Particle resuspension during the use of vacuum cleaners on residential carpet

J Occup Environ Hyg. 2008 Apr;5(4):232-8. doi: 10.1080/15459620801901165.


Vacuuming is generally considered to be an important activity with respect to the cleanliness of indoor environments but may lead to short-term resuspension of particulate matter and elevated particle mass in indoor air. Because resuspended particles often contain toxicants, such as lead and pesticides, or consist of biological agents that can trigger allergic reactions, it is important to understand the role of vacuuming on short-term variations in indoor particulate matter concentrations. The inhalation of particles during vacuuming events may affect adversely those whose occupation requires them to clean a wide range of indoor environments, from homes to schools and offices, as well as those who occupy those environments. In response, a series of 46 experiments was completed to determine time-variant concentrations of both PM(10) and PM(2.5) during various vacuuming activities in 12 separate apartments. Experiments involved the use of two different non-HEPA vacuum cleaners and were completed with a vacuum cleaner activated (switched on) as well as deactivated (switched off). The latter was intended to provide insight on the potential for resuspension of particles by the mechanical agitation of vacuum cleaner movement across carpet. Separate experiments were completed also using "mock" vacuuming simulations, that is, walking on the carpet in a manner consistent with using a vacuum cleaner. Results are presented as incremental particulate matter concentration increases, relative to background (prevacuum) concentrations, and peak-to-background particle concentration ratios. Results indicate significant resuspension of PM(10) mass during vacuum cleaning, with a mean time-averaged PM(10) increase of greater than 17 mu g/m(3) above background. Resuspension of PM(2.5) mass was determined to be small, that is, PM(10) mass was dominated by particles greater than 2.5 mu m. The frequency of vacuuming (between a 10-day standard frequency and several experiments at > 24 days between vacuuming) had little influence on resuspended particle mass. Resuspension by mechanical agitation (rolling of vacuum cleaner across carpet) with the vacuum cleaner switched off was determined to be substantial, with a mean time-averaged (during vacuuming) PM(10) increase of 35 mu g/m(3) relative to background. Peak-to-background PM(10) concentrations exceeded 6 for some experiments and averaged between approximately 3 and 4 for experiments when the vacuum cleaner was switched on.

MeSH terms

  • Air Movements
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Filtration
  • Floors and Floorcoverings
  • Household Work*
  • Humans
  • Particle Size
  • Particulate Matter / analysis*


  • Particulate Matter