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April 19, 2014  |  Login
Cleaning Up Your Vacuum Cleaner
By Dr. Alan Greene

Vacuum cleaners are not very green by nature since they eat up so much electricity; make a terrible racket that can disturb the baby, the cat, and you too; and stir up as much dust that resettles as they are able to suck up and take away. You can easily be more energy efficient when cleaning by using a broom or a brush and dustpan, but if you have carpets in your home, vacuuming with a good vacuum is necessary for your baby’s health.

Because carpets are often warm and soft, babies spend a lot of time on them—first during infancy, when the floor is a safe spot to take a nap, and later when it’s gentle on the knees when crawling and toddling. So if you do choose carpet flooring, be sure to look up the latest on green carpet materials, and make sure you have a vacuum that enables you to give those rugs thorough and frequent cleanings.

Clean carpets are especially important for young babies, who are particularly sensitive to air and environmental pollutants. Dust mites (a common asthma trigger) burrow among rug fibers, and many forms of outdoor dirt and pollution (including pesticides, herbicides, and lead dust) get tracked into the house and then hide in that soft pile. So vacuum we must.

But the high dust emission rate during operation of many vacuums makes the task almost futile. When a significant amount of dust escapes during vacuuming, it sets up a cycle in which more frequent vacuuming is required. Most vacuuming puts the dust right back into the room that had just been cleaned. This is a big problem for allergy sufferers, but also for all of us trying to cut back on our use of household energy.

To make your vacuuming time productive and as green as possible, I suggest a bagless brand that uses a HEPA filter. HEPA is an acronym for “high efficiency particulate air.” The HEPA filter can trap a large amount of very small particles that other vacuum cleaners would simply recirculate back into the air of your home. Some believe that these types of filters are essential for anyone with airborne allergies and for all those wanting to reduce the sources of common air pollution in the home. Vacuums with HEPA filters are available from such major manufacturers as Bissell, Miele, Eureka Sanitaire, Electrolux, Sebo, and EIO.

Facts About HEPA

HEPA filters trap particles as tiny as .3 micron with an efficiency rating of 99.97 percent. A true HEPA filter is so efficient that for every ten thousand particles that enter the filter within its filtering range, only three particles get through. HEPA filters become even more efficient the longer they are in use.

Unfortunately, imitation HEPA filters that do not filter as well as true HEPA filters are now on the market going by the name “HEPA-type” filters. They will filter the dust better than other generic filters and are less expensive than true HEPA filters, but if your health requires the specific benefits and efficiency of a HEPA filter, check the packaging to make sure the filter is rated at an efficiency of 99.97 percent for microns in size. If it’s a true HEPA filter, it will have this rating clearly marked.

HEPA filters are available for both bagged and bagless vacuums. A bagged vacuum cleaner works in the traditional way of using a bag as a filter to trap dirt while allowing air to flow through the bag. The bags must be replaced when they are full and new bags purchased as replacements. This feature adds to a vacuum’s nongreen quality—adding waste to the landfills and requiring the manufacture of disposable products—but some vacuum cleaners do come with reusable dust bags, which you empty and reuse. This is a better choice. more



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