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Useful facts on cleaning (renhold)

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Good cleaning contributes to good health

Dirt and dust reduce the quality of inhaled air and can cause, or worsen, allergies and other hypersensitivity reactions. In humid and hot environments, e.g. in the bathroom, dirt can provide growth conditions for mould and other micro organisms.

Normal dust or contamination in the home, in workplaces and in schools, may consist of dirt, skin flakes, pollen, animal allergens, fungal spores, soot, sand and food waste. Allergens and other allergy-provoking “substances” mix with the dust. The dust particles vary in size. The particles are very small, such that they remain airborne and are inhaled. Of course the smaller the dust particles are the further down into the lungs they travel. This may be highly significant in health terms. Hence, good cleaning is important for good health.

Health problems with poor cleaning or failure to clean

  • Irritation of the eye, nose and throat
  • Blocked nose
  • Head cold
  • Headache
  • Eczema
  • Asthma
  • Allergy

Health problems may vary from person to person. Children are particularly vulnerable and sensitive.

Contamination sources in the home

Tobacco smoke

Tobacco smoke consists of a complex mixture of several thousand different chemical compounds and is extremely hazardous to health. Exposure to tobacco smoke is directly associated with development of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), both in non-smokers and those exposed to passive smoking. Smoking must not take place indoors.

Heaters

Open convection heaters burn dust. Old wood-burning stoves can also pollute the internal environment, and other open sources of heat, e.g. fireplaces, particularly old stoves, can bring considerable soot and smoke into the internal environment.

Carpets

Carpets may appear clean and at the same time contain large quantities of dust and contamination, which can become airborne. Lifting of dust from such deposits may cause internal climate problems in the form of symptoms of “dry” air and skin and mucosal irritation. The carpet fibres themselves may also cause considerable dust when they wear and break off.

Cooking fumes

Cooking fumes and steam from boiling and cooking may cause problems for allergic individuals.

Dust collectors

Dust adheres easily to the surface of coarse material, e.g. untreated panel walls and burlap wallpaper. Stuffed furnishings and “heavy” curtains, as well as ornaments and cushions also collect considerable dust. Open cupboards and cupboards that do not reach all the way to the ceiling are places where dust gathers and often remains. Choose smooth surfaces that are easy to clean. Use cupboards and with a lid, instead of open shelving and boxes.

Busy streets

Close to housing, the workplace and schools, airborne dust, etc., finds its way through vents and other openings in the building.

Ventilation and air channels

Dusty and dirty vents, ventilation flues and old filters can provide growth conditions for microbial growth (dust and dirt), which can be fed back into the internal air. Remember too that heat exchangers can collect dust.

Animal husbandry

Skin, scurf and glandular secretions from fur-bearing animals can create large quantities of allergens which circulate in the internal air. Animal feed, cat litter, hay or wood shavings, etc., may also cause allergic reactions.

Myths about cleaning

In Norway there has long been a tradition involving the use of excessively strong cleaning agents. Many individuals normally clean using copious water and a large amount of cleansing agent in the belief that this results in the best possible cleaning. The resultant moisture and heat result in optimal reproductive conditions for bacteria and fungus. A damp floor provides optimal growth conditions for fungus and bacteria. In Norwegian houses and homes the tradition has been, and for some continues to be, one where use of liquid green soap (“grønnsåpe”) is used because in Norwegian culture it is associated with natural cleanliness. Many people still associate green soap with cleanliness.

Detergents can cause damage to materials inside the home and can provoke allergic reactions.

Cleansing agents

A number of different cleansing agents are available on the Norwegian market. Cleansing agents contain a number of different chemicals. Making the best choice from such agents can, therefore, be difficult. Cleansing products may contain substances including ammonia, chlorine, solvents, preservatives, perfumes and colouring. Perfumes and colouring agents are non-active ingredients and may place an extra load on the internal environment and health.

Good cleaning methods and cleaning routines

Flooring

Dry cleaning methods create a healthy internal environment for all. It is also easy to do and avoids any damage both to materials and personal health. The choices in respect of floor cleaning are numerous and include, oil mops, disposable mops, string mops and synthetic mops. These fall under the category of dry cleaning methods, where water and chemicals are unnecessary. Difficult marks on flooring must of course be removed with a damp cloth, or the stains can be “showered”/sprayed with clean water in order to loosen them. Loose mats/carpets which cannot be shaken out should be vacuumed with a good vacuum cleaner, preferably a central vacuum cleaner, or vacuum cleaner with Hepafilter.

Furnishings

For other cleaning, e.g. tables and seats, doorframes, etc., the principles for dry cleaning methods also apply. A microfibre cloth is positively charged while dust is negatively charged, therefore microfibre cloths retain dust well in contrast to a woollen cloth which is negatively loaded and therefore relatively ineffective for dusting. Stuffed furnishings and mattresses require thorough and frequent vacuuming or beating.

Ventilation

Regular cleaning and changing of the filter in ventilation plant must be undertaken. In the case of pollen allergy, the filter should be changed both before and after the pollen season.

Good indoor cleaning routines will contribute to prevention of allergic health problems. A more frequent cleaning routine is required during the pollen season and the winter months. Heating of internal air makes the dust dry and airborne.

Bathroom and toilet

The bathroom is generally hotter and damper than elsewhere in the house and should therefore be cleaned more frequently in order to keep bacterial growth to a minimum.

Summertime

One can avoid bringing large quantities of dirt, sand, soil and grass inside the house by placing a grate or straw mat/coarse mat in front of entrance areas. It is a good idea to take loose mats/carpets outside the house to air during the summer.

Winter

It is a good idea to have mats which allow cleaning of dirty footwear, such that moisture and dirt are not brought into the rest of the house. “Wet-zones”, where snow can be removed, are also a good idea.

The Norwegian Asthma and Allergy Association recommend

NAAF is of the opinion that the house should be aired a minimum of twice a day for 10-15 minutes. Hence, air humidity normally rises and the temperature drops, whereby airborne dust becomes heavier and falls to the floor. The indoor temperature should be kept at approximately 20-22 degrees and approximately 5 degrees warmer in bedrooms. Bedding should, if possible, be hung out to air, followed by thorough shaking.

Carpets must be kept clean, and the home, workplace, school or kindergarten otherwise kept clean.

NAAF feels that avoiding use of chemicals when cleaning is the best possible solution. Dry cleaning agents are recommended.

Spring-cleaning of the whole house, including washing of walls and ceiling, should be undertaken at least once a year.

Avoid heat sources which are difficult to keep clean.

Kitchen fans should be cleaned regularly in order to keep them optimally free of fat and cooking fumes.

Turtles are the only allergy-friendly animal recommended by NAAF.