Predecessors to wall-to-wall carpet have been around for thousands of years. Large woven rugs were often hung from the walls of homes as a means of decoration and insulation. A castle with hanging tapestries is what comes to my mind. Some area rugs were used on floors, but they were never attached as carpet is today. They were swept and periodically taken outside and beaten to release their dirt. Today, wall-to-wall carpet has become standard. It’s hard to find a home without it! When my family ordered our manufactured home, the salesman was very surprised when we ordered linoleum throughout. He had never had any customer order a house with absolutely no carpet.
Americans take carpet for granted in homes today, but it only began to be mass produced in large quantities after World War II. After the war, attention was put toward technological advances making new tufted carpets possible. People were more than happy to fill their homes with luxury items that were not available to them during the war years. At the same time people were installing their carpet, they were also purchasing their first electric stoves. They didn’t need or want that messy wood cookstove anymore! Of course next on the list was a brand new vacuum from a nice door to door salesman. A whole new era of comfort and convenience had arrived.
In 1951, 6 million square yards of wall to wall carpeting was sold in America. By 1968, the amount had jumped to 400 million yards. Something happened to America in that time. I believe that this statistic has a story to tell about how Americans moved inside and forgot how to work in the great outdoors, growing their own food and raising their own animals.
So, you may be asking why is it so bad to be comfortable? It’s not. The problem with carpet arises when you try to go back in time to what I consider to be a normal life, to try to be self-sufficient and live off the land. To learn how to be a producer instead of a consumer. My entire family spends a large amount of time outside in all the seasons. This means dirt, mud and snow get tracked in multiple times a day. We have animals and my husband takes care of them on a daily basis, so sheep poop periodically ends up on the floor. We use wood in our wood stove to heat our home. When the wood comes into the house, so do dirt and wood chips. In the spring and summer, pollen and dust come in through the open windows. My kids are not occupied with electronic devices, so their play time is often spent with things like crafts and playdough. The floor gets messy. It’s a fact of life.
At the end of every day, I get out my broom and sweep up a full dustpan of dirt and debris. (In the case of animal poop and playdough, I don’t wait until the end of the day!) Without the use of a vacuum, wall-to-wall carpeting would be a nightmare for me as the mess would be ground into the fibers more and more everyday. If I still haven’t convinced you, here’s a few pretty yucky statistics about carpet:
- Early Hoover vacuum cleaners were hard to sell because potential customers refused to believe (and were even insulted by the suggestion) that they could have that much dirt in their carpets.
- Carpet cleaning recommendations say that you should vacuum the high traffic areas of your carpet every day! Do people actually do that? Even the cleanest homes probably only get vacuumed once or twice a week.
- Outdoor air contains pollens, fungus, bacteria, air pollution, cigarette smoke, car exhaust and hundreds of other chemicals. We carry those things on our clothing, shoes, skin and hair. We bring them with us when we enter our homes. All those chemicals, pollens and bacteria wind up in your carpet because of gravity.
- Indoor pollutants include animal hair, dander, dead skin, and dust mites. Even in calm indoor air, they all settle by gravity into the carpet.
- A person sheds about 1.5 million skin flakes an hour, most of which become embedded in our carpets. Dust mites thrive in warm, humid environments, eating dead skin cells and nesting in dust-collecting carpet. The residue that mites leave behind can mix with dust and become airborne, which may cause allergies.
- Each year, several pounds of soil can accumulate in and under a carpet.
- Microbiologists have identified air blown from a running vacuum cleaner as one of the five places in the home that has the highest number of germs. Other places include dish sponges, washing machines, bathroom toilets during a flush, and kitchen trash cans.
- The Norwalk virus or Norovirus (the virus that causes the stomach flu) can survive on an uncleaned carpet for a month or more.
- Studies report that mice have dropped dead after breathing some new carpet fumes. Would you want those chemicals in your home?
