Cabin cleaning as a safety issue? Yes. I've had a few flights where passengers were overcome by the fumes caused by cleaning solvents used by the ground crew the morning of, and once the night before a flight. What seemed innocent to the noses of those in the cabin at sea level pressure became so strong once pressurized, it caused difficulty breathing and noticeable blotches on the skin. We no longer allow any cleaning solvents on the aircraft.
What follows are quotes from the relevant regulatory documents, listed below, as well as my comments in blue. Yes, most of this stuff comes from Gulfstream. But it is applicable to all aircraft types.
[The Gulfstream Journal, June 27, 2014]
- There are problems associated with using common household chemicals in the aircraft cabin, particularly in flight. Although common cleaners may be safe for the home, their use can be detrimental in aircraft. Many problems can occur, such as damage to the aircraft interior, components, or structure, but even more concerning is that using and/or mixing various chemicals can cause toxic fumes. In an enclosed cabin, this can have extremely dangerous effects and be a potential threat to the safety of the crew and passengers. Often, the mixing of chemicals is done accidentally when one towel or cleaning cloth has been used in one area with a particular cleaner, only to be later inadvertently used with a different cleaner/chemical, but the result can be a dangerous or possibly toxic mixture.
- FAR 25,831 (b) states that "Crew and passenger compartment air must be free from harmful or hazardous concentrations of gases or vapors." In order to comply with this regulation, only safe chemicals should be used aboard the aircraft during flight.
- Use only Gulfstream-recommended products for cleaning and maintaining the following surfaces: wood, vinyl laminate, plastic, plating, stainless steel, leather, vinyl, fabrics, carpet, and galley equipment such as sinks, ovens, microwaves, coffee units, and toilets.
Note: Manufacturers of commercial off-the-shelf equipment may not take into consideration that their units could be installed in an aircraft and used at altitude in a pressurized cabin. Therefore, manufacturer-recommended cleaners for this equipment may not be on the approved list for aircraft use.
If your aircraft manufacturer doesn't include an approved list, the list shown here is for what Gulfstream has approved. Our cabin altitude rarely exceeds 6,000 feet so if we can't use a particular solvent, chances are you shouldn't either.
- Use only clean, white, non-abrasive cotton rag toweling when cleaning fabric, leather, carpet, metal, plated or plastic areas, or any other surfaces.
- or daily cleaning, use a clean, non-abrasive 100% cotton cloth with approved mild cleaners or detergents, followed by a clean, non-abrasive cotton cloth.
- For in-flight use, use nothing stronger than a mild, non-abrasive liquid soap and water.
- Chemicals containing chlorine or ammonia should not be used in flight or stored aboard the aircraft.
- Do not mix ammonia and chlorine bleach. Some simple cleaners such as Windex® and Formula 409® contain ammonia or chlorine, as well as possibly other caustic chemicals. Often many cleaners contain these chemicals, but operators do not realize the cleaners can have detrimental effects.
- Do not take chemicals such as regular chlorine bleach, ammonia, solvents, or various personal items such as nail polish remover aboard aircraft.
The old saying, "there is only so much you can do" applies here when it comes to passenger carry on articles. We certainly aren't going to interrogate every passenger for possession of nail polish remover. But, on the other hand, you are handed a case of the stuff for the luggage compartment, you should let the passenger know this stuff can be lethal at cabin altitudes if the containers were to break in flight and atomize into the air. In the Gulfstream the baggage compartment is aft and all air flow moves forward. If the passenger protests you can offer to have it sent FedEx. But I would, under no circumstances, allow a case of nail polish remover or similar solvents on the aircraft. (In the Air Force I was once given a direct order to carry a case of aircraft solvent on a Gulfstream. I refused, the general officer issuing the order went ballistic, the case was left on the tarmac, and nothing was ever said of the incident again. People can overreact at times, but once they figure out you are keeping things safe, they tend to calm down.
- Never use full strength bleach on any carpet or fabric.
- Aggressive cleaning of seat covering materials and carpet can remove the fire retardant.
- Aerosol cans are not recommended for in-flight use, storage aboard the aircraft, or having in luggage.
- To prevent possible damage to the aircraft interior, take care to not spill cleaning products in the aircraft.
- Do not use a beater brush attachment when vacuuming fabric, leather, or any other materials.
- Cleaning and maintenance of delicate fabrics should be done only by a trained professional using approved cleaners.
- Do not allow spills to dry on fabric, carpet, or any other surfaces.
- Do not use abrasives when cleaning plated or finished surfaces, plastics, or mirrors.
- Do not use galley cleaning materials in other sections of the aircraft, unless approved for use in that area.
- Do not intermix lavatory chemicals. Toxic fumes could result.
- If the proper cleaning equipment, supplies, and procedures are not available, leave the cleaning task to a professional.
[Gulfstream Aircraft Outfitting Cleaning Manual, ¶1.]
- Clean avionics displays only with approved cleaners, tools and Electronic Flight Instrument System (EFIS) X-405 Window Cleaner wipes. Immediately remove all dirt and spills. Do not allow spills to dry. Report stains that cannot be cleaned to maintenance.
- Gently dust weekly with dashboard brush. Dust more frequently if required.
- Gently wipe avionics display with EFIS X-405 Window Cleaner wet wipe.
[Gulfstream Aircraft Outfitting Cleaning Manual, ¶2.]
- Clean silk and wool carpet only with approved cleaners, tools and clean, white non-abrasive 100% cotton rag or paper toweling. Immediately remove all dirt and spills. Do not allow spills to dry. Report rips or stains that cannot be cleaned to maintenance.
- TO PREVENT POSSIBLE DAMAGE TO AIRCRAFT INTERIOR, TAKE CARE NOT TO SPILL CLEANING PRODUCTS IN AIRCRAFT.
