Common Misconceptions about Carpet Cleaning Chemistry – Part 5 of 7


Misconception #5 – No residue, low residue. Good residue, bad residue (Sounds like a Dr. Suess Book)


One of the inherent advantages (or is that built in dangers?) that being around the carpet cleaning industry for over 35 years provides me is historical perspective. What is often the latest fad, or what is often presented as the newest approach, has often been tried and applied before. So it goes with the concept of residue left in the carpet after cleaning. The whole concept of residue left in the carpet after cleaning is one that can lead to a very emotional discussion.


 Let’s start as close as we can get to an absolute. If we accept the definition of soiling and residue to include “any material which is foreign to the construction of the carpet,” then we can state with confidence that there is virtually no such thing as a completely residue-free carpet anytime, even following cleaning. Even if the carpet is simply rinsed with pure water or modified water, water is not always residue free. Depending upon its hardness, the mineral content of the water can leave “residue” in the carpet.


A second thing I think we can find common ground on is what “bad residue” constitutes. It is soiling left behind that the cleaning did not/could not remove. The more soil we can physically remove or extract from the carpet during and after the carpet cleaning process, the better. Chemical residue left behind by the carpet cleaning process that can physically abrade or chemically attack the carpet fiber can certainly be labeled as “bad residue.” Chemical residue left behind that is sticky that can actually attract soil and cause the carpet to re-soil faster after cleaning is certainly “bad residue.” While this is conventionally attached to some surfactants and some solvents particularly used in some carpet presprays, it is in actuality a little more complicated than that. But that is a good starting point.


So we are left with two choices – which is better; good cleaning solution residue left behind in the carpet after the carpet cleaning process is completed, or leaving the least amount of total residue behind (low residue cleaning)? It depends upon who you ask and what the absolute goal is. In the 1990’s, when the first discussions of sick building syndrome started, and the first scientifically measured work about what contaminants actually existed in the indoor environment that could harm occupants and users of the building or home, there is no doubt that low residue cleaning was and should be the focus. From an indoor air quality point of view, low residue carpet cleaning is the best. Extracting more soil from the building envelope, and then leaving the last amount of total residue behind was the focus.

If you are fooling yourself into thinking that low residue cleaning is not important from a carpet consumer’s perspective one only has to look at the incredible growth rate and success of independent and franchise cleaning companies alike who have focused on the fact that they leave less residue in the carpet. Just like the “quick drying” marketing of franchises taught us in the 1990’s just how important drying time was to the consumer, the low residue focus of these successful companies should be catching your attention now. If you are looking for the lowest residue possible period, consider using carpet cleaning products like CleanMaster Blitz with GreaseBreaker Prespray, Quake Prespray, FastBreak Prespray and HydraDri Carpet Extraction Powder. Detergent and Surfactant Free carpet cleaning solutions like CleanMaster HydraFree DFC also excel at low residue carpet cleaning


Then… along came encapsulating cleaning solutions. The idea of “good residue” following the carpet cleaning process is not a new one though. Absorbent compound carpet cleaning methods, such as Host® or Capture®, have long espoused the benefits of some of the cleaning chemical being left behind in carpet as being a “good thing.” These absorbent materials would continue to emulsify soils, and be vacuumed out in subsequent vacuuming’s. Since they claimed they were not sticky by nature, the chemical residue left behind would not contribute to rapid resoiling. Even longstanding low moisture methods such as dry foam shampoo or Crystal Dry®; have long promoted the concept of the idea that some of the residue left behind can serve a positive purpose acting as a soil repelling or resisting agent. More recently, the use of encapsulating surfactants and polymers to develop a new low moisture encapsulation carpet cleaning method has really brought the issue of “good residue” to a new light. Many solutions, including CleanMaster ZipDri Encap TS by HydraMaster actually talk about that in subsequent vacuuming of the carpet, the polymers left behind help keep the appearance of the carpet better longer.

There is no doubt that the combination of these encapsulating surfactants and polymers have taken interim maintenance or appearance retention carpet cleaning to a whole new level. Now, the use of these polymers and encapsulants, along with organic sequestrates, have been combined by HydraMaster into a new additive to hot water extraction carpet cleaning presprays, extraction detergents, and neutralizing rinses called Tritanol® with the stated purpose of cleaning the carpet faster and better, and helping it to stay cleaner longer. You can find this new technology employed in several CleanMaster formulations – Quake HD Prespray, FastBreak HD Prespray, Release with OxyBreak Prespray, HydraClean Carpet Extraction Detergent, RinseFree with OxyBreak Carpet Extraction Detergent, and ClearWater Rinse Neutralizing Rinse  – just to name a few.


The fact that some seem to miss out on though is – you can’t claim to be a low residue carpet cleaner while simultaneously stating that you are purposely leaving treatments behind on the carpet which you state will extend the benefits of a clean carpet. Think back to our definition of residue – any material foreign to the construction of the carpet. The argument over which is better – low residue or good residue – will continue to rage on. A lot may well depend upon the types of carpets you are cleaning and the environment they are installed in. Some make the argument that in a low traffic and soiling situation, low residue cleaning makes the most sense. In a high traffic environment with high levels of grease and oil contamination in the carpet, the benefits of “good” residue may well outweigh the benefits of low residue cleaning. There may not be a right or wrong answer here. Just make sure you understand the benefits of what you choose to do and don’t oversell or mislead your customers as to what you are actually accomplishing.


My personal opinion is that just as these things have cycled in and out of what is “vogue” at the moment, they will continue to do the same in the future. Future studies of the “good residue” may well lead to a renewed look at the polymers breaking down into particulates in the carpet that could work their way into the air. On the flip side, perhaps encapsulating soil will reach an even higher level where it can be kept in the carpet and not allowed to be kicked up into the air, or polymers that make vacuuming more and more effective may be developed. Certainly, residual anti-microbial treatments may be the long term answer to dealing with biological contamination in carpeting.


What we do know is that a cleaner environment is a healthier environment. We can also all agree that the physical extraction and removal of the maximum amount of soil from the carpet is ultimately the most important measurement of clean from a healthier indoor environment perspective. Let’s all focus on that.



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