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The Taal Volcano in Batangas, a popular tourist spot, spewed ashes and smoke on January 12, 2020. While it’s important to keep yourself safe during this natural calamity, it’s equally crucial to know what to do after. Remember, ash can trigger health problems, like discomfort while breathing and skin irritation, not to mention property damages.
Know the proper cleanup procedures to follow after ashfall from a volcanic eruption.
How to Protect Your Health After Ashfall
Your well-being is your first priority, so make sure to use masks when going back to your home, cleaning it, or venturing outdoors. An N-95 respirator is what you need. Unlike a cloth mask or a surgical mask, this can filter most of the airborne ash particles. At the same time, this kind of mask fits the face better than a surgical mask. Remember that they’re disposable; you have to replace them after use for 8 hours.
If N-95 isn’t an option, use a damp cloth to cover your nose and mouth. As for your eyes, wear goggles, or at least eyeglasses. If you can use long-sleeved tops and long pants, better. You want to protect your skin from contact with volcanic ash, too.
How to Clean the House After Ashfall
One thing you need to watch out for is ash on your roof. Although fine materials, dust can be very heavy, especially when mixed with rainwater, and can cause the collapse of a building. Remove them as quickly as you can. Follow this step by step guide to cleaning the house as soon as ashfall has stopped:
- Wear protective masks and eyewear.
- To clean the roof, use a shovel to scrape ash off, especially if you’re working with a thick layer.
- Exercise caution in ash removal. Ash is slippery. Be careful not to fall when working on your roof.
- Clean the roof and gutters with water to prevent corrosion.
- To clean the inside of the house, work in sections, starting from the top floor.
- Open all doors and windows to make sure you have good ventilation before the clean-up.
- Use water when cleaning surfaces. A soaked cloth or sponge is helpful.
- Shake loose ash from sofas and other pieces of furniture before using a vacuum cleaner or dish rag to wipe them off.
- Replace sofas or beds that have been soaked in muddy ash, as it may be hard to remove all traces of ash on them.
- Clean clothes exposed to ash using powder detergent.
- Avoid floor sweepers with side brushes as these may throw dust back into the air. Fans will also do more harm than good. Stick to damp rags.
- Replace air conditioner filters and clean the appliance thoroughly. Check the unit every now and then in the months after the eruption.
- To clean the exterior of the house, use a garden hose to dampen the ash in the garden and yard. Moistened ash will keep the particles from being whisked into the air. Do make sure to use water sparingly. Otherwise, you will find it hard to remove heavy, thick layers of mud.
- Use a garden hose to wash windows and doors with soapy water.
- Gather the ash in an area far from drainage to avoid clogging. Keep the dust in industrial bags and dispose of them quickly.
How to Clean Your Car After Ashfall
Volcanic ash is a mixture of rock, mineral, and glass. It’s highly abrasive. To clean your car without causing more damage, follow these steps:
- Wear goggles and face masks before starting.
- Do not wipe the car directly with a rag or even a microfiber cloth.
- Remove the accumulated ash using water, especially for the windshield. This prevents the dust particles from scratching the glass surface.
- Be careful when working around the vehicle, as accumulated mud might lead to trips and falls.
- Clean-up is necessary not only for the car exterior but also for the actual motor. Ash can get to the inside of your engine bay, which may damage fans, belts, filters, or brakes. It may even affect your radiator’s cooling capacity. Get your car checked and serviced to make sure everything is working properly.
- It is best not to drive your car until it has been serviced. Use it only when necessary. Ash, even the dry kind, makes the road slippery, so you’re essentially driving in very hazardous conditions. At the same time, you wouldn’t want to whip up more particles on the road, leaving your vehicle covered in thick dust.
Stay tuned for additional announcements regarding the volcanic eruption, especially if you’re living near the affected area or the fault line. Get details on areas to avoid and evacuation centers (your loved ones may have transferred in these locations). Jot down emergency hotline numbers in your locale, so you can easily reach authorities in case of power outages or medical assistance needs later. Ask updates from your family and friends, too. Reassure them that you’re safe.
In times of volcanic eruptions or any natural disaster, knowing what to do after is just as important as learning how to prepare. Not only will it ensure your safety, but it will also give you peace of mind. Knowledge is power. Remember these tips to know how to clean your house and car, and to protect your health after the ash has settled.