Cleaning & Restoration Association News

Indoor Air Quality & Carpet: How Do Chemicals Factor In?

May 3, 2001
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Responsible handling of equipment and chemicals will increase your customer’s understanding of cleaning as a health benefit.

Cleaning air inside the home for health considerations has many facets, which simply means that you have to understand all of its connections and not just its surface situation.

Of course, there are natural conditions that can prompt sensitivity in a high percentage of the population. It’s accepted that particles will eventually rise and rest in higher regions of a room, whether it’s air conditioning, fans, curtains, blinds or air ducts — anywhere where the shuffle of feet will dislodge components from the floor into the air.

Something else that complicates matters in our homes is that we tend to lock up air inside. The house literally stops breathing and creates its own greenhouse effect. The house windows are double cased, every opening is plugged and plastic film is used extensively, which prevents humid air from leaving the environment. Essentially, a buttoned down home in the winter and an air conditioned home in the summer can be a human bombshell.

I have often felt that carpet cleaners are what their name implies — a cleaner of carpets. But in reality, a carpet cleaner is a health environment controller. I know that the label currently used will take many years before the professional carpet cleaner will upgrade its recognition factor to its rightful status. Once the public realizes that carpet cleaning is not an option but a health consideration, it will be given prompt attention.

It’s unfortunate that there are those who think carpet cleaning is only for “looks” because in the long run a carpet-cleaning program can lead to health considerations. The basic thought is that cleaning is a necessary health measure that protects us from unwanted exposure.

So, what method of approach is needed in the cleaning operation to cancel, remove or dissolve the residues that would otherwise be a health factor? As cleaners, we know that the extraction process removes suspended, harmful residue and disposes them through a waste tank. Cleaning compounds, pressure, and water are used to break down residues in a short time. The extraction process is responsible for the success of the whole operation. Actually, every process is important, but the main emphasis is in removal. Removing only a small percentage of the cleaning residue, with the remaining portion drying out, would cause particles to eventually spew into the air. It has been stated that particles less than l0 micrometers will remain airborne and rest in air ducts, fans, ceiling decorations, curtains, etc.

Even if there were an amount of cleaning residue left in the carpet, perhaps l to 2 percent, its presence would never be as detrimental as if the carpet had never been cleaned.

Now that I have expressed all these concerns about carpet cleaning, it doesn’t mean carpet cleaning is to be avoided, quite the contrary. Education is the key point. An understanding of what can happen, and why safety in the use of a product in a particular environment is essential. I don’t expect you to clean carpets in “bunny suits” (used in micro labs), but you should show concerns if you’re going to a clean-up where a rainbow of bacterial growth has been found.

As a rule, I often find that if you remove one of the three requirements for bacterial growth — moisture/water, darkness and temperature — then you’re ahead of the game. Remove any one of these and you’ll break the chain for continued growth. The tools or chemicals you use will do the killing, but here again, you must utilize the appropriate product to do the job.

The object is to have the public understand that cleaning is a health benefit and not just a cosmetic benefit.

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