On average, people spend up to 90% of their time indoors, and indoor air can be two and a half times as polluted as outdoor air.
Indoor Air Quality is of particular concern for those affected by asthma and allergies, but a healthier home is of broader benefit to all.
The asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program seeks to assist people to identify products which will make a genuine difference to their indoor environment. It develops certification standards for relevant categories of products, and all certified products undergo testing to those standards. In this way, the consumer can then make an informed choice about materials like insulation, flooring products, etc. that they bring into their home.
In the case of vacuum cleaners, we test the product in an environmentally-controlled chamber, using test dust that contains allergens. It is important that the vacuum cleaner can remove allergens and dust from carpet, and that this allergen and dust is then trapped in the vacuum cleaner, and not redistributed into the air. The seals of the vacuum cleaner must be firm. The vacuum cleaner should function at a high level, even when it is full. There can be exposure to dust and allergen when the bag is changed or the receptacle emptied. And crevices in the home can be a reservoir of allergen and dust. Our standard addresses all of these issues.
Our vacuum cleaner standard is one of 46 standards in the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program, covering appliances, bedding products, air filters, building products, and services that can have an impact on the indoor air environment. You can explore the vacuum cleaner standard in more detail using the menu on the left, or use the links above to explore other standards.
Brand Promises for Healthier Home: An Interview with Cleva North America
It’s no secret that consumers are demanding products that are safer and healthier for themselves and their families. But many brands are capitalizing on this by making health claims that are scientifically unfounded. What separates the companies that are delivering on their brand promise from the ones that are not, and how can companies tighten their messaging to cut across the noise?
Here, Allergy Standards’ VP of Sales, Courtney Sunna, interviews leaders, brand managers, and marketers who are part of a global movement towards healthier products that are rooted in rigorous science. In this interview, meet Steve Ramirez, Director of Product Development at Cleva North America, who helps developing innovative products that meet the highest standards at one of the biggest American home appliance manufacturer.
Courtney: Kenmore just launched the Kenmore Pet Friendly Upright vacuum cleaner that’s asthma & allergy friendly® Certified. Why was it important to obtain this Certification and why did you initially find it valuable?
Steve: There are actually a couple of answers for these questions. Initially, when Cleva took over the manufacturing of the Kenmore Floor Care lines, the Kenmore team had already set the brand precedent of targeting high performance standards including the achievement of the “asthma & allergy friendly®” certification to ensure we are meeting our key target consumers’ expectations and needs. Now, as we move forward, designing and developing new products, we continue to find that maintaining these stringent design and performance requirements is the best option for our customers, the end consumers and it is well aligned with how Cleva goes to market.
Now that Cleva is the exclusive licensee for Kenmore Floor Care products, we are working with an expanded customer base to distribute these products and we are aligning with the relevant initiatives they deem important to meet their consumers’ needs. As we roll out these products, we are finding that the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification, symbolizing all of the capabilities needed to achieve it, resonates extremely well with these new customers on behalf of all of their consumers.
We can certainly tell you that this Certification is not a simple thing to achieve, but learning how to get there has helped us fine tune both our R&D capabilities and our manufacturing practices.
Courtney: What other independent testing and certifications are conducted on your products to validate claims and communicate benefits?
Steve: Though we have significant labs of our own, we utilize a few independent laboratories for varied purposes. The more common ones are safety and regulatory related, like UL and ETL. However, through our internal development processes and testing, we have a diligent focus on, and strive to perform well with certain independent consumer review organizations and their testing methods. We believe these organizations are accurately measuring to assess real consumer-desired performance. Again, focus on this organization’s assessments is something we adopted from the Kenmore team who maintained this approach as a long-standing habit as an integral reflection of the Kenmore brand. Cleva has even made significant engineering changes and revised production models to ensure high performance in those test labs.
Courtney: What types of innovations and R&D testing did your scientific team need to undertake in order to receive these credentials, such as asthma & allergy friendly®?
Steve: We’ve made changes in product flow-path sealing, product documentation, and especially in our testing methods to be able to achieve the performance levels required to meet this certification. We have also investigated material changes and even motor modifications.
