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

11 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…

  2. This is total BS. My parents had to tear out an entire house worth of wool carpeting and throw out a sheepskin rug, on doctor’s orders, because I and my sister were incredibly allergic to this as children and it caused asthma. Today, its still no different. Don’t spread such misinformation.

      • Just because a company that sells wool products publishes some pro-wool info online doesn’t make it true, in fact, that would make it less true since they are trying very hard to sell you something based on false information. And those are basically the only web sites that have pro-wool info. See the pattern? Money suddenly means wool is great for everyone. When in fact that is wrong – Carpets, especially wool carpets = asthma. (Note – I just spent 8 days at a cottage up north that had a very neglected bedroom with a wool carpet and I had the worst asthma attack in 25 years). And its not just the wool, its also the dust and dust mites that really make a nice home in there. I’m not nearly as allergic to synthetic carpets, i.e. polyester or viscose. So please, try to explain that one.

        Furthermore, I mistakenly bought an ‘organic wool’ and latex bed for thousands of dollars based on the salespersons’ story that oh yeah, wool is great for allergies. Now why would I listen to a salesperson about health advice when they’re trying to sell me a wool product – of course they and everyone else in that business is going to say its greeaaaat. Well, a year later, and I have mild asthma and rhinitis as a result of this wonderful advice. So no, listen to your body and just say no to wool products. Synthetic all the way.

      • Hi. You have clearly had a bad experience and believe wool is to blame. I, as a person who loves natural fibres and wool will of course be pro wool. Your days in the cottage are unfortunate, I would blame high moisture and mildew, not the wool. Open a window, remove plants, and clean away dust (which on a carpet plastic or natural, won’t get airborne). A neglected bedroom sounds like the root of the problem. Any fibre will struggle if its neglected. There are numerous studies proving that wool is non-allergenic and that plastics are causing damage to the environment, but I’ll not waste your time as it will be from a pro wool perspective. If you enjoy synthetics and believe that oil is a sustainable option you should carry on enjoying the many synthetic products that are available.
        I’d go back to the organic wool salesperson, as its unlikely that they sold you the right product for you, and extremely unlikely that wool in bedding was organic. I would want to see some proof of such a claim if I was spending that kind of money. Wool will not cure asthma, but it certainly won’t cause it. Wool is keratin, the same chemistry as human hair (its mainly carbon) Wool, fibres can cause irritation against skin if you are using poor quality fibre that is not suitable for its use. Wool will regulate humidity and is great for asthma in that regard, also it wont burn like synthetics as its not made from oil.
        Lets just agree that you like your polymers of oil and we like natural products and all the amazing features and benefits to people and the planet they provide.

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  4. Sure, if you’re only allergic to dust mites then maybe your point works, but this non-biased article points out a few good points, carpet can trap pollen and harbour mould. Mould was a problem in our last place which we resolved through dehumidifiers, opening windows etc., but even after the visible signs and air quality were gone, our carpets never seemed to kick it. Sadly no wool for me, it’s not worth my husbands health… but this doesnt mean that it has to be unsustainable. More and more carpet manufacturers of synthetics are using recycled content in their yarns, from fishing nets and other products, which also means they are recyclable at the end of their life. Not the best option but certainly better than it used to be.

    http://home.howstuffworks.com/home-improvement/carpet/carpet-for-allergies.htm

    • Thanks for your feedback. The Woolblog is about wool so expect some bias I guess. The article you point to is very nylon biased. Nylon is not the best fibre, it is essentially plastic and cannot breath like wool. Wool is keratin, its carbon based and its not possible to be allergic to it, it is the same stuff as human hair. Wool will create a dryer home than nylon, and it will absorb toxins into its structure. Nylon can be recycled and about 5% actually is. 100% of wool is biodegradable and renewable. Most synthetics, despite recent innovation still are made from crude oil. 400,000 Tonnes go to landfill in the UK each year so the recycling is not happening as the plastic carpet guys claim. Maybe we should make fishing nets from natural fibre so they don’t need turning into carpet?

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