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How to clean up after an ashfall

Sunday's phreatic eruption at the Taal Volcano had caused an ashfall in surrounding provinces, and even in Metro Manila.

According to the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network (IVHHN), volcanic ash could reach levels potentially harmful to health and could cause irreparable damage to property.

"Ash is different from ordinary house dust. Its sharp, crystalline structure causes it to scratch and abrade surfaces when it is removed by wiping or brushing," the IVHHN said.

The IVHHN said those undertaking clean up operations should always wear effective dust masks, and goggles or corrected eyeglasses in fine-ash environments.

The network recommends that the ash deposits should lightly be watered down before they are removed by shoveling, but not so excessive that deposits may cause a collapse.

"Dry brushing can produce very high exposure levels and should be avoided," warned the IVHHN.

"The ash makes surfaces much more slippery, consequently many people have died from falls while cleaning ash from their roofs," it added.

Outside cleaning:

  • Put on mask before cleaning. If none, use wet cloth. In dry conditions, wear eye protection such as goggles.
  • Moisten the ash with sprinkler first to prevent remobilizing by the wind.
  • Use shovels for removing thick deposits, and stiff brooms for lesser amounts
  • Keep ash in heavy-duty plastic bags or trucks if available.
  • Keep roods free of thick accumulation.
  • Take caution when climbing ladders or roofs, as volcanic ash is slippery.
  • Damped ash in yards and streets to reduce suspension of ash, but use water sparingly. Do not soak.
  • Remove outdoor clothing before entering a building.
  • Do not dump ash in gardens or the roadside.
  • Do not drive unless absolutely necessary.

Inside cleaning:

  • Clean the house in a coordinated approach, do so when public works are cleaning outside.
  • Put on mask or wet cloth before cleaning.
  • Ensure good ventilation by opening all doors and windows before cleaning.
  • Only use one entrance to the building while cleaning.
  • Wash with water and an effective detergent or wetting agent, damp rag techniques or vacuuming whenever possible.
  • Use soaked cloth or sponge for glass, porcelain, enamel, and acrylic surfaces
  • Fabrics should be rinsed under running water or taken outside and beaten.
  • Moisten thick ash deposits on hard floors and place in bags, use damp or wet cloth to clean.
  • For several months after ashfall, filters (air conditioner and furnace) may need replacing often. Clean any surface that may blow and recirculate ash.
  • Keep children and pets indoors and discourage play in dusty settings.
  • Don't use floor sweepers with side brushes, as this may re-entrain dust particles into air.
  • Do not use fans or electric clothes dryers that might remobilize ash.

— Jon Viktor Cabuenas/DVM, GMA News