In any vacuum design, the sealing is always a prominent aspect of the design, but in the case when we are targeting asthma & allergy friendly® certification, it is critical. Additionally, we found that our testing processes must be closely calibrated with Allergy Standards’ test lab to quickly iterate design solutions that satisfy the stringent requirements.
Courtney: Have you conducted any independent consumer testing on trust and concerns related to allergies and asthma? How did this information impact your decision to seek the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Mark?
Steve:Early on in our relationship with Kenmore, we had relied on the guidance from their strong brand team. But now, the feedback we are clearly hearing from consumer insights and our customers, includes the distinct desire originating from the end consumers for products that specifically address the needs of their family members who suffer from allergies and asthma or other breathing related issues.
Over the past decade or so, nearly 65% of all US households own pets, and yet many of the young families, especially with small children, are concerned about maintaining their homes in a hygienic manner.
We’ve learned this from market research, social media and it resonates with our own employees. So, as a Product Management team, we are personally vested in creating products that satisfy these consumer needs, and which exceed our own personal expectations for our own in-home use.
Courtney: How do third party Certifications fit in with Cleva/Kenmore’s commitment to being a more reliable, healthier choice?
Steve: With Kenmore’s brand legacy, we deemed it extremely appropriate to continue striving for these performance levels to uphold the brand promise.
Then, as we began investigating the specific characteristics of the new “target market” for Kenmore products, we also found that asthma & allergy friendly® certification resonates very strongly with multi-generation consumers.
So, even from a strictly “business perspective”, when defining the new products’ definitions, the costly third-party certifications are justified for a portion of the portfolio. The end consumers are seeking alternatives which are healthier for them and Cleva, in concert with the Kenmore team, has a wealth of expertise in developing these types of products.
Courtney: How has the response been for this product since you launched the asthma & allergy friendly claim?
Steve: We have had three models which are certified asthma & allergy friendly®, by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and Allergy Standards, and these continue to have healthy sales volume through the existing stores and online retailers.
When you search on the internet, throughout a multitude of independent reviewers and assessments, you will consistently find our products listed as either the best or right near the top for managing the allergens and asthma related dirt.
Courtney: For people looking to purchase this product, where can they find it?
Steve: Up until recently, we have sold Kenmore Floor Care products strictly through Sears and K-mart, but as of November 2017, the products are also now available on Amazon. Moving forward, Cleva will launch a new series of Kenmore vacuums starting in the 2018 3rd quarter time frame, expanding Kenmore sales to many other retail outlets. We expect that you will be able to find them in many locations in very near future.
Courtney: Thank you
About Cleva North America, Inc.
Cleva North America, Inc. offers an award-winning portfolio of innovative wet/dry vacuums, outdoor power equipment, household floor care products and accessories. Brands include Vacmaster®, Vacmaster Professional®, Duravac™, Armor All™ and LawnMaster®. Cleva is the exclusive licensee to manufacture and sell Kenmore® and Kenmore Elite® vacuum cleaners and accessories. With award-winning, proven experience in engineering and motor technology, Cleva incorporates the latest processes and highest standards for engineering, design, and production. The result is high-quality products with exceptional performance and durability. Cleva takes pride in producing a premium product at a great value. We will continue to usher in new, innovative products designed to meet our customers’ needs. Click here for more information.
Cleva North America, vacuum cleaner, Kenmore, allergen, allergy, asthma, asthma & allergy friendly, healthier home, certified, indoor air quality, indoor environment
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Click here to read more about Cleva North America certified products.
ASP-03:01/105 Vacuum Cleaner Certification Standard
Vacuum Cleaners that are certified asthma & allergy friendly® are tested to the ASP-03:01/105 Vacuum Cleaner Certification Standard.
The Certification Standard utilizes an algorithm of proprietary and recognized scientific techniques to assess Vacuum Cleaners for their ability to reduce allergenic and irritant materials, both when new and after extended use. Submitted Vacuum Cleaner models that pass certification testing are granted a certificate stating that the particular Vacuum Cleaner meets the requirements for the asthma & allergy friendly® ASP-03:01/105 Certification Standard.
Allergy Standards Ltd (ASL) subjects the Vacuum Cleaner to allergen and particle count-based performance testing to ensure that the Vacuum Cleaner reduces total allergen burden, while minimising any increase in airborne allergen levels.
