Many Names. One Purpose. Faster More Effective Cleaning

ImageImageImageImagePresprays. Preconditioners. Traffic Lane Cleaners. They go by many names, but whatever you call them, they are the main cleaning solution in hot water extraction carpet cleaning, and a key part of most all carpet cleaning methods. Chances are if you have been cleaning carpets for very long at all, you have a favorite prespray that you swear by. You may have a favorite based on the soiling conditions or the carpet construction you are being asked to clean.

 With hot water extraction cleaning, the prespray is the “work horse” of the cleaning procedure. They deflocculate soils, dislodge soils, emulsify soils, dissolve soils, and emulsify soils. They strip soils away from the carpet surface. The suspended soils are then carried away suspended in the rinse (extraction) water. Presprays are the fundamental cleaning solution for the suspension of soil. Remember when they taught you in your first carpet cleaning school that 79% of soil in carpeting was particulate soiling, and that particulate soiling was best removed by efficient dry vacuuming? What keeps us as carpet cleaners in business is the other 21% of soiling. It does not take a rocket scientist, a testing laboratory, or an X-ray fluorescence gun to figure out what kind of soiling in carpeting provides the greatest challenge to any carpet cleaner: grease and oil in a restaurant carpet; oil and/or salt from an ice melt product that gets tracked off; a spilled sugary drink; and airborne oils that settle onto the carpet. Anyone who ever cleaned a carpet that is impacted with these types of soils knows that removing them are what separate the good from the great in carpet cleaning. A lot of agitation and a lot of water based flushing will get particulate soils out of the carpet that the vacuum won’t get out. It’s the grease and oil and the sticky stuff that earns us our stripes and that is where the use of the carpet prespray shines. Presprays are commonly comprised of surfactants and solvents that do a better job of breaking down and dissolving these problematic oily and sticky based soils. Today’s more advanced formulations contain an integrated blend of specialized polymers, encapsulating surfactants, and organic sequestrants that help get the carpet cleaner faster, and help it to resist soiling and stay cleaner longer.

 Typically presprays should be used in conjunction with a compatible extraction detergent or a neutralizing rinse agent to insure proper removal of soil and to leave the least amount of residue in the carpet. The prespray should be selected in accordance with the carpet soiling conditions and construction of the carpet. You should apply the prespray ahead of the area you are cleaning so it will have sufficient dwell time. Most often, the prespray is applied with an in-line injection sprayer, a pump-up sprayer or an electric or battery powered sprayer. However, do not apply it so far ahead of where you are cleaning that it will dry before you get there. If it does dry, do not re-apply more chemical, use your wand and re-wet the area. To make any prespray work more efficiently, consider the use of manual or mechanized agitation, either with a carpet grooming rake or brush, or a counter-rotating cylindrical brush machine after you have applied the prespray.

 The professional carpet cleaner has a wide array of different formulations of presprays available for their cleaning arsenal because they encounter a wide variety of carpets, installed in a wide variety of soiling conditions and environments. There are presprays specially formulated for neglected, trashed and heavily soiled carpets such as CleanMaster Blitz with GreaseBreaker, or Quake HD.. Some are made specifically for restaurant carpets with high levels of food based oil and grease such as CleanMaster SoilBreak. There are presprays made for cleaning wool carpets such as CleanMaster FastBreak HD or WoolMaster. There are presprays manufactured within industry guidelines to be considered “greener” such as CleanMaster Release with OxyBreak. There are ultra-concentrated presprays you can safely and effectively use on virtually any type of carpet such as CleanMaster FastBreak HD. There are even prepsrays specifically formulated for olefin, polyester, and triexta carpets such as CleanMaster PolyBreak that can deal with the oil loving and water repelling characteristics of these types of fibers. Whether you choose to specialize by having several products on the truck specific to the different conditions you will encounter, or you want to keep it standardized and simple and use one solution for virtually all carpets, your local HydraMaster distributor can steer you in the right direction. The goal of any prespray is to make you clean faster and remove more soil from the carpet.




