Flooring options for people with asthma and allergies

Carpet or no carpet? Timber or tiles? Vacuum or mop? Making decisions about the right flooring for your home can be tricky when your family has asthma or allergies.

Some sources say people with asthma and allergies should replace carpet with hard flooring. But this is not necessarily the best option.

Carpets can trap allergens in their pile, while hard floors allow the allergens to float around. Also, some modern carpets contain products to reduce mould and dust mites, which are common asthma and allergy triggers.

As with any product that may help with allergies, you need to consider what the important triggers are for your household to make sure the product is suitable.

Here are some of the main advantages and disadvantages of different floor types by key trigger type.

Fungus, mould and dust mites

Read our fact sheets on mould, indoor humidity and dust mites.

Natural carpet

  • Natural materials include wool, seagrass and Sisal.
  • Natural fibres can absorb moisture, which may encourage mould.
  • Issues such as pile height, backing, and treatments are also relevant. Consider the backing (if any) that may be another material.
  • Seagrass and Sisal are frequently marketed as hypo-allergenic, as the plants from which they come have anti-microbial properties, but it is unclear whether these properties exist in the final product.
  • Regular vacuuming is recommended. Cleaning methods that leave natural fibre carpets moist may encourage mould.

Man-made carpet

  • Nylon is probably the most common man-made fibre for carpet.
  • Carpets with treatments to supress fungus and mould, combined with a relatively short pile height are a better choice. Issues such as pile height, backing, and treatments are also relevant. Consider the backing (if any) that may be another material.
  • Regular vacuuming is recommended, as well as less frequent deep cleaning.
  • See Sensitive Choice approved carpets here.

Natural hard floor

  • Timber is probably the most recognised natural flooring.
  • Regular cleaning with a vacuum, mop and/or electrostatic cloth will keep clean.
  • A damp timber floor may grow mould.
  • Cork is another natural option, unfriendly to mould and easy to keep clean, but consider the glues used.
  • Untreated brick, stone and concrete is likely to be the source of dust, although this is unlikely to generate allergens.
  • Ceramic and porcelain tiles are likely to be inert and not a source of VOCs itself (consider the adhesives).
  • Easy to clean.
  • See Sensitive Choice approved timber flooring here.

Man-made hard floor

  • Vinyl is a type of plastic. It is relatively cheap, resilient and easy to keep clean. If burned, it releases toxins.
  • Lino is similar to vinyl in terms of resilience and ease of cleaning, but it’s made of organic materials and considered non-allergenic.
  • Easy to clean.

Underlay

  • The cushioning layer under carpets and timber flooring. Materials differ and include rubber, felt, jute, cork, and foam.
  • Natural fibres may absorb moisture and grow mould.
  • Some underlays are treated with an anti-microbial to guard against mould growth.
  • Vacuuming is unlikely to affect underlay as it won’t work through the carpet or timber.
  • See Sensitive Choice approved underlay here.

Pet allergens

Not only are pets a source of dander, they are also the source of allergens. Read our fact sheet here.

Carpets and rugs

  • Carpet may be better at trapping these, with regular vacuuming recommended.
  • See our fact sheet on vacuum cleaners here.
  • See our Sensitive Choice approved carpets here.

Hard floors

  • Pet allergens will blow around a hard floor, but cleaning is easy, with many options including vacuuming, mopping, steam cleaning (not on all surfaces) or using an electrostatic cloth.
  • See Sensitive Choice approved timber flooring here.

VOCs (volatile organice compounds)

See our VOCs fact sheet here. VOC off-gassing will reduce over time.

Natural

Natural materials are less likely to emit VOCs, although you need to consider all the components of a product (coatings, glues, backings etc). For example, engineered timber is a laminate glued together. That glue may off-gas VOCs.

See Sensitive Choice approved timber flooring here.

Man-made

Man-made flooring is more likely to emit VOCs. Some low-VOC options are available.

More information

For details about flooring options for your home view our Sensitive Choice approved flooring products here.