If you or someone in your household is prone to allergies, you might be looking into hypoallergenic carpet as a flooring option. Here is something you should know: The concept of hypoallergenic materials is part fact but also part myth. Consider these explanations of hypoallergenic.
From Dictionary.com: “Designed to reduce or minimize the possibility of an allergic response…”
From WebMD: “[The manufacturer] claims that its product causes fewer allergic reactions than other ones. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is allergy-proof…”
There is no absolute language such as, “This product is proven not to cause an allergic reaction.”
Carpeting and Allergies
What is the connection between carpet and allergies or a similar issue known as chemical hypersensitivity? The link is made for several reasons:
- Most new carpet off-gases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde and benzene which are believed to cause allergies (and cancers)
- Carpet traps pollen, pet dander, lawn chemicals and other known allergens that can be tracked into the house
- Many vacuum cleaners suck allergens out of the carpet and, due to poor filtration or containment, exhaust them into the air, actually making the problem worse
Shaw Industries Denies the Link between Carpet and Allergies
Let’s get the view from the other side. Shaw Industries is the largest carpet manufacturer in the world. Shaw says: “It is a common misconception that carpet can adversely impact allergy and asthma sufferers.” The statement goes on to say that it commissioned, “a series of scientific studies that indicate that effectively cleaned carpet can reduce airborne allergens, making it a viable choice for families impacted by allergies and asthma.”
We’ve underlined the crucial part of the sentence to point out the issue: Even if the material doesn’t cause allergic reactions, no one disagrees that carpet harbors allergens which diminish indoor air quality and lead to reactions.
The Marketing of Hypoallergenic Carpeting
The Dictionary.com definition applies well to carpeting. The manufacturers have a good idea of what materials are more likely to produce a reaction, and they minimize them in the carpet. However, none of the makers are guaranteeing that they’re flooring products absolutely won’t cause a reaction.
There is no industry standard, no uniform criteria that determines what carpet can be labelled hypoallergenic. Various brands use the phrase in order to attract buyers impacted by allergies.
Here is a sampling of products advertised as hypoallergenic by the manufacturer or seller.
- Shaw: We’ve shared Shaw’s take on it, that none of its carpeting can be shown to trigger allergic reactions.
- Mohawk: This heavyweight carpeting manufacturer makes SmartStrand carpet using Triexta strands that is claims are “allergy friendly.”
- FLOR: This brand makes carpet tiles and area rugs that it describes as, “sustainable, hypoallergenic and recyclable.”
- Home Improvement Store Carpet: The Home Depot sells several lines of carpet described as hypoallergenic. They are made by Dream Weaver and include Thoroughbred II, Hot Shot II, Spellbound II and Park Meadow. Menards advertises hypoallergenic carpet by Shaw. Lowes sells Mohawk SmartStrand carpet, as does Sears.
Hypoallergenic Carpet Padding
There are quite a few carpet pad products advertised as hypoallergenic. These include:
- Leggett & Platt Duraplush
- Mohawk SmartCushion
- Healthier Choice
- According to the World Floor Covering Association, waffled rubber padding and felt padding made by many manufacturers are both allergy friendly
Best Practices for Hypoallergenic Carpeting
Our recommendations for a healthier home are to:
- Buy carpeting carrying the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Green Label or Green Label Plus for low VOC content.
- Consider wool carpeting if you are confident you aren’t allergic to wool, since wool carpet producers claim it is naturally hypoallergenic
- Buy a quality vacuum cleaner with a powerful motor and HEPA filtration, and use it weekly, especially if you have pets. The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) offers its Green Label/Seal of Approval programs to vacuum manufacturers. If the vacuum passes the tests and is given the CRI’s certification, it means it does a superior job of removing soil and debris and keeping it contained until the bin is dumped or the bag is removed.
While none of this is a guarantee you or a household member won’t have a reaction to the carpet you purchase, these tips will minimize the risk.