Common Misconceptions about Carpet Cleaning Chemistry – Part 7 of 7


Misconception #7 – Wool carpet is delicate and requires extreme caution to clean

This misconception has always boggled my mind. Maybe it is because my grandmother had a 40 year old wool carpet installed in her living room that we played on every Christmas as children. All of her grandchildren (and there were plenty of us) did everything imaginable to this carpet and it still looked good. Wool carpet is NOT wimpy.

So why are there special formulations for cleaning wool, special directions, stand-alone registry’s and certification programs and more? Well the first thing we have to do here is differentiate between wool fibers in rugs, sheep+003and wool wall to wall carpet. We are going to be talking about wool wall to wall installed carpet. We will leave the discussion of wool rugs to another misconception series. The second thing we need to do is get a little historical perspective. At one time, most tufted wool carpets used jute backing. Jute is simply raw, less processed cellulosic material. Wool is very absorbent. It holds onto water better than a synthetic (plastic) carpet, so if you overwet it, it takes longer to dry. Well actually, even if you don’t overwet it and you apply airmovers, it still takes slightly longer to dry than a comparable synthetic carpet. Back then, extraction systems were mostly portable. If the carpet was extremely soiled, multiple wet passes were usually required to get the appearance improvement necessary to please the customer. Combine an overwet carpet, poor drying conditions, and jute backing and you were asking for trouble. The carpets would often develop cellulosic browning (from the jute backing, not the wool. Sheep are not a plant). Sometimes, the jute backing would actually shrink (again, the backing not the wool).

Side note: Wool does not likely shrink. Don’t believe me? Soak your wool sweater in a sink full or water. Get it soaking wet. Now throw it in the dryer on the hottest heat setting. Then pull it out. The wool shrank, right? Your XL sweater is now a small. Nope. The wool did not shrink. The weave of the fabric shrunk. You can stretch the sweater back to the old XL size. The wool is all still there. Unfortunately it won’t look very good. It will look stretched out and ruined, but nothing bad actually happened to the wool fiber itself, only the weave. Weigh it before and after your little experiment. It will weigh the same. The wool is all still there. If wool really shrunk when it got wet, why don’t the sheep get smaller after it rains?

So the problem in those carpets was never the wool. It was the jute backing. Most tufted wool carpet today in the United States uses polypropylene backing, hence the fear of and danger of browning or shrinking is greatly reduced or virtually eliminated. (If you are reading this and you clean carpets in Australia, the United Kingdom, or virtually the rest of the world, most of your tufted wool carpets still use jute backing, so be forewarned).

We also know that tufted wool carpet is often the carpet of choice in large Las Vegas casinos. It wears great and does not conduct electricity – important with all of those electronic gambling machines. Some of the higher Casino Carpetend casinos in Las Vegas clean some of their wool carpet daily…with hot water extraction. Wool is NOT wimpy.

So what do we know about cleaning procedures, chemistry and cleaning tufted wool carpet. Let’s look at some of the “rules” you may have heard.

