. Even though the carpet may appear dry, the underlayment may still retain moisture, allowing the ultimate breeding ground for mold and mildew.
If you must have carpet in your home, or are stuck with it because you’re renting, clean it often using a vacuum with a HEPA filter. If possible, opt for a VOC-free carpet that’s made to be mold and mildew resistant. Carpet padding is an important choice, too. It should also be mold and mildew resistant as well, since even when the carpet itself is dry, the underlayment may actually still be wet and breeding allergens.
If your carpet does get wet, remove the water immediately. Keep the temperature cold until both the carpet and padding are dry, so as to prevent mold and mildew growth.
There are pros and cons to all flooring choices when it comes to fighting allergies, but hardwood and laminate are among the best choices, as when they are sealed against moisture, they are easy to keep clean and vastly more durable than carpet in the long run.