You know your job… the equipment you use, the chemistry, and the fiber types and styles of carpet. You know techniques and you have developed a solid cleaning skillset.
Of equal importance is understanding the type of soiling you are to remove. This varies from job to job. The type of soil in a home with kids and pets is going to be different from that of a busy restaurant. And the type of soil in a piece of furniture is also going to be different from soil in carpet, even if located in the same room.
Simply put, soil is anything in a textile that should not be there. Soil can be — typically — tracked-in dirt, oil, grease, gum, ink, food or beverage spills, pet urine and more. The list is endless.
All these soils must be removed to the best of a cleaning technician’s ability. It’s the baseline of customer expectations. You are hired to clean a carpet. When the job is done, the customer expects a clean carpet. Period. They don’t want arguments or excuses if you can’t deliver what they expect.
Fortunately, most soils are easily removed during the routine process of cleaning. Vacuuming dry, loose soils, then preconditioning to break down water- and solvent-soluble soils, and then following with thorough rinsing results in a clean carpet or piece of furniture. In your customer’s eyes, you are now a hero. It’s a nice feeling.
However, more often than not, there is a type of soil that remains after cleaning, one that unfortunately makes many cleaners feel anything but a hero.
Spots vs. stains
A spot is substance on the outside of the fiber. It’s typically easy to remove, comes out often with routine cleaning, etc.
Closely related to a spot is a stain. A stain is substance that goes into the fiber, dries and seems to take up permanent residence.
It’s that staining issue that’s often your antagonist when it comes to cleaning. It’s a hurdle to your search for that challenging and sometimes elusive paradox: Complete customer satisfaction.
The makeup of a stain
A stain doesn’t always have to be difficult to remove, if you follow a few basic principles when it comes to removing them. Of course, if the customer has attempted removal before calling you, your job is now tougher. Unsuccessful “consumer” stain removal attempts mean the stain could be “set” and could withstand anything you do short of completely bleaching it out and recoloring. Another topic altogether.
During the inspection, a customer may point out what could be a stain. In order to determine if you will be spending more time on the job than normal, and perhaps may be charging more for that particular job, getting down on your hands and knees and using a pocket microscope may be required. Choose something such as a 60x- to 100x-power microscope so you can magnify the fiber and see if the substance is sticking to the outside or if it has penetrated inside the fiber. This provides useful information.
Identifying the staining substance is important. If the stain looks dull or “earthy,” then odds are it is an organic stain such as from coffee, tea, or other foods or beverages. If the stain is somewhat shiny, it may be synthetic, or artificial, and common to dyes found in some beverages such as Kool-Aid or “fruit” drinks. It could also be a dye from medicine, such as cough syrup, etc.
Why is this important information to gather? Because you should match up your spot or stain chemistry to the type of substance you are removing. Your odds of removal are increased if you use the best match.
Products to use
Every professional carpet and furniture cleaner needs an extensive spot and stain removal kit. Don’t cut corners when choosing or building your kit.
You must have the products necessary to do the job. For example, when you are removing tannin stains, such as coffee, tea, red wine, dark beer, etc., which are organic in nature, the best product to start with is a tannin stain remover, which is acidic. But when removing typical food stains or biological substances such as fresh urine, blood, vomit, etc., start with a protein stain remover, which is alkaline. And if these products aren’t sufficient, you want at your disposal a collection of enzyme-based solutions and oxidizing/reducing agents.
And if the stain is oily in nature, you need “dry” solvents, whether in liquid form or gel form. Ink removal will require not only a dry solvent, but often an oxidizing solution to remove the final coloring.
Then there are products specific to manufacturers that are likened to “broad-spectrum” in that they remove a variety of substances.
The point is, don’t find out you need something that might work when you are on the job and don’t have that product. Stock up and be ready for action. There are dozens of typical stains you face regularly and dozens of others that are not as common but are still problematic.
For a complete listing of these stains and steps to remove them, I have a stain guide you need. Just send me an email at JeffCross@Cleaningprofessor.com and I’ll forward it on to you. NO obligation… just some good information you can use.
Jeff Cross is the executive editor of Cleanfax and an industry trainer and consultant. He can be reached at JeffCross@CleaningProfessor.com or (740)973-4236.