WHY Have My Carpet or Furniture Cleaned?
Advertisements for vacuum cleaners say they have a 99.97% efficiency rating seem impressive but mean very little. The vast majority of homes don’t vacuum often enough to effectively remove soils specific to that home and even if they did, most of those homes have vacuum cleaners (even HEPA) that only remove a third or a half of the soil that they should remove…even with multiple passes. So what if they are 99.97% effective with the soil they do remove when 60% of the soil is still there?
Before we do any cleaning or estimating we always look at your vacuum and assess ways to assist our customers to help prevent breathing difficulties in their home as much as possible. We know that poor quality, damaged or poorly filtered vacuum cleaners and inadequate vacuuming frequency are the leading factors contributing to excess soil in furnishings which, in combination with more efforts to seal home environments and the need to improve filtration, is increasing our client’s exposure risks. Basically, we believe the evidence says that the majority of fine dust trapped in furnishings is blown and scattered into the air as often as it is collected and ejected from the home.
Why Should I Hire Someone to Clean My Carpet or Furniture?
There is a lot of unknown or misleading data about soiling. But the truth isn’t always easily accessible or transferable from your carpet or upholstery cleaner to you. First, off, just because you do or don't "see" soil doesn't always mean it's "there". In other words, you may think you see soil when you see shading from wear, abrasion or fading, and you may be seeing soil where you're certain "it isn't dirty".
Educating the consumer, pre-testing and establising scientifically what's "there" generally means expended time and often times the cleaner sees it as interfering with “sales”.
Most people think “The carpet/upholstery looks fine so we’ll pass on cleaning for now…” Your cleaner is great at quoting but terrible at truly assessing your needs, so you’re on your own. Usually you “see” what’s called apparent soiling and then call a cleaner. However, statistically speaking the “real” soiling has probably already created problems that will not be completely reversed.
There is plenty of documentation available to support the claim that every home should be more thoroughly, more often and professionally cleaned, but you probably haven’t seen it. And if your cleaner hasn’t seen it either, then what would encourage you to hire them? Here are some facts:
- According to Dr. Michael Berry in his book, Protecting the Built Environment: Cleaning for Health, each day an adult consumes "about two pounds of solid food, four pounds of liquids and 30 pounds of air." He notes that "by far the dominant path for [harmful indoor environmental] exposure is breathing or inhalation." The quality of air inside buildings affects human health perhaps more than any other single factor.
For FiberGuard customers this fact is not as significant as it is for FiberGuard Technicians who clean furnishings all day – every day. No one has more need for information related to the issues of exposure to dry soil than us. In fact,
- environmental health studies found that cleaners are the first group (of 30) to suffer from breathing difficulties. Recently we found out how much this information may also indicate potential problems to our clients, so we became more focused on sharing what we have learned.
First, we share the facts that we have catalogued as best as possible, given the differing sources and, when possible, list the web site from which we accessed the information. Then we try to suggest ways for you to assess the level of soiling in your home. Simple. Since we have equipment to do all of this, including dry soil extractors and filters, illuminated microscopes and vacuum assessment skills, consider asking us to give you a free in-home assessment with no obligation.
- The number of asthma sufferers has risen from 6.7 million in 1980 to 17.3 million in 1998 to nearly 25 million in recent years. Some data suggests that we’re headed for a doubling of that statistic. In the United Kingdom 20% of the population suffers from asthma. Despite advances in clinical treatments, emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths are also on the rise. Asthma is believed to be the most common chronic health reason for which students miss school. (Centers for Disease Control, American Lung Association.)
BOTTOM LINE - YOU NEED TO CLEAN YOUR CARPET (AND FURNITURE) FOR YOUR OWN GOOD HEALTH AND HERE'S WHY
Truly, dry soil is abrasive and can harm carpet fibers if not removed. Under the weight and movement of foot traffic, these particulate soils can scratch and cut carpet fibers, dulling the appearance of the carpet. Abrasive soil is the major cause of carpet wear.
