T is for Teddy. T is for Trouble.

If you had a microscope powerful enough to see a single molecule of water, its appearance might surprise you. Water is made up of two small atoms of hydrogen attached to a larger atom of oxygen. The hydrogen atoms sit together at one end of the oxygen atom and all together they look like a teddy bear's face.

Aside from being essential for life, there are two other things we know concerning this little teddy bear. First, water seeks to travel downward. Second, water is heavy.

While we see evidence of water's desire to travel downward all around us, few of us really appreciate how heavy it is. A gallon of water weighs over eight pounds. A cubic foot of water weighs over fifty pounds!

The troublesome teddy.
 

Imagine a boy (Jonathan) is taking a bath. Jonathan is ten years old. He's in the upstairs bathroom. He is old enough to be OK in the tub, and his mom has left the room for a couple of minutes. While he's busy playing with his toys and practicing holding his breath, he lets the tub fill and overfill. By the time mom comes back, there is water all over the floor.

Shutting off the water, she immediately begins using every available towel to sop up the mess. After a few minutes of hectic work, she feels she has the situation under control. The carpet outside the bathroom only seems a little wet. It should be fine.

While she takes care of the remaining details, Teddy (the trouble maker) is busily working on his own plan. The water on the floor quickly found every crack and crevice and began traveling down through the floor toward the family room. In the space between the bathroom floor and the family room ceiling there is about ten inches of wooden joists, insulation, electric wires, and wallboard. The water is migrating through all these things looking for the low spot.

A little later, in the family room, Jonathan's mom notices a damp spot on the ceiling. She assumes it is insignificant and hopes the spot will be gone when the ceiling dries. She doesn't know the water is accumulating just above that very spot. The sheet-rock ceiling is getting soft and weak from the moisture. Hidden just above the weak spot is a twenty pound blob of wet insulation. The wet blob is growing while the ceiling is weakening.

Teddy's plans foiled.
 

When we get called to a job like this one, we use a specialized tool called a hydro-sensor. This tool allows us to determine if water has migrated beneath a carpet. It also can tell us if water has traveled laterally through a wall to the next room or downward toward the room below. It takes a few minutes to carefully use the tool correctly, but the information it gives us is immeasurable.

Sometimes the water will follow a piece of wood or a cable, then it will drop down at a point which is not directly under the trouble zone. This happens frequently in commercial buildings.

Another frequent problem water can get into is light fixtures. The fixture is usually connected to one of the joists in the ceiling. Water migrates by following the joists. The point where the light is fastened serves as a conduit for the migrating water to head downward. Very often, the globe around the light bulb or the lens beneath it, will fill with water. They can get heavy enough to break and fall.

Dealing with the trouble making teddy and using specialized tools are both part of servicing water damaged carpets. Every home and building eventually faces this problem and we are ready when it does. We have the equipment to extract the water and begin the drying process. We also have the needed technical training and tools to deal effectively with the problem. Lastly, we have the experience both to know how the water will act, and how to restore your damaged areas to the way they were.

Whether your Jonathan creates the problem, or the roof leaks, or the plumbing goes awry, we can help.

Carpets, Furniture, and Indoor Odors

Located high in the upper chamber of our noses is a remarkable creation called the olfactory epithelium. Tiny cells located in that region change the chemical properties of the things which enter our noses into signals. These signals travel up between our eyes to our brain. Our brain interprets those signals into what we call our sense of smell.

Technology now allows doctors to test our sense of smell as accurately as they can test our eyesight or hearing. Some interesting things have been discovered. On average, women have a better sense of smell than men. As we age, our sense of smell diminishes the same way our hearing and vision do. Changes in our sense of smell have been identified as symptoms of certain illnesses.

Our sense of smell is directly tied to our higher brain centers. This means smells can arouse our emotions and cognition. They can also alert us to pending danger, like when we smell smoke or leaking gas. That is why things which smell like foods we enjoy or places we knew as children can evoke pleasant memories. "Nothing awakens a reminiscence like an odour" Les Miserables (1862)

"It smells clean."

It is not unusual for our clients to tell us things smell clean when we have finished a job. Understanding how remarkable our sense of smell is, we are not surprised, but what you may not know is clean is sometimes no smell at all.

That's right. Just as quiet is the absence of noise, for something to smell clean it must be free of odor. Most carpets are synthetic fibers such as nylon. Nylon has no odor. Even wool carpets are odorless when they are clean and dry. So what causes that clean smell?

The answer is frequently in what we don't smell. With the accumulation of airborne and tracked-in soils, our carpets and furnishings can harbor the very things which cause odors. Dropped bits of food and dander decompose in our carpets. Animals also contribute their share. In the end, the carpet or sofa may be tainted by an odor which is not its own.

When we clean the fibers, we remove the odor makers. The carpet or sofa now smells different in that it doesn't smell at all. This freedom of extra odors is frequently perceived as smelling clean or smelling fresh.

"You'll get used to it."

Another system in our bodies can work for and against us. We have the ability to unconsciously block out signals to our brain. This allows us to get used to things around us that might otherwise drive us crazy. If you enter a home with a grandfather clock or an aquarium, the first thing you hear is the tick-tocking or perhaps the gurgling of the water. The person who lives there doesn't notice it. To you, the sound fills the room. He has gotten used to it.

