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Recipe Magic in Carpet Cleaning

February 9, 2001
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Got vinegar? Staple kitchen items such as vinegar, lemon juice and ammonia can help make your next emergency cleaning job easier.



I’m sure there are carpet cleaners who have heard at one time or another about a mystical cleaning compound that “does it all” in removing dirt, grime, and stains with the use of materials taken off the kitchen shelf. It’s hard for many to imagine that food products can be classified as chemistry, but when you get to down to the basics, the chemistry in foods is the reason we eat the way we do. Every bit of food we eat is based on taste, texture, smell, eye appeal and desire. Your drool will determine in the end on whether you will enjoy the morsel or reject it in its format—all due to the chemistry involved.

Which foods can be used as nutritional intake and which can be used for cleaning or removing stains? Basically, there are several items fall into this category: corn starch, vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, carbonated water, lemon juice, ammonia, and a host of others you may be able to tell me about. Several books have been published on the concept of cleaning without the use of off-the-shelf cleaners. Utilizing a food item seems to be more appropriate and more environmentally acceptable then a formulated product.

However, there is one basic fallacy in that type of thinking: Product performance is not on par as compared to a formulated cleaning product. The research and development has been extensive in the finalization of that product, which is based on a tremendous amount of experience in its development.

It’s interesting that a home recipe may very well accomplish its primary goal in cleaning with virtually no cost in research but by word of mouth usage. On the other hand a cleaning product that’s been researched cannot be sold unless the consumer accepts it as to its performance.

Recognition of a formulated product is an important aspect to its acceptance. There is a psychological curtain in all of us, which determines the product’s functionality and the way we approach its use. For example, Scotchgard™ and Teflon® are defined as fabric protectors. But each will provoke different viewpoints as to their acceptance in protecting. Both are recognized for their performance, whereby I’ve heard different stories as to their success—one is better then the other, and vice-versa.

Hershey’s is another viable and prominent product line. But what does chocolate have to do with chemical recipes? As cleaners, we know what it can to on a white couch. The question is this: How do you remove chocolate from a polyolefin fiber utilizing kitchen chemistry?

Basically, a hot water extraction cleaning solution would do it. But in its natural form, cocoa requires a more elaborate set up. The use of a solvent would be necessary to dissolve the fatty acids for its removal. Fortunately, consumable chocolate is usually buoyed up with sugars, emulsifiers, and extenders, which will prompt easier removal. We should question as to what type of kitchen chemistry would be employed to remove that chocolate.

One approach is to use a higher alkaline compound along with some rubbing alcohol. That higher pH product could be TSP or ammonia with amounts of 1 to 2 ounces per quart. To better understand these basic ingredients, let’s discuss several household products and their pH condition.

At the top of the pH scale we have: ammonia, 11.0-12.0; kitchen cleansers, 10.5-11.0; fabric softener, 6.5; carbonated water, 4.0-5.0; white vinegar, 3.0-4.0; and lemon juice, 3.0-5.0 These products all have an end use where it’s important that an understanding of their pH is necessary. Although the average homeowner doesn’t express any interest in this area, nor do they want to get involved, but as a professional carpet it’s in your best interest to relate the problem stain with your knowledgeable input.

Have you noticed the rise of customer complaints on stains recently? The simple answer is that fashion trends have opted for lighter colors and more lustrous fiber. As a result, dust, dirt, and food spills show up quicker, which prompts customers to complain and request your help. Obviously, the best advice to dispense for any type of spill is immediate attention. Here are a few suggestions if you need to get to the spill at a later time:

    • When orange soda has spilled on that new eggshell colored carpet, I would opt for clear soda water to flush out the dye of the original soda color, and then use an extraction process (sponge, towel or wet/dry vacuum).

    • As to urine, acid compounds such as vinegar and soda water would work at a dilution of 4 ounces per gallon. Here again an extraction process is in line.

    • For Kool-Aid™ stains, use a lot of soda water with the hopes that it spilled on stain-resistant carpet.

    • The prognosis for coffee and tea would be to use vinegar and soda water. These ingredients may seem like magic, but all we’re doing is lowering the pH to allow penetration to take hold for improved absorbency and easy removal.

      So how about you? I’m sure you’ve encountered and even used a few old time cleaning recipes over the years. Why not submit a few of

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