- Wall-to-wall carpeting is less healthy than smaller rugs because carpet tends to be more permanent and harder to clean. It absorbs moisture, chemicals, liquids, crumbs, and other spills that provide molds, mildew, yeasts, and bacteria (such as e-coli) with a rich and nearly continuous supply of nutrients.
So, there it is. Carpet is completely impractical and even a health hazard when living a self-sufficient lifestyle and especially living without electricity. I believe that removing it should be on every prepper’s to do list. I love my easy to care for linoleum floors! I realize that there are other more durable flooring options available. Whatever you choose, make sure that it is easy to care for. I can sweep my house in about 15 minutes and spot clean my floor with a wet rag. Simple! It’s the easiest flooring that I have ever had.
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We heat with wood as well. Our house is on a crawl space and I don’t know how we would keep warm without wall to wall carpet. Our 100+ year old house is drafty to say the least. I absolutely acknowledge your well versed points of dirt etc. However, if we pulled up the carpet, we would freeze. I don’t know WHAT the original occupants did to stay warm during the long, cold Michigan winters. I would love to have my hardwood floors as our flooring. Any suggestions? The crawl space is insulated and has a vapor barrier on the ground underneath.
Our manufactured home sets on a frame that is tethered to the ground. We have not yet had time to surround it with any type of skirting. Before last winter, neighbors told us that we should get it closed up because we would freeze with cold air collecting under the house. We didn’t and it wasn’t an issue. I’m not sure about your old house and as you say, it is drafty. Our home is well-insulated. I will tell you that I’m not convinced that carpet has anything to do with keeping a house warm. It may feel good on your feet, but I wonder if it actually has anything to do with changing the temperature in a home. I say this because we lived with carpet for a while after moving into our travel trailer our first winter off grid. I thought the carpet would help insulate during the winter, but when it just kept getting dirtier I finally pulled it all up. Yes, the floor felt cold, but it didn’t affect the temperature in the trailer at all. We always wore heavy socks with shoes or slippers. Just my two cents. 🙂 What did the original occupants do? They probably used floor rugs. I know many braided rugs used to be made out of wool.
I’m thinking of putting down cork flooring when we take up our carpet…which is over concrete slab. Not what I would consider inexpensive, but looks like it’s worth saving up for it. http://www.builddirect.com/Cork-Flooring/Cork-Floors-Articles/Cork_Flooring_Exceptional_Thermal_Insulation.aspx?gclid=CN_a8brI-MACFYhefgodKYEAYQ&gclsrc=aw.ds
My parents put that in their previous house which they sold before moving to our off grid property. They loved it!
I love all of your articles, Jaimie! This one is excellent. I completely agree with you about carpet not being practical on a homestead. Our home (which we just bought in May) had new carpet installed by the seller prior to purchase. For economy’s sake, my husband would not hear of removing it until it needs to be replaced. We don’t have any animals yet, so it’s not too much of an issue at this point, BUT for all the reasons you mentioned, my husband is obsessive about keeping it clean. He literally vacuums everyday (all 2000+ sq. ft.). We must take our shoes off upon entering the house, and there is no food allowed anywhere but the kitchen. Our previous house was mostly linoleum, so I can see how much more work the carpet is. Hopefully, we will be able to replace with wood when the time comes. I was worried about the allergens because my younger son has allergies and asthma. So, we let the house air out for a solid month (yes!) before we moved in. No problems, so I am grateful 🙂 I am really glad you share your perspective. I makes me more appreciative of my husband’s insistence on absolute cleanliness (which, I confess, I don’t always appreciate the way I should). I don’t know how you find the time to do it all!
We moved I to our new home just over a year ago. One of the big selling points, after location, amount of land and ability to be quickly self sufficient, was the lack of carpeting in the majority of house. We have wood floors except for the bedrooms and those will be changed soon if I have my way. My husband was concerned about cold floors during the winters here in Michigan but it was no problem even during last year’s polar vortex. With two big dogs and the rest of the family tracking in, I love it that I can just grab the broom and sweep up instead of having to lug a vacuum around a dozen times a day. I have some throw rugs around to try and help catch debris at the doors. That way I can just take them out side and give them a shake. And since I am a weaver I can easily make the rugs to fit where I need them. Also made of recycled material we don’t have to worry about all of the chemicals that the store bought ones contain.
