Do Carpets Pose A Health Risk?

We had our main bedroom and our kitchen aircons professionally cleaned on 05.01.2021 but another fault developed with the bedroom aircon this month and the technician who repaired it also showed me just how bad the filth on the impeller on the indoor unit had become in less than 6 months, and we had it cleaned again.

He said the build up of filth was caused by the carpet which was some 20 years old by now.

After all the furniture was removed from all 4 carpeted rooms on Sunday, my wife decided to vacuum the “still new” looking patch in our bedtoom normally covered by the ensemble with our Dyson DC59 Animal vacuum.

The rubbish extracted from just that small section of “still new” looking carpet completely filled the barrel of the Dyson.

The carpet has now been relocated to its proper home at the tip and has been replaced with timber pattern vinyl planks but one can only imagine just how much garbage we have breathed in ftom it in the past 6+ years.


Having a few weeks tenure selling vacuums one summer while in high school there are some basics.

a) ‘new’ or ‘never trod on’ carpet will shed fibres when vacuumed. Power heads will get a lot more than mere suction heads. Fibres will get shed as long as there is carpet, but as the carpet gets worn or vacuumed more over time, the shedding decreases. Our wool carpet is 10 years old and even the main traffic areas will put a good fistful of fibre in the vac each time.

b) no matter how clean a carpet may be, a subsequent pass with the same or more often the vac a salesman is trying to sell will virtually always get out more. After a short time post vacuuming the fibres will relax and more dirt will fall out, to be suctioned up making it look like the previous vac was not very good.

c) the dirt a vac salesman throws on the carpet to demo how good it is does not represent most dirt. It is easily sucked from carpet. Compare sandy soil with the dirt you track in from your garden. Unless you live in a coastal area they are different, and vacs will be ‘amazing’ with the former or the former in a mix.

There comes a time when that is a reasonable step for most modern carpets, noting there are a good many carpets in or sourced from Asia, the middle east, and various castles in Europe (among others) that are centuries old and in good nick.


The point of my post was that domestic carpets appear to be a health risk.

If the impeller on our aircon can collect so much rubbish in such a short time, and our Dyson can collect so much rubbish in such a small area, then just what is the rest of this rubbish that was not captured doing to our health?


You shed skin and hair everywhere you go, we live in an environment that has particulate matter always around us and also breathed in whether hard vinyl floors, carpets, wood floors, dirt floors (which are still used successfully in parts of the World), concrete floors.

What your filter was doing was what it was designed to do, remove the always present airborne debris so the very fine vanes didn’t become blocked. Your dog will contribute some of this and I expect that the filters will need cleaning more often than six monthly.

We clean our return filters every 3 weeks and we have mostly tiled floors and they get a good dirt load, we also have a ‘non shedding’ dog but like us they lose hair/fur each day. Not cleaning filters regularly will cause build up on the impellers as dirty air is pulled around blocked filters rather than through them, it will cause poorer air flow, and often can cause mould growth in the air con interior. I wouldn’t let a filter clean interval be more than 6 weeks regardless of how they appear. This will ensure any oils that have settled are cleaned off and reduce any chance of bad/stale odours.

A hint is also let the filters dry in sunlight as the UV will sanitise them. No need for any special sanitising sprays or solutions. Hint courtesy of my Cousin who is a Refrig and Air Con Mechanic who employs this method.


Our little dog is 75% Poodle and sheds none of his wool. Even when I comb him, virtually no coat comes off. Brushing our previous pure bred Poodle would result in a small amount of wool coming off.

My wife regularly cleans the removable filters. “Less than 6 months” was the time between chemical cleaning by the aircon service people.

The point of my post was regarding health risks of carpets and the aircon merely demonstrated how much rubbish carpets produce

Our larger aircons in the kitchen and the lounge room which have tiled floors never become anywhere near as bad as the aircon in our bedroom.

I will be interested to see how long it is before the bedroom aircon needs chemical cleaning again now we are rid of all carpet.


Our dog is a poodle maltese cross and grows a wooly coat that continues to grow longer if not trimmed back to a reasonable length, we all shed and we do it all the time. What we notice is only a small proportion of what is lost in a day.


We have no carpet - all polished timber floors. I regularly clean filters and sweep floors & have no pets. Our bedroom & ensuite has the most ‘fluff’ (in sweepings) and its filter has the most lint. I think it is fibres from blankets, towels, clothes, soft furnishings, even though we spend more time in the lounge/dining. Mr Z is always surprised by the amount of grey fluff I get out of the bedroom, yet only grit, the odd hair and dried grass from the passageway, lounge, dining, laundry. I have wondered where it all comes from because our fabrics (clothes, blankets etc) don’t seem to be getting that threadbare over 6 years.


Apart from the formaldehyde given off by new carpet I haven’t heard of any health risks associated with it. However, I believe there are significant health concerns with vinyl, especially the type that contains phthalates and VOCs.


Ditto, except for a short cut pile rug for the bedroom.

Similar experience with the vacuum in the bedroom. Lint and fluff. Mostly we assume from our clothes and bed linen. It’s where most of us get in and out of them. One only needs to look at the lint filter on the clothes drier to realise the main source. (Only when we can’t line dry.)

Elsewhere just dust, and pollen. Acacias, melaleucas and the slash pines. Next car will have a pale yellow finish?

A reasonable proposition might be that it’s not our carpets that are the health risk. It’s what else is around us. The carpets are just one more way to collect it. Experience with a previous home with carpeted bedrooms and tiled living areas. The aircons in the bedrooms were the less dirty and easier to keep clean. It was mostly airborn dust or fine particles and not fibres on the filters.

Not all carpets are the same. Some may shed more fibre or be easier to clean. Experiences may differ!


Evidence-based medical advice for anyone with sensitivities to dust mites is to remove all carpets from the home.
Surprised no one has mentioned this yet.
Dust mites live on the dead skin cells we shed all the time. They can cause reactions in our skin as well as nasal/sinus passages and lungs. Pets (dogs, cats, birds, etc) can shed dead skin cells, but in a human home it is likely that the major contributors are the humans.
Textile fibres: Interesting theory from mark_m that the rooms where humans get in and out of clothes (bedroom, bathroom) may be where most fibres from clothing could be found in air and on the floor.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other things
Sensitivity to installed carpet can be to lots of things, above and beyond dust mites living in them:-

  • formaldehyde in the foam carpet underlay (foam underlay is more common than rubber these days)
  • formaldehyde and other VOCs in the glue(s) used to construct and to lay the carpet
  • chemicals in the stain resistance treatment of carpet fibres (used on polyester, nylon, etc and blend carpets)
  • chemicals in the pest resistance treatment of carpet fibres (used on wool and wool blend carpets)
    [Note polypropylene carpets have neither stain resistance treatment nor pest resistance treatment]
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