Floor Cleaning the Sexed-Up Old Fashioned Way

Every year, 750,000 British employees who have asthma find that their work environment triggers their symptoms, according to the campaign group Asthma UK. From their press release: 'A further 3,000 British people are estimated to develop occupational asthma, caused directly by work, because of substances they are exposed to while doing their jobs'. While it is certainly true that sensitizing materials common to the workplace, such as dusts, aerosols, and aromatic solvent vapors, can provoke an asthmatic response, children who spend little time in workplaces receive similar exposures from public buildings and at home. One cause common to all buildings: filthy carpets. Makes no difference if the rug nap is organic wool, cotton, or nylon. If it's full of dust, insect parts, mold, and animal dander, asthmatics are at risk. That's why, when we tighten up for energy efficiency, cleaning is the best means of exposure reduction.One school of thought, which we've written on before, argues for the expensive HEPA vacuum cleaner and nailed down wall-to-wall carpets...did you ever try to vacuum a throw or area rug?... as well as the prerequisite electricity and material consumption that goes with HEPA.

An alternative path follows, as if in dreamlike re-enactment of Great Grandma's household routine, updated, of course, for today's TreeHugger lifestyle.

Bare floor areas get the dry "dust mop". Forget all those fancy cartridge fed throw-away things being pushed at the home stores. Just get an acrylic yarn fringed dust mop and a spray mister hand pump. Keeping the mop head ever so slightly damp collects the dust and lets you shake it out the window or off the balcony. Better yet, check out the Vermont Country Store offering of a natural wool dustmop which has sufficient lanolin present to naturally attract and hold the dust.


At spring and fall intervals Grandma would hang the small area rugs and throws on the line and ask the kids to beat them with carpet "beaters"; then, let the sun shine on them for a bit to kill the mold. The modern equivalent is more effective and easier. Put them in an energy and water efficient horizontal axis washer, set to "hand wash, gentle" and "high extract" cycle. When washed, lay them on the deck or over a rail to dry in the sun.

For the larger area rugs, on as needed basis, Grandma had them picked up by the "rug cleaner", a service that still exists in many metro areas. You post-modern TreeHuggers can buy or rent your own "floor machine" to wash large areas of carpeting. On to the next TreeHugger challenge: finding floor machine soap without the awful fragrances and "anti-bacterial" additives.

We need to convince building management to rethink the common policy of vacuuming offices only a few times each year. As for the anti-bacterial anti-allergenic properties of hard flooring, Grandma had that down without any additives: old fashioned linoleum.

Admittedly, none of these update solutions are very "sexy". Well, neither was Great Grandma, but we loved her anyway! True to the headline, though, we have an update to suggest. Clean your floors naked. When done dusting, rinse off in the shower to remove any dust you've stirred upon yourself.