Why Clean?


Cleaning plays an essential role in our daily lives. By safely and effectively removing soils, germs, and other contaminants, cleaning helps us to stay healthy, care for our homes and possessions, and make our surroundings more pleasant. But cleaning plays a significant role in remediation. Whether it’s related to water, fire, odor, microbial, or biohazard, cleaning is an essential part of returning a building and contents back to a pre-loss condition. 

But this is not the only reason to clean.  We clean to help suppress particulates from becoming aerosolized during the drying process. In the ANSI/IICRC S500-2021 Standard for Professional Water Damage Restoration (S500), it states at 12.4.5, “Prior to implementing the restorative drying effort (e.g., rapid air movement), restorers should* evaluate then clean materials within the work area as needed. Where necessary, restorers should clean visible debris, dust, and soil from materials and surfaces to reduce the amount of soil or particulates that can become aerosolized. Restorers should employ cleaning methods that minimize aerosolizing particulates. The drying process can aerosolize soil and particulates present in the environment. As water evaporates from surfaces and materials such as carpet, more particulates can aerosolize, creating possible health, safety, comfort, and cleanliness issues. Where cleaning cannot sufficiently remove soil or particulates, or there are high-risk occupants, it is recommended restorers install one or more air filtration devices (AFDs).”

Many restorers don’t pay attention to language within the standard that helps with services needed and employ them during their remediation of a project from start to finish. I see questions as to the use of the language on social media sites and trying to understand its use in the industry, can they justify it, and get paid for the services. 


First, let’s look at the language and definitions of the standard. In part the standards language first states: “Prior to implementing the restorative drying effort (e.g., rapid air movement), restorers should* evaluate then clean materials within the work area as needed.” What does the word SHOULD imply? The definition of the word “should”  in the S500 (pg12) is this: “when the term should is used in this document, it means the practice or procedure is a component of the accepted “standard of care” to be followed, while not mandatory by regulatory requirements.”

Based on the language and definitions, cleaning should be completed before the start of the drying process especially if, “visible debris, dust, and soil” is present on the jobsite. Adding air moving equipment can cause soil or particulates to become aerosolized and respirable “creating possible health, safety, comfort, and cleanliness issues.” As a restorer, we have a responsibility to keep the structure and the air within the building as clean as possible. OSHA has addressed indoor air quality within its regulations. 

Permissible practice.

OSHA CFR 1910.134(a)(1)

In the control of those occupational diseases caused by breathing air contaminated with harmful dusts, fogs, fumes, mists, gases, smokes, sprays, or vapors, the primary objective shall be to prevent atmospheric contamination*. This shall be accomplished as far as feasible by accepted engineering control measures (for example, enclosure or confinement of the operation, general and local ventilation, and substitution of less toxic materials). When effective engineering controls are not feasible, or while they are being instituted, appropriate respirators shall be used pursuant to this section.

Through the use of laser particulate counters, a restorer can see how much particulate is in the air prior to turning on air moving equipment, and then once the equipment is turned on, you will see a significant rise in the amount of particulate becomes airborne, and essentially respirable. Thus, with this significant rise, it shows the importance of cleaning before drying. 

What is Cleaning?

According to the Bioaerosols: Assessment and Control book published by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienist (ACGIH) in 1999, under section 10.7.2 Cleaning Management: “Cleaning is the process of identifying, containing, removing, and properly disposing of contaminants from a surface of environment in order to protect human health and valuable materials. Cleaning is the final defense in managing indoor environmental quality.” As professional cleaners, we clean to reduce health risks that can be elevated due to restoration related activities. First, as an employer, OSHA requires us to provide a healthy and safe workplace environment. Cleaning prior to drying reduces particulates from becoming aerosolized and thus respirable, making for a better environment in which to work, but also for others that may occupy the building during the remediation of the building. 

In the publication Protecting the Built Environment: Cleaning for Health by Michael A. Berry, Ph.D., it states on page 5, “We clean our indoor environments to protect people and valuable materials. Cleaning removes pollutants. It conditions the indoor environment so we have good air quality… . Clean, orderly surroundings can add to workers’ overall satisfaction with their workplace and their work.” Clean worksites also show our commitment to providing relentless customer service for our clients. Cleaning improves the microenvironment and promotes our customers’ well-being. 