However efficient the vacuuming, various sources who have measured the actual composition of soil say that from 5% to 23% is made up of oils, waxes, clays and other “sticky” binding agents that do not vacuum away. And Hoover says that vacuuming leaves the smallest (.03 - .4) micron materials of particulate matter (PM) still in the fabric or carpet.
Various studies state that PM of less than 2.5 microns but larger than 1 micron in size are the most problematic for humans. They penetrate and then lodge deeply in the alveoli of the lungs and are not coughed up. Larger particles do not make it past the natural protective systems in the body. Some research says smaller particles of less than .03 microns either cause greater damage because they lodge more easily or less damage because they are exhaled. What’s the truth? HEPA filters (are supposed to) stop particles of .03 microns or greater. That is not always so, since most HEPA filters are not replaced often enough and, within only a few months become compromised and ineffective.
NOTE: HEPA is an acronym for "High Efficiency Particulate Air" or "High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance." Laser particle counter measurements typically show that more than 99% of the particles suspended in indoor air are one micron (1/1,000,000 of a meter) or smaller in size. EPA calls these “lung-damaging” particles, because they can lodge deep in the lungs when inhaled. The ability of HEPA filters to capture particles this small is what sets them apart from other types of filters. Regulations developed by EPA, OSHA, CDC and other federal, state and local government agencies responsible for human health and IAQ issues specify HEPA filters for asbestos, lead and mold abatement, TB and SARS isolation rooms and healthcare renovation projects. To qualify as a Type A HEPA filter, the filter must capture at least 99.97% (9,997 out of 10,000) of particles 0.3 microns in size–about 300 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, and 25 to 50 times smaller than we can see.
The majority of us heat our homes with gas or oil heat which cause carbon soot in the home and/or live in environments which have been polluted by coal with carbon soot, and which can cause allergic reactions. Our homes are better insulated than ever, keeping these pollutants indoors. Some researchers believe that carbon soot or flyash particles of 1 to 2.5 microns can stay in the lungs for up to 4 years.
The American Lung says these residues have been proven by to cause a variety of respiratory diseases. In their “Top 10 Suggestions” they say “Keep dust mites and other allergens to a minimum, clean regularly. Wash bedding materials in hot water (at least 130°)”. QUESTION: If bedding materials should be washed in water at least 130 degrees, what about the mattress, sofa, loveseat, chair, loveseat, drapes, etc.? (See the American Lung Association web site for more information.)
So, how do all of these PM’s (Particulate Matter) get into the carpet?
Airborne soil is made up of very small dust particles, volatized oils, carbon from gas and oil heat, carbonized soil heated by electric heat, auto emissions, tobacco smoke, cooking oils released in the kitchen, spilled and crushed food particles, flour, spices carbon released into the air from the use of electric appliances, human and pet skin flakes and hair, talcum powders, pollen, dust from deteriorating construction and furnishing components, off gassing from chemicals used in the manufacture of furnishings and carpet and in the manufacture of cleaning and personal products that may be aerosolized, dust which filters in from outside, lint particles from fabrics, and dust mite feces which are lighter than air, mold spores, odors released from organic spills such as pet urine, to name a few.
Air pollution from city air contains more concrete, mortar, degrading paint, and exhaust fumes (incl. diesel) and organic solvents which are degraded byproducts of air conditioning, than does rural air which contains different ingredients such as soil (farming), mold (trees, woods,) moisture (lakes, rivers), etc., and lesser amounts due to less concentrated housing, roads and buildings. However, rural exposure to pesticides and herbicides that become airborne is also greater than in a city. In N. OH, the burning of coal by the utilities as the major source of our local power greatly exacerbates the problem of carbon ash and soot in the air and, consequently, in our lungs, according to the EPA. The EPA is looking at the health care cost increases as a result of exposure to unnecessary PM below 2.5 microns.
When combined with general soil that is tracked in, these oily based complex soils are less and less effectively or efficiently removed. If we generously assume that vacuuming removes a majority of dry soil – say 70% - that would mean that for every 10 times you vacuum, 3 didn’t count. (And you still have the sticky soils left behind 100% of the time!)
