Even the most beautiful and clean-looking homes could be harboring millions of germs, especially in the floors and carpeting. And since you can’t see most of the filth accumulating in these spots, you might be wondering, “How dirty are my floors anyway? Do I really need to clean them if they don’t look dirty?” This is an especially important consideration to make if you have children running around the house or live with individuals who have severe allergies. Below we’ve answered this through a series of frequently asked questions so you can get the real picture.

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How dirty are my floors?

There isn’t one statistic that can properly answer this question. Though studies indicate that carpets can accumulate 40 pounds of dirt in a single year. Pretty gross, right? That’s close to the weight of a five-year-old in just dirt! But is it just dirt? Read on to find out what else is lurking in your carpet fibers.

Is the 5-second rule true?

You have probably seen people eat food off the floor only to justify it with the “5-second-rule.” People cite this rule all the time despite the fact that no one knows where it originated or its justification. Several studies have been conducted to test its validity, and the simple answer is that it’s false.

According to a two-year study conducted by Rutgers University Professor Donald W. Schaffner, food that falls on the floor will pick up bacteria no matter how fast you pick it up. The transfer of bacteria to a piece of food was found to begin “in less than one second” in some scenarios.

Schaffner explains that the five-second rule is a “significant oversimplification.” In reality, bacteria transferring from surfaces to food can contaminate it instantaneously.

What’s dirtier: your carpet or your toilet seat?

You probably already guessed that your carpet is dirtier than your toilet, but the difference between the two just might shock you. Men’s Health reported that carpets are on average 4,000 times dirtier than your toilet. No, you didn’t read that wrong.

Additionally, Men’s Health reports that the average carpet contains about 200,000 bacteria per square inch. Carpets hold germs, food particles, dead skin cells, dust mites, pet dander, pollen, E. coli, salmonella, staphylococcus, and much more.

Phil Tierno Jr., microbiologist and immunologist at New York University Langone Medical Center, describes rugs as “botanical and zoological parks.” He adds that rolling around in the carpet disrupts this bacteria and bring some of it closer to the surface.


How are these germs getting in the carpet?

Germs and bacteria in your carpet come from a variety of sources, one of them being your shoes. As much as we try to keep our home clean, it’s not unusual for Americans to enter their own homes and their friends’ without removing their shoes. Good Morning America tested the bottoms of eight different shoes. In one pair alone they found an eye-popping 66 million organisms! Consequently, GMA’s results concluded that carpets are “dirtier than a toilet seat.”

Researchers at the University of Arizona found nine different species of bacteria on people’s shoes that cause infections in the stomach, eyes, and lungs. They also found that shoes are an ideal breeding ground for bacteria as they are constantly gathering new debris, feeding the growth of more bacteria.

And if that wasn’t gross enough, studies show that shoes transfer bacteria to tiles floors in a house more than 90 percent of the time. And carpets do an even better job of holding in bacteria.

Can your carpet make you sick?

Carpets are great for catching all types of dirt, grime, and bacteria. These might include pet hair, pet urine, dead skin cells, mold, and dust mites, among other things. An increase in dust mites in your carpet is known to trigger asthma, eczema and rhinitis attacks. Dirty carpets can also trigger your allergies. It’s important to clean your carpet regularly. Take note that clean and filthy ones can look almost the same to the naked eye.


Is it enough to just vacuum my carpet?

The simple answer here is no. While it’s a good idea to vacuum your floors and carpets regularly, it’s even more important that you schedule regular professional carpet cleaning to get rid of trapped pollutants. Things like pet dander, dead skin and bacteria don’t stand a chance against higher-power vacuums used by the professionals.

A professional carpet cleaning mitigates mold growth and has the ability to improve your allergies. Moisture helps mold to grow, and it’s hard to dry your carpets using just a regular vacuum. Eradicating mold and other infestations is a great way to keep your allergies at bay.

Time to get cleaning!

We hope you learned something from these FAQ’s and take our advice to heart. How dirty are your floors? Enough that you need to go beyond just vacuuming your home if you want the deepest clean possible. Read our article on what to expect from carpet cleaners so you can find the best service.