Millions of square feet of carpet are cleaned every day throughout North America, and there have been relatively few reports of health problems or reactions because of the chemicals, procedures or equipment used.
However, such problems do occur.
They can run the gamut from mild skin, eye and respiratory irritations to severe asthma attacks, especially among children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.
Because of the potential for such problems, an increasing number of industry experts are encouraging carpet cleaning professionals to transfer from traditional cleaning products, chemicals and equipment to more environmentally preferable products that are healthier for workers and building occupants.
Certified-Green carpet cleaning chemicals have been developed, and low-moisture carpet extractors that are more environmentally preferable have become commonplace.
In addition, the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) has introduced a Seal of Approval program that evaluates how well carpet cleaning chemicals and carpet extractors work while also measuring the amount of residual moisture left in carpets after cleaning — a factor that can potentially affect health and the indoor environment.
Many of the traditional chemicals used to clean carpets are highly alkaline and contain aggressive enzymes and disinfectants.
A standard carpet cleaning formula can contain such powerful and potentially harmful ingredients as N-methyl 2-pyrrolidone, isopropyl alcohol, 2-butoxyethanol, d-limonene sodium bicarbonate, sodium citrate, sodium phosphate and sodium silicate.
These ingredients are found in a variety of products and can usually be used without incident. But, when improperly used or diluted or when used in proximity to people who are chemical-sensitive, they can cause harm to the skin, eyes and respiratory tract and result in health consequences.
Additionally, carpet cleaning solutions may contain anionic and nonionic surfactants (a class of synthetic detergents) that help “wet out” the carpet surface so that soils can be more easily flushed out and removed during the extraction process.
Many carpet cleaning formulas also contain dyes, polymers, enzymes, bleaches and solvents made from alcohols, esters and glycol ethers — all of which can potentially cause health consequences.
Cleaning the Green way
If cleaning professionals want to clean carpets the Green way, they should consider the following four things: