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Carpet Care

Effective textile care can be safe

September 19, 2010
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Disastrous results have been reported by novice and professionally trained individuals who attempt to remove stains from carpets and upholstery.

How does one know what to do and what to use when it comes to cleaning carpet and upholstery fibers?

Start with a very simple, commonsense approach.

If our only goal is to simply clean a surface, then mineral spirits or lighter fluid would work, because they will remove most stains very quickly.

But how absurd is that?

Safe and sound approach
First of all, it wouldn’t be very safe to handle.

Secondly, it would damage most surfaces underneath.

And finally, it would be costly to replace damaged areas.

Instead, our goal is to clean safely, effectively and economically with great respect for our environment.

We certainly face new challenges today in respect to caring for textiles.

Today’s fibers are engineered textiles in many instances, and contain treatments that are intended to protect the fiber from becoming soiled.

When these topical treatments are applied at the manufacturing level, they are typically applied at high rates of speed and do not permanently bond to the fiber.

These treatments can be washed off with normal detergents or will simply come off over time because of abrasion.

To make things worse, cleaning products are being used on soft textiles when they were never intended for use on hard surfaces only.

Caring for upholstered furniture
Often, the most overlooked items to be cared for today in facilities are upholstered furniture pieces, even though they can cost more than the carpets or tile floors put together.

Think of how often we dust mop, wet clean floors and vacuum carpets in comparison to how often we vacuum or spot clean upholstery.

Truth is we have become afraid of these perceived difficult stains, because of bad experiences in attempting to clean them.

It is wise to take a closer look at upholstery care and use a simpler approach.

Most upholstered fabric today consists of fibers that are woven or knitted into a finished product.

These fibers consist of polyester, rayon, cotton and wool in various blends and fiber constructions.

Keeping tabs
A good maintenance program starts with making it a priority to closely look at and keep hang tags that are attached to the furniture when it arrives.

For example, it will contain a cleaning code suggestion, such as W, S, or X, which means water-based cleaners, solvent-based cleaners, or vacuum only.

Once you have determined the fabric makeup, you can develop a plan of regular maintenance to safely remove spots and stains.

Remember, a “spot” may be considered any substance that has not yet chemically bonded with the fibers.

A “stain” is one that has bonded with the fiber and must be chemically altered without disturbing the fiber makeup.

Water, in general, is a powerful reducer and cleaning agent when combined with the right active ingredients to break down stains.

Match the product to the task
Do not use products that are not specifically designed for textiles.

Remember, all-purpose cleaners usually bring all-purpose results.

Pay attention to a product’s pH level.

High pH cleaners leave behind soap alkalinity on carpets and upholstery that will attract future soils.

Be sure to always leave textile surfaces pH neutral by rinsing thoroughly.

Steps to follow
Now that you’ve done your product and task homework, it is time for application.

Follow the simple steps outlined below to achieve beautifully maintained carpets and upholstery.

Get to the spot quickly, identify the material, and start the removal process.

Carefully remove whatever excess you can from the surface.

Do not rub or brush at first. Apply the proper cleaning solution, blot and repeat.

If gentle scraping is required, always make the spot smaller, working outside toward the middle.

Always pre-test your spotting agent first in an inconspicuous area.

Be safe and use solutions that are buffered and won’t harm fibers.

If you must brush, choose a brush that is engineered specifically for fabric.

Always blot with a clean, soft white towel to transfer the stain.

Be patient; if the stain is lifting, repeat the process until the stain is removed.

Other factors to consider
There are many new challenges today.

End users are now faced with concerns about disinfection, controlling mold and mildew, and other health concerns.

When it comes to choosing the right extraction equipment, use one engineered for cleaning without using excess water.

If a fabric is porous, and a machine is used that pushes 100 to 150 pounds of water pressure at the spray nozzle, then the stain, bacteria and water all go through the fabric, and ultimately into the cushion.

This is the perfect breeding environment for bacteria, mold and mildew.

A better choice is a machine with lower water pressure and increased airflow on the extraction side.

Outdoor fabrics on porches, patios and by the pool also require special attention.

These are typically exposed to lots of sunshine, acid rain, as well as body and suntan oils.

When choosing the right cleaner for these types of fabric, be sure to consider the effect on kids and pets as well as poolside plants.

Consider using cleaning products developed specifically for this application.

By following a few simple rules, textile cleaning and maintenance can be easy.

Always consult cleaning professionals for recommendations on safe and effective cleaning products and practices.

Greg Hadfield is executive vice president of Crypton Inc. For more information, please visit

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