Tracked in soil usually includes a high level of particulates (40%) including silica which has sharp, rough edges which stick to the carpet and cut and wear at the fiber, creating a better based for difficult to remove soils to adhere. Silica is capable of scratching steel, marble, tile and other hard surfaces. The results create wear and appearance issues that are difficult to reverse.
Soil is different in its composition and presence depending upon the factors above and other factors such as the economic viability of the homeowner. A lower income home may mean blue collar workers exposed to different contaminants than a white collar worker or a retired homeowner.
Daily or twice weekly maid service will result in fewer soils in the carpet where a monthly vacuuming will greatly increase soils and stains that are present and also add to the difficulty of removal as soils and stains set and become more difficult with time.
Regional differences also affect soil composition. From sandy geographic locations to clay to rocky soil…air quality…many factors make determining local composition of soil impractical and unnecessary.
PH or acidity/alkalinity of soil and sticky Particulate Matter has an enormous impact as an accelerant of damage.
IMPORTANT NOTE: We must differentiate between PM/sticky soils and airborne gaseous pollutants that are NOT removed by cleaning. The off-gassing of chemicals, construction components, natural gas, radon, and other non-PM airborne pollutants in a home environment are only subject to cleaning when – and if – they convert into the PM/sticky soils that CAN be removed by cleaning - and only after they physically land on furnishings and carpet.
You will conclude that dry vacuuming is effective at removing “some” unknown percentage of soil from your carpet. However, dry vacuuming is the only reasonably effective method available and MUST be performed just to keep some control on dry soil that, at most, is 90% removed with each vacuuming. That means that 10% of soil is ALWAYS left behind…then add in the sticky soils and the PM that is imbedded…
You can see the acceleration of heavy soil and deterioration of appearance of carpet that is not vacuumed frequently. However, it is a known fact among professionals that dry extraction, vacuuming and solvent extraction are neither as effective or as safe as corrective or restorative cleaning methods as wet extraction is.
ADDITIONAL ISSUES FOR CONSIDERATION:
An additional fact that affects soiling is that carpet mills always warranty against pile loss but NEVER against pile crushing. Why? Who cares? The fact that pile crushes is much more important than why it does. When pile crushes it entraps everything between the fibers permanently. Think of sand sticking between your toes and fingers when you leave the beach. You can’t remove all the sand with a towel but you can by cleaning with water. If your toes (pile) are stuck together you can still effectively remove a lot of the sand with washing. Keep that in mind. Don’t forget the damage that would be done to your toes if you walked a couple of miles with that sand between them.
FACT - Dry soil damages furnishings...permanently if it's not removed.
FACT - When floors are vacuumed on a regular basis, there is a measurable reduction in pollutants in any indoor environment. When wet extraction is employed, the additional soils removed cause furnishings to last longer, look better and add dramatically to the healthy home furnishing environment.
FACT - Reducing particulate matter (PM) also produces a healthier indoor breathing environment, since bacteria, mold, and other microbiological material attach to dust particles and can become airborne. Combining routine vacuuming with wet cleaning will hold down and reduce PM in the air.
FACT - Professional Testing Labs, an independent laboratory in Dalton, Ga. is used by the Carpet and Rug Institute for CRI Green Label certification. Vacuum cleaners must pass standards of criteria in soil removal, dust containment and carpet appearance retention. Strict protocols are observed in each area of testing. For “successful” soil removal, the vacuum cleaner must be able to remove 36 percent of the sandy soil being tested within four passes, moving at a computer-controlled rate of 1.8 feet per second, from a 400-square-foot strip of carpet. Yet because there are a wide variety of fabrics and carpets in a home, and the industry has no incentive to endorse one specific method, there is still no industry accepted method of rating a dry vacuum for effectiveness that assists consumers to make good purchasing decisions. (Do your OWN soil testing after vacuuming!)
FACT – In the past couple of years the CRI has developed complex scientific methods of measuring soil removal using professional vs. rental wet extraction equipment and the professional equipment was far and above the most successful at soil removal.
