For those who suffer from allergies, even the smallest decisions regarding home decor can affect symptoms and overall health. This is especially true when it comes to flooring — while there are plenty of options that are safe for allergy sufferers, there are just as many that will only make symptoms worse. Commercial buildings account for around 36% of the total flooring market, but whether you’re investing in new flooring for your home or your commercial needs, understanding the options that are best for your health is the key to choosing the right flooring type. Here’s a quick guide that will help you determine some of the best — as well as the worst — flooring types for those who suffer from allergies.
Explore Hard Flooring Options First
For the most part, hard flooring options are better for those who suffer from allergies than softer options like carpets. This is true for a number of reasons, but the biggest one is that hard floors can be easily swept and mopped. They also don’t attract mold or dust mites.
Of course, with hard flooring options, you will have to be aware of the potential for VOC exposure. If your flooring is more than one year old, many of the VOCs will have dissipated already. But if you’re installing new flooring, go for an organic option and use VOC-free painting materials to minimize allergy symptoms.
Of course, it’s also important to consider the room that’s receiving the new flooring and what its primary uses will be.
“Want an especially quiet space? Check out cork, which provides great natural sound insulation, instead of ceramic tile, which reflects sound. (Wood is somewhere in the middle.) Will people be walking barefoot? Try wood, cork or ceramic tile with radiant heat that’s cozier on the toes. Is this for a moisture-prone area, such as a basement or bathroom? Skip the hardwood and go for polished concrete, tile or linoleum,” writes Jennifer Van Evra on Allergic Living.
Lifespan is an important element as well, and in many cases, linoleum is a happy medium between cost and durability. If properly maintained, linoleum can last for 40 years or more.
Think Twice About Softer Materials
As mentioned, softer materials tend to gather the most dust mites and allergy-worsening debris.
“Heavy, high-pile shag carpets are the worst flooring options for people looking for relief from dust and other airborne allergens. These products hold onto pesky particles and other irritants. They can also prove tough for even the most capable vacuums to push through,” writes Kristen Stensby on Angie’s List.
That’s right — while vacuums are acceptable through short term cleaning intervals, a vacuum just doesn’t have the allergen-fighting capabilities of steam systems.
That being said, if you have your heart set on a softer carpet, there are a few steps you can take to limit allergy symptoms. The first and most obvious course of action is to keep the carpets as clean as possible and limit allergen exposure. The recommended treatment for dust mites is to treat the surface with a tannic acid solution — vapor systems can penetrate surfaces thoroughly with temperatures in excess of 180 degrees F.
Ultimately, understanding how to choose your next flooring type while keeping your allergy symptoms in mind will result in a healthier and more comfortable living environment. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional to discuss your personal health situation and receive assistance in choosing the perfect flooring option for your needs.