It amazes me how many people suffer from allergies stemming from dust, mold, mildew, bacteria, dust mites and countless other microorganisms that can be present throughout the home and workplace. Allergy sufferers take countless medications to deal with the symptoms, but don’t seem to address the problem. Getting a bit academic, let’s first understand the definitions.Allergenicis defined as “a substance capable of causing an allergic reaction.”Hypoallergenic refers to “something unlikely to cause an allergic reaction.”

So the culprit is something allergenic, and the solutionis using products in our daily surroundings that are hypoallergenic. What can be done to avoid the root cause of home- and workplace-related allergies? It’s time that you advise your customers to stop just treating the symptoms, and start correcting the problem.

As most parents can attest, infants love to crawl around and put things in their mouths. No matter how hard you try to stop them, it’s inevitable they’ll find a way around your precautions. This is why parents are always on guard to protect their children from germs and bacteria lurking in their home. Since much of an infant’s time is spent on the floor, parents are looking for flooring options that will minimize exposure to harmful germs, mold, mildew and bacteria. More and more are choosing hypoallergenic options such as natural hardwood flooring to diminish the risk of harmful exposure to their little ones.

Being Health Conscious. Designers and architects agree that natural hardwood flooring is an obvious choice for a health-conscious, beautiful home that is in vogue today. One indisputable fact is that hardwood flooring is being installed in more bedrooms. Years ago when I first started in the hardwood flooring business, you rarely saw hardwood specified for these areas. Starting about 20 or so years ago, hardwood became very popular in the kitchen for its hypoallergenic benefits, especially as wood flooring maintenance products evolved to make it fast and easy to clean the high-use kitchen floor. Now hardwood flooring is rapidly expanding into bedrooms as a hypoallergenic solution – in a room where we spend approximately one third of our time each and every day of our lives.

Commercial FlooringAnyone who has suffered from constant watery eyes, itchy skin, mucus-filled sinuses and sneezing knows an allergy can be disrupting and problematic at work. So we can’t just concern ourselves with hypoallergenic flooring products in the home. We spend another third of our daily lives at work. So that’s why we’re seeing more and more hardwood flooring being specified for commercial and institutional venues. Consider areas including open office space, private offices conference rooms and lobbies. Lessening the chance of coming into contact with germs, bacteria and other allergens in the workplace emanating from the flooring can result in a positive and significant impact on productivity, thus lowering the cost of doing business.

Medical Facilities. As for the prevention of spreading germs and bacteria in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and medical clinics, hardwood flooring is being specified by architects as the hypoallergenic flooring product of choice. Commercial finish wear warranties and maintenance products are greatly enhanced today, specifically for prefinished hardwood flooring. That makes them more acceptable as a hypoallergenic product in most light commercial and institutional areas. And not just in the public areas in hospitals, but also in examining rooms and administrative and support areas. Nursing homes and retirement communities have been installing hardwood flooring for years as a way of combating the spread of germs and allergens.

Hospitality Rooms. In Europe during the mid-1980s the study of microorganisms found in hotel rooms and other public air-conditioned workplace areas created quite an awareness about hidden allergens as it relates to the building products industry.  Specifically, the Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, Austria and Germany revamped their building codes to offer more hypoallergenic solutions. I can remember my first business trip to Sweden. I was offered a choice of rooms – hypoallergenic for non-smokers (or those with allergies) or standard rooms. The hypoallergenic rooms all had hardwood flooring installed in the sleeping areas. And yes, the hypoallergenic rooms were let for an upcharge.

“An Ounce of Prevention…” Also during that business trip to Sweden, I was invited to dinner at the home of the plant manager with whom I was visiting. When my host opened the front door, he immediately removed his shoes. I asked if he had recently refinished his hardwood floors. He responded that it’s their custom (and part of their culture) to always remove their shoes before entering the home. Swedes feel it is a way of keeping their floors cleaner, longer-lasting and more hypoallergenic. Today’s finishes are considerably more scuff resistant than the hardwood finishes used back then, but the hypoallergenic issues remain the same.

Maintenance Tips. Cleaning your hardwood floors has never been easier. One-step, easy to apply floor cleaners are readily available at grocery and home improvement stores, as well as retail floor covering establishments. These cleaning products have been on the market for quite some time, and are specifically formulated for no-wax hardwood floors. But for those who suffer from allergies more than most, the best bet is to clean your floors on a regular basis. Another tip is to have wipe-off mats at every entry door to clean off the bottom of your shoes before walking into the room from outdoors. If you’re not going to remove your shoes before stepping inside, this practice is the next best preventative measure. Being aware of how to solve the problem of allergies makes a lot more sense than just continuing to treat the symptoms.


Rick Brian is President of R. B. Brian and Associates, Inc. (, a management and marketing consulting company he founded in 1997.  His clients are primarily manufacturers and distributors in the hardwood flooring and building products industries. Rick is a former president of Robbins Hardwood Flooring and past board member of the NWFA, MFMA, and NOFMA. He is currently a member of the NAFCD and NWFA. RBBA is headquartered in Southern Pines, NC.. 513/310-6938