Cleaning & Restoration Association News

Clean Streaks or Dirty Streaks? It’s All the Same

December 14, 2000
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Do you know what the definition of insanity is? “Doing the same things over and over and over again, but expecting different results.” Have you ever had to redo a carpeted area of a facility because lines showed up the day after you had cleaned the carpet? Are the lines about 2 to 3" inches wide and spaced about every 21/2 to 3-ft. apart, primarily in the trafficked areas? They can look cleaner (lighter) than the color of the carpet, or they can look dirty (darker) in color.

Maybe you had to re-clean all the traffic areas because they looked dirty again the day after. So you go back to the facility and re-clean the soiled areas. You visit or call your customer the next day only to find that the lines have returned. You go back again, but this time you say to yourself, “I’m really going to clean it this time!” And you do! You follow up the next day and the lines are back again. Argh! What am I doing wrong?

My friend, you have just experienced “insanity.”

The clean lines appear because, as you overlap the area you clean, it naturally leaves a bit more chemical on the carpet in some places. That bit more of chemical works on loosening soil from the fibers—for just a little more time, making that line cleaner.

The same concept also applies to the appearance of dirty lines—too much chemical in one place for too long. The extra chemical finds deeply embedded soil and suspends it. As the carpet dries, the loosened but unextracted soil wicks up to the surface, making that line dirtier.

When cleaning professionals call me for advice on clean or dirty streaks, I remind them of the four fundamentals to removing soil: Time, Temperature, Chemical and Agitation. Picture it as a pie chart. There is only one pie and only four slices. The four slices can be cut any way you want, meaning you use more of one and less of another depending on the situation. If you increase one or more, you decrease one or more of the fundamentals.

Ask yourself what fundamental is missing when clean or dirty streaks appear. You can see you’re using chemical; you’ve used plenty of it by now. You can see you’re using temperature, and your back and arms can testify to using agitation. But, you’re probably forgetting time. It’s critical to understand that the carpet didn’t get dirty in less than five seconds. It will take several minutes, perhaps 10-15 minutes or more, to get the soil loosened from the carpet fibers before extraction begins.

Save this streaked job by applying a light mist of bonnet cleaning solution one section at a time. Then immediately run the bonnet cleaner over the carpet, allowing the pad to absorb the soil. This will give the carpet the even and clean appearance your customers desire.

For the next job, apply a quality pre-conditioner to the carpet, work it in, and give it time to perform its job. It is tempting to bypass a step or try to speed up pre-conditioning. “It doesn’t look that dirty,” you might say.

But you’d be forgetting that the pie has four pieces. If you try to cut the chemical and time slices smaller, you have to make up the difference somewhere. In the end you worked harder, probably used more cleaning solution, possibly set yourself up for over-wetting the carpet, and proved the definition of insanity.

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