The Green Man and I have a bagless upright vacuum cleaner with a cleanable, reusable HEPA (high efficiency particulate) air filter, the kind that supposedly traps microscopic particles as small as .3 micron. That means it’ll trap allergenic dust mites and cat danders (although we have no cat, being allergic). The lack of a dust bag means less clutter in landfills.
Despite being thus equipped, my family will do almost anything rather than vacuum. We owe this quandary to instructions in The Green Guide, for which, as editor at the time, I was responsible: “Asthma and allergy sufferers should not empty the dust compartment.” This suited me, as I’ve been asthmatic since childhood, but The Green Man was not pleased to be stuck with the chore. (As for the Green Offspring? Don’t even ask.)
Then, last winter, The Green Man himself, whose allergies had been worsening over the years, started wheezing. He was diagnosed with asthma, the incidence of which has increased by 40% since 1980 in the U.S. alone.
We have not touched the vacuum since. Instead, Dear Reader, as reported in USA Weekend, I use a rag wrapped around a push broom to pick up dust floors, then a damp t-shirt around the same broom to mop. Because they collect fewer allergens and toxins than wall-to-wall, we have small cotton and wool area rugs, which I take up on the roof and beat (wearing a dust mask), then pop in the washing machine and hang dry. We have only one wool Oriental rug that is too large and valuable to beat and wash, and here is what I do: I take a rag dipped in hot water and a few drops of dish soap, wring it out, and wipe the rug clean, periodically shaking dirt, hair and dust kitties into a trash bag. It’s like a facial for the rug.
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