Home' Nova National : October 2011 Contents are two to 10 times greater in homes than
When you dust and then vacuum, a thin
film of dust settles and becomes apparent on
surfaces within an hour or so. Most of this
comes from the dust redistributed by the
vacuum, the rest from the activity at the time.
Most vacuums, particularly those which have
a bag type filter, suck at one end and exhaust
out the other, releasing billions of micro-
scopic particles which can float in the air for
hours, waiting to be inhaled. These vacuum
models may accurately be called "dust
distributors." Their bags can also provide
a breeding ground for mould, which also
exhausts into the air.
New vacuum models are continually
coming onto the market, with better cleaning
and filtration. This is a very positive step.
Sometimes, however, extra filtration can lead
to poorer airflow and weaker suction.
Many vacuum cleaner companies make
exaggerated claims, which are not backed
up by science, about their equipment. An
important selling point is often the power
of the motor. In the vacuums we tested, the
power of the motor had little or no influence
on the efficiency of the vacuum. In fact, it
was the lowest powered motor that had
the best results. It is the specific design of
the motor and the vacuum that makes it
many times more efficient. Other sales ploys
include using a new vacuum with an empty
bag and comparing it to your older machine.
A new vacuum is going to outperform an
old vacuum, especially if your machine's
bag has not been emptied recently and if it
has not had regular maintenance. A vacuum
cleaner will perform much more efficiently
if it is properly maintained. Only one in
every 200 people actually get their vacuum
serviced, yet it is necessary to maintain it,
just as we would a car or any other piece of
Our research has shown the best
vacuuming systems have a cyclonic/centri-
fugal action, with multi-level filtration capable
of removing particle matter down to 0.2
microns in size. The cyclonic/centrifugal
motion spins the various dirt sizes out of
the air stream before it flows through the
final filter. This ensures that the suction is
not reduced because dirt does not clog up
the filter. These models may incorporate
an activated carbon or charcoal filter for
removing pollutants such as volatile organic
compounds and odours. They also have an
attachment called a mechanical beating head
or turbo head for vacuuming soft surfaces.
Its special action is critical for picking up
and removing the dirt from carpets, including
the deeply engrained dirt.
Vacuums with water filters are often
overrated. They pass the vacuumed air
through a compartment of water that
removes most of the dust. However, many
microdust particles pass through the water
either in bubbles or because they do not
The use of a high efficiency vacuum
fitted with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particle
Attenuator) filter significantly reduces the
amount of suspended indoor dust, as a
HEPA microfilter is capable of trapping most
of the microdust. A good vacuum cleaner
salesperson will know a HEPA filter. The
HEPA filter alone does not guarantee quality
of cleaning, rather it guarantees cleaner air
during cleaning. If not maintained regularly,
HEPA vacuums will also become "dust
Our research has also shown that
technique, as well as equipment, is important.
Most vacuuming quickly brushes over the
surface of the carpet to remove the visible
dirt and fluff, but fails to remove the deeply
ingrained dirt tangled in the carpet pile.
continued page 34
from being redispersed and therefore
Managing Particulate Levels in
There are four basic strategies for reducing
levels of indoor particulates:
1. Reducing the intake of particulates into the
2. Reducing the emissions of particulates from
sources within the home;
3. Diluting airborne particulates by adequate
4. Removing particulates from indoor air.
If you use a combination of all of these
techniques, you will reduce the particulate
© NOVA OCTOBER 2011
It's time for the annual spring clean, but unless we do it properly we could make things
worse. Peter Dingle PhD suggests some safe and effective cleaning strategies around the
home and office.
A s we're in that traditional time of
spring cleaning, perhaps some
common sense strategies to reduce
dust and allergens are appropriate.
In fact, what better time because as the
temperature warms up so the potential for
generating allergens increases. Unfortunately,
few of us really know much about cleaning as
we have been educated through the media
trying to sell us products. Now it is time to put
some science back into the equation.
In general, the less dust on a surface, the
less potential there is for redispersing the dust
(particles). A proper routine cleaning may
eliminate or significantly reduce the quantity
of particles in "sinks" (reservoirs of dust like
soft furnishings), preventing the particles
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levels in your home significantly, and enjoy
better health as a result. This is true for
everyone in the house including asthmatics.
One simple strategy we implemented a
decade ago and is applied around most of
the world is to take your shoes off at the front
door. You would be surprised how much
dust comes in on the bottom of shoes, not to
mention what is in the dust.
Our own research over the years has
shown that the normal or conventional
vacuum cleaners used by most households
are not capable of removing large quantities
of dust from carpets and are, in fact, capable
only of removing the larger particles of dirt
and debris -- the visible dust. Even many of
the commercial vacuum cleaners and so-
called good residential cleaners remove only
a small amount of the dust trapped within
the carpet. Nor do they remove larger grit
particles trapped deep in the carpet, which
cut the fibres and reduce its life. This means
that the carpet is not even being maintained,
let alone cleaned.
Our research revealed that the low air
flow (suction power) of conventional vacuum
cleaners brought dust up to the surface of the
carpet but failed to actually remove it, leaving
it where it was easily stirred by movement.
The efficiency of these vacuum cleaners is
reduced even more as the bags begin to
fill, resulting in a lower airflow and weaker
suction (they are not really vacuums). With
such inefficient cleaning, dust particles
gradually build up in the carpet, on furniture
and in the air itself. This explains why some
homes get dusty again far too soon after
cleaning and why it never seems possible to
keep them clean.
Poorly cleaned carpets have been
specifically linked with tiredness, malaise and
Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) symptoms,
such as irritation of the eyes, airways and
skin, as well as headaches and fatigue. So
if this fits you or someone in you family
Our research found that airborne dust
levels were reduced for long periods by up to
almost 90% after vacuuming with an efficient
filtration vacuum cleaner, or after some other
accredited method of professional carpet
cleaning. There were also reductions in other
airborne contaminants such as volatile organic
compounds (VOCs) and allergen levels.
Inefficient, conventional vacuum cleaners
may actually be contributing to higher levels
of suspended dust. This is not just because
of their poor suction. They also have more
porous dust bags (cloth bags being the worst
offenders) allowing the microdust to pass into
the exhaust airflow and to be redistributed. In
fact, airborne dust levels during and directly
after cleaning with these conventional models
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