April 15/22, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 23
By Ken Ryan
Google the question “Is carpet healthy?” and one of the first entries is attributed to the American Lung Association, which states: “Carpets may trap pollutants like dust mites, pet dander, cockroach allergens, particle pollution, lead, mold spores, pesticides, dirt and dust. Chemicals used in some new carpets, carpet pads and the adhesives used to install them can harm your health.”
This is not the kind of testimonial the carpet industry wants to see at a time when it is losing share
to hard surfaces. However, mills, retailers and groups such as the Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI) are fighting back with their own research that show today’s carpet isn’t unhealthy at all—especially when properly maintained. In fact, published research shows well-maintained carpet can actually reduce airborne allergens, thereby contributing to healthier indoor air quality.
Carpet mill executives are touting the healthy side of car- pet at a time when the concept of a healthier home is not just a marketing tool but a selling advantage as well. “We have all heard the opinions that carpet is not healthy because it harbors dust and allergens,” said T.M. Nuckols, president of the residential division, The Dixie Group. “On the other hand, there are opposing views that recognize carpet as a very good filter.”
Most of the carpets The Dixie Group manufactures uses nylon 66 as a building block. This fiber is known for durability and resiliency, and together with its stain- and soil-resistant treatments, provides exceptional cleanability as well. “With regular vacuuming and hot water extraction every 18 months, nylon 66 carpets stay great looking for a very long time,” Nuckols explained. “Nylon 66 carpets that look fresh and new for many years are a sign of a clean and healthy home.”
Although there have been—and continue to be—unwarranted negative claims made related to soft flooring, the reality is carpet can be a great option for people concerned about health issues. “Carpet actually has a very positive effect on improved indoor air quality, which is a huge health benefit for many people today,” said Richard Abramowicz, executive vice president of sales and chief marketing officer, Southwind. “It traps dust, pollen and pet and insect dander, and then when the carpets are cleaned and vacuumed properly, it helps keep us from breathing those particles.”
Luanne Holloway, head of product development for Southwind, added, “Not only does carpet add beauty and make a style statement for your living space, but it actually has health benefits as well that make it a right choice for your home.”
Carpet mills are investing in R&D to back up their claims that today’s carpet is healthier. Earlier this year Engineered Floors and The Dixie Group stated they are no longer using perfluorocarbons (PFCs) in any of their new offerings. As Mike Sanderson, vice president of marketing for Engineered Floors, explained, “We have never used the chemical on our PureColor products, which includes the entire portfolio of residential styles; and since 2018 J+J and EF Contract are PFC free as well.”
Sanderson said PFCs are a human-made chemical that does not break down rapidly in nature and causes long-term negative impacts on the environment. “Just like with our environmental accomplishments in manufacturing—30% less energy, 42% less greenhouse emissions and 87% less water—0% PFCs speaks to EF’s commitment to our stewardship for the health of our planet as well as the consumer.”
According to Carrie Edwards Isaac, vice president of residential marketing and consumer strategy, who oversees the Shaw Floors and Anderson Tuftex brands, material health is top of mind for many of today’s consumers. “The food we eat, the product we bring into our home, the chemistry that goes into the materials, the clothes we wear all play a role,” she explained. “We have rigid guidelines as to how we source. When it comes to our products, we want them to be safe and healthy for people using them, whether it is the commercial space or the residential space or even B2B—we want people to understand we are a company that stands behind our products. We are asking deeper questions than some others might, because we know the requirements when it comes to material health.”
On the soft surface side, Shaw Floors/Anderson Tuftex offers two solutions—LifeGuard protection and R2X, a topical treatment. “It becomes a system that is virtually indestructible,” Edwards Isaac said. Anderson Tuftex sells Stainmaster PetProtect, which repels pet hair that can be vacuumed up easier. “We have you covered in every regard when it comes to healthy homes,” she added.
Mohawk’s Unified Soft Flooring introduction, Air.o, helped usher in a new era of hypoallergenic flooring. Since its launch, Air.o’s hypoallergenic and VOC-free properties have resonated with consumers. “Studies have consistently shown that carpet is actually more beneficial than hard surface floors for those with breathing difficulty, because it traps dust/dirt vs. hard surfaces,” said Jamie Welborn, vice president of residential carpet product development, Mohawk. “Like any household item, you need to have a regular cleaning cycle.”
Phenix Flooring has championed the healthier home trend for several years. Its latest product launch, Modern Contours, is a collection of soft surface styles protected with Microban’s antimicrobial technology—a special treatment that will not wash off or wear away. It also protects against bacteria, mold and mildew. “While Modern Contours is also stain, spill and soil resistant, Microban’s technology takes cleanliness to the next level by fighting against any bacterial growth underneath the surface,” said Jason Surratt, senior vice president of product and design.
Foss Floors’ solution-dyed carpets are 100% PET and feature the company’s Dura-Lock fused-core fiber lock system, which is latex and VOC free and is made from recyclable material.
Mills are collaborating with their dealers to convey the healthy carpet story to consumers, as many continue to harbor long-held doubts about soft surface. In-store demonstrations, in particular, are critical to dispelling myths. “We’re changing the pitch from just being about beauty to form and function as a critical component,” Edwards Isaac said. “You want to hit on those things and help them on their journey through demonstration or storytelling.”