Will Carpet Cleaning Prevent Coronavirus?
The new COVID-19 virus has gone viral literally and digitally, and there are a lot of questions flying around about it – and more than just a tad too much panic and misinformation (seriously, even if you have to stay home in quarantine for two weeks, you shouldn’t need 24 jumbo packs of loo paper!). As we’re involved in the cleaning and hygiene industry and one of the big topics of conversation and discussion has been hygiene, we probably can weigh in on some of these questions.
OK, I need to start out by saying that I’m not a doctor or a public health official or an epidemiologist or anything of that sort. I’m a professional carpet cleaner. I’ll do my best to inform you by using the information I’ve got handy.
Now we’ve got the necessary disclaimer out of the way, time to move on to the issue of whether carpet cleaning can prevent you from catching the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Can Viruses Spread On Carpets?
The problem with the COVID-19 coronavirus is that it’s a new one and nobody’s got immunity to it because your immune system hasn’t seen anything quite like it before. This means that it’s very infectious. Now, we always ought to be vigilant about not spreading viruses and about maintaining good hygiene regarding things we touch anyway; this new virus is just giving us a good kick in the bottom to do the things we ought to have been doing but got a bit slack about, like wiping down high-touch surfaces.
The issue is what happens to the virons (the bits of stuff that viruses transmit themselves as – they’re not really cells or spores because viruses are weird) when they hit a surface. Viruses aren’t the same as bacteria. Bacteria like nice warm porous surfaces like fabric and paper – and that includes carpets. Viruses, on the other hand, prefer hard non-porous surfaces. Virons can live =- if that’s the right word for a virus – on a suitable surface for quite some time after someone’s sneezed on it or touched it with grubby fingers. In the case of the COVID-19 coronavirus, the current research suggests that it stays active for up to 28 days, but it’s still early days and the researchers are working on this. Another source suggests 24 hours on cardboard and 2–3 days on plastic. The thing with porous surfaces, especially natural fibres such as wool in carpets, is that they dry out the virus, given time and the right conditions, and kill the little pest.
Carpet comes into the category of a porous surface. Carpets also receive their fair share of viral load if people cough or sneeze and don’t cover their faces properly so that the spray falls onto the fibres. People also bring in things on the bottoms of their shoes if they don’t have the habit of leaving their shoes at the door.
However, simply having virons on the carpet is only part of the equation. The virus then has to get into a host – hopefully not you. In the case of the COVID-19 coronavirus, it enters the human body primarily via the eyes, nose and mouth. This means that to get a virus from the carpet to one of these entry points, you either have to touch the carpet with your hands and then touch your face (the standard euphemism for picking your nose), or else you have to be face down on the carpet. Guess which one of these is more likely.
Of course, not all carpets are created equal. The carpet in your office has more pairs of feet, more street shoes and more people likely to sneeze over it. Your bedroom carpet is another story. If you take your shoes off at the door, your bedroom carpet will probably not get much in the way of the virus, as you probably don’t have strangers coming into your bedroom and spitting on the floor or licking the carpet or even sneezing.
Should You Get Carpets Cleaned To Prevent COVID-19?
The burning question: will cleaning the carpet prevent you from getting the coronavirus? The short answer to this is “probably not”. Although it never hurts to get your carpet steam cleaned, getting hold of your local guys (i.e Hampstead or Putney carpet cleaning company) and asking them to give your carpets a good going-over as a preventative measure won’t do much protect you.
Having said that, if your workplace or your home has become exposed to the virus, you might like to consider deep cleaning the carpets. In fact, a few organisations have recommended that for places like schools where you get kids sitting on carpets and touching their faces and the floors a lot, steam cleaning and disinfecting the carpets can be one of the decontamination measures taken.
Steam cleaning is the appropriate technique for killing bacteria and viruses that might be lurking in a carpet. Other methods, such as bonnet buffing and dry carpet cleaning, don’t quite do the same job, although dry carpet cleaning will help remove all the moisture and will probably act towards drying out pathogens and (in the case of bacteria) removing their food source in the form of dirt. However, it’s the high temperatures involved in steam cleaning that deal to bacteria and viruses (and dust mites and fleas and…). What’s more, if absolutely necessary, a bit of disinfectant could be added to the water used to produce the steam to really get serious, although this isn’t something we do on a regular basis.
The temperature required to kill viruses outside the body is about 60°C. During steam cleaning, the temperatures get a lot hotter than that – at least 66°C and sometimes well over boiling point – that’s how you get steam, of course! These high temperatures are what makes steam cleaning unsuitable for delicate fabrics and others that don’t play nice with heat. This means that giving your carpets a good steam cleaning will indeed kill any active virus spores lingering in them.
Of course, if you have been self-isolating or sitting in quarantine for quite some time, you’ll probably start to notice what your carpets, mats, rugs and upholstery actually look like. One can only binge-watch for so long, even if you love a particular TV series! If you know that you are likely to have to self-isolate and you know your carpets are a bit on the dingy side, then you may want to call in the carpet cleaners beforehand so you don’t have to stay in a house with revolting carpets for two weeks or whatever they’re currently recommending. If you notice the carpets are grotty or if you spilt coffee on the couch while in quarantine, then you probably want to call the professional cleaners in once the quarantine period is over.
Anything Else You Need To Know?
You probably don’t want to call in a professional cleaner every day to steam clean your carpets just in case. However, if you want to disinfect a carpet, you can do a few things yourself. However, there are a few things you shouldn’t bear in mind:
Don’t rub neat alcohol or methylated spirits or even vodka on the carpets, as you could do weird things to the carpet fibres and wreck the carpet as well as killing pathogens.
Don’t spray your carpet with neat chlorine bleach (if you can get it), as this will strip out the colour and the damage can’t be repaired.
Soaking the carpet with anything is a bad idea, even if that something is white vinegar or alcohol. It will kill the germs but it will make the carpet wet – and the smell will drive you mental.
Washing your hands properly, covering your coughs and sneezes, and disinfecting your phone will probably do a lot more to protect you than anything you can do to your carpet.