Home Sweet Home? Residential Indoor Air Quality

It has been reported that the risk of contracting lung cancer in a house containing cigarette smoke is 30 percent higher than in a smoke-free home. Smoke does not have any boundaries. It travels from place to place and room to room. The ventilation system in a room where there is smoking can easily contaminate other rooms if a proper exhaust system is not in place. Makes you wonder about restaurants with designated smoking sections, doesn't it?

Gases, fumes from gas stoves and heaters, mold, dust particles, animal dander and people contribute to indoor air pollution. That's right, people. We exhale carbon dioxide and are responsible for other gases that add to the problem. And while the problem is quite minor for a single individual, a party with l00 guests in one room is something else entirely.

As the world's population increases, what is in store for pollution? Indoor air quality will definitely change for the worse unless we recognize the importance of proper maintenance. That is where carpet cleaners, in their capacity as health specialists, enter the equation.

We've talked about the problems of air pollution. The signs and symptoms are similar to the flu. How can you tell the difference between the flu and allergies? Remove yourself from the premises and if, after a short period of time, these symptoms disappear, you can put off that trip to the doctor.

Home Sweet Home

Indoor air quality, or IAQ, has gone mainstream during the last several years. Consider IAQ and carpet cleaning. The carpet, whether in a business, office or home, will contribute a certain amount of pollution to the air if it is not maintained. Carpet is a catchall, and if it is not cleaned regularly the particles it emits may negatively affect the air quality. Residential carpets in general are prone to neglect due to economic delays, holidays and other scheduling conflicts or simply the "someday we'll get to it" syndrome.

"Home sweet home" is not what it once was. Air pollution can be greater inside the home than out as homes are being built airtight for more efficient heating and cooling. Newer homes with minimal ventilation will contain chemical-release compounds in more concentrated forms, thereby exacerbating the allergies of people with sensitive chemical disorders. Oddly enough, it could be argued that older homes are draftier and therefore healthier.

Cleansing indoor air requires a thorough understanding of the factors involved in achieving a cleaner home environment. Surprisingly, the cleaning chemicals often used may in fact be part of the problem you are attempting to eliminate. Common pollutants will most likely develop on the floor first, eventually rising to higher regions in the room. Air conditioners, fans, refrigerators, curtains, drapes and air ducts will all "help" to create an unhealthy environment if the interior of the home is not properly maintained.

An unattended, buttoned-up home may pose a threat to certain individuals. Once the public realizes that carpet cleaning is not simply an aesthetic option but a necessity for good health, it will be given the attention it deserves. Carpet cleaning is too-often perceived as just another step in preparing for entertaining or holiday visitors. Cleaning the carpet strictly for visitors is the frosting that should be removed. Health comes first. Controlled cleaning is one way to properly implement a level of clean air protection.

What methods are most effective in removing unhealthy contaminate residue? Wet rags and oil-soaked mops do their part, but the impact of hard-surface cleaning is minimal. For carpeting, dissolving and removing the residue is the most widely accepted approach.

There are several methods to accomplish this, but I favor extraction, wherein the harmful residue is suspended with hot water and then extracted into a waste tank. The diluted cleaning compounds, along with water pressure, easily suspend fats, grease and surface soils. Remember though, the main focus is the removal of as much residue as possible through vacuuming to keep the amount returning to the air to a minimum. We would like to think that residue removal by hot water extraction is l00 percent; that is not the case. It is closer to 97 percent, though everyone agrees a 3 percent residue-retention rate is nowhere near as bad as if the carpet were never cleaned at all.

I approach regular hot water cleaning by determining the type and condition of the carpet to be cleaned. It stands to reason that a heavily soiled carpet requires a higher pH than a lightly soiled carpet. By heavily soiled, I mean heavy grease or oil-type soil laid on by pets, heavy cooking or a mechanic's shoes. These carpets require extra power for maximum removal. Of course, age, type carpet, habits, pets, all help determine the type of cleaner to use.

We all like to use a single cleaner to save space and minimize inventory. Unfor-tunately, it just does not work that way. If a carpet is lightly soiled, it is ludicrous to clean it with a high-power cleaner. It is an invitation to browning and possibly dye bleed, especially without the proper acid treatment. I have advocated, using a truck mount, an acid treatment containing surfactants to deliver fiber penetration for light-surface carpet soils.

I am always amazed by how many variables come into play when cleaning a carpet. It is 'Physics l01' when you consider pressure, heat, agitation, surface tension and, yes, dilution mathematics. We have not even touched on the various carpet surface soils, microbial action, bacteria growth, or the importance of proper protection, heat rise and moisture involvement

A chemical cleaning agent has two features that play an important role in cleaning a carpet. One is alkalinity, which helps to remove stubborn soil (easier penetration for soil removal would be another way to look at it). The second is to lower the surface tension, which makes the water "wetter." This also promotes faster penetration, although it is more like adding additional penetration to the first feature. Without faster penetration, you lose the ability to complete the hot-water extraction cleaning cycle.

Cleaning is a science and must be recognized as such by those in the industry. There are three-day schools, lectures and books to satisfy the most inquisitive mind. Can you imagine how long it would take to clean a heavily soiled carpet with straight water? There are carpet cleaners who have tried and found to their dismay that it took longer than expected. In fact, if you purchase a new truck mount, make sure to request a cleaning class that goes with the purchase. The dealer will be happy to help to not only complete the sale, but to have the opportunity to introduce his products for your future cleaning use.

One point to consider when picking up a class: apply that newfound knowledge as soon as possible. Discuss it immediately with family, friends or contemporaries to avoid letting your edge grow dull.

The public needs to understand that carpet cleaning benefits health, not just a home's appearance. As our population increases in age, it will become more susceptible to airborne microorganisms. This will make awareness and the education of the link between clean carpeting and cleaner air that much more important.

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