Preparations for bringing a new baby into your home usually start with getting the baby's room ready, a process that involves choosing furniture, picking out bedding and painting the room. But what about the floor? Is the old carpet clean enough for an infant, especially when you know your new addition wants to taste everything? On the other hand, will installing a clean, new carpet pollute the air with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like toluene and benzene that can endanger your child's health?
Despite the general bias toward hardwood flooring as the cleanest, greenest and most chic floor covering, wall-to-wall carpeting provides a comfortable, nonslip surface that's safer for infants, children and even the elderly, all of whom may be predisposed to more accidents. Plus, carpet's ability to absorb sound can go a long way toward maintaining your sanity when playdates take place at your house [source: Canadian Carpet Institute].
When you're deciding if you should replace an old carpet with a new one, let your senses be your guide. If the wear and tear is visible, or if you smell mold or mildew, it may be time for new carpet. Keep in mind, though, that deep cleaning or carpet repair may be more affordable and still provide a soft and sanitary surface for your child's explorations. With regular maintenance, carpet can last 15 years or more [source: Bernick].
But isn't it common knowledge that carpet collects dust and pollutants more than other kinds of flooring? Most allergy experts, like the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, recommend hardwood or tile flooring over carpeting for asthma and allergy sufferers. Not so fast, say the Canadian Carpet Institute and The Carpet and Rug Institute. These carpeting experts claim that wall-to-wall carpet traps allergens in its fibers and keeps them out of the air. As long as you clean your carpet regularly, it's a good option for allergy sufferers.
Carpets have become much "healthier" in recent years. Newer carpets contain lower levels of VOCs, and may be manufactured from recycled materials using less water and energy [source: The Carpet and Rug Institute: Sustainability Report 2008]. The small amount of VOCs these carpets do contain usually dissipates within 48 to 72 hours after installation, so ventilating the area for that period keeps the VOCs from accumulating [source: Tremblay and Williams]. Carpets that carry The Carpet and Rug Institute's Green Label are certified low-VOC, so look for the label when shopping for a new carpet.
In addition to green options, you also have your choice of materials, from natural wool to synthetic fibers.
Though wool costs more than synthetic fibers and isn't as stain-resistant, it's eco-friendly, soft, comfortable and naturally flame-retardant. Carpet made from the synthetic fiber nylon, on the other hand, is stain-resistant, durable and affordable, which makes it a good choice if you have kids or pets. Olefin and polyester are the least expensive choices but show wear and tear more easily, making them unlikely to survive the rambunctious toddler you'll soon have [source: Bernick; Tremblay and Williams].
For lots more information about choosing the best carpet for your new bundle of joy, check out the links on the next page.