Kirsty McLuckie: Clean views from abroad

Until this week, I hadn’t realised that having fitted carpets throughout the home is almost a uniquely British thing, and – what’s more – non-Brits think it somewhat unhygienic.

I’ve lived abroad, in homes tiled in every room, but – had I thought about it at all – I would have assumed the tiling was a cooling measure in a hot country.

However, researching carpets for my own purposes this week, I fell down one of those rabbit hole discussions on social media, with respondents chiming in from all over the world.

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Most of the comments from outwith these shores expressed everything from bemusement to horror that we carpet our houses wall to wall. Even in colder Scandinavian countries, the norm appears to be tiled or hardwood floors covered by rugs.

Illustration: skypicsstudio - Adobe StockIllustration: skypicsstudio - Adobe Stock
Illustration: skypicsstudio - Adobe Stock

And this is by no means the only aspect of our homes that overseas visitors are perplexed by.

Apparently, having a washing machine in a kitchen, rather than in the bathroom like our European neighbours, is seen as eccentric.

And Americans can never get their heads round the traditional separate hot and cold taps in the UK, or the fact that we don’t have air conditioning and under-sink waste disposal units as standard.

Letterboxes, rather than a mailbox on a post outside, are also seen as peculiar, as is turning the light on in a bathroom by pulling a string, rather than using a switch.

Germans moving to the UK don’t expect to buy a fitted kitchen with the house – apparently, they take their kitchens with them when they move. Presumably they can also do this with rugs, whereas anyone getting the keys to a house to find the previous owner had taken up the fitted carpets might resort to their solicitor to redress the situation.

But are carpets unhygienic? For those of us who lived through the ’80s trend of carpets in the kitchen or – true horror – in bathrooms, it’s easy to see why that would be deemed distasteful.

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While hard floors are easy to clean, carpets are said to be better for those with allergies, as they trap dust until it can be vacuumed up. As long as they are regularly cleaned, the luxury of soft flooring instead of a cold surface is definitely preferable in my eyes, and to my feet.

Following my umbrage about being declared unhygienic as a nation, I looked online for how often carpets should be cleaned.

At first I was reassured – I hoover a lot more often than the once-every-three-months advised ­ – only to realise that this was for deep cleaning by way of vigorous carpet shampooing.

We put down new carpets in our bedrooms, stairs and sitting room a good few years ago. Since then, I have employed the use of a carpet shampooer precisely zero times.

What is worse, in that time we have brought up three children, two dogs, one cat and several guinea pigs.

This realisation led me to invest in a whizz-bang carpet cleaning machine this week.

Its first outing lead to the collection of such a deep well of mucky water that perhaps I’ll concede a point to our European neighbours.

- Kirsty McLuckie is property editor at The Scotsman