The Vacuum Cleaner Certification Standard includes:
- Evaluation of capability to remove allergen-containing test dust from carpets
- Evaluation of airborne allergen levels during vacuuming
- Evaluation of the integrity of the air filtration system
- Assessment of the performance of the Vacuum Cleaner immediately prior to activation of bag replacement / receptacle emptying signal and filter change signal
- Assessment of exposure to allergens during bag change or receptacle emptying
- Evaluation of capability to remove allergen-containing test dust from crevices
Part 1: Removal of allergen containing test dust from carpet and airborne allergen levels during vacuuming
Removal of allergen containing test dust from carpet
Demonstrable for more than one allergen, mean reduction in allergen concentration post-intervention
Airborne allergen levels during vacuuming
Particle counts and airborne allergen levels are measured during vacuuming. They must not exceed the following levels:
Airborne Allergen Levels
<1000 pg Cat allergen Fel d 1/m3
Total Particle Count
Part 2: Integrity of seals, filtration efficiency and particulate burden from motor emissions
Retention of vacuumed material in the vacuum cleaner is system is integral to certification and as such particle measurements are performed to ensure the integrity of the seals and air filtration system and to evaluate particulate burden from motor emissions. Levels must not exceed the following:
Total Particle Count >0.3 µm from motor emissions
Efficiency at 0.3-0.4 µm
Part 3: Assessment of the vacuum cleaner for air power reduction
The reduction in suction should be ≤10% for 100 g/L and <20% for max fill line or full indicator. If loss of air power is seen, pick-up efficiency (see Part 1) are verified at loaded condition.
Part 4: Exposure to allergens during bag change or receptacle emptying
During emptying of the vacuum cleaner the operator should not be exposed to greater than:
Airborne Allergen Levels
1000 pg Fel d 1/m3
Total Particle Count
Part 5: Evaluation of allergen-containing test dust removal during vacuuming of crevices
During vacuuming of a standardized crevice, the following levels must be met:
Mean dust removal
Mean allergen removal
All CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly® vacuum cleaners are associated with a unique certification code
Why and how we certify vacuum cleaners – a Q&A
There is ever-increasing awareness of the chemicals we come into contact with every day, particularly if you or a member of your family has asthma or allergies. We created the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program to help you improve your indoor environment by identifying products and services that can help to reduce allergens and create a healthier home environment.
But what is it that makes some bedding better for the indoor environment than others, and where do we draw the line to decide to certify a vacuum cleaner as asthma & allergy friendly®? We hope that the questions below will clarify this. Let us know if you have more questions!
Why do we certify vacuum cleaners?
Our goal in the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program is to create a healthier indoor environment for you and your family, as well as to reduce allergens in the home. So we look at all elements of the indoor air environment.
Allergen can accumulate on flooring, both on carpet and on hard flooring. And this can be kicked up into the air when people walk on the flooring. So a vacuum cleaner that can be demonstrated to remove allergen from flooring can be a useful addition to a plan to control triggers in the indoor environment.
In addition, because vacuuming causes room disturbance and agitates any dust and other particles in the floor, there is the risk that vacuuming increases the allergen levels in the air, particularly if the seals in the vacuum cleaner are weak or there is poor filtration in the machine.
We test all of these factors for our certification.
How do we test vacuum cleaners?
- We use a controlled environmental chamber to test vacuum cleaners. This is so we can test how much dust is kicked up into the air when the vacuum cleaner is used.
- We seed a piece of carpet with test dust that contains dust mite allergen and cat allergen, and then vacuum to test how much allergen is removed from the carpet.
- We also test the vacuum cleaner on a hard floor surface with a crevice, to make sure it can remove allergen from crevices.
- And we run tests on the strength of the seals in the vacuum cleaner, the bag receptacle-emptying process, and how it performs when the bag/receptacle is full.
1. Removal of Allergen
We require that the vacuum cleaner can remove over 90% of the allergen in the test carpet, and 90% of the allergen in the hard floor crevice.
2. Particles and Allergen in the air during vacuuming
During vacuuming, we measure the levels of general particles in the air, and allergen particles specifically. We set strict limits for both levels during vacuuming, to ensure low exposure to particles, including allergen.
