Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

To The Stars And Back With Carpet Cleaning

February 18, 2011

The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) of Dalton, Georgia, has committed to incorporate X-ray fluorescence (XRF) technology in its testing programs for high-efficiency vacuums, carpet extractors and effective carpet cleaning products.

"This technology is consistent with CRI''s desire to see the best science applied to cleaning carpet and improving air quality in indoor environments and maintaining the life cycle of carpets," said Werner Braun, CRI president. "We have made XRF technology a central part of our Seal of Approval (SOA) programs."

Michael Berry, Ph.D., former deputy director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency''s (EPA) National Center for Environmental Assessment and a leading authority on cleaning for health and indoor air quality stated: "In my 30 years'' experience, the XRF technology is the first scientific approach to quantifying carpet cleanliness that I will stand behind 100 percent."

What Is X-ray Fluorescence?

The original technology (TRACeR III-V) was developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 2002 to conduct quality control for critical aluminum alloy parts destined for the space shuttle.

Evaluation of these parts is critical for NASA, as any signs of contamination, corrosion or material deviation could compromise a shuttle mission.

Shaped like a portable drill and weighing less than five pounds, the TRACeR III-V has proven successful in chemical substance identification and analysis.

The technology set the stage for a major breakthrough in carpet cleaning validation, helping to create stricter standards for today''s vacuum cleaners, carpet extractors and other carpet cleaning products to ensure that they are removing soil.

NASA and KeyMaster Technologies Inc., in collaboration with CRI and Professional Testing Laboratory Inc., developed techniques to use the NASA-enhanced analyzer to test the effectiveness of various carpet cleaning methods.

Using the TRACeR III-V scanner, the test laboratory can measure the starting compound applied to a carpet sample and then quantify the precise amount of soil removed following a cleaning.

The XRF instrument emits energy and excites the atoms of the target elements found in the simulated carpet soils.

The energy generated in response is called X-ray fluorescence, which can be detected and measured by the device.

Each atomic element has its own unique energy signature.

The XRF instrument measures each energy signature to determine the presence and concentration of various soil elements.

A standardized or synthesized soil that mimics actual soil and foreign particulate contaminants is applied under controlled conditions to carpet.

The lab soil contains five elements chosen for the particle size and physical characteristics of carpet soil.

That this simulated soil effectively replicates real world soils was demonstrated by correlated field studies in a number of locations.

On a test bed in the laboratory, the X-ray fluorescence instrument measures the amount of soil applied to and removed from the carpet sample.

By repeating this process with different vacuum cleaners and extraction machines that use water, chemicals or a mixture of both to clean carpets, the laboratory can establish performance benchmarks.

"XRF is a great technological leap forward for measuring carpet cleaning effectiveness, and we believe this test will be adopted universally as a key standard for validating cleaning performance," says Gary Asbury, president of Professional Testing Laboratory.

Benefits To Professional Cleaning

Carpet cleaning professionals that select equipment and other products based on CRI''s XRF testing as a general rule can simply clean carpet better than those who don''t.

These products must meet CRI''s tough standards for soil removal — as validated by XRF testing — water removal and surface appearance to receive the CRI Seal of Approval.

Since soil removal is the primary test, efficiency is rated on four levels: Vacuums, extractors or systems that exceed average soil removal receive a Bronze Seal rating; those achieving higher soil removal receive a Silver Seal rating; products removing yet more soil receive a Gold Seal rating; and those removing the most soil receive a Platinum Seal rating.

Using SOA products validated by XRF testing not only helps ensure carpet is cleaned better, but that the indoor air is cleaner, too.

"Removing dirt and particles from a carpet and containing them within the best performing vacuum helps improve overall air quality," says Asbury.

"The Seal of Approval program now qualifies vacuums that release less than 35 micrograms of total particulate per cubic meter of air — that''s less than 1/1000th the size of a grain of salt. That''s vanishingly small," added Braun.

Making A Difference

XRF technology has made a major positive difference in the cleaning of carpet and to the health of indoor environments.

The CRI SOA program now includes a total of 227 vacuum cleaners and 90 extractors that have been submitted voluntarily by manufacturers for evaluation by CRI''s test complex.

Since its inception, the SOA program has been responsible for increasing the amount of soil removed from carpet, and thus the efficacy of cleaning operations, by a significant margin.

"When CRI introduced vacuum testing, some vacuums removed as little as 12 percent of soil, and few routinely removed more than 35 percent of soil in four passes. Today, it is rare to see a vacuum that does not achieve at least Bronze-level certification — 40 to 49 percent soil removal — and many meet or exceed the Gold level of 55 percent of soil removal in four standardized passes.

CRI recommends that vacuuming be performed slowly with multiple passes to bring soil removal levels to optimal points of 80 percent or more.

"The SOA program, which has undergone continuous improvement since its inception, has clearly made a difference in the efficacy of professional carpet cleaning equipment and the cleanliness of carpet, with resulting positive impacts to the indoor environment, profitability of cleaning services and the appearance, lifecycle and sustainability of carpet. We are proud of these achievements and look forward to continuing to raise the performance bar in partnership with the professional cleaning industry," said Braun.

Allen Rathey is president of InstructionLink/JanTrain Inc. of Boise, Idaho. He also serves as president of the Housekeeping Channel (HC), the Healthy House Institute (HHI) and the Healthy Facilities Institute (HFI). He promotes healthy indoor environments, and writes and speaks on healthy cleaning and facility topics.