If you're like most people, vacuuming probably doesn't fall into the Activities You Do For Fun category. Nope — when you can bring yourself to tackle this boring household chore, chances are you want to get it over with as quickly as possible.
That might mean doing a quick swipe under the couch or coffee table instead of moving it totally out of the way. Which, while seemingly pretty harmless, could actually be a worse move than you think.
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"In general, I recommend that people as much as possible have furniture that can be moved/removed or cleaned around — so for example, a bed with enough clearance below that you can vacuum beneath and behind it," says Neeta Ogden, MD, a doctor double board-certified in allergy immunology and internal medicine, and a spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).
Here's a look at why — and the best way to really clean those carpets when you bust out the vacuum.
The Effects of Not Vacuuming Under Your Furniture
Most experts agree that not cleaning under the couch or coffee table can be a health hazard. But not everyone will be affected equally.
1. It Might Worsen Your Allergies or Asthma
Carpeting is really good at trapping dust mites and other particles (like mold, pollen or pet dander) that can trigger allergy symptoms or exacerbate asthma. Going for long stretches without vacuuming means more of those particles build up in your space. That can increase your exposure and make you uncomfortable at best (think: congestion and itching), or worse, trigger an asthma attack, per the American Lung Association.
"When you don't move furniture, you are basically allowing an area with concentrated dust mites and dust to collect and grow. This can worsen symptoms due to persistent exposure," Dr. Ogden says.
If the area in question is beneath your bed, you could be breathing in those allergens all night — which might explain why your allergies are worse in the morning.
2. It Could Exacerbate Your Eczema
If you've got eczema, being lax about vacuuming can also be problematic. Like allergies or asthma, the inflammatory skin condition can flare in the presence of irritants, according to the ACAAI. That includes excess dust and dust mites lingering under your furniture.
3. It May Make Your Furniture Look Shabby
To top it all off, an under-the-furniture vacuum strike could eventually start to leave your couch legs, coffee table or other pieces looking a little worse for the wear.
"Dust accumulation can create tiny scratches that makes furniture look old and worn, especially for wood," says Jennifer Rodriguez, Chief Hygiene Officer at PRO Housekeepers. If you're not going for an intentionally well-loved look, that might be something to a consider.
How to Effectively Clean Under Your Furniture
You'll get the deepest, healthiest clean when you vacuum all areas of your carpet — including those hard-to-reach spots under furniture — several times a week, Dr. Ogden says. "Use a HEPA-certified vacuum cleaner so you aren't recirculating allergens into your home environment. Clean with a mask and gloves as well," she adds.
Rodriguez recommends pushing all of the furniture to one side of the room, vacuuming the empty space, then moving everything to the other side and repeating. To make sure you're really covering the entire space, take multiple passes over each section of carpet — one forward, one back.
"I personally imagine the carpet as a chess board, with lines in the size of the vacuum attachment. I go slowly one line at a time through the whole carpet, then I switch to the side and do the same covering the whole 'board,'" says Diana Georgieva, owner of Wimbledon Cleaning Services in London.
So, How Bad Is It Really to Never Move Your Furniture When You Vacuum?
If you or someone else in your household deals with asthma, eczema or any kind of allergies, leaving the furniture in place when you vacuum only makes it harder to keep your symptoms well-controlled. "It is quite important to be able to clean and move around furniture — uncontrolled exposure to dust and dust mitse can worsen allergies and allergic asthma breathing," Dr. Ogden says.
And if asthma, eczema or allergies aren't a problem? Your indoor air quality still won't be as good, but you're probably not facing a major health risk. After a while, though, you might start to notice the effects on your furniture.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.