Ghost Spots

From time to time we are asked why some spots seem to reappear. Has that ever happened to you?

There are two kinds of spots that reappear.

First: A few spots that really do reappear.

Second: Spots which seem to reappear.

Lets see what they are and what you can do about them. A spot is any discoloration of your carpet or upholstery. Most spots can be removed with specific cleaning procedures. Some spots cannot be removed. A un-removable spot is called a stain. Bleach and oven cleaners make stains. Juice, muddy shoes, and food spills make spots. Generally, if something gets spilled or tracked onto the carpet, you blot it up. After blotting, if some of the spot is still there, you can usually remove it with a bit of warm water or cleaning agent. Some spots need the extra skills and cleaning compounds only a professional cleaner can deliver. Unfortunately, whether you remove the spot or we remove the spot, there are rare times when the spot seems to come back. Why? Some spots are oily. If somebody spills salad dressing or drops a piece of fried chicken, some of the oil will transfer to the fibers.

If you put a drop of oil on a paper towel and watch for a minute, you will see it begin to migrate. Oil does the same thing on carpet fibers. It takes only very little oil to contaminate a fiber from it's tip down through the backing to it's root. Carpet cleaning can only clean the fibers down to the backing. Any oil that gets below the backing of the carpet will escape the cleaning process. After the fiber has been cleaned, fugitive oil from the root of the fiber can wick up (just like it does on an oil lamp). As the oil wicks up, soils from foot traffic and airborne soils can adhere to the oil and the spot reappears. Sometimes we can treat a recurring spot using a specialized procedure called packing. In many cases packing allows us to deal successfully with a spot that otherwise might reappear for years.

Sometimes we can make our own reappearing spot. Try this. Look carefully at the cap of your dish washing liquid, or hair shampoo. You'll see a waxy substance collecting there. This is dried cleaning agent. Many detergents dry to a sticky waxy substance. If you use this kind of cleaner to remove a spot in your carpet, you will remove the spot successfully. Then, as the days and weeks pass, soils will begin to stick to the waxy residue left behind by your cleaning agent. The spot will disappear and reappear. The cycle will continue until the cleaning agent is thoroughly rinsed from the carpet. If you do spot cleaning, use the complimentary spotter we left with you.

Another source of recurring spots are those that really don't occur at all. These are new spots that we find in the same place where we removed the old ones. In an office, these occur in front of the coffee machine. In a home they appear around a dining room table or any place where we eat or snack. Because spotting is so common in these areas, it is easy to assume that a spot came back, when I reality, the spot is a new one. If you suspect a spot is coming back, tell us about it while we are cleaning. We will give it special attention. We are happy to take the needed steps to get rid of it for good.

A Clean Home is a Healthy Home

At the age of eight, Abraham Lincoln lived in a cabin that had only three walls. Things have come a long way since then. We now live in very well constructed homes and work in well constructed buildings, all with excellent control of the indoor environment.

Cleaning has always been regarded as an important contributor to good health. A buzz word that has recently become popular in the world of construction as well as the cleaning industry is IAQ (Indoor Air Quality). The air in which we live and breath has a direct impact on our health.

A study was released two years ago that was conducted by the RTI (Research Triangle Institute), the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), and UNCCH (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). The reason for the study was to "assess the effects of cleaning on indoor air quality."

The report of the study is almost two hundred pages of very dry reading, but the summary revealed a few interesting findings. "Airborne dust mass... showed a statistically significant reduction with improved cleaning." The results confirmed what was found by a British study released in 1993. Indeed, cleaning is very important.

The studies shed light on another important point. Cleaning is limited in its ability to create a healthy living space if it is not performed correctly. So, cleaning is important, but how we clean is just as important. A classic example of cleaning the wrong way is the mental picture we all have of a housekeeper going around with a feather duster. Where does the dust go?

Taking a swipe at a dust laden surface with a duster, only serves to stir the dust up into the air. The room has just as much dust after the cleaning as it did before. The duster just moved it around. Outdated vacuum cleaners with cloth bags did pretty much the same thing. Much of the dust that was sucked up from the vacuumed areas, was blown right through the walls of the cloth bag and back into the room.

