Monday, April 14, 2014

Chemically Sensitive Rugs: Dangers

This article was originally published in Cleanfax.

There are four main concerns with cleaning technicians attempting to deal with chemically washed rugs.

1. Color fade and change from sun or spot removers

These rugs fibers, especially the luster and antique washed ones, are damaged fibers. Those more aggressively-treated rugs become much more sensitive to sun fade and also more prone to color change with use of some spotting solutions.

Avoid drying these rugs in direct sunlight. Always test spot removers in small areas before attempting any larger use.

2. Pile distortion and fiber breaking

High sheen wool rugs have fibers that can easily get distorted and break from the use of extractors, brushes or other tools. They also can be damaged from foot traffic in a way that creates shadowing that may not be correctable with washing.

Avoid heavy scrubbing on high sheen wool rugs. Make sure that your extraction strokes are with the pile direction, not against it. Wands with a Teflon head will help prevent fiber breaking. Use softer brushes for grooming, and a gentle hand with tools going with the grain. Never rake the field of these rugs with a carpet groomer.

3. More susceptible to staining

With luster and antique washed rugs, the protection of their wool cuticles has been compromised, and this makes them more susceptible to permanent staining. Be aware of this before you promise a client that spots/spills are “no problem.” They may be a problem on a chemically washed rug.

With tea washed rugs, it is not unusual to have a spot remover remove the brown dye treatment and create a bright white area on the rug. Remember, these applications are not permanent, so stay gentle in your cleaning solution choices.

4. Odor and sensitivities

Some chemically washed rugs have residue of their treatments absorbed inside the rug’s cotton foundation fibers. I have had several consumers contact me regarding having chemical sensitivities to “tea washed” rugs from India after flood incidents. These rugs tend to have thicker foundation wefts that may not release the solutions as easily as thinner fibers would.

If a rug is woven (you can see the knots on the back side of the rug), most odors can be removed through fully washing the rug and using the appropriate solutions targeting the type of contaminant causing the odor.

Inspection is the best protection. When a rug is covered up in soil, it can be a surprise when cleaning uncovers “problems” like pile damage, dye damage or discolorations due to past chemical wash treatments. The more time you spend inspecting a rug, the less time you will spend trying to correct problems that are not your fault.

Determine if a rug has been chemically washed, and then discuss those issues with the client before the wash. When you address the issues beforehand, you are educating the client, and also protecting yourself in the process.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Chemically Sensitive Rugs: Washing Treatments

This article was originally published in Cleanfax.

Last week, we discussed how rugs are cleaned with chemical solutions. This week, we will look at common chemical washing treatments.

Luster wash

The purpose of the “luster wash” is to make a rug have more sheen to it, and to soften the feel of the wool pile. The solution helps to dissolve some of the outer cuticle layers of the wool fibers to help them to reflect more light and have a softer touch. A light luster wash is given to most rugs before they go off to be sold. However, some countries give aggressive luster wash treatments in order to make the wool look almost silk-like in the way that it shines. Rugs woven in China and Pakistan can have a strong light/dark direction to them, which is maximized by these chemical treatments. Rug owners sometimes mistakenly believe their wool rug is silk due to this sheen.

How to identify luster washed rugs

Wool rugs that look like silk are a sign of a heavy “luster wash” processing. There is a very strong light and dark direction. When you grin open the fibers, you will see that the base of the fibers are darker than at the tips. It is almost as if they have been “frosted” at the tips like highlights in hair.

Antique wash

Sometimes the chemical treatments are not meant to make a rug shine more brightly, but are meant to “age” the rug to make it appear to be older than it is. “Antique wash” is a more aggressive treatment to not just eat away at the wool cuticle layers, but also to help fade/mute the colors substantially. True antique rugs have a certain patina and mellowing of the colors that comes from age and use. In an attempt to try to attain that same result in a new rug, there is aggressive degradation of the rug that can lead to an almost disappearing of the colors as well as wearing down of the fibers. As with hair that has been too aggressively treated with bleaches or peroxides, the strand can break, become more brittle and can lose the ability to hold color. Wool is no different.

