When you think of indoor air quality, you may think about filters, HVAC systems or other items that engage directly with the air you breathe. Although these elements are important, you should not let them overshadow other critical elements that also relate to air quality. Namely, the floor you stand on can have a surprisingly huge effect on your air quality.
If you want to improve air quality from the ground up, you need to start with your floors. Here are four essential things to consider:
1. The age of your flooring
In most cases, the newer your flooring is, the safer and healthier its impact on your air will be. If you have vinyl flooring, for example, it may have asbestos in it if it was made in Australia prior to the 1990s or imported to the country prior to 2004. However, flooring with asbestos only affects your air quality if it is disrupted. If the flooring is peeling, coming apart or has holes drilled into it for wires, then you need to be concerned and consider replacing it. If it is fully intact, it may be okay.
In other cases, the age of your flooring may not necessarily indicate that it was made with toxic materials, but the flooring still may have an unhealthy effect on your air simply because it's old and dirty. For example, in one air quality study, a group of workers exposed to a 20-year old carpet made more mistakes than their colleagues who were not exposed to the carpet. The VOCs (volatile organic compounds) released from this carpet were based on years of built up dirt, dust and debris rather than the materials in the carpet, per se.
2. The frequency of deep cleaning
When it comes to carpet, you have to think about more than just age. You also have to think about all of the allergens and toxins that call carpet home. Unlike hard surfaces, carpet harbours dust mites, pet dander and other toxins, and the most effective way to remove many of these elements is by professional carpet cleaning. If you have carpets and you want clean air, you need to have them professionally cleaned on a regular basis.
3. Chemicals used in daily cleaning
Whether you have carpet or hard surface floors, you can't just focus on professional deep cleaning. Rather, you also need to examine your regular cleaning routine. If you have carpets, this means thinking about your vacuum. Keep your hoses clean so your vacuum can efficiently pick up dirt, dust and debris. Also, remember to change your vacuum filters on a regular basis. Vacuum filters pick up the microscopic allergens that would otherwise be filtered back into the air. If your filters are old and dirty, your air will be compromised.
If you have hard surfaces, you want to focus on using cleaning products that are effective without being potentially toxic. To this end, look for natural, hypo-allergenic cleaners.
4. Toxins in floor sealants
In most cases, hardwood floors are considered to be better for air quality than carpet, but if you have hardwoods, toxins may get introduced to your air when you refinish or seal your floors. Unfortunately, many of the refinishing products used on hardwood floors contain toxins such as formaldehyde and arsenic. Humans can safely be exposed to many of these toxins, but people who are vulnerable to them may be irritated even by seemingly okay levels of concentration.
When finishing or sealing your floors, look for products that advertise comparatively low amounts of VOCs per litre, and be sure to adequately air out your space after your floor has been sealed or refinished.
For more information, contact an air quality service to get your home's air tested.