  1. Wool should not be cleaned with carpet cleaning formulations that contain optical brighteners. Not a worry. Optical brighteners have not been used by reputable formulators in carpet cleaning solutions since the late 1980’s. The only reason you need to worry about this is if you are buying an el cheapo chemical from the big box store, the home improvement center, or the local jan-san house.
  2. Wool can be damaged by prolonged exposure to oxidizing bleaches. So can Nylon. How long is prolonged and how strong does the oxidizer have to be? The large majority of carpet cleaning solutions do not contain oxidizing agents (presprays, extraction detergents, acid neutralizing rinses) so that is not a huge concern. No reputable chemical formulator adds strong oxidizing bleach like chlorine bleach to any carpet cleaning solution because of the effect it could have on nylon carpets also. Cleaning or stain removal products that contain hydrogen peroxide are usually identified as that. Does a peroxide based stain removing mixture allowed to dwell on the wool carpet for a few minutes actually damage the wool fiber itself? What is worse – the unsightly stain or the slight effect on the fiber?
  3. Wool smells really bad when exposed to reducing bleaches. True, it does unless you like wet dog/decaying egg smell. But once it is cleaned out, did it damage the wool fiber itself?
  4. Both reducing agents and oxidizing agents in a carpet cleaning solution can cause bleaching or alteration of carpet colors. Same as the discussion above for damage to the fiber. The large majority of carpet cleaning solutions do not contain oxidizing or reducing agents (presprays, extraction detergents, acid neutralizing rinses) so that is not a huge concern. Cleaning or stain removal products that contain hydrogen peroxide or a reducing agent are usually identified as that. Does a peroxide based stain removing mixture or a reducing agent based stain removing mixture allowed to dwell on the wool carpet for a few minutes usually cause color loss, reduction or bleaching of colors? The same can be said for residential nylon carpet. When using a reducing or oxidizing stain removal mixture, there is always a potential for some color loss. What is worse – the unsightly stain or the slight risk of color loss on the fiber?
  5. Wool should not be cleaned with a total alkalinity that is too alkaline. This is again true for nylon, especially residential stain resistant nylon carpet.
  6. Wool exposed to high alkalinity over an extended period of time or repeated applications can damage the skin (epidermis) of the wool fiber. It can result in “felting.” The Las Vegas casino wool carpets do not appear to be disintegrating right before our eyes. How long? How many times?
  7. Wool should not be cleaned with temperatures greater than 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Are they talking about the temperature of the water striking the carpet or the temperature of the wool fiber itself? Testing by DuPont in the late 1980’s proved it is practically impossible to raise the temperature of the fiber itself above 150 degrees Fahrenheit, even with a fire breathing dragon of a truckmount. What happens bad if you clean a tufted wool carpet with your truckmount set at 200-220 degrees Fahrenheit? No one has answered that question with any demonstrated measurements that I am aware of.
  8. The carpet cleaning solution should not alter or affect the flammability rating of the carpet. One of the best things about wool carpet is that it is naturally flame resistant, without the addition of any kind of flame retardant. Water based carpet cleaning solutions are not going to make a wool carpet more flammable. They are not going to remove the flame retardant because there was not any applied. The only thing that could potentially alter the flammability of a wool carpet would be the use of a solvent cleaning solution that was non-volatile (it did not evaporate after use). Your favorite presprays, extraction detergents, and neutralizing rinses do not contain any kind of solution which could cause this issue.
  9. The carpet cleaning solution should not contain any agents which lead to rapid re-soiling of the carpet after cleaning because they leave behind some sticky or soil attracting residue. The same holds true for all synthetic carpets too. Sticky residues left in any carpet can cause rapid re-soiling.

The purpose of our discussion here today is not to disparage any organization or agency which provides cleaning advice or information on how to safely and effectively clean wool carpeting. Certainly there is value in having a product independently tested for its cleaning effectiveness and its propensity to contribute to rapid re-soiling. The problem is how the testing protocol is implemented. Does “lab soil” emulate properly the characteristics of real soil? Why does one testing organization not accept the findings of another testing organization?  If you review the cleaning rules above, most apply to nylon and wool carpeting. In a small industry like the professional carpet cleaning industry who ultimately pays for all of this testing? The carpet cleaner that purchases the tested product that is who.Commercial Wool CarpetsWool is a fabulous carpet fiber. It is soft. It wears well. It is naturally flame resistant. It is sustainable and renewable. It cleans up effectively when properly maintained on a periodic basis. It is NOT wimpy, or delicate, or hard to clean. A trained and thoughtful cleaning professional always practices reasonable caution when cleaning any carpet. Don’t be afraid of wool carpet! Embrace it as the high end carpet that it is. Clean it with confidence.

For residential wool carpet that is being properly maintained on a periodic basis, use CleanMaster WoolMaster Rug and Fabric ImageCleaner as your prespray and CleanMaster Clearwater Rinse as your neutralizing detergent. If it has not been cleaned in more than two years, use CleanMaster FastBreak HD as your prespray, and CleanMaster HydraClean as your carpet extraction detergent. For commercial wool carpet, use CleanMaster FastBreak HD as your prespray, and CleanMaster HydraClean as your carpet extraction detergent. It is always a good idea to use airmovers to assist in rapid drying of any wool carpet.

