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VDTA-SDTA June 2017

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Clean Like a Pro:
The Science of the Stain

Kleenco
Effortless by Kleenco

By: Dale R. Silbaugh
President, Kleenco Products, Incorporated

As Synthetic Fibers of carpeting are becoming a popular choice amongst consumers, manufacturers of synthetic fibers have invested time and money improving the performance characteristics of their product. That is why you will hear of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and now 6th generation fibers. There are still many early generation fiber carpets around, which can make cleaning and stain removal results somewhat unpredictable.

Early generation fibers benefited from fluorocarbon treatments, but recent environmental regulations have resulted in forced reformulation of fluorocarbons rendering them less effective. To overcome this decrease in performance, new stain blockers have been incorporated into the treatments. Stain blockers attach to unused dye sites, taking the place of any natural and synthetic food dyes that may come in contact with the carpet fiber in the future.

Aside from these new additives, the main constituent of carpet treatments are fluorochemicals. Fluorochemicals work by lowering the surface tension of a fiber. Just like in golf, the lowest number wins. In order for a fiber to repel a stain, its surface tension must be lower than that of the stain.

Item Surface Tension
Water 72 dyn/cm²
Nylon 43.9 dyn/cm²
Polyester 39 dyn/cm²
Polypropylene (Olefin) 30.5 dyn/cm²
Triexta Not available


All man-made fibers have a lower surface tension than water; they are naturally resistant to staining by water-based soils. However, the surface tension of water can be lowered by oxygen exposure, additives like those found in beverages, or heat. When coated with fluorochemicals, the surface tension of a fiber is lowered to that of the repellent. DuPont® rates their carpet treatment at 15 dyn/cm². So, without taking into account environmental variations, it will repel any soils or stains with a higher surface tension.

Item Surface Tension dyn/cm²
Clove Oil 5.80
Coconut Oil 17.84
Garlic Oil 10.91
Lemon Grass Oil 9.23
Mustard Oil 19.81
Olive Oil 10.00
Safflower Oil 10.43
Sesame Oil 9.42
Sunflower Oil 7.39

The low surface tension of the above items shows why many foods and beverages will soil a carpet, even when it has been treated with fluorochemicals. Most, if not all, carpet manufacturers will not cover staining caused by many of these oils.

Although carpet treatments may help extend the beauty and life of a carpet fiber, it is not a permanent solution. Generally speaking, the effectiveness of fluorochemicals is reduced by 30% with each carpet cleaning. This can increase to as much as 50% if more aggressive cleaning is needed due to heavy soil.

The Science of Stain
There are two broad categories of stains. The common stain occurs when food is spilled or when ordinary dirt and oily substances are tracked in. These spots are generally immediately apparent and quick action can prevent them from becoming more tenacious. The chemical stain acts by changing or destroying dye. Both of these stains if left untreated can become permanent.

The Common Stain
The common stain can be grouped into three categories:

1. Oily or greasy soils. These resist removal with water-based cleaners.
2. Solid soils that may be coated with a fine film of grease or oil.
3. Vegetable matter, food, and some dyes that can readily be removed with water.

Two main processes transfer these soils and stains to carpet: airborne and direct contact.

Airborne, or electrostatic, soiling is considered relatively minor and in general, easy to remove. Direct contact soiling is more difficult to remove, being responsible for 80% of all carpet spots and stains.

The forces that hold direct contact stains to the fiber are of two types: geometric and oil (sorptive) bonding. Geometric bonds are relatively weak and usually can be removed by vacuuming. However, the sorptive bond of a soil coated with oil or grease may be extremely difficult to remove. As contact time increases and oxidation occurs, chemical changes can occur. In addition to chemical changes, foot traffic can drive soil through the hydrophobic barrier present in man-made fibers, Once these events occur, special stain removal chemicals and techniques will most likely be needed.

The Chemical Stain
Chemical stains are particularly troublesome, as they can change or destroy dye. Also, the time between contact with the chemical and the appearance of the stain can range from days to even months. The list of consumer products with chemicals that can permanently stain or discolor carpet are inexhaustible, but a few are particularly notable.

    • Benzoyl peroxide: Most peroxide spots begin as orange or dark yellow. On blue carpets they may appear pinkish or white. If peroxide has been spilled, a carpet cleaning professional should be contacted as soon as possible. Quick action with a neutralizing agent is needed before the peroxide destroys the dye.
      Chlorine bleach: Known to destroy the color of a carpet. All fabric bleaches will also destroy color, though the staining action may be slower. Swimming pool bleach (calcium hypochlorite) can also cause chemical stains.
    • Acids: As little as 1% hydrochloric acid can cause pink or orange spots in carpeting. Stomach acid is about 10% hydrochloric acid. This means that vomit can cause permanent spots on carpets and upholstery if not promptly removed and/or neutralized. Toilet bowl cleaners, drain treatment, and some medicines also contains damaging acids.
    • Urine: Cat urine is especially difficult to deal with because it contains a sulfur molecule not present in human urine.

When knowing how stains work and how they should be properly treated, you can direct your customers to choosing the perfect stain remover and/or carpet protector!

Kleenco Effortless: The Safe Solution
Spills and stains will always happen, and depending on the carpet fiber type and soil type, they may become permanent. But they don't have to! Most permanent stains can be prevented by immediate or same-day treatment. Anyone with carpeting in their home or office should have a safe spot remover on hand to quickly attend to any accidental soils.

Effortless is a neutral pH spot remover formulated to penetrate and dissolve hydrophobic soils and also add an anti-soiling treatment to the fiber. It is safe to use on all natural and man-made fibers including nylon, polyester, olefins, and wool carpet.

Effortless has the ability to remove oily soils that easily become stains and permanently change the color of carpeting. It is formulated with a triple combination of surfactants that allow for the solvents to be delivered directly to the face or surface of the fiber. The solvent is then able to solubilize the oils, grease, proteins, and dyes, breaking the adhesion forces that bind the soil to the fiber. Once the adhesion force has been broken, the soil is emulsified and suspended it can be blotted away.

Even once the spot is gone, Effortless does not stop working. Effortless contains a unique polymer that fortifies the fibers and dye blockers, which help prevent future stains.

• First, soak up excess liquid or dab up excess solids / semi-solids like ketchup and mustard.
• Once excess soil has been removed, apply a generous amount of Effortless.
• Allow a few minutes of dwell time for the solution to work.
• Then cover with a clean white absorbent towel and blot up the solution.

Never rub or scrub as this can disturb the twist and resiliency of the carpet fiber. If the spot is especially tenacious, apply more solution to the spot, cover with an absorbent towel, and tamp the area with a spotting brush. Difficult spots may take repeated application.

Once satisfactory results have been obtained, rinse with clean warm water, blotting up any excess liquid. Say goodbye to the spot and hello to the clean, bright, and soft carpeting that we all love!

Reprinted from Floor Care & Central Vac Professional, June 2017