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Reducing Mineral Content in Water Increases Cleaning Results

October 19, 2000
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Used properly, water-softening units increase productivity and carpet cleaning results, while decreasing downtime.

Obviously, water has a major role in the carpet cleaning industry because of its ability to carry away soils at a low cost. As a dispensable commodity, it allows for a reduced cost for each square foot of cleaning. However, it would become impractical if we were charged $0.02 per gallon in our total cleaning usage. So, how do we reduce costs and still deliver top-notch carpet cleaning? Let’s discuss one alternative that several of you may not have realized.

In my previous column, I expressed the importance of lowering the surface tension to improve fabric cleaning. Lowering the surface tension reduces the time required to remove the soiled particles. The bottom line is that properly formulated chemical cleaners help reduce costs. An additional factor that would help reduce costs is to lower the mineral content of the water, which also improves carpet cleaning results.

A quick and easy way to see if you have a high percentage of hard water is to fill a clean glass of water and let it evaporate. Repeat for a week. If the remaining sediment level is high, you can be assured the water is hard. Of course, for those who have truck mounts that develop extensive white powder deposits in screens or check valves, you know your water source is hard water.

Water within the range of 14 to 21 grains is classified as hard. Water within the range of 6 to 12 grains is considered soft. Six to twelve grains is the area a carpet cleaner should strive for when using a water softener. Water hardness data can be obtained by calling your local water supplier. In addition, there are kits and color sensitive indicator paper that help in maintaining your water softener.

Quite often, many carpet cleaners are surprised to hear that a quick relief to eliminating white powder buildup is to increase the cleaner chemical they are using by 25% to 35%. The chelates (means to hold in suspension) usually formulated into products may be enough to suspend the basic magnesium and calcium ions. By doing this, the water hardness is altered to the point that it will consequently remove the established white powder. This will work only under the condition that the formulating chemist has done his homework in incorporating proper chelate systems into the formulation you are using.

If you are purchasing low-grade products or non-formulated products, then be apprised of the possibility that corrosion, along with blockage, can frequently occur. The areas to look for in your truck mount are: pump systems, feed lines, filter screens, spray tips, fittings, and check valves. If you find problems occurring in these areas, be advised to check your formula or use a soft water treatment unit. Repairs may not be as prevalent.

Water softeners are units that remove the hardness from the water. Good to say, but wrong in theory. The calcium ion and magnesium ion in the water are actually exchanged for the sodium ion, which is obtained from salt. Lower hardness is attributed to an exchange process, not by total ion removal. That’s why you must check your salt content in the brine tank of a two-tank system. The other tank contains small spherical resin particles that will capture and hold the calcium and magnesium ions. The process will then release the sodium from the brine tank. It’s like exchanging two Canadian dollars for one U.S. dollar. Note: Slightly exaggerated but strongly felt by the Canadians.

Keep in mind that this ion exchange can only go so far because the spherical resin can only hold so much calcium and magnesium ions, which simply means that the soft water system loses its efficiency. A reverse flow of water, known as regeneration, is necessary for the soft water unit to operate correctly.

Allow me to save you some money. First, if you don’t have a water softener and your area is classified as hard water, do yourself a favor and purchase a water softening system for the van or in the plant. If you have a unit in your van that’s not doing anything, then fix it! Get it back in operation so it will help your truck mount perform better and you will find that your carpets will clean better. Remember, periodic maintenance is very important. One of the most exasperating factors in carpet cleaning is to have down time with your truck.

By the way, one approach to paying for the expense of maintaining your soft water system is to cut down the usage rate of your cleaning chemicals. To do this, reduce the amount specified by 33%. In other words if the label states 1-1/2 cups, then try 1 cup. I am sure you will be positively impressed with its performance and you will quickly find that the time and energy into the system will be worth its rewards.

Water softening is a win-win situation no matter how you look at it.

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