For sufferers of asthma and allergies, choosing the right flooring is not only a question of design preference, but one that can make the difference between good and bad health. Hardwood floors are often cited as the best solution for houses where it is imperative to avoid asthma or allergy triggers – and with good reason. Many other types of flooring prove to be a challenge in such spaces.
Pros and Cons of Carpet, Tiles and Linoleum
Carpet is notoriously unfit for creating an allergen-free environment. The opinions are still divided between those who think that carpet actually traps the allergens and stops them from circulating into the air, thus being suitable for allergy-concerned households, and the ones who believe otherwise. Beyond these disagreements, there is the fact that carpet fiber is the perfect environment for harboring particles such as dust mites, pollen, bacteria and pet dander, and even consistent vacuuming cannot get rid of these trigger factors for asthma or allergies.
When carpet is present in bedrooms, the problem is complicated by the all-night contact with an allergen-rich environment. Steam cleaning the carpet is a solution, yet a temporary one. Carpet also traps dirt and grime, which makes it difficult to keep clean, and moisture, which may lead to mold and mildew growth.
The better solution when asthma or allergies are a factor is choosing types of flooring that can be easily and thoroughly cleaned. Hard surfaces such as linoleum and tiles offer a good alternative to carpet, but there are details that need to be considered. For example, textured or porous natural stone can hide allergens in their little crevices, while grout can become home to harmful microorganisms. The best bet is a smooth-surfaced type of tile and a grout that is consistently cleaned and periodically sealed.
Linoleum is a good contender for asthma and allergy-concerned households. It has an even surface that does not trap allergens, it is easy to clean, and resistant to water spills and mold growth. It is also considered a green alternative, since it is made of natural materials, such as linseed oils, ground cork dust and wood flour that give it antibacterial properties.
Even if today the look of linoleum floors can simulate that of higher-end floor treatments, this choice, however, does not look as refined as hardwood floors and is not as warm as carpet. The look of linoleum floors is hard to pair with the comfortable, warm and relaxing setting of a bedroom. Finally, vinyl, which is a synthetic product that may release irritating fumes, is sometimes marketed as “linoleum,” so asking questions before committing is a good idea.
Hypoallergenic Benefits of Hardwood Floors
So the choices for both hypoallergenic and beautiful flooring narrow down to hardwood floors. In fact, these are largely considered the go-to solution for achieving a hypoallergenic environment. Hardwood floors are a natural option and have a smooth surface (if not otherwise designed for aesthetic reasons) that does not offer allergens any harboring nooks and crevices. They can be easily cleaned, and the advanced cleaning agents today offer great results while preserving the integrity and looks of the floors.
When choosing from among the many hardwood floor options out there, pay attention to the hardwood floor coating. It is important to insist on a water-based polyurethane finish instead of a solvent-based top coat. The latter contains volatile organic compounds that may prompt asthma symptoms. It is also a good idea to choose the real thing, rather than laminate floors. While laminate is easy to clean, the adhesive used in the manufacturing process contain formaldehyde, which may set off other types of allergies.