FACT - Consumers recognize a dollar cost expenditure for any professional service either in-home or out, and they know it well enough to have ordered cleaning services despite the concrete evidence that the cleaner they hire may not even know the science of cleaning. Cleaners should be able to give the customer more justification for spending what it fairly costs to improve their home environment. Cleaners should be able and willing and equipped to assist consumers to do so. (Again, do your own testing or find a cleaner that will!)
DEFINITION OF PROFESSIONAL CLEANING: An experienced, trained, insured, polite, prompt, well equipped technician who uses the four major components of cleaning (agitation, chemistry, heat and time) most efficiently and effectively to remove damaging soils from your furnishings.
FACT - Dry vacuuming and even consumer use of small carpet cleaning machines that are not professionally “rated” may have other power deficiencies vs. professional wet extraction, since effective wet extraction not only liquefies and suspends dry and sticky soils for removal, but also encapsulates PM in solution so that it doesn’t escape back into the air. The “added” weight of the water is what causes the encapsulated soil to drop into a “rated” solution tank and stay there. Professional wet extraction eliminates the need for consideration of HEPA or other dry filter inefficiencies. “Small” machines are not effective at removing soils as well as large, professional equipment.
NOTE: UPHOLSTERY IS CLEANED DIFFERENTLY THAN CARPET BECAUSE THE GRAINY, ROUGH AND SHARP SILICA SOIL THAT IS IN CARPET DOES NOT AS READILY GET ONTO FURNITURE WHILE THE OILY OILS FROM SKIN, FOOD AND HAIR DOES AFFECT FURNITURE MORE. THEREFORE, FABRIC DOES NOT REQUIRE THE AGGRESSIVE AGITATION OF CARPET CLEANING BUT MAY REQUIRE A PRE-SHAMPOO WITH A BRUSH OR HAND MIT TO SOFTEN AND SUSPEND STICKY/PM SOILS BEFORE EXTRACTION.
FURNITURE MUST BE HANDLED DIFFERENTLY BECAUSE IT:
- IS LESS DURABLE TO DAMAGE FROM STICKY/PM SOIL THAN SYNTHETIC CARPET FIBERS.
- HAS MORE APPARENT SOILING WHICH SHOWS MORE QUICKLY DUE TO THE LACK OF PILE WHICH HIDES SOILS MORE SUCCESSFULLY IN CARPET.
- IS IN DIRECT CONTACT WITH HUMAN SKIN MORE OFTEN THAN CARPET.
- REQUIRES A WIDER VARIETY OF DETERGENTS AND CLEANING METHODS AND TECHNICIAN SKILLS DUE TO DIFFERING CONSTRUCTION METHODS, DYES, BACKINGS, FABRIC CONTENT, DRYING AND MORE DIFFICULT STAIN REMOVAL.
CONCLUSION - Soil removal using professional wet extraction may be the only way, not just the best way, to remove soils that do NOT remove with vacuuming.
Just by going online and Googling “House Dust Content”, you’ll find 1 ½ million web sites dedicated to the problems dust cause in the home. Here are a few of the results we found. Basically, every institution from the EPA to European experts all say the same thing…air purifiers, vacuuming and controlling exposure will still NOT eliminate the negative affects of house dust. Many sites say to WET CLEAN at least yearly…look for yourself:
According to Dr Mary Cameron, PHD @ http://www.positivehealth.com/permit/Articles/Asthma/camron25.htm Allergic reactions to house mites have increased more than 500% between 1979 and 1993 and is now being blamed for the increase nationwide, of children’s allergies, and further goes on to say that asthma strategies are failing as homes become more and more airtight. (Only 6%-7% of carpets are ever wet cleaned…hmmm.) This is a wonderful article but also recommends using “liquid nitrogen” to clean carpets. Since freezing your carpet is her suggestion and the American Lung Association says that heating above 130 degrees is another solution, and carpet cleaning heats water to 200+ degrees…you can see why we opt for recommending hot water extraction.