Synthetic Detergents |
Most of today's synthetic detergents perform the same function as the true soaps of the past but they are more efficient in soil removal and more easily removed. Detergents provide a number of benefits that make cleaning easier and they provide a number of functions. The first function is to remove surface tension. The detergent acts as a "wetting" agent. Its purpose is to break apart the bond between the water molecules and allow penetration by the soap molecules. This chemical is added to many cleaning compounds and is called a surfactant.
The second function a surfactant provides, suspension or defloculation, has already been mentioned but soil separation is important enough to discuss in greater detail. As mentioned, soap molecules have a hydrophobic end and a hydrophilic end. The hydrophilic end (water loving) has a negative charge and is called anionic. The negative charge attaches to the water molecule and the positive (cationic) tail attaches to any other substance such as soil or the fiber. Like charges tend to repel one another (positive- positive) just as like ends of a magnet. As the negative ends line up around soil particles and the fiber, the resistance forces the soil from the fiber. As the soil is removed other detergent particles surround the soil eliminating the attraction. This is called suspension if the soil is insoluble. If the soil is oil-based this process is called emulsification.
Once the soil particles are surrounded by the surfactant, the carpet should then be rinsed or extracted thoroughly. The soil will remain suspended as long as water is present. If the carpet dries prior to extraction, the soil is redeposited on to the fibers. As you can see, the purpose of the surfactant is to wet, emulsify or suspend soils contained in the carpet. It may be necessary to add other chemicals to attain the desired cleanability. Many professional cleaning chemicals already have these chemicals in their formulation. Be aware of the chemicals that have been added to the mixture. The chemical supplier can be very helpful in providing information regarding which chemicals should not be mixed and which chemicals have already been added.
Alkaline builders raise the alkalinity of the mixture. Alkaline builders provide a number of useful functions. The first benefit of an alkaline builder is to soften water. In some areas of the country, the water may contain trace elements of various minerals. The level of these minerals is rated in "grains of hardness per gallon". Your local water supplier should be able to supply you with this information. If the level is above 15 grains per gallon, an alkaline builder should be added, otherwise the detergent particles will react with these minerals (suspension) and become useless for further cleaning.
Another useful feature of alkaline builders is to increase alkalinity. Generally speaking, the higher the pH (see pH) the more effective the detergent. While alkaline builders are not efficient cleaners by themselves since they cannot perform a wetting function, they do increase the cleaning capability of a formulation.
Alkaline builders require dwell time to enable them to work properly. Dwell time can be defined as the time needed for a chemical to perform its function. Most preconditioners contain alkaline builders. These preconditioners are sprayed topically to the carpet prior to cleaning. Most preconditioners require 10-20 minutes to adequately suspend soils.
Dry solvents can be a cleaners best friend in the cleaning and spot removal process. Dry solvents are used mainly in preconditioners. They are critical in the emulsification (suspension) of oils.
Defoamers are used in situations where a large amount of detergent residue is allowed to build up in the carpet. Hot water activates these detergents which can cause foaming. Foaming can clog hot water extraction lines limiting cleaning efforts. There are two basic types of defoamers. The first is diluted and added directly to the recovery tank. This reduces the amount of foam in the tank. The problem lies in the vacuum recovery hose. This hose can become clogged, which reduces the amount of soil extracted from the carpet surface. The second type of defoamer is applied directly to the carpet and is directed at this problem. Since both of these types of defoamers are silicone-based, directions for dilution requirements should be followed closely. Many silicone-based additives may cause resoiling.
Acid additives such as a 10% citric acid solution or a 10% acetic acid solution can be very beneficial for spotting and cleaning. They are normally used in situations involving browning, yellowing, to stabilize certain dyes, and to neutralize alkalinity. White vinegar is a 5% acetic acid solution and can be used safely by most technicians.
Optical brighteners may be listed as an ingredient for some cleaning chemicals, but these should never be used on carpet. These brighteners are actually fluorescent dyes. Optical brighteners do an excellent job of making the carpet look clean but in most cases the carpet may take on a purple cast in sunlight. If a spotting solution is selected which contains optical brighteners this purple cast may be more noticeable due to the limited use area
Deodorants can be used to neutralize general odors. These may come in the form of general deodorants which are used principally for odor. Disinfectants are used to kill a variety of bacteria and fungi (especially mildew). Sanitizers are another deodorant which is less concentrated than a disinfectant but it is ideal for schools.
Many disinfectants and sanitizers are cationic (negatively charged). Many of today's stain resistant carpets will not accept cationic compounds. These compounds eliminate the stain resistant chemicals which are applied to these carpets.
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