Reminder: Here Are Ways to Safely Clean Up Ashfall 

Roofs typically cannot stand more than four inches worth of ash.

(SPOT.ph) Eruptions from Taal Volcano have turned most of Batangas into a ghost town, with thick layers of volcanic ash covering everything in sight. The entire province is currently under a state of calamity as around 11,000 people are in the danger zone, should a truly "hazardous eruption" occur. Surrounding provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, and even Bulacan have not escaped ashfall—and neither has Metro Manila. 

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There are many ways to safely get rid of the potentially harmful volcanic ash. According to the Department of Health, the tiny fragments could cause irritation, bronchitis-like symptoms and even injury or death. It may not look like it, but volcanic ash is much heavier than expected; it is a "mixture of rock, mineral, and glass particles," according to an article by the National Geographic, so it's best to get rid of it as soon as it's safe to venture out.

Cleaning Volcanic Ash Outside the Home

A cloud of ash hovers above Quezon City in the afternoon of January 12.
PHOTO BY Mike Rodriguez
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First things first, be sure to equip yourself with the proper gear. N95 masks are designed to filter out hazardous materials but if you can't get your hands on one now, you could use surgical masks, scooter masks, cloth, or the like. Just note that these will not work as well as certified N95 masks and may leave you vulnerable to hazards, according to the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network.

Both the international network and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology advise getting rid of ash from your roofs first, as the heavy weight may cause it to cave in. The International Volcanic Health Hazard Network (IVHHN) states that most roofs "cannot support more than four inches (10 centimeters) of wet ash." Check out other reminders below:

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  • Dampening volcanic ash on large surfaces (i.e. roads, yards) will help keep it from being picked up by the wind as well as make it easier to shovel away
  • Do not soak the ash as this will turn it into mud
  • Use stiff brooms to get rid of smaller patches of ash
  • Place the gathered volcanic ash into a bag and seal tight; keep it away from areas where it may cause blockage
  • Watch for advisories or mass clean-up schedules from your local government units
  • Note that volcanic ash is slippery; practice extra caution when cleaning roofs

As for vehicles, the IVHHN advises against driving in general as visibility may be affected and roads are slippery due to the ash. Do not use wipers on dry ash as this may scratch the windshield, instead, wipe it down with water and cloth every few meters. 

Cleaning Volcanic Ash Inside the Home

A thick layer of ash covers a home in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
PHOTO BY Juan Carlo Maala
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The IVHHN notes that, to avoid bringing in more dirt, cleaning up inside should only be done after the outside. Vacuums "equipped with high-efficiency particulate filtering systems," are also best to get rid of ash on carpets, furniture, equipment, and the like. Also, keep your mask on. Other reminders include:

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  • Once again, do not sweep up dry ash! Best to use damp cloths or mops for your floors
  • If a vacuum is not available, wipe things down with a rag dampened with water and detergent
  • For clothes or ash-covered fabrics, PHIVOLCS recommends using powder detergent; don't forget to shake off dust and use lots of water
  • Pets should be brushed free of ash before being let in
  • For items with electrical components, turn off the main power supply before vacuuming or using compressed air to blow off dust
  • Check if filters for air-conditioning units, refrigerators and the like need to be replaced

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