Jun 5, 2009

Clearing the air

This morning I came down to the office and made the same unpleasant discovery as the day before: my sick dog Ajax, who sleeps in a box next to my desk, had fouled the box again. After reminding myself that it's time to write some invoices so I can afford to set up a proper kennel for such times in the back yard, I went about the unhappy task of cleaning his sleeping quarters, a task which fortunately went quickly. However, there was still a rather foul stench in the air, which was not conducive to rescue.

That's where my Pro-Aqua PA03 came to the rescue again. It's a vacuum/blower system that uses water instead of filters and produces an entirely different atmosphere while cleaning. I won't go into all the details, because I'm a scientist and a translator, not a vacuum cleaner salesman, but after discovering this piece of equipment at a dog show last year, I decided that it would be a good addition to our office cleaning arsenal.

No filters or bags may sound like a convenient selling point, but my experience tells me something different. It's important to clean the water chamber in the device after use (the next day you'll have a very nasty brew in it if you don't!), and dumping it into the toilet once or twice a day (we vacuum a lot, because I haven't put grass in the yard yet and a lot of dreck gets tracked in) is a nuisance where I wonder how my pipes will deal with all the sand. Swapping bags in the old Miele vacuum cleaner is a breeze by comparison. So why do I put up with the nuisance? Because it gives me a cleaner, more pleasant working environment and improves the room humidity on dry days (which counteracts the static electricity). As a vacuum cleaner, the system cleans well, and it blows humidified air out its exhaust which is free of the particulate I get from the other vacuum cleaners in the house. (A white paper towel over the exhaust grid is revealing.) It's quiet - the material being cleaned up does not pass directly through rotors, so mechanical wear is limited. But the best part for me is that the room smells nice: the air is exchanged, and most odors remain bound in the awful soup in the water chamber. In the time it has taken to write this, my office smells good again without opening the windows more than a crack. On days when the dogs are afraid to approach us, because they'll get a static shock (days that are possibly a hazard to the sensitive electronic equipment most of us depend on), we run it to humidify the air and eliminate the shocks.

A room humidifier and ionizing air filter would probably do a lot of what I like about this machine and do it more quietly, but I haven't gotten around to getting one of the former and we can't get replacements for the filters for the latter device, which was bought in Oxford a number of years ago to help my partner survive her hay fever. If the German market offers small units of this type I haven't been able to find them in nearly a decade of searching. One occasionally finds "XINJI" brand ionizers advertised through eBay pages or reads woolly-headed articles in crackpot health pages that babble on about negative ions, yin and yang, energy balancing and other questionable stuff, but none of them point me to a shop where I can walk in and plop down 50 euros for a device to get rid of the dust, pollen and pet flatulence in my office. In England I could do just that. My great-aunt had one of the things in California in the 1980's, and I could sit at the same table with her while she smoked, and I experienced no discomfort. So why can't I find one of these here in Germany? No idea. All I have found is arguments about how they are unnecessary or unheard of. Like they say here, "gut Ding braucht Weil".

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