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air filters question and studio cleanliness

updated tue 28 nov 06


Claudia I Franco on tue 21 nov 06

We are doing a major revamping of our studio in order to maintain
better lung health. We are considering a HEPA filter, but realize
that it will be a big expense and wondered what everyone else did to
help keep your studio air clean? Any experience with HEPA filters?
Are they very noisy? Maintenance? How about the plug in roll around
the floor type? Any input would be greatly appreciated. We would like
to talk to some of those that may already have a HEPA in place and get
your opinions.
We dont have drainage system in the floors so we have to squeegee the
floors out the back door to clean. We have lots of students and that
creates lots of clay on the floor. Any other method to clean? Ideas?
Thanks in advance.

Vince Pitelka on tue 21 nov 06

Claudia -
As far as I know, the only HEPA ceiling-mounted filters that are appropriate
for clay studio use are the ones sold by Bailey. You have to be very
careful with such filters, because the air currents they produce can create
more problems than any advantages offered by the filter. The Bailey unit
seems to actually do what it promises.

Regarding the lack of floor drains, what happens to all the muck that gets
squeegeed out the back door? It sounds like your students need some serious
lessons in how to keep from depositing so much clay on the floor. It really
isn't that hard to do. They can be creative and productive and
health/safety-conscious at the same time.
Good luck -
- Vince

Vince Pitelka
Appalachian Center for Craft, Tennessee Technological University
Smithville TN 37166, 615/597-6801 x111,

Michael Wendt on tue 21 nov 06

If your studio has central heating and air
conditioning like mine does, consider
building or having built a plenum on the
air intake that allows you to install deep
vee bag filters available from Grainger.
See page 1771 for the pocket air filters
rated at 95% efficiency.
We run a pre filter to get the big stuff,
the bag filter to get the smaller stuff,
and a Honeywell electrostatic air cleaner
to get the super fines and the air in our
studio is cleaner than ambient air
The furnace is a new Trane which runs
the air cleaner fan 24/7.
Michael Wendt
Wendt Pottery
2729 Clearwater Ave
Lewiston, Idaho 83501

Mark Issenberg on wed 22 nov 06

Hi ya, just curious as to how big your set up is? How many people are using
the space?

I have 3 drains in my shop that drain into a 4" drain system that drains
outside. Its a hassle to flood the shop. I do have most everything on rollers. I

I have found that as a firefighter that mopping is good. As a firefighter my
big job was mopping the fire station and cleaning the bathrooms. I have
really good technique with a mop. I have years of mopping. The mop needs to be
put up clean to dry NOT left to stew in the dirty mop water. Its also important
to change the mop bucket water OFTEN not daily,weekly, or monthly.When I mop
my shop I change the water 2 to 3 times till the water is clean. I then
wring out the mop after I hose it clean. I then hang the mop so the mop is in the
air . Before I mop again I shake the dry mop outside , its amazing how much
stuff is still in the mop.

Also I was the cook. Cooking for 1 to 4 is a hassle ,I used to be able to
cook a crowd. All the firefighters eat double what regular people eat.

Maybe MOPPING could be a NCECA program

When I see a nasty mop bucket with a mop sitting in it I get grossed out. I
see them at eating places,yuck

I can do any workshops for mops and mop buckets anywhere, I have a mop and
can travel

Happy Thanksgiving

Mark on Lookout Mtn

Vince Pitelka on wed 22 nov 06

Donald Burroughs wrote:
">A HEPA filter system is a vital component especially in a class studio
> where you have many students. "

I am still suspicious of the benefits of the ceiling-mounted HEPA filtering
systems, and I agree with you about the importance of proper education in
studio cleanliness. Regarding the HEPA filtering systems, I am worried
about all that air movement, and also I think that they give a false sense
of security, and the students tend to be a little more careless about their
studio hygiene. What is really needed is for the students to prevent the
scraps from ever hitting the floor, and to avoid ANY situation that would
create dust within the working environment. That is not hard to do once
they are trained in studio hygiene and how to properly handle their clay
scraps. Part of the training involves the lesson that scrap clay is money.
In our intro classes and workshops all of the clay scrap goes into recycle
barrels, and we mix a recycle claybody that is available for a much lower
price than our other stock claybodies. All of my intermediate and advanced
students save all of their scraps, and when they mix the next batch of clay
it is usually at least 50% recycle. They save a lot of money that way.

Regarding your other suggestions, the stationary vacuum with external
exhaust is excellent, but I am not a fan of floor-drain systems. Again,
they give a false sense of security, when in fact the below-grade sump
system to accomodate floor drains are very high maintenance and prone to
frequent clogging. With a floor drain system, the only way to prevent
plumbing problems is to thoroughly clean the floor BEFORE spraying it down
and squeegeeing the residue into the floor drains, so why bother? I think
that the good old industrial mop-bucket and rag mop provide the best means
of thorough cleaning the studio floor, but even that system requires
pre-cleaning. We do a light spray to keep down the dust, and then
scrape/sweep all the residue, and finally lightly hose down the floor and
squeegee into the floor drains or do the mop and bucket routine.