Poorly executed chemical processing can make a rug’s original colors disappear. It can also create a rough and brittle texture to the rug. In some new rugs where this chemical antique wash work has been too aggressive, the rugs are sometimes dipped in ink to try to create something decorative from a rug that has essentially been burned of its wool content.

How to identify antique washed rugs

Wool rugs that have been given an “antique wash” will have a strong color change from the back of the rug to the front. In some contemporary rugs with this processing, both sides are processed, so grin the rug fibers open to see the original color in the middle of the fibers. If that original color is very strong, then you will know this rug has been chemically treated.

Tea wash

Other rugs today are “mellowed” by covering them up in an over-dyeing process referred to as “tea wash” or “herbal wash” treatments. In some countries, rugs are packed in tea leaves to help give this type of gold/brown hue naturally to help soften the rug’s colors. In most cases today, the rug is “tea washed” using solutions that can range from natural dyestuffs to chemical solutions such as potassium permanganate. The quality of this chemical treatment varies as much as with the other treatments. You have low-end applications, which are essentially sprayed on one side of the rug only, and higher-end applications that have the rug dipped in the solution to try to attain an even result.

How to identify tea washed rugs

Wool rugs that have been “tea washed” have an overall gold or brown tone to them. The fringes will be beige instead of white, and this can wash away with fringe cleaning solutions, so be careful. If you grin open the rug fibers, they will be darker at the tips instead of lighter.

Check back next week as we wrap up this series on chemically sensitive rugs, where we will discuss the dangers from chemically washed rugs.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Chemically Sensitive Rugs

This article was originally published in Cleanfax.

Wool organizations have worked at identifying chemical solutions that are safe for use on wool rugs by rug cleaners. There has, however, been little or no attention to the chemical solutions used on rugs before they are sold and the harm they cause to the wool rugs before they even reach rug cleaners.

Most rugs are given a light chemical wash after being woven. Although each country has its own “special sauce” for this purpose, many use a low percentage chlorine bleach solution. They do the wash in order to help wash away impurities, rinse away excess dye and help soften the colors a bit by dissolving the outer wool cuticle layers.

Wool is a hair fiber, and this type of treatment is not unlike what is done when someone wants to add to their own hair some highlights, more sheen or even more dramatic color results — if they are so inclined.

Most wool treatments are considered fairly harmless to wool fibers. There are, however, some treatments that are more extreme in an effort to create a “wow” initial result with a rug, but with consequences that occur later in the rug’s life.

And sometimes those “consequences” pop up during the cleaning process by an unsuspecting rug cleaner.

Check back next week to learn about common chemical washing treatments, what they are, how to identify them and the dangers they may pose to rug cleaners.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Green Cleaning: Cleaning With Water

This article was originally published in American School & University.

The green cleaning movement has accomplished a lot over the past 20 years. This is especially true relative to the chemicals used for cleaning schools and universities. Today, third-party certifications from Green Seal, EcoLogo/UL and U.S. EPA’s Design for the Environment Program have made it easy to identify high-performing and cost-competitive “green” cleaning chemicals.

Schools and universities have significantly reduced the use of oldfashioned “butyl,” ammoniated and chlorinated cleaners. Gone are the petroleum distillate and chlorinated solvent-based degreasers. Gone are the detergents and antibacterial agents that mimic hormones or, like formaldehyde, are known to cause cancer. Reducing the use of cleaning products based on these ingredients have reduced the risk of harm to cleaning personnel, as well as students and staff.

In addition, schools and universities have replaced aerosols and ready-to-use products with concentrates that can be diluted accurately on site, which have reduced the number of plastic bottles, metal cans and cardboard shipping cartons, and the environmental impacts associated with the manufacture, disposal and recycling of these packaging components.

So what’s next?

Thanks to the success of the green cleaning movement and the maturation of demand for greener products, manufacturers have invested heavily into greener technologies. In addition to chemical manufacturers, equipment manufacturers also have entered the market, as well as manufacturers from other industries such as food processing, water and waste treatment.

Among the most interesting new technologies are devices that electrolyze, ionize, ozonate or super-heat (steam) water, creating an effective cleaning solution. Some have product solutions that are effective as sanitizers and disinfectants.