- USE ONLY CLEAN, WHITE, NON-ABRASIVE COTTON TOWELING WHEN CLEANING TO AVOID DAMAGE TO THE CARPET. DO NOT USE A TOWEL PREVIOUSLY USED TO CLEAN SOMETHING ELSE. DO NOT USE CLEANING MATERIALS NOT LISTED IN THIS SECTION FOR CLEANING CARPET.
- CLEAN CARPET WITH AERO SERVICES CHEMICALS OR APPROVED CLEANING AGENTS ONLY. THESE SOLVENT SPOTTER / CLEANING AGENTS CONTAIN TRICHLOROETHANE. DO NOT USE ANY SOLVENTS SPOTTER / CLEANING AGENTS CONTAINING TRICHLOROETHENE OR MEK. MOST COMMON HOUSEHOLD CLEANERS ARE DESIGNED TO ATTACK PROTEIN. SILK IS 100% PROTEIN. IMPROPER CHEMICAL USAGE MAY SUBSTANTIALLY DAMAGE CARPET.
- DO NOT SUN DRY OR HEAT DRY CARPET. CARPET FIBER IS SUBJECT TO SHRINKAGE.
- SHOULD CARPET REQUIRE DEEP CLEANING, CARPET MUST BE REMOVED FROM AIRCRAFT AND CLEANED WITH COLD WATER OR TREATED WITH DRY CLEANING SOLUTION. ALLOW CARPET TO DRY COMPLETELY BEFORE INSTALLING IN AIRCRAFT.
- WHEN SHAMPOOING WOOL CARPETING, USE LOW / NEUTRAL PH SOAPS AND FOLLOW WITH A RINSE. AVOID USING WATER ABOVE 100°F (37.7°C) OR CARPET MAY SHRINK.
- PRIOR TO CLEANING CARPET, TEST CARPET CLEANER IN AN INCONSPICUOUS PLACE.
- Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation recommends the following specific products for cleaning and maintaining carpets:
- Carbonated Water
- Dend Dextair Ultra
- Rubber Gloves
- Small Hand Rake
- Smoke Relief (Odor Relief)
- Tamping Brush
- Vacuum Cleaner
- White Terry Towels
- Cleaning Technique
CAUTION: AT NO TIME SHOULD A CARPET BE SHAMPOOED, STEAM CLEANED OR ANY OTHER WET TYPE CLEANING BE PERFORMED WITHIN THE AIRCRAFT TO PREVENT MOLD, MILDEW AND / OR DAMAGE TO THE AIRCRAFT. ALLOW CARPET TO DRY THOROUGHLY BEFORE REINSTALLATION. WHEN SHAMPOOING WOOL CARPETING, USE LOW / NEUTRAL PH SOAPS AND FOLLOW WITH A RINSE. AVOID USING WATER ABOVE 100°F (37.7°C) OR SHRINKAGE MAY OCCUR.
- Remove carpet from aircraft to an appropriate location.
- Apply warm water and detergent mixture to carpet using pressurized spray wand.
NOTE: Read manufacturer instructions to determine proper water / detergent ratio.
- Extract loosened soil and spray mixture from carpet using suction.
CAUTION: USE COOL TO WARM AIR ONLY TO DRY CARPET. AIR ABOVE 100°F (37.7°C) MAY CAUSE SHRINKAGE.
- Dry carpet by circulating air over and under carpet.
NOTE: Ensure carpet is thoroughly dry before reinstalling in aircraft.
- Reinstall cleaned carpet back into aircraft.
- Spot Cleaning
- Remove as much soil as possible by blotting area with clean towel. For grease, oil or petroleum based stains, scrape lightly with fingertips or blot area with clean towel.
- Spray Aero Services High-Tech Solvent Spotter, Aero Services High-Tech Carpet & Fabric Spot Cleaner or another approved dry cleaning agent on clean, white, 100% cotton towel. Do not spray cleaning agent directly on carpet. Do not overwet the carpet.
- Clean soiled area as follows: Use a blotting motion and press firmly to break up and absorb contaminant. Begin with the outermost edge of contaminant and work inward. Repeat until contaminant is completely removed. Tamp area with a tamping brush if necessary to aid in removing dried contaminant. (a) Blot area thoroughly. (b) Dry carpet for 30 minutes. (c) Rake affected area. (d) Vacuum area as soon as possible following drying and raking.
- Protect soiled area as follows: (a) After using any chemical to spot clean carpet, retreat area with Aero Services High-Tech Interior Protectant to ensure uniform stain-guard protection on all areas of carpet. Apply protectant using hand spray bottle with slight misting action. Apply lightly; do not overspray. Allow protectant to dry 12 hours before subjecting area to heavy traffic. No further action is required.
[Gulfstream Aircraft Outfitting Cleaning Manual, ¶4.]
- Clean galleys only with approved cleaners, tools and clean, white terry towels. Immediately remove all dirt and spills. Do not allow spills to dry. Report scratches or stains that cannot be cleaned to maintenance. Thorough cleaning of the galley is essential after every flight. Especially clean all recessed areas of the galley.
- Clean component parts with white terry towel.
- Clean sink and countertop with 49-Body Shine® (Vision®) using blue microfiber cloth to wipe clean.
- Polish metal surfaces with Buffy Polishing Pad.
14 CFR 25, Title 14: Aeronautics and Space, Airworthiness Standards: Transport Category Airplanes, Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation
Gulfstream Aircraft Outfitting Cleaning Manual, Basic Issue, September 30, 2013
"Use of Cleaning Chemicals in the Aircraft Cabin," The Gulfstream Journal, June 27, 2014