Great article! I completely agree. I really dislike carpets. I adore area rugs… especially antique oriental rugs. I have the cheap imitation in my house though… and, while I admit that I *don’t* take them out and beat them, I could. Any old time I wanted to!
This is what I’ve always said and people look at me like I’m nuts!!! I lived in Russia for a time and not everyone has vacuum cleaners so many people still take their area carpets outside and beat them every month. A few times a year they get a scrub and there you go. I didn’t step into one apartment or home that had carpeted floors while I lived there.
I second this motion! I have always hated carpet. Though I have to admit that I don’t clean my hardwood floors nearly as often as I should 🙂
One of the selling points for our house was limited carpet, and one of the first things we did when we moved in was remove all the carpet in the basement. Good thing too, it flooded about a year later.
When my parents built their house, they talked the builder into giving them a discount for having hardwood floor throughout. I think my mom and sister are very happy with that decision, my nephews track in so much dirt.
Not carpet for us. It’s warm, but just not worth it. Three kids, plus acres of wooded land = a neverending battle of yucky carpet.
Your article reminded me of this book:
Borrow it on interlibrary loan for free.
Your article reminded me of this book:
From-Rugs-To-Riches-Housework-Consumption-and-Modernity by Jennifer Ann Loehlin.
Borrow it on interlibrary loan for free.
I wish we had done with what you did. I don’t like carpets but got talked into getting new carpet in our new old house. We live in an original Dust bowl Homestead house. I love this old house. We too have a crawlspace and live in an area that is one of the coldest places in the U.S. The temperature swings dramatically from day to night most of the year. Do you have any suggestions as to what would be a good replacement once I can talk my husband into ripping out this fairly new carpet one day?
carpet keeps a room warmer & quieter (echo)
Perhaps consider adding a second subfloor on top of the floor (remove the “finished” surface first) using the foam sheet insulation they recommend for basements. You will only lose an inch or two and baseboards will cover that up.
We purchased our first house this spring and removed almost all the carpet. The only rooms with carpet are the livingroom and “toddler” room because it wasn’t in as bad shape as the rest. It’s a very old house. =) All the original floors upstairs and in the master bedroom are now painted, the bathroom and kitchen floors are vinyl, and we will be using area rugs where needed. It actually surprised me with how easy it is to clean the floors. Just sweep and use a damp rag where ever there are dirty spots! So much easier than carpet. =)
I used to like carpet but I always had respiratory problems. We went on a small trip and stayed with a family member that had wood floors and I didn’t need medicine. I had vinyl laid through out my house and life is better.
Do you have a basement? If not, how come?
No, The water table is too high for several months during the year.
Do you have outdoor showers?
No, we have a shower inside in the bathroom.
Absolutely no carpet here either. We haven’t had carpet for about 10 years. We have a son with severe allergies and when he was an infant, our doctor insisted we remove the carpet to help his asthma. That carpet was only three years old, it was white (stupid us put it in before we had kids), appeared clean, I vacuumed regularly and shampooed spots monthly. When we pulled it out, we couldn’t believe the amount of DIRT which had collected. We left that home, to get out of debt, and purchased a dump. Literally, a squatter did his business with no working facilities for three months, but it was cheap. We paid very little to properly clean and fix up our mobile home, complete with laminate flooring throughout. We don’t have a problem with the crawl space, but we have central heat and ac. I’m constantly sweeping it seems, but at least I know it CAN be clean.
Your black background makes your blog SO hard to read…..why don’t you do without the black and give us white with black lettering….would make it easier on the eyes…..:) PLEASE THINK ABOUT IT…..Your blog is the only one that is black background with white lettering…..
The line that my email address on might be worse…..
Yellow block with orange lettering…..I really think you need to change this…..
I love your show you have on youtube….have learn alot…love your homemade pudding…grandkids love it thank you…