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UV Light Nearly Doubles Vacuum's Effectiveness in Reducing Carpet Microbes

New research suggests that the addition of ultraviolet light to the brushing and suction of a vacuum cleaner can almost double the removal of potentially infectious microorganisms from a carpet's surface when compared to vacuuming alone.

Researchers say the findings suggest that incorporating the germicidal properties of UV light into vacuuming might have promise in reducing allergens and pathogens from carpets, as well.

"What this tells us is there is a commercial vacuum with UV technology that's effective at reducing surface microbes. This has promise for public health, but we need more data," said Timothy Buckley, associate professor and chair of environmental health sciences at Ohio State University and senior author of the study.

"Carpets are notorious as a source for exposure to a lot of bad stuff, including chemicals, allergens and microbes. We need tools that are effective and practical to reduce the associated public health risk. This vacuum technology appears to be a step in the right direction."

The research appears online in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

For this study, Buckley and colleagues tested a commercially available upright vacuum cleaner, evaluating separately and in combination the standard beater-bar, or rotating brush, as well as a lamp that emits germicidal radiation.

UV-C light with a wavelength of 253.7 nanometers has been studied extensively for its disinfection properties in water, air and food and on a variety of surfaces. This is the first study of its effects on carpet surfaces.

The Ohio State research group selected multiple 3-by-3-foot sections of carpeting of different types from three settings: a commercial tight-loop carpet in a university conference room, and medium Berber carpet with longer, dense loops in a common room of an apartment complex and a single-family home.

Researchers collected samples from each carpet section using contact plates that were pressed onto the flooring to lift microbes from the carpet surfaces. They collected samples from various locations on each test site to obtain a representative sample of the species present on the carpets.

After sampling, the plates were incubated for 24 hours in a lab and the number of colonies was counted. The plates contained growth media particularly suited for fungi commonly found in indoor environments, including Penicillium and Zygomycetes.
 
 

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