Cleaning & Restoration Association News

One Glug or Two?

February 10, 2004
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Many of the cleaning-related problems that I get asked about are related to the improper use of cleaning agents. Not necessarily using the wrong cleaner, but using it at an improper dilution ratio.

Remember, modern cleaning agents are a complex formulation of raw ingredients that are each designed to perform a specific function (wetting, suspension, agglomeration, etc.). A trained chemist in a laboratory has determined the optimum concentration of these ingredients to achieve maximum cleaning effectiveness. In some cases, the proper mixture will result in a synergistic effect (the sum is equal to more than the parts) and, in the same vein, improper dilution may lessen cleaning effectiveness.

The problems that may be caused by improper mixing of cleaners include slow drying, rapid re-soiling, sticky carpet surface, dull colors, fiber destruction, recurring spots, shall I go on? Many of these problems can be corrected by a clear-water rinse of the carpet to remove residues. Some, such as the destruction of wool fibers by alkaline residues, may be permanent.

Permanent or correctable, these are problems that take up your time. Your crews must plan a return trip to perform corrective actions concerning them, and they may well erode the client's confidence in your company. Return trips not only have direct costs, such as wages, gasoline and lost production time, but they may lead to lost business and reduced revenues for your company.

How do we prevent this type of problem from developing? How about putting a stop to the old "glug" method of mixing chemicals? You know the one: you add a glug or two to your sprayer and fill it with water. How about an 89-cent tool that will save you hundreds of dollars in cleaning-agent costs, as well as reducing equipment downtime due to clogged jets or hoses? This remarkable invention is called a measuring cup. Preferably one that is plastic, clear, and has visible markings that won't rub off with use. Wash it after each use so acid-spotter residues don't accidentally neutralize alkaline cleaning agents.

A related situation that I regularly encounter is when the amateur chemist/technician wants to add a little of this and a little of that to his regular cleaner, with the intention of "making it do more" or "making it smell better." Please resist the temptation to second-guess the professionals who formulated the cleaner in the first place. If the product could have been engineered to do what you are trying to get it to do, it would have been done in the lab. Trust me on that.

Keep in mind the fact that if you are using a branded product properly, and problems arise from that proper usage, the chemical manufacturer has product liability insurance to help you with your predicament. In many cases they will send an expert to aid in correcting problems. But if you have created a "bathtub" mixture, they have no legal obligation to help you. In other words, you're on your own! Read and follow label directions for best results.

There is a growing use of dilution-control centers and chemical-dispensing stations to prevent improper dilution and to reduce cross-mixing of cleaning agents. This growth has been primarily in commercial maintenance companies and in-house cleaning applications. But all of the benefits that these larger companies enjoy as a result of using these mixing systems will also be of value to the smaller cleaning company. Benefits such as lowering chemical costs by eliminating the glug system; simple, no-brainer chemical dispensing; accurate mixing of product; and reduced hazards from concentrates all come with the proper use of a dispensing system. And don't forget about reduced callbacks and happier customers.

These dispensing systems come in a variety of styles. Some are permanently mounted designs that can be professionally plumbed into a facility, or merely adapted to a nearby water faucet. There are also styles that attach to the end of a garden hose. This type would probably be best for a one-truck operator. Products designed for use with these types of dispensing systems include pre-sprays, rinse aids, disinfectants, deodorants and spotting agents.

Just think about it: no more hearing your helper asking you how to mix a product again and again. Tell him to read the label and follow directions. Or you might think about purchasing a dispensing system. But at the very least, please buy and use a measuring cup. And resist the urge to be a bathtub chemist; it will pay off in the long run.

Until next month, see ya!

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