Recently, a client contacted me with an interesting request. She and her siblings have possession of a house on Smith Mountain Lake they’d inherited from their parents. One of her sisters is currently dealing with some relatively serious medical issues and is spending some time with her family between treatments. Due to the type of treatments, the house needs to be a “clean bubble”, and she asked me if I’d be willing to help with this by cleaning some carpet, upholstery, and a linoleum floor for them (by that Thursday, no less).
Needless to say, I scrapped my Wednesday “Planning Day” and loaded up the trailer with all the carpet cleaning gear to head out to the lake. Our boys know each other, so my son went with Foster and me, and got to spend time on the lake in a kayak (his first time in a kayak and he LOVED it!) while we were working inside. When we got there, Foster made lunch (he brought the camp stove and made Philly Cheesesteaks for everyone) and I pulled out my ATP meter and a bunch of swabs I’d brought with me.
For those who don’t know, ATP is short for “Adenosine Tri-Phosphate” and is an indicator of living biological material, which is one of the various types of contaminants that can be present on any given surface. If I swab a surface before cleaning, and then again after cleaning, the test results can give a pretty good indication of cleaning efficacy (how well I cleaned it). I’ve seen initial test results that were all over the place, and this job was no different.
As I swabbed various areas and explained to the client how the tech works, she told me about a couple of pieces of furniture, in particular, that have trouble when they lock the house up and leave it for a while (it’s usually used as a vacation house/getaway). The humidity out there is apparently ridiculous, because she says that when they come back out to the house they have to wipe down these chairs and Lysol them due to the white “furry” substance that grows on them, particularly the armrests and chair legs. I got really interested, at this tidbit, and swabbed the armrests of the two chairs. Sure enough, one measured 6,458 RLU (relative light units), and the other at 8,422 RLU. I also recommended a dehumidifier that has an automatic pump out. These can be purchased at a hardware store and will have a hose you can run into a drain. When it fills up, it will automatically pump the water from the bucket into the drain, allowing the dehumidifier to run all the time. I think that will be tremendously helpful in dealing with high humidity and growth in the future.
If you have listened to me talk about cleaning ANYTHING, you know I have a theory that there are 3 steps to the cleaning process. It doesn’t matter if you’re cleaning carpet, upholstery, or a marble floor, the theory is the same. I call this “Cleaning 101”, and you can find it here. Spraying, Scrubbing, and Extraction are KEY to the process of cleaning, effectively. For a deeper understanding of this, look at this Commentary on Cleaning by Dr. Michael Berry, former Director of the EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Program.
Overall, I chose 6 test points, and the before and after numbers for those test points are below:
- Sitting Room Entry that goes outside: 5404 / 173
- Carpeted Bedroom Entry : 478 / 6
- Upstairs Door by the Back Deck: 967 / 8
- Carpet by the Kitchen: 203 / 4
- Love-seat Armrest: 6458 / 2
- Blue Chair Armrest: 8422 / 7
When you look at these numbers from a percentage standpoint, you’ll see the highest remaining percentage was the sitting room, coming in at 3.2% of what had originally been there prior to cleaning. This floor had a certain amount of texturing to it, almost like fissures/cracks in the floor (but they were part of the floor), that created a patterned look almost like scales. These recesses, I believe, are what made it more difficult to extract on the same level that I achieved with the other areas. The loveseat and armrest calculate out to three-tenths of a percent and four-fifths of a percent of what had been there prior to cleaning.
My client was very pleased by these results, and I am happy that I could provide a little peace of mind for them…but now I don’t think I’M going to get any peace of mind until I buy my son a kayak!
Have a great day, folks, and thanks for reading the blog.
*UPDATE: Since writing this, I’ve spoken to the client, and putting the dehumidifier in has made a BIG difference, downstairs.*