ICS Magazine

How Green Is My Carpet?

November 11, 2006

The word "green" is usually used to describe a color, such as a green traffic light or Irish green. We also incorporate green into colloquialisms, such as, "Show me your green," meaning money, or "Green with envy," a common phrase expressing greed or desire. In no way does it reflect the color.

There are more than 60 expressions in the dictionary that relate to the word "green". Green expresses characteristics, location, identity, and other numerous aspects. From Greenland (the world's largest island) to Green Card (an identification card) we can see green's multiple usages. However, we are interested only in its usage in the carpet-cleaning world, such as the ingredients used in your cleaning products. Here "green" will be a word to describe a product as being more environmentally acceptable.

Now, being "green" does not necessarily mean that functionality is there. The product may very well work, but quite often, formulation sacrifices are made and the performance of the green product becomes lackadaisical. This is bad, because carpet cleaners can recognize this difference. The first lines of green products performed poorly when they were introduced several years ago. They did not sell, and are no longer found on distributors' shelves.

Basically, to enter the green cleaning market, a product must have green merit, (environmental acceptability) and do the job. I have found often in my R&D experience that laboratory tests do not always equate to real-world cleaning. Woe is me when data show favorable results, but the professional cleaner finds the product to be a poor performer. The real sadness is when you feel you have a five-star, lab-tested product and the consumer results show only a 50/50 acceptance of the product. Fifty percent do not like it, and 50 percent would buy it again. This is a real fork in the road! You have to decide which route to take, the left or the right. This can be a difficult decision when you are deciding where research money should be invested. Greenbacks are used in the promotion of the green product, and without it that product is going nowhere.

Those green identity tags that are used on the labels to inform the consumer that the product has merit, as a cleaner can be costly, due to expensive testing programs. This being the case, you can rest assured that green-labeled products will cost more. Keep in mind that the higher price of green cleaning will allow you to increase your fees, due to the use of environmentally preferable green products. Increased cleaning prices may be difficult for the homeowner to accept, so you will need to educate your customers about the benefits of green cleaning for their home and family health. Some states, such as California and New York, are beginning to require that green chemicals be used.

As green product usage becomes more pronounced, does that mean that current chemicals will be abandoned? Not really. Products that you are currently using are still accepted. Keep in mind that the dilution of the product plays a big role in its end usage. Ratios as high as 1 part product to 1,000 parts water for truckmount use diminish the chemical concern. This does not mean that current products will never be replaced with green products. I am not belittling the green label, I am just commenting that current chemicals can and will continue to fit the picture of use in regular carpet cleaning. Their use will not stop overnight because of the "Green Revolution."

Now, how will the green cleaning products fit in that framed picture painted "green"? To begin with, government offices, schools, city buildings and any facility operating under green specifications will most likely request that green-labeled chemicals be used to clean their carpet. This spillover comes from the dedicated "green building" industry. Construction materials containing unhealthy by-products, such as formaldehyde used in pressboard, have been eliminated. Years ago, carpet mills manufactured carpets with a high level of odor. The carpets were suspected to cause illness in people exposed to the new carpeting. I remember one incident when a government department installed new carpets in the basement level. The employees complained of nausea and pain; talk about a negative outcry from the office workers.

I feel there is a definite trend in residential homes toward green-labeled cleaning products. This may take time as homeowners acquire a better understating of green products - provided, of course, that they perform! Another determining factor for the homeowner is that the required amount of greenbacks is not too high, or his home doesn't become a greenhouse. After all, he's not a greenhorn.

And with that, I'll take my Green River (a lime and lemon drink) and move on.