Cleaning & Restoration Association News

Air Quality is One of My Highest Priorities

March 8, 2005
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Air quality should be a priority for any cleaning professional


Back in my heyday, a nightclub had the aroma of La Femme perfume, the sound of ice cubes clinking in a glass, and a veil of cigarette smoke so thick that, as we used to say, "you can cut it with a knife."

If you went to a nightclub today and exposed yourself to those conditions, knowing what we know now, you'd be crazy.

It stands to reason that cleaning chemicals can help remove settled airborne particulates. Basically, carpet cleaners are "health conditioners" charged with improving and maintaining healthy environments. In my estimation, 95 percent of the time a carpet gets cleaned, it is for aesthetic reasons. True, everyone likes a clean-looking carpet, but it's unfortunate that cleaning a carpet for health reasons comes in at so distant a second.

One way to help close that gap is to remind the client that the clean indoor air we all cherish could be loaded with dust, allergenic fungi, bacteria, automobile exhaust fumes, smoke and various solvent organic compounds released from furniture, construction materials or newly painted surfaces if the floors are not regularly maintained.

You will often find the quality of a home's indoor air is the same as that of the outdoors. Or, due to new construction technology and building techniques that make homes more and more airtight, you may discover that the indoor air is more contaminated than the outside air. This is happening more and more frequently.

Take a deep breath. Do you smell anything? Probably not, unless something is burning or cooking. Most pollutants have no odor. For example, carbon monoxide, which can be lethal, is odorless. The usual air contaminants such as mold, bacteria, mildew and dust are hard to pinpoint, but rest assured, they are there. All these components produce bad air that causes watery eyes, sneezing, stuffy heads, headaches, scratchy throats and eyes, and even dizziness.

I am not saying that carpet cleaning alone is responsible for air quality. A clean carpet helps, acting as a magnet by attracting contaminants and locking them up in the fibers. However, running kids, heavy foot traffic and heavy air currents can easily put contaminants back up in the air.

It used to be that canaries were used in the coalmines to detect air problems. They were an early-warning system indicating the presence of deadly methane gas. It's unfortunate that a carpet-cleaning machine can't sense the myriad of contaminants found in carpets. That said, there is a cleaning company in Phoenix that monitors indoor air before and after vacuuming to show clients the improved levels of cleanliness achieved through having their carpets maintained. Some people may think this is a little extravagant, but I look at it as good public relations work that adds to a company's reputation.

It is becoming more and more essential that carpet cleaners rely on professionally formulated carpet-cleaning chemicals rather than their own concoctions. The chemicals from major companies are not only tried and true, but are also environmentally friendly, not just a hodgepodge of leftover products. Those cleaners still mixing their own formulas should know that chemicals accepted a few years ago are not necessarily legal today.

The American Lung Association advocated a house health project a few years ago in Tucson, Ariz., in the community of Civano. It is a community of 2,600 houses, built by Case Enterprises and the city of Tucson, to help investigate construction and maintenance approaches for reducing indoor air pollution. The homes are showcased and serve as learning labs for consumers and professionals alike. For additional information, go to www.healthhouse.org.

Helping create a healthy environment should be a goal of every carpet cleaning professional. Hopefully, you will recognize the importance of your occupation beyond that of simply enhancing the look of a floor covering. As long as gravity is around and carpets get spilled and stomped on, carpet cleaners will find themselves taking on the role of health conditioner.

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