What's Lurking In Your Carpet? A Spring Cleaning Guide.

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It's time for spring cleaning, hooray! Homeowners everywhere are dusting off the shelves, cleaning out the closet and making sure all the kitchen Tupperware is nicely stacked in order.

But please, OH please, do NOT forget the carpet.

Your carpet is bacteria's favorite playground.

We don't want to over-dramatize the situation, people. But the fact is your carpet is a hotbed of bacteria, pollen, dead skin and dust.

Robin Wilson is an interior designer with a focus on hypoallergenic homes. She says that bringing outdoor debris inside can turn problematic, since you could unknowingly introduce pathogens that get trapped in your carpet.

Imagine, for instance, if your dog steps in feces at the dog park and tracks it into your home. You could have illness-causing germs like e. Coli in your carpet without even knowing it. Pretty gross, right?

Indeed, microbiology research published in 2001 found an average indoor carpet to be about 4,000 times dirtier than a toilet seat, with about 200,000 bacteria per square inch, Men's Health reports. And THAT is certainly something to think about.

But the main risk here isn't bacterial infection... it's allergies.

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So THAT'S why you have the sniffles.

Outdoor debris from clothing and shoes works deep into carpet fibers, creating a "reservoir of allergens" that can adversely affect nearly 40 percent of Americans, the National Center for Healthy Housing notes.

These allergens -- like pollen and dust -- can cause respiratory issues and wheezing when they get kicked into the air, Wilson says. While sniffles aren't life-threatening, living in constant discomfort is certainly irksome.

Then there are the thousands of dead human skin cells, which, when shed, become primary food for dust mites, according to the National Center For Healthy Housing. Carpets can also trap pet hair, which tickles the nose and is just plain gross. So what should you do about all this?

Vacuuming is crucial -- but usually not enough.

Vacuum your carpet at least weekly to keep critters under control, Wilson says. Every six months to a year, get it deep-cleaned with a professional service.

Note the word "professional" here. Numerous experts, including Wilson, stress that at-home carpet cleaning systems are NOT the way to go. They often leave a layer of moisture which Wilson refers to as "mold central." People who are allergic to mold can suffer from stuffed noses, irritated eyes, wheezing, or skin irritation, according to the CDC.

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But you can hack your way to a good deal.

If professional deep-cleaning sound like a financial burden, Wilson recommends waiting until your local cleaning service hosts a sale. Even if your carpet isn't due for a cleaning, you can usually purchase the service at a sale rate and schedule your actual cleaning later, she says.

Wilson recommends getting a deep clean during your spring cleaning routine, and another just before the holidays so your home will be ready for guests. Between appointments, be sure to vacuum weekly and use a hand-held vacuum on areas where pets tread every couple of days.

This will ensure your home stays springtime fresh, ALL year long.

Happy cleaning!

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