Looks aside, bathroom carpeting can make you sick

The 1970s were an era of garish excess well beyond polyester leisure suits. Think macramé everywhere, plus shag carpet deep enough to lose a puppy in. The obsession extended beyond the den: Bathroom flooring—and toilet seat covers (yikes!)—were shaggy too.

Fortunately, American culture has morphed since the 70s. Yet some throwbacks are clinging tenaciously to the idea that covering the bathroom floor with carpet is groovy. It’s not. (Just as using the word “groovy” has lost its luster.)

Think of carpeted bathroom floor like you would blue eye shadow: Just say no. The health harms of keeping rugs in such a high-humidity environment are now better understood, and they’re downright creepy. If you’re considering carpeting for your bathroom—in avocado green or otherwise—reconsider. 

A bathroom’s humidity can remain high for hours after a shower or bath. Carpets trap that moisture, creating an ideal environment for mold and mildew. These creepy fungi can cause coughing, runny noses and wheezing, especially in children and the elderly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, allergy sufferers are especially sensitive to these health problems.

There’s also a suspected link (of debatable strength) between mold exposure and debilitating immune system problems, such as chronic fatigue syndrome and sick building syndrome. But why risk it?

Allergies or no, though, just reading some of the names of these fungi is enough to make you feel ill: Aspergillus, Aureobasidium and Stachybotrys chartarum—better known as black mold. If you’re not grossed out already, consider this: Mold’s unmistakably musty smell comes from the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) it emits. Scientists have given this moldy stench its own acronym: MVOCs.

If you have carpeting in your bathroom, rip it out stat. Ceramic tile, concrete, treated hardwood or even sealed cork flooring are better options. Just as David Bowie no longer hides behind his 70s Ziggy Stardust persona, your bathroom flooring deserves a makeover too.

And if you’re compelled to use a bath mat, be sure to help it dry after each shower. A tip from denizens of the Northwest, where mushrooms are known to sprout in closets: Attach your bath mats to a coat hanger using clothespins and hang it up on the shower rod.