The Truth About Wool Carpets and Asthma


Wool carpets are allergy friendly

Wool carpets are perfect if you suffer from allergies or asthma.

The most common single cause of asthma is sensitization to house dust, or more precisely to the dust mite, and particularly its waste products. But there’s no reason why asthmatics shouldn’t enjoy the comfort and aesthetic pleasure of wool carpet.
In fact, not only are carpets inhospitable for dust mites, but wool carpet is especially resistant. Research performed by the German Applied and Experimental Allergy Research Association (GAF) showed that when wool and nylon carpets (one of which was treated with an anti-microbial finish) were compared for dust mites populations, the wool carpet performed best in resisting dust mite infestation.

Wool’s long, coarse fibres cannot be inhaled and therefore do not affect asthma sufferers. So as long as the air is dry, the ventilation good and the cleaning regular and thorough, asthma sufferers can breathe easy with wool carpet!

Carpets And Asthma

Dust mites feed on human skin flakes and live mainly in mattresses and similar warm, dark places.  Bed-making sends dust mites airborne causing them to be found in floor dust, mainly in bedrooms.  To the dust mite, carpets are a hostile environment: too cold, too dry, too exposed to the light and too regularly cleaned.  Since carpets, unlike smooth floorcoverings, hold dust in their structure, dust mites will be removed by vacuum or wet cleaning.

Dustmites cannot live on wool carpets. They eat flakes of human skin. Wool carpets generally contain very low levels of permethrin, a natuarrly occuring substance that kills very small insects.

Installing a wool carpet is a very good thing to do if there are asthma sufferers in your home.

By their very nature, wool carpets and rugs are good for the indoor environment. That’s because wool, unlike synthetic fibers, rapidly absorbs common contaminants in indoor air like formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide.  Not only does wool keep the air free of many harmful pollutants, it will not re-emit them, even when heated.  In fact, it has been estimated that wool carpets can continually purify indoor air for up to 30 years!

Preventing Asthma  – Some simple things you can do.

Discard old and dirty mattresses, bedding, pillows and furnishings.
If possible, sleep with windows open to reduce the amount of moisture in the bedroom (for breathing).
Reduce the room temperature and thickness of bedding to reduce persperation. – Most people sleep better in a cooler room.
After you get up, air the bed with the windows open. Electric blankets aslo create a dryer environment.
Avoid placing pot plants, flowers and other sources of moisture in bedrooms.
For children who suffer from dust mite allergy, regularly freeze soft toys for 72 hours. Then wash the soft toys.
Update: More Information…
This post has proved by far the most read and linked to within WoolBlog.  It currently ranks only 3rd in Google for Carpets and Asthma!
This has inspired me to put more on the benefits of wool on our website..
USA version is at www.wools-nz.com/benefits

3 thoughts on “The Truth About Wool Carpets and Asthma

  1. Hi, I was reading that wool can be tough for allergy sufferers. Are you able to rebutt any of this? I’m looking for toxin-free carpeting and wool was what I thought I’d get before I read the below. (My House is Killing Me, by Jeffrey C. May): “Wool is sheep hair. Human hair and sheep hair have similar structures in that each has an outer cuticle and an inner cortex. The cuticle consists of plates that look like a snake’s scale wrapped around bundles of ropelike structures that give hair its great tensile strength. “Split ends” of wool, like split ends of human hair, are the exposed bundles of cortex fibers. These ends have sharp points and may be responsible for the physical irritation caused by wool fabric. “Wool carpet hairs can become frizzy because of the physical abrasion of wear. the particulates (ie wool dander) that result from the breakup of the cuticle cortex become airborne, sometimes in great numbers. One family had respiratory problems in the carpeted bedrooms on the second floor of their house but little trouble on the first floor, where there was oak flooring. The air in the bedrooms contained high concentrations of wool dander. The entire family moved into a hotel for a week while the wool carpet was removed and wood floors were installed. When they went back home, their coughing did not recur.”

    • Hello Jess,

      I think I need to point out that there is wool and there is wool. That is to say that not all wool carpets are created equally and not all wool is as suitable for carpets as New Zealand wool.

      There are products out there pretending to be wool but are blends of fibres and some cheap inferior wools. Ask the retailer or designer about the provenance of the wool. You want guaranteed British or New Zealand wool! Not a part British or NZ wool that has been cheapened with other fibres from who know where.

      A good quality wool carpet made from good quality wool will not continually shed fibres. Any small “wool dander’ would sit in the carpet pile and be removed by vacuuming. It would not get into the breathing zone.

      Wool is a kertatin fibre, as is human hair, but other than chemistry the structure of wool is very complex. A main benefit for carpet being the crimp. Wool has a natural crimp which is what helps it cling on the other fibres so well.

      I have an asthmatic child and a wife with sensitive skin – So I just installed wall to wall carpets in our home. Don’t forget wool is also flame retardant and only ignites at 700 degrees!. Its also renewable.. Its softer, and quieter too…

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