Some of you might like to see my page on studio safety at Much of it is specific to the
studio at the Appalachian Center for Craft, but contains a lot of
information useful to all clay studio artists.
- Vince

Vince Pitelka
Appalachian Center for Craft, Tennessee Technological University
Smithville TN 37166, 615/597-6801 x111,

Donald Burroughs on wed 22 nov 06

A HEPA filter system is a vital component especially in a class studio
where you have many students. Yet, what is probably equally of greater
importance is student education on the matter of studio cleanliness. Each
student should be equally responsible for cleaning up their work space.
This would include minimizing their scrap which all to often ends up on
the studio floor. You should, without having to harp on the topic, get
their cooperation and attention. Remember that studio cleanliness is not
simply some anal pre-occupation, but in fact, a workplace and safety
issue. Those rules or guidelines apply to both places of employment as
well as school studios. By setting safety parameters and educating your
students about the importance of studio cleanliness you will enhance the
quality of their own personal health and as an artist.
Of further note, I would also advocate for some plumbing retrofits so that
you can have some drains and a sump pit/trap installed. Wet cleaning a
studio is always a better choice. Another enhancement would be an
industrially rated central vaccum which has an outside exhaust. Your
budget obviously will define what you can or cannot do. You can lower
those costs through workplace and safety education combined with some
studio guidelines on how this "community space" is to be taken care of.

Donald Burroughs

Donald Burroughs on fri 24 nov 06

Hello Vince
I whole heartedly agree with you on the education of the students
regarding work practices and hygiene. The added incentive of financial
savings is "good baiting of the hook" so to speak. As for the HEPA systems
I am not familiar with the Bailey, but back when I was at the U of
Manitoba taking a course in the then new ceramics facility they installed
an industrial filtration system which worked in conjunction with the
heating cooling systems. Compared to the prior facility the resulting
cleaner studio was a blessing. Of course with the due diligence of a
student safety committee of which I was a part of, we also insisted on
rules regarding personel clean-up as part of course content. This was an
added and essential element to more a successfully safe studio.
On another note, I still get a little horrified when ever I go back to my
old alma mater to see students stir mixing glazes with their bare arms.
Studio safety it seems is never-ending topic.

Sincerely, Don

Kenneth D. Westfall on sat 25 nov 06

HEPA filters sound like a good idea but in reality your just helping to
stir up the dust more for you to breath. Your much better off stopping the
clay dust before it gets on the floor. If your using forced air heating
and cooling then by all means use a good pleated air filter to cut down on
what is getting stirred but don't rely on it to keep your lungs dust free!
Make sure you check with you HVA/C person that a pleated filter is ok on
your Heating and A/C system. Many systems can't handle the higher static
pressure a pleated filter and cause. You don't want to kill you system.
Damp mopping!!! Several times a day if you have to is the best way to deal
with clay dust, short of not letting the clay get on the floor to start with.

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Kenneth D. Westfall
Pine Hill Pottery
HC 80 Box 32
Harrisville, WV 26362-9507

Keith Arbogast on mon 27 nov 06

Hi John,
Thank you for all the recommendations. They are all good ones. In a
relatively small space like ours, a significant part of the solution
to the cleaning problem is keeping the studio organized, with as
little clutter as possible, on the floor or on the shelves. It's
never ending. Blame it on entropy, or Maya, depending on your outlook.

With best wishes,
Keith & Jan Arbogast
Bloomington, Indiana

Keith Arbogast on mon 27 nov 06

Hi Vince,
Thank you for your helpful reply. I expressed myself badly when
writing "dust-laden air" with no context. I didn't intend to conjure
up images of Oklahoma in the 1930's. Our studio would not be suitably
sanitary for brain surgery, but we mop and sponge regularly. Most
reasonable people would find it respectably clean. More could always
be done, and we take the danger of silicosis seriously. Any activity
that will certainly raise clouds is taken outside as you recommended.

We are still concerned about the more or less invisible specks in the
air that result from even the most careful work. The 'poofs' that
someone described so compellingly not long ago. That's the dust in
the air of my first post.

An exhaust fan seems cheaper, simpler to maintain, and easier to
install than a commercial HEPA unit. Something I can do myself. But,
we would have to deal with the temperature and humidity altering
effects of the make-up air. Thanks for noting that. Obtaining the
make-up air will be as easy as opening a window on the opposite wall.
Bringing Indiana humidity into the studio in August will be the real
test of our 'simple is beautiful' resolve.

With best wishes,
Keith & Jan Arbogast
Bloomington, Indiana