Association News

A Revolution in Odor Control

February 10, 2009
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The “green” revolution demands that professionals who specialize in odor control search for technologies that eradicate odors in a safe and natural way. One of those technologies making its way to the forefront is zeolite.

As defined by Wikipedia, zeolites are aluminosilicate minerals and have a microporous structure. Natural zeolites form where volcanic rocks and ash layers react with alkaline groundwater. Zeolites are the aluminosilicate members of the family of microporous solids known as “molecular sieves”; the term refers to a particular property of these materials, i.e., the ability to selectively sort molecules based primarily on a size exclusion process. Zeolites also crystallize in post-depositional environments over periods ranging from thousands to millions of years in shallow marine basins.

By now you’re probably saying to yourself, “That’s nice and all, but why do I care?”

Here’s why. This miracle rock provides unbelievable odor control in many situations. Zeolite powder can be used to absorb odors caused by pets, smoke, urine and even certain gases. Zeolite is a great carpet deodorizer for clients looking to remove odors in a safe and natural way. Zeolite is perfume and fragrance free, and does not emit VOCs or contain solvents or chemicals. The best feature? It’s a natural non-toxic mineral that controls odor in an earth-friendly way.

I am not suggesting zeolite is a cure-all for carpet decontamination. Professional odor control technicians must thoroughly clean and decontaminate the carpet surface to subsurface according to procedures set forth by the IICRC for odor control of urine contamination to carpet. Attending the IICRC odor control class and certification is essential for a professional to be successful in decontaminating urine affected textiles.

But it is a fascinating mineral. Not all zeolite is created equal; industrial versions may have impurities. FDA approval of zeolite is very important, as it must be properly processed to remove contaminants. Zeolite’s odor- and moisture-control ability is used in the agricultural industry to grow plants more effectively by adding great value to fertilizer. Nutrients are held longer in the soil with zeolite, which improves soil quality. Zeolite can absorb in addition to adsorb, which means zeolite takes advantage of being very porous in addition to capillary suction. Combined, these features assist agriculture in the areas water infiltration and retention in soil.

Zeolite is often used to control indoor air pollution and odors associated with pollution. It is often found in a pebble-like form, negatively charged, that absorbs and adsorbs moisture and gases. In pebble form, odor control contractors use zeolite in basements, locker rooms, closets, boats, RVs, etc. to trap tobacco smoke, fire smoke and other unwanted fumes or gases.

During my research, I found numerous and widespread use of different grades of zeolite. The water purification industry employs ion-exchange beds for water purification and softening. Commercially, zeolite is well known to be able to separate gases, including Freon and formaldehyde. As mentioned earlier, agriculture uses zeolite as a way to treat soil. The grade used releases either potassium or nitrogen to handle different agricultural demands.

There are also zeolite-based oxygen concentrators to make medical-grade oxygen. Heating and refrigeration technology uses natural zeolites to capture waste heat in addition to solar heat energy. Certain laundry detergents use a form of zeolite. A synthetic form of zeolite is used in the process of what is called warm mix asphalt concrete; the zeolite decreases temperature during manufacturing. This lowers the use of fossil fuels so less carbon dioxide, aerosols and vapors are reduced. If you ever maintained an aquarium zeolite is sold by pet stores as an additive to activated charcoal to absorb ammonia. For cat lovers, that special cat litter that absorbs odors and will not clump together is sometimes made of zeolite.

Odor control technicians quickly learn controlling moisture and humidity is a key principle in controlling odors caused by microorganism that thrive in moist environments like mildew odors. Zeolite can control and trap many times its weight in odors and moisture. It can be recharged by sunlight and be ready to work again in situations where odors from organisms that like moisture create unwanted odors.

Zeolite also makes an impact in a less direct way. Today’s clients appreciate and demand safe, non-toxic and earth-friendly products. Zeolite’s green properties provide another pathway for the professional textile cleaner to take when marketing his or her business.

As a writer and columnist for ICS, it was important for me to research and write about odor control from a different perspective. I started thinking about odor control as it pertains to green cleaning and providing a healthier indoor environment for our clients. My hope is that an article of this nature provides you with more firepower and knowledge to be even more successful in the scientific world of odor control. Professional textile cleaning technicians and restorers who truly care about cleaning and health management must continue to learn and research products, systems and methodologies that contribute in the healthiest way possible to the goal of maintaining a clean and healthy environment for their clients; at the same time effectively managing our fragile ecosystem by employing the latest advancements in earth-friendly odor control and eradication systems.

Education is fun, challenging and ever changing. Professionals who love their chosen craft study the science of cleaning until they can study no longer. This, my friends will take an entire lifetime. This article was very enjoyable to write and research; I truly hope you enjoyed reading about zeolite.

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