Why is ash such a problem?


Why is ash such a problem?

Ash is different from household dust as it has a sharp, crystalline structure. This causes it to scratch and abrade surfaces when removed by brushing or wiping and damage lungs and eyes. It can get everywhere in the home or office including inside televisions, computers, cameras and other valuable equipment.

Ash can be around for months following an eruption and can be blown from place to place. In small ashfalls rain and wind will eventually remove it from the environment with the help of plants which bind it to the soil. With large ashfalls however, the process is too slow and ash must be collected and removed from populated areas.

Ash is harmful to vehicles. Driving also stirs up the ash on the road so do not drive unless absolutely necessary.

Cleaning up Ash Outside

PROTECT YOURSELF- Those undertaking clean-up operations should always wear effective dust masks and in fine ash environments wear goggles or corrective glasses.

WATER – Lightly water down ash deposits before removing by shovelling. Dry brushing can produce very high exposure levels and should be avoided. Do not soak the ash as it will cake into a hard mass making clean up more difficult.

Coordinate clean-up activities with your neighbours and community

Use shovels for thick deposits and stiff brooms for smaller amounts.

Place the ash into heavy duty plastic bags or onto trucks if available

Seek advice from public officials regarding disposal of ash in your community

Remove outdoor clothing before entering a building

Cleaning Roofs

It is preferable to clean roofs before more than a few centimetres of ash has accumulated.

Lightly water down the ash on the roof. Too much water can add a lot of weight causing the danger of collapse

ASH IS SLIPPERY so take care while on ladders or roofs! Wear a harness when possible

Cleaning Inside

Clean up inside should only be undertaken when outside areas have been well cleared

Open all windows and doors to ensure good ventilation

Put on a mask or a damp cloth round your mouth and nose before starting to clean

 Use a vacuum cleaner to remove as much ash as possible from the floor and household items. Portable vacuum cleaners with high-efficiency filters are recommended where possible. An alternative is to use a damp rag. Blot high shine wood finishes.

Care should be taken when emptying the vacuum cleaner

Ash-coated fabrics can be rinsed with water or taken outside and beaten to remove ash.

Cleaning Ash soiled Clothes

Clothes should be brushed or shaken before washing.

Do small loads with lots of water and extra detergent


Images courtesy of Brynjar Gauti Sveinsson

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