The 7 Most Common Misconceptions about Carpet Cleaning Chemistry – Part 3


Misconception #3 – You must use “Stain resist compatible” chemistry only, on warranted carpets


When Du Pont introduced Stainmaster® (now owned by Invista) carpet in 1987, the spot and stain warranty that was tied to it really forever changed the carpet cleaning industry. It was really the first time that the downstream performance of a carpet was actually tied to a cleaning related measurement. The chemistry used to make the carpet stain resistant was not permanent, and using the wrong cleaning chemistry could actually reduce its performance and useful life. The carpet cleaning chemical world was basically divided into two worlds – stain resistant compatible chemistry and that which was not (generally measured by a pH above 10). Cationic surfactants and optical brighteners were also eliminated from chemistry referred to as “stain resistant compatible.” Virtually all residential carpet sold since 1987 is warranted for stain resistance. Some is made of nylon (like the original Stainmaster®) and some today is made from polyester, olefin, or triexta fiber. Most of these carpets still have warranty provisions which recommend or require using carpet cleaning chemicals with a pH below 10.


So what does a professional cleaner really need to know and understand? Is your world still divided between stain resistant compatible chemistry and that which is not? Well the truth is the chemistry used to make a nylon carpet stain resistant has changed quite a bit since 1987. It is probably time for a fresh study of what affects higher pH solutions and cationic detergents may still have on the chemistry that makes the carpet stain resistant. In addition, today many carpet manufacturers refer to the Carpet and Rug Institute Seal of Approval testing program to find approved carpet cleaning chemistry that is “approved” for use on their carpet. Some of these cleaning solutions and some of the cleaning solutions used in the “system” testing that have passed CRI SOA testing have a pH above 10.


Our recommendation for cleaning residential carpet, especially nylon is simple. Quit worrying for a moment whether the chemical is stamped or marked with a stain resistant compatible claim and use some common sense. You can safely assume that virtually all carpets installed in a residential setting now have had a stain resistant warranty tied to them at one point. If the carpet you are cleaning is less than five years old, then it may or may not still have a warranty tied to it. The warranty is only an issue however, if the homeowner has “lived up to” the other provisions of the warranty. Those same warranties also often require the carpet be professionally cleaned every 12-24 months. The fact is that if a carpet is professionally cleaned on a periodic basis by a certified and trained professional cleaner who knows what they are doing, utilizing cleaning chemistry with a pH under 10, or “green” carpet cleaning chemistry is likely going to get it clean and looking great every time. However, if you are being asked to clean a carpet that is 3 years or older, and it has never been professionally cleaned, the warranty is likely irrelevant. They have already violated provisions of their warranty. Remember don’t make the warranty your problem. It is the carpet manufacturer’s warranty to deny or accept. Simply explain to your customer the recommendations or requirements for periodic cleaning that are likely tied to their carpeting. You are likely going to be judged by your customer by appearance improvement at that point. Use the chemistry that you know will do the best job of getting the carpet cleaned.


Our advice is quite simple, if the carpet is professionally cleaned on a regular basis, use CleanMaster FastBreak HD Traffic Lane Cleaner or CleanMaster Release with OxyBreak as your prespray. If it is an olefin, polyester, or triexta fiber and it has not been cleaned in more than two years, use CleanMaster PolyBreak as your carpet prespray, and CleanMaster HydraFree DFC as your extraction detergent. If it is nylon, and it has not been cleaned in more than two years, use CleanMaster Quake HD or CleanMaster Blitz with GreaseBreaker as your prespray. If it is wool, and it is being properly maintained on a periodic basis, use CleanMaster WoolMaster Rug and Fabric Cleaner as your prespray. If it has not been cleaned in more than two years, use CleanMaster FastBreak HD as your prespray. If you just want to carry one prespray on the truck and keep it simple, use CleanMaster FastBreak HD as your prespray on virtually everything.