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IICRC President's Corner: Time Well Spent

February 1, 2002
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Developing a scientifically verifiable protocol takes time and volunteer effort.

The process is proven, but there's one ingredient

that's always necessary:
The Volunteer.

In 1995, the IICRC Board of Directors made a decision to look at the feasibility of developing a protocol for testing methods of cleaning that are listed in the IICRC Standard and Reference Guide for Professional On-Location Carpet Cleaning.

The moment we announced it, the industry took sides: "IICRC is going to compare methods against each other and tell everybody which was the best method." Phone calls and threats of lawsuits followed, coming to both the task force chair and our corporate headquarters.

The misconception could not have been further from the truth. What we wanted to do was to develop protocols (testing procedures) that would be reproducible in the field or the laboratory. In other words, the results had to be consistent.

Once we knew what we wanted to do - and the industry understood that we were not going to "compare methods" - we needed to fund the project. Since our limited budget prevented us from funding the entire project, we solicited anonymous donations from carpet manufactures, fiber producers, training schools, franchises, cleaning equipment and chemical manufacturers and individuals.

With ideas and the funding in hand, it was time to begin to develop the protocols. What had seemed like such a simple idea - soiling some carpets and cleaning them, then looking at the results and developing the protocol - was anything but. The task force soon realized that in order to get the scientific results they wanted, there were some real decisions to be made.

They needed to decide who was qualified to do the testing. What carpet was going to be the "standard carpet," and what kind of fiber type, construction, yarn denier, density and face weight was it going to have? Better yet, what color was it going to be? They also needed to determine what kind of soil they were going to use as the "standard soil."

Thanks to the assistance of the Shaw Technical Department, the task force was able to select a standard commercial and residential carpet to test. The standard soil selected was the internationally used American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists soil. They had all the parts to start the testing now.

This was an exciting time for the task force, until they ran into the next roadblock: "How do we apply the soil to the carpet?"

Seems easy - just dump it on and its soiled. However, you cannot get consistency that way.

At this point, the task force was finally able to find the "right soil" and got the carpet samples uniformly soiled. They were even able to clean the soil out of the samples, which was even better. It was finally time to send the soiled carpet samples out to the different field-testing organizations. Along with the samples was a protocol of how to do the cleaning.

The organizations had to document all procedures for the cleaned samples to be accepted. Once they submitted the clean samples and documentation back to the lab, the lab duplicated the procedures. Of all the samples sent back, the lab was able to get exactly the same results, except for one. We now had a reproducible, scientifically verifiable protocol that works. Now as the industry conducts testing of cleaning methods using this IICRC testing protocol, the data will be consistent, reproducible, and comparable. Over time this will allow decisions about which system to use in which circumstance to be made based on scientific data rather than opinion.

In conclusion, it was time well spent by many volunteers working to bring this to a completion. We now have even more scientific data to support the cleaning industry with the IICRC Methods Testing Protocols, and the more scientific data that we compile, the more creditable our industry becomes. I would like to thank all of the volunteers and contributors that have worked on this project.

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