How Dirty are Carpets, Really?

The oldest carpet ever discovered, thought to be about 2,500 years old, was found in a Scythian tomb in southern Siberia in the 1940s. While the carpet in most businesses isn’t that old, sometimes it sure looks that way.

This is the first known example of carpet, dated at approximately 2,500 years old.

The reality is that carpets wear out over time faster than any other flooring option available. When it’s time for them to finally give up the ghost, many business owners grapple with the question of what to replace them with.

Should you go with another carpet, or change it up all together and install tile or plank flooring?

Besides the frustration of constant cleaning and the short lifespan of most carpets, it might really sway your decision when you discover what kind of nastiness is lurking in virtually every carpet you’ve ever walked on. 

Be forewarned: it’s worse than you think.

The Dirt on Carpets

According to most estimates, carpets are 4,000 times dirtier than toilet bowls. That’s right, the surface you walk on every day is grosser than the place where you do your business in the bathroom. 

There are over 200,000 bacteria in every square inch of carpet, including some truly sickening germs, such as MERSA, campylobacter and norovirus. And that’s not even counting the insects such as dust mites or allergenssuch as pollen, pet dander and mold that collect among carpet’s twisted fibers.

Dust mites can cause allergies. Only expensive, regular carpet shampooing can get rid of them.

Carpets are so bad, in fact, that the United States National Institute of Health advises against them. A  2018 study concluded, “…continued caution should still be exercised when considering the use of wall-to-wall carpeted floors in schools, kindergartens and offices, as well as in children’s bedrooms unless special needs indicate that carpets are preferable.”

Out of Sight, Out of Mind 

Here’s another fun fact: one square yard of carpet can contain up to 1 lb. of dirt and still look clean. That’s because most dirt falls to the base of the carpet, where the fibers are glued and/or sewn into the matting. So just because a carpet looks clean, doesn’t mean it actually is.

To make matters even worse, most vacuums lack the power necessary to remove any more than a small fraction of the dirt, dust, germs and grime trapped in carpets. The only way to truly clean your carpets is with expensive regular professional carpet cleaning.

Carpet cleaning professionals recommend cleaning lightly used carpets at least twice per year, and heavily trafficked areas such as entryways and first-floor hallways 12 to 24 times per year. At an average cost of $.15 to $.20 per square foot per cleaning, it doesn’t take a lot for the carpet cleaning bill to skyrocket.

Professional carpet cleaning services are not cheap.

That means it costs about $1,000 to clean a 5,000-square-foot office. Do that twice a year and after five years you’ll have spent $10,000 on carpet cleaning alone. And you’d stillhave to replace the carpeting before too long.

A Toxic Relationship

Even under the best conditions, most manufacturers recommend replacing commercial carpets every five to seven years. Let’s say it’s economically feasible for your company to do just that, as well as maintain the intense cleaning regimen required to keep them sanitary. 

There’s still one more problem you’ll have to contend with: environmental toxins.

Not only is brand-new carpet not without its own health hazards, it may in fact be even more dangerous than dirty carpet. 

New carpets are manufactured with a variety of chemicals known collectively as volatile organic compounds. VOCs go through a process called “outgassing,” which releases toxic chemicals into the air, 24/7, for several years after installation. 

Unrolling new carpet releases toxic gasses, which continue poisoning the air for years to come.

And we’re talking toxic. Some compounds released by carpets include known carcinogens such as p-Dichlorobenzene, a chemical called 4-PC, which is a known eye, nose and lung irritant, as well as moth-proofing chemical naphthalene and fire retardants, which can damage the brain, thyroid and immune system. 

Carpet is a no-win situation. When you install new carpet it immediately begins releasing poison into the air. It costs a fortune to regularly clean out the mounds of bacteria, mites, allergens that accumulate in no time flat. And by the time the chemicals have all leeched out it’s time to replace the carpet again.

Rock-Solid Alternatives

Compared to the numbers mentioned in the section on carpet cleaning, the average marble tiled floor—one of the most expensive options in flooring—costs an average of about $20 per square foot to install. So, for the same $10,000 it would cost to clean your carpets for five years you could put in a floor that will last well beyond five, ten, even twenty years, with practically no routine maintenance beyond sweeping, mopping and occasionally polishing. 

Not only is marble more sophisticated, in the long-term it costs just about as much as carpet.

Other, even less expensive options include a relative newcomer to the commercial flooring market—luxury vinyl plank flooring. Available in designs ranging from imitation hardwood to stone and even—believe it or not—fake carpet, LVP flooring is probably the most versatile, most durable flooring available. 

Not to mention, it offers perhaps the best value proposition in all of commercial flooring. Impervious to most damage, LVP can last decades with almost no maintenance beyond sweeping and mopping. 

And with an average installation bill of about $5-$10 per square foot, it would cost only about 25% to 50% of what you’d spend on carpet or natural stone tile to outfit that same 500-square-foot space in the example above in LVP.

Still can’t decide what kind of flooring to use instead of carpet? Call or email Flooring Masters & Professional Remodelers today for a free consultation. We know you only want the best for your business. That’s why it’s important to hire the best, and at Flooring Masters & Professional Remodelers, we’re pretty sure that’s us. Flooring Masters & Professional Remodelers have been flooring Kentuckiana businesses for over 30 years. Our certified installers have the ingenuity and know-how to assist you in choosing the perfect floors for your rental. Let usguide your next project.

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