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Vacuuming Carpet - Why it Matters: Part I

I spent 55 minutes vacuuming my carpet at home yesterday. Fifty-five minutes!

vacuumingI spent 55 minutes vacuuming my carpet at home yesterday. Fifty-five minutes!

“Bishop,” you say, “I always knew you ‘industry experts’ were a little divorced from reality, but this takes the cake! No one spends 55 minutes vacuuming their carpet these days.”

Hold on just a minute. Let me fill you in on the details. You see, that entire 55 minutes of vacuuming was spent on a 5 x 5 square-foot section of my carpet. That’s right, 25 square feet, or just less than 3 yards, at my home’s rear entry.

“Now I know you’ve lost it,” you reply in amazement. “That’s ridiculous!”

Hmmmm… exactly what I thought. But before you call the guys in the white coats to come pick me up, consider a few more details.

Having attended a number of indoor environmental quality (IEQ) courses in the past few years, and having taught that subject for several years myself, I’m what you’d call a little paranoid about household maintenance and cleaning. That’s especially true since my grandchildren began dropping in frequently. Like most small children, they love to tumble and play on our 8-year-old, 50-ounce Saxony carpet. 

That’s fact No. 1.

Fact No 2: Twice I’ve listened to lectures from John Roberts, MS, MEd, PE, a mechanical engineer with Engineering Plus, Inc. Mr. Roberts does research on high-volume surface sampling of household dust. He’s an expert on assessing and managing exposures and risks from pollutants in house dust, including pesticides, lead and other toxic substances in road and household dust. He coordinated the development of the Master Home Environmentalist Program for the State of Washington.

Fact No. 3: Currently, there is a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funded study underway to assess the toxic effect of lead containing carpet dust (LCCD) on small children. Seems that these babies do a lot of crawling and playing on floor coverings, including carpet. They pick up lead-containing household dust and ingest it when they lick their hands or suck their fingers.

Here’s what happened: Several months ago, my daughter, a physical therapist, and her husband, a pediatrician, needed a new vacuum for their home. Thankfully, they share my concern about their kids’ environment. Based on Mr. Roberts’ talks at two IEQ conferences, I recommended that they check out a model with wind tunnel technology - one with the red-light/green-light feature that tells you when you’ve gotten efficient soil removal.

Now this vacuum may not be any better in terms of construction and efficiency than a host of other vacuums on the market. The point is,it’s one of the few that has a built-in system for letting you know how clean the carpet is becoming, due to your maintenance effort. The vacuum incorporates a small sound sensing device, or microphone, that “hears” particles as they are sucked from the carpet and enter the vacuum inlet nozzle. The microphone that hears the soil particles striking the nozzle inlet activates a red light.  When the microphone no longer hears those particles, the green light comes on.

To its credit, the vacuum also incorporates a double-lined, high-efficiency filter bag, along with a micro-filter on the outlet side of the collection chamber.

So how’d I get caught up in vacuuming my carpet? It seems that my central vacuum was on the fritz. I asked my daughter to drop off her vacuum, the one I had recommended her.

 What ensued was 55 minutes of vacuuming and an unofficial study I conducted regarding vacuum quality, IEQ issues and why I’ve come to believe that professional cleaners aren’t doing a good enough job vacuuming, which I’ll detail in Part II of this piece. 

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