Monday, April 28, 2014

Floor Finish Solids

This article was originally published in The Cleanest Image.

Floor finish solids are an extremely important part of any floor finish. In fact, the solids are really all that is used after floor finish is applied.

The solids are the plastic or polymer molecules that are left on the floor when you apply finish and can have a big impact on the performance of the finish. The size and make up of these polymer molecules can very from brand to brand and can require different types of maintenance. Chemical liquids such as water, emulsifiers, wetting and leveling agents make up the remainder of the floor finish content. But in the end though, the solids are what make up to protective coating that you rely on. 

If you take types of polymers and the liquids out of the equation and focus on the floor finish solids numbers, the percentage of solids is the usable product left after drying. If you think of it like a glass of water and sand, the sand would represent the solids. So if you take a gallon of 18% floor finish, the solids would represent 23oz of the total 128oz in a gallon. The more solids, the more usable product per gallon.

Common sense would say that higher floor finish solids would always be the better purchase, but this is not always true. Just like any mixture of liquid and solids, the more solids, the thicker it gets. If you have ever worked with a high solids (22% or higher) it will usually be quite a bit thicker. Once the solids content goes above 25% the finish does not want to spread out and level very fast. Since most finishes are designed to dry quickly, they begin to harden before they have spread out smooth. This can result in uneven gloss, mop swirls and cause very thick patches of finish that take a long time to dry. All of this is because the drying takes longer. Floor finish dries from the top down. As the liquid evaporates, a film is left on the surface which traps moisture and keeps the solids from setting up properly. When the liquid is thinner, it spreads out as it is applied and with the additional liquid, it takes longer to dry.

These properties are constantly being tweaked by the floor finish manufactures so more solids can be used, while delaying the drying process until after the product has been applied. With new technologies in polymer science, the higher solids floor finishes are becoming more effective and easier to use.

When you are trying to choose a floor finish, it becomes a matter of performance vs. the amount and type of maintenance. Higher solids finishes are more durable but can be difficult to apply and repair with maintenance. Since the polymer density is higher, they can also be more difficult to remove with traditional chemical stripping. This is all variant on the specific finish that is being used. The best suggestion is to compare finishes yourself and talk to others who have used them. Every application and environment is different as well as the make up of the finish. Choosing the correct percentage of floor finish solids is not as important as proper application and maintenance. The way a product is used is always what determines its success.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Clarke ComfortPak Backpack Vacuum

The newest member of Clarke's soft floor line is the ComfortPak back pack vacuum. It features an ergonomic frame that was designed by backpackers for support and stability, lightweight, easy to maneuver, with an easy mess-free bag change. Experience the difference with ComfortPak from Clarke.

The ComfortPak series has earned the Carpet & Rug Institute's Seal of Approval.

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.