Today, we have more effective vacuum cleaners (see page two of this issue of Caring for Your Carpets). We also know that feather dusters are not a good idea. Treated dust cloths are a much better way to go. These can be used and then laundered. The dust and soils are trapped in the cloth and disposed of in the laundering process. New materials have been created which trap dust and soils very effectively.

Regular cleaning and vacuuming will not eliminate the need for professional carpet and upholstery cleaning. Even people who brush their teeth religiously have to see a dentist once in a while. What proper cleaning between professional cleanings does is help to insure a healthy living space between professional cleanings.

Did you know that effective cleaning can mean less cleaning? Do you remember the old question: Should I vacuum first or dust first? That was born when ineffective cleaning was performed. If they dusted first, the vacuum cleaner would deposit a new layer of dust on the furniture. If they vacuumed first, there would be nothing to pick up the dust, which had been pushed off the furniture and down to the floor.

Using a high efficiency vacuum cleaner means little or no dust will be stirred up while you vacuum. Using treated dust cloths means the dust will be removed and not simply stirred around. That means your work will be lessened. You will no longer be chasing the same dust from the floor to the furniture and back to the floor again. When you institute effective cleaning you will see a reduction in your work.

Many janitorial services have taken this approach. True, they hate to spend money on better vacuum cleaners and treated dust cloths, but they find in the long run, they have less work to do.

If you, or a member of your family, suffers from allergies, you will find this information to be of great value. Frequently, improvements in cleaning are immediately felt by people who are sensitive to such things.

A Seat in the Dark

Most of us never enter a movie theater during the morning or early afternoon. If we did, we would occasionally see quite a sight.

The normally dim lights will be adjusted to full brightness. The air will be filled with the whirring sounds of fans and cleaning equipment. Cleaning technicians are scurrying from seat to seat like bees buzzing the flowers in your garden. All the upholstered seats have to be cleaned. There may be hundreds of them, and they all have to be cleaned and dried before the public comes for this evening's movie.

Why would anyone bother to clean seats that are only used in the dark? True, a few might need cleaning for sticky soft drink spills, but the majority don't. Do theater operators know something most people don't know?

Museums do something similar. They clean area rugs and furnishings which nobody walks on or sits on. Why? Do museum curators know something most people don't?

Actually, these two entities use cleaning to resolve two different types of problems. Museum curators know airborne soils are naturally deposited on their exhibits. They dust and vacuum these things carefully, but they still employ cleaning to maintain them. They know the soils which dusting and vacuuming don't remove, contribute to the deterioration of the fibers in their precious collections.

Movie theaters have different concerns. They don't want to have their reputation tarnished by having people feel a seat which isn't clean. They also don't want their patrons to notice any odor except the smell of popcorn. They clean to remove the soils left behind by munching moviegoers and to remove the odors which can come from body oils and airborne pollutants.

As owners of upholstered furnishings in our homes and offices, we share the concerns of both the museum curator and the theater owner. We want our furnishings to last forever. We also want them to look good, feel good, and smell good. Regular maintenance and cleaning is the answer for us too.

Office chairs and partitions, dining chairs, the sofa in front of the TV and our favorite recliner all need regular maintenance, including vacuuming. If you have more than one of a certain type of chair, but they get different levels of use, try rotating them. Swap the lesser used one with the heavily used one for a while. Sunlight is another factor. Rotate pieces around so they get equal exposure. On a sofa, sometimes you can rotate the cushions. Sometimes you can turn them over. Include regular vacuuming as part of the maintenance program.

Still, there are oily soils, spills, and dust which vacuuming won't remove. These call for cleaning. Different cleaning jobs call for different types of cleaning. As we clean, we match our cleaning procedure with the item we are cleaning. We have experience cleaning everything from the toughest synthetics to the most delicate silks.

If you have a question about how to take care of a specific furnishing, please don't hesitate to give us a call. We can take good care of everything from your theater seat to your royal seat.

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