3. When the vacuum cleaner is fully loaded
We test that the reduction of air power is minimal when the vacuum cleaner is fully loaded. If there is a reduction in air power, we rerun the allergen removal test on carpet, to make sure that the vacuum cleaner can still perform at a high level with a full bag/receptacle.
4. Emptying the vacuum cleaner’s bag/receptacle
One of the easiest ways for dust and allergen to get into the air from vacuuming is when the vacuum bag or receptacle is full and is being emptied. The design of the vacuum cleaner can have a big impact here in minimising the amount of dust and allergen that is released into the room when the bag or receptacle is emptied.
We empty a full bag or receptacle in the environmental chamber, following the operating instructions of the vacuum cleaner, and we measure the particles and allergens that are released when this is done. Particle levels must remain below certification levels.
5. Efficiency of the Seals
If the seals of the vacuum cleaner are weak, allergen can leak from the product during use. We test the seals to make sure that their efficiency is over 99% for micro-particles of 0.3 micrometers, and over 99.99% for particles over 1 micrometer. We also test that emissions from the vacuum cleaner’s motor are under certification limits.
What types of vacuum cleaners do we certify?
We certify many types of vacuum cleaner, including handless cordless vacuum cleaners, bagged vacuum cleaners, and vacuum cleaners with water-based filtration.
Are certified vacuum cleaners safe to use for those with asthma and allergies?
As you can see from the description above, we thoroughly test certified vacuum cleaners to make sure they make a demonstrable difference to the indoor air environment. However, it is not possible to say that a product is completely ‘safe’ for someone with asthma and allergies, particularly if they are very sensitive to dust. If someone in your household has very sensitive airways, it would make sense for them not to be in the room during vacuuming.
What else do we certify?
We have 46 different asthma & allergy friendly® certification standards for products and services, addressing all areas of the indoor air environment. Some of these relate to products which remove allergens and dust from the indoor environment, like vacuum cleaners, air cleaners, dehumidifiers, and washing machines. Some of them relate to products where it is important not to provide an easy home for allergens and that it is possible to remove allergen from them – like bedding, toys, and flooring. And some of them relate to household products that should make as little an impact on the indoor environment as possible – like flooring and paint.
You can find out which products are certified asthma & allergy friendly® and read more here: www.asthmaandallergyfriendly.com
Indoor Air Quality – Some Serious Home Truths
Sophie casts a critical eye on her own home environment and vows to make some changes…
This is the fourth episode of ‘Sophie’s quest’ a story about places where, surprisingly, air quality may not be as good as expected and brings us on a journey in pursuit of healthy air while balancing the science with everyday life.
By Lifestyle Medical Author Dr. Anna O’ Donovan
It’s Monday morning and with kids safely dispatched, Sophie leans against her closed front door and savors the quiet of the house. She’s working from home today but before she starts, she needs to spend some time focusing on the air quality in her house. All the research over the past few days has really made her think. We spend an average of 90% of our time indoors and unbelievably, indoor air can be two and half times more toxic than outdoor air so it’s a huge issue. But the good news is that Sophie’s home environment is largely under her control.
She was proud of the changes she made when Sean was initially diagnosed with asthma but in all honesty, she could do more. Immediately on learning of his diagnosis she ditched her ancient vacuum cleaner and invested in a highly effective one, certified to be effective against allergies and asthma. It has a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter which traps dust, allergens, mold, pet dander -essentially all the small particles that would have been just recirculated into the air when using her old cleaner. Vacuuming and mopping her floors twice a week has become a habit now and she was secretly pleased with herself for doing it. But she knows it’s not enough. This morning she is going to make a check list of 4 things she can change and initiate by the end of the week.
Task 1: Clean up the cleaning products
Under Sophie’s sink, there must be 15 bottles of cleaning products and every single one smells spring-clean delicious of pine or lemon or some other synthetic fragrance to make her home smell clean. But it’s not clean she is smelling at all -it’s chemicals. Clean doesn’t smell. These chemicals are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and can cause asthma and allergies. They have also been implicated in fertility problems and cancers. It is good practice to use only the product that’s as strong as you need it to be, ditch the super strength products and use only those that clearly list their ingredients. If fragrances aren’t clearly labeled, assume they are not what you would want in your home or your lungs.