Following and implementing cleaning protocols utilizing the S500 and other industry standards and regulations, helps improve the indoor environment, and justify the processes required to improve the indoor air quality (IAQ) for all occupying the building. Utilize the language of the standards and provide data through testing surfaces with Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) meters and air sampling through laser particulate meters to show pre, and post cleaning levels of contamination. This helps provide data that shows reduction of contaminates that can become aerosolized with remediation practices. 

Training and Education – Knowledge 

“If cleaning services are to be professional, we have to master a body of knowledge in order to maintain healthy built environments and succeed in business. The four areas of knowledge to study are cleaning methods and procedures, technology, business management, and science.” (Protecting the Built Environment: Cleaning for Health, 1993)

We want to bring sound environment practices to what we do, and this is accomplished through ongoing training and education. The S500 states in the foreword of the document the following: “…users of the S500 should keep abreast of rapid developments in the field of water damage restoration, implement changes in technology and procedures as appropriate… .” This involves attending IICRC certification classes, and other industry training that promotes positive changes that improve the services we provide to our clients. IICRC certification courses are taught based on industry standards, therefore understanding definitions within the standard is important. For example, understanding the terms Shall, Should, Recommend, May, and Can, is important to justifying the services needed and performed.

Shall, Should, Recommend, May, and Can

Throughout the IICRC standards, the terms “shall,” “should,” and “recommend” are used to compare and contrast the different levels of importance attached to certain practices and procedures. – S500 Important Definitions, 2021, pg. 12. 

Shall: when the term shall is used in this document, it means the practice or procedure is mandatory due to natural law or regulatory requirement, including occupational, public health, and other relevant laws, rules, or regulations, and is, therefore, a component of the accepted “standard of care” to be followed. 

Should: when the term should is used in this document, it means the practice or procedure is a component of the accepted “standard of care”  to be followed, while not mandatory by regulatory requirements. 

Recommend: when the term recommend(ed) is used in this document, it means the practice or procedure is advised or suggested but is not a component of the accepted “standard of care” to be followed. 

 For the practical purposes of this document, it was deemed appropriate to highlight and distinguish the critical restoration methods and procedures from the less critical, by characterizing the former as the “standard of care”. The IICRC S500 consensus body standard committee interprets the “standard of care” to be: practices that are common to reasonable prudent members of the trade who are recognized in the industry as qualified and competent. – S500-2021 Important Definitions, 2021, pg. 12.

Utilizing F9 notes in Xactimate with language that justifies the cleaning process needed based on the terms of definitions is important and needed to justify payment. 

As highlighted in this article, cleaning is an essential part of what we do to limit aerosolization of particulate, and the reduction on contaminates and soils from surfaces.

IICRC S500-2021, pg. 71, 12.6.3 Final Cleaning: “Throughout the restoration and reconstruction process foot traffic and settling of aerosolized particles result in the accumulation of soils on surfaces. As necessary, surfaces should be cleaned following reconstruction using appropriate methods.” In section 14.4, the standard lists various cleaning methods that can be utilized during the cleaning stages of the project. 

As restorers and cleaners of this industry, it is important to understand standards and regulations that affect the service we provide, and the importance of cleaning throughout the project and completion of the project. Go and clean where no one has cleaned before. Make cleaning a focused part of your business and verify results through metering and documentation. To understand standards and regulations, you need to have both past and current copies of the standards and regulations. Read, understand, and implement. Clean for health and protect the built environment. 

*Bold highlight is added and is not a part of the S500 standard. 

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Darren Hudema

Darren Hudema has been involved in the restoration and cleaning industry for 46 years, and has served in various roles as a carpet and upholstery cleaning technician, water mitigation specialist, project manager, operations manager, director of operations, and as a consultant. He owned a cleaning and restoration business, which he sold in 2000 and began his teaching career with Dri-Eaz Products. In 2019, he became the Director of Training and Technical Services at PuroClean.

He holds a Water Loss Specialist (WLS) designation through the Restoration Industry Association (RIA) and is a IICRC Triple Master and is an approved IICRC WRT/ASD instructor. He has published numerous articles in trade journals and has been a speaker at many industry related conferences.

He’s married to his wife Tricia and has three adult children and has three grandchildren, and his passion is to cook, grill, and smoking food on the BBQ. 

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