Although current technologies appear to be limited at this time for cleaning light and medium soils found in daily cleaning requirements, it is predicted that it won’t be long before the technologies can be used on an even greater number of soils. Plus, the rapid advancement of these technologies and the competition among manufacturers have resulted in the cost of these devices falling rapidly.

The major benefit of these devices appears to be less focused on reducing the risk of harm to worker and occupant health; rather, the main benefit appears to be the reduced impacts on the environment.

A large university or school district can eliminate hundreds, if not thousands of plastic bottles and metal cans. These packaging items are relatively easy to recycle, but new technologies significantly reduce the environmental impacts from extracting the petroleum or natural gas used to make the plastic bottles and mining used to make metal cans. The devices significantly reduce the energy, water and waste from the manufacturers who turn the raw materials into basic ingredients, along with those who turn the ingredients into a properly formulated cleaning product.

Collectively, schools and universities along with other institutional and commercial buildings could eliminate an estimated 25 to 50 million plastic bottles, pails and drums; metal cans and cardboard shipping cartons.

It appears clear that this is the future for cleaning chemicals. Both the Healthy Schools Campaign in its Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools and the U.S. Green Building Council in its LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (LEED-EBOM) recognize the benefits of these new devices.

Thus in 2014, schools and universities are encouraged to test these devices. Keep in mind that there are a number of technologies to explore, and it is important to find ones that work most efficiently with current cleaning procedures. In the end, they will help maintain a clean, safe and healthful building while reducing impacts on the environment and saving money.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Cleaning With BOOST

Watch the video to see how Pittsburg Unified School District Saves Money with Clarke BOOST cleaning technology.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Boosting Cleaning Efficiencies: Where To Start

This article was originally published in Facility Cleaning Decisions.

Before making any changes, environmental services (EVS) managers must revisit and rethink the spaces they clean and separate them into clinical and nonclinical environments.

In the clinical space, everything cleaners do must be entirely centered on serving patients and keeping the environment safe for infection prevention and environmental hygiene. Here, the speed in which these spaces are readied for care is also a concern.

When budgets get tight and boosting efficiencies builds in importance, EVS directors must look to nonclinical environments as places to increase efficiency. Take floor care, for example, which can be broken into routine, periodical or restorative cleaning. Are there areas that would not be affected if floor care were reduced?

But in offices and support areas, is it necessary to maintain floors as often as one does in clinical areas? Office cleaning is a frequency you can easily adjust. In some places, offices are cleaned five days a week, but could you go to cleaning them three or once a week instead?

What about adding a communal receptacle and asking occupants to dump their own trash, eliminating the need for cleaners to enter each office? Project work might be reduced, as well — maybe floor refinishing can be done biannually instead of quarterly.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Causes Of Flooring Failures: Part III

This article was originally published in Cleaning & Maintenance Management.

There are a variety of ways cleaning professionals can help prevent flooring failures. One of the first steps is to know what types of materials — adhesives, concrete, etc. — were used to install the floor. While this may not always be possible, a lot can be determined by the age of the floor.

If it is a new floor or a floor installed within the past few years, cleaning professionals can assume a low-VOC adhesive was used if for no other reason than their use has grown considerably in recent years. With this information, they can select chemicals that are still effective but more protective of the materials likely used to secure the floor.

Another preventive technique involves the type of floorcare equipment used to maintain the floor. Because we know that moisture and some chemicals can be damaging to some flooring adhesives, selecting equipment that uses less water and chemical can prove beneficial. Typically, an alternative to conventional rotary floor care equipment is a cylindrical brush machine. Because the brushes on these machines perform much of the actual cleaning, studies indicate these machines perform effectively with considerably less water and chemical.

Finally, cleaning professionals should encourage facility managers to apply a sealant or finish to floors. The primary purpose of a sealant/finish is not to put a shine on the floor — although that is the result after several coats are applied — but to protect the floor. In this case, the sealant/finish is helping to keep moisture and contaminants from seeping down under the floor surface. While some managers may want to avoid refinishing floors for cost reasons, in the long run not refinishing can, as we have already discussed, be a costly mistake. In addition to preventing flooring failures, finished floors are typically much easier to maintain, which can prove to contribute to cost savings over time.