Also on the checklist is to move paints, fuels and solvents to an outside storage area – the shed is ideal – rather than the garage which is connected to the house and doesn’t have good ventilation.
Kids at a neighboring school recently had a science project whereby they learned how to make environmentally friendly cleaning products. They recycled spray bottles and following recipes from an environmental website created floor cleaner, furniture polish, air fresheners and all-purpose cleaners. This would be a great project for her own kids’ school and considering nearly half of all schools in the U.S. suffer from some sort of indoor air quality, it would be a wonderful step forward if the school adopted the use of the greener products.
Task 2: Sort through the soft toys.
A vast collection of soft toys has invaded Sophie’s house since the kids were born. Most of Sean’s now lie unused and unloved in toy boxes and on shelves where they are a perfect home for dust mites and allergens. She is planning a ruthless culling of those ones. Tara’s plush toys are still a part of the family so Sophie will hot wash and tumble dry those that will survive it. The others she will put in the freezer for 24 hours, then rinse in cold water to remove the dead mites. These toys should be vacuumed when she is vacuuming the house too.
It’s not just that toys are potential vessels for dust mite, some can release VOCs, fire retardants, phthalates and even lead. Responsible toy manufacturers thankfully now often have certification marks on labels to help parents ensure these toxins aren’t brought into the house.
Task 3: Get a hold on the mold.
It’s time to check the vents in every room and consider investing in some dehumidifiers. In this damp climate humidity can rise above 50% and this encourages the proliferation of dust mite. Ideally, humidity should be kept between 35 and 50% to will help control mold and mildew. Dryers should be vented outdoors. In bathrooms, where mold can be particularly problematic, fans need to be used, vents checked and visible mold removed with a mild cleaner. Mold is commonly found in damp spaces such as under the sink, in the refrigerator, dishwasher and the shower and of course shower curtains. Shower curtains can also ‘off gas’ so are never a good choice when considering allergy and asthma triggers.
The kids need to be reminded to always use the fan when showering so that air is circulated and moisture reduced. The shower mats need to be washed and dried fully every week. Dirty or damp clothes should not be left in a pile but should be brought straight to the laundry room. This will also reduce pollen from outdoors being spread around the house. Ask family members to wash and wipe down the sink after use rather than leave puddles of water.
Task 4: Go shopping!
Sean’s bedding already has mite proof mattress and pillow covers and Sophie is pretty disciplined about washing his sheets in a hot wash once a week, but she has decided to invest for the rest of the family as well. Millions of dust mite live in our mattresses and pillows and she is pretty certain that the pillow Tara is sleeping on was her first ever pillow. Pillows should be replaced every 5 years so it’s wise buy a high quality one that will withstand frequent washing. Dust mite resistant mattress and pillow encasements will prevent mites getting into the mattresses and pillows and will stop any already present from crawling into your sleeping space. Products that have withstood rigorous testing and are certified as such are always a good investment.
Large Floor mats should be inside and outside every entrance so that the family can wipe off outdoor matter instead of traipsing it indoors. This is such a simple principle and reduces floor cleaning so is a no-brainer. Added to this, ask family to remove outdoor shoes at the entrance.
These are all easy changes and require little more than some diligence and a little work. It’s always a good idea to engage the kids in these tasks (anything to reduce the workload!) and to explain the reasons behind them. If the entire family is on board, Sophie’s goal to control her home environment thereby reducing the allergy and asthma triggers that can be dangerous to her kids will be a whole lot easier.
About Dr. Anna O’Donovan – Medical & Lifestyle Author
Anna is a mum of three children, one with allergies, and she suffers from allergies and asthma herself. She is a qualified doctor and worked as a General Practitioner and as a dentist for a number of years. She is also an award winning author.
Indoor air quality, VOCs, Allergy and asthma triggers, dust mite, HEPA vacuum cleaner, cleaning products, soft toys, air quality, home, allergy insights
“Indoor air quality affects health”: Click here
“Indoor Air Quality, Public Health”: Click here
“The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality, EPA”: Click here
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Scientific Article: Vacuum Cleaners
By Scientific Author Dr. Tim Yeomans
This article deals with products that can help with the control of exposure to allergens through their removal or treatment.
