Dispelling the myth that carpets harbour germs

We explore the truth behind arguments opposing the use of carpet on the grounds of infection control in care homes, hospitals and mental health settings

Danfloor carpets have a bug busting yarn treatment to help fight the spread of infection

There is a common belief that there are infection control risks to fitting carpet in health and care settings.

We are just trying to remove visible dirt from areas such as floors when this is not the best approach

But are these concerns justified?

According to a new paper from Danfloor, there are many misconceptions to overcome in order to increase the use of carpet to enhance care settings.

The benefits, it claims, include:

  • Creating a home-from-home feeling – carpet is considered more comfortable and psychologically warm than hard flooring finishes and research suggests that visits from family and friends are longer when they visit a carpeted room
  • They are acoustically better – the use of carpets creates rooms that have greater impact sound reduction rates and reduce ambient noise levels
  • Carpets reduce injuries created by trips and falls
  • Improved air quality – many studies suggest that carpet retains dust particles, unlike hard surfaces where they regularly become airborne. If carpets are regularly vacuumed, these dust particles and associated allergens are removed

The most-common criticism or fear of estates and facilities managers when specifying carpets is the impact on infection prevention and control.

The company is calling for more-widespread specification of carpets, which have aesthetic and acoustic qualities

Looks can be deceiving

However, research by Dr Stephanie Dancer from NHS Lanarkshire, found the most-common MRSA sites within hospitals were bed linen, gowns, and tables, rather than floors.

She states that cleaning should focus on objects which people touch, rather than on areas of visible dirt, such as floors.

Many studies and research have been conducted into the costs, time and difficulties of cleaning various floor finishes and carpets come out very favourably

She goes onto say that ‘Governments across the UK need to reconsider their approaches’, adding: “We are just trying to remove visible dirt from areas such as floors when this is not the best approach.”

A rigorous study conducted by Lankford et al (2006) also suggests that certain pathogens, such as Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) survive less well, or for shorter periods, on carpet compared to other floor coverings, including rubber tile, linoleum, vinyl sheet goods, and vinyl composition tile.

In addition to discovering that carpet harbours less VRE, this research found that carpeting also transferred less VRE to hands via contact than rubber and vinyl flooring, and performed as well in cleaning as any other flooring tested.

The Care Quality Commission makes no direct criticism of carpets, other than to say that they can be used as long as they are kept clean and infection free.

And, while, Health Building Note 00-09 - Infection control in the built environment (DH 2013) advises that carpets should not be used in clinical areas, they deem them acceptable elsewhere.

Commenting on concerns that carpets require more maintainance than hard flooring, Catherine Helliker of Danfloor said: “Many studies and research have been conducted into the costs, time and difficulties of cleaning various floor finishes and carpets come out very favourably.

“Just because a hard floor finish looks clean, doesn’t always mean it is.

Any liquid spills stay on the surface of the carpet until they are cleaned, therefore assisting with cleaning and maintenance

A fresh approach

“On an annual basis research suggests that it takes two-and-a-half times longer to clean hard floors than carpet and the cleaning chemicals needed for hard floors are seven times more expensive.”

She added: “A literature review has not found any papers advising against the use of carpeting in care homes or hospital facilities in non-clinical rooms, only that they shouldn’t be used in areas such as laboratories, areas around sinks, caretaking rooms, and where patients may be at greater risk of infections from airborne environmental pathogens such as burn units, ICUs, and operating theatres.

It is definitely worth rethinking your approach to carpets in care settings as many of the things people think simply aren’t true and the benefits they can bring to an environment are huge

Carpet manufacturers are helping to dispel these myths with carpet ranges which, in the case of Danfloor, feature an impervious membrane and a bug busting yarn treatment.

This means that any liquid spills stay on the surface of the carpet until they are cleaned, therefore assisting with cleaning and maintenance.

It also means that liquid spills will not seep through and contaminate the subfloor, which can cause bacterial growth and odours.

And Danfloor’s Equinox and ECONOMIX ranges are further treated with Maedical i-link, an anti-microbial yarn coating which supplies a 4-log reduction in the presences of harmful organisms, including the bacteria that causes MRSA.

It works by attracting the micro-organisms to the yarn coating. It then punctures the cell membrane and deactivates the microorganism before contamination and the spread of infection occurs.

Helliker said: “It is definitely worth rethinking your approach to carpets in care settings as many of the things people think simply aren’t true and the benefits they can bring to an environment are huge.”

Companies