These can include:
- Vacuum cleaners
- Carpet washers
- Washing machines
- Air filters
- Cleaning products
- Air conditioners
A vacuum cleaner is a key part of allergen control, whether you have laminate or carpeted flooring. Using a brush on laminate flooring can aerosolise dust and particulate matter and should be avoided. Not all vacuum cleaners are created equal however, and there a number of characteristics that should be assessed when purchasing or using a vacuum cleaner.
- Allergen removal efficacy – removal from laminate flooring should be easy enough, but can the vacuum cleaner remove allergen sufficiently from a carpet? Has it been tested to do this? Some carpets can be appropriate for use in a house where there are sensitivities to allergens, however they must be cleaned appropriately; in order to do this, the vacuum cleaner must be capable of this level of allergen removal.
- Filter integrity – as the vacuum cleaner sucks in air, it must also exhaust air. It is very important that the integrity of the filter means that allergen is not simply exhausted out the back of the vacuum cleaner.
- Bag change or receptacle emptying – an important aspect of use of a vacuum cleaner for allergen exposure control is that the user is not then exposed to high levels of allergen at bag change or receptacle emptying stage. While bags do provide more containment for allergen exposure, dependent upon the type of bagless vacuum cleaner, these can also be appropriate, dependent upon the particle dynamics that occur on emptying. If you are unsure, this task should be completed outdoors in order to ensure maximum dilution of any released allergens.
- Has your vacuum cleaner been tested to determine its allergen removal efficacy on carpeted flooring?
- Vacuum cleaners can have varying abilities to remove particles and allergens from carpeting, based on suction capability, as well as cleaning head used. Most vacuum cleaners are tested against ‘synthetic dust’ which has a very well defined particle size, but is however very different to normal house dust. Ideally you should select a vacuum cleaner that has been tested for its ability to remove real allergens from a carpet.
- Have the filters and filter system been tested to ensure no release of allergens?
- Filters and filter systems must retain their integrity to ensure no release of allergen once vacuumed.
- What are your exposure risks at bag change and receptacle emptying, and has this been tested?
- Particle measurements by reputable companies can determine both the particle size and amount that a user may be exposed to, as well as allergen load – ask your vacuum cleaner provider if this has been done for their model.
About the Author
Thanks to Dr. Tim Yeomans for this insightful article.
Dr. Tim Yeomans is the Centre Manager for Shannon Applied Biotechnology Centre, a collaboration between two third level colleges in Ireland. Tim holds a PhD in Microbiology and postgraduate qualifications in Technology Commercialisation and Innovation Management. Tim has worked in research and development for 20 years, both in industry and academia. In his role in Shannon ABC, Tim is responsible for the scientific direction of the Centre, intellectual property management and business and technology development.
|Certification Name||asthma & allergy friendly®||Good Housekeeping||ECARF||The Carpet and Rug Institute|
|Types of vacuum cleaners considered||Upright, Canister, Water Based Filtration, Handheld Cordless , Accessories, Replacement Vacuum Bags||Upright, Canister, Water Based Filtration, Handheld, Cordless||Upright, Cannister, Handheld, Cordless||Upright, Canister, commercial backpack, wide area, commercial rider|
|Removal of allergen containing test dust from carpet|
The ability of a vacuum cleaner to reduce total allergen burden by removal of allergen containing dust from carpets
|Airborne allergen levels during vacuuming|
Vacuuming, as a result of room disturbance, may contribute to an increase in airborne allergen, exposing the operator
|Integrity of seals, filtration efficiency and particulate burden from motor emissions|
Assessment of leakage via filtration, seals or other components that may contribute to an increase in airborne allergen
|Air power reduction|
The performance of the vacuum cleaner as the dust reservoir fills or the filter begins to clog with dust particles may become impaired
|Exposure to allergens during bag change or receptacle emptying|
During emptying of the vacuum cleaner the amount of airborne particle the operator is exposed to must be assessed
Dust removal during vacuuming of crevices
asthma & allergy friendly®
but may include other criteria
|Ease-of-use testing, |
Dust removal during vacuuming of edges
|Bagless vacuum cleaners and vacuum cleaners with water filters are not eligible for the ECARF Seal of Quality due to their construction. The user is exposed to the contents of the waste container while emptying it. The use of water filters can lead to mould growth inside the appliance.|
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