Odors are similar. We get used to them, especially if they accumulate slowly and over time. Our home, our place of work, our car and many other things may have a distinctive smell (good or bad), but we don't notice it.

Sometimes an odor in our homes can be a warning. If a family pet has had an "accident" or two, there will usually be a telltale odor. Sometimes minor leaks in the plumbing or in the roof can lead to a mildew colony (and its musty odor). More often than not, an odor is your furnishing's way of calling for attention. If you notice a faint odor as you reenter your home after being away for a few days, it may be time for cleaning.

Customer Questions and Answers

How often should I have my carpet cleaned?

That is probably the most asked question we hear. Let's examine some of the factors leading to the answer.

High traffic, high profile commercial buildings, have carpet spot cleaning as part of their daily cleaning routine. Some clean their high traffic halls and lobbies as often as every week. At the other end of the spectrum, a quiet little grandmother who gets no heavy foot traffic, and who only eats in the kitchen, may have carpet that looks great even after a year or two of no professional cleaning.

Where are you in that broad range? Here are some of the things that contribute to how frequently your carpets need, or don't need, cleaning.

Vacuuming.

Regular vacuuming, done conscientiously and with a quality vacuum cleaner, will extend the time between cleanings. Conversely, lack of vacuuming, or an inadequate vacuum cleaner, leads to more frequent cleanings.

Kids.

There are two things about kids we can always count on. First, we love them. Second, they are brutal on carpets. They come racing in from outside all excited about something and the thought of wiping their feet never enters their minds. They spill beverages. They bring sand (your carpets worst enemy) inside with their clothes and shoes. We must love them to let them in the house at all.

Pets.

Pets don't share our concept of clean. That says most all of it. They track in soils. They have 'accidents'. They shed fur and dander. They bring in fleas. They spill their food. We must love them too.

Pollution (external and internal).

If we do a lot of cooking, especially frying, the carpet and furniture pick up traces of the oils and their associated odors. Soils in the air stick to these oily residues so the carpet soils and develops odors more quickly. Cooking with gas seems to contribute more to indoor contaminates than electric cooking does. If we live near a busy street or a dusty field, these soils also enter our home and land on our furnishings.

Age of carpet.

New carpets respond better to vacuuming than older carpets. Fabric protector can help a carpet to respond better to vacuuming. However as the carpet ages, like our car or anything else, it will need more maintenance.

Color of the carpet.

White, gray, salmon, and other bright colors highlight soils. Carpets which have a more 'earth tone' color hide soils better and allow a longer interval between cleanings. That's why you don't see white carpet in a commercial building. It requires more cleaning.

Traffic.

Naturally, carpets that see a high flow of traffic need more service. The converse is also true.

Altitude.

People who live on the second or third floor of a building get less tracked-in soil than people who live on the first floor. Even a single family home with two floors will see a difference in how the carpet at ground level soils compared to the floor above.

Routine maintenance.

Even a carpet which is vacuumed regularly, sees no kids or pets, faces few airborne soils, is relatively new, faces little traffic, and is located on the tenth floor, will need routine maintenance.

In general, commercial carpets need cleaning between two and four times per year. Restaurants need more, plush offices with little traffic need less. Homes are usually cleaned about once a year. They also may need a visit or two between regular cleanings to do spot removal or to clean some of the traffic areas.

How many knots per square inch is normal for a hand knotted area rug?

The value of a hand knotted area rug is determined by the number of knots per square inch so normal is hard to define. The Guinness Book Ol Records has issued a certificate to a northern India rug company for making a hand knotted silk carpet with 4,224 knots per square inch. This rug required two years to complete. the size of the rug was not mentioned in the news release but you can be sure it was not very big. The old record was held by a Turkish firm with 3,716 knots per square inch. To bring this all into perspective, draw a square 1/4 inch to each side. Now with a very sharp pencil attempt to make 204 dots within this square. Each dot would represent a knot under the new record. Lets go one more step. Assuming that the rug measured 3' X 5', the total knots would be 9,123,840. It's no wonder that the rug took two years to make. All of the above is amazing, however it must be remembered that these rugs are for the most part made using child labor. It requires the eyesight and small hands of children to do this delicate work. The labor is cheap as children are often sold by parents or kidnapped into what amounts to slave labor. This outrageous practice continues, even though it is against the law.

I am having my carpet replaced. Is it important to replace the old padding or can that expense be skipped.

You will suffer from the dust in the old pad as it migrates up through the new carpet. Please refer to the article on page two of this newsletter for the details of how this happens. Getting rid of the old pad will give the opportunity of getting rid of all that dirt and dust. Also, if the old pad has any pet urine contamination that is an odor source that will rear its ugly head sooner or later so it's a good time to eliminate that problem. The cost is not that much. Most new padding of quality will only add about three dollars per square yard to the bill. Well worth it!

I am going to acquire a male puppy that when full grown will be a medium sized animal. How can I stop the "accidents" before they happen?

What a great question. First you must make some preparations before the arrival. It works best for the puppy to have a place of it's own so I recommend that you acquire a travel cage big enough for the dog when full grown. Make this the place where the puppy is fed, and watered and sleeps. It is important that the puppy is not threatened when placed in the cage so never use it as a place of punishment or anything like that. If you ever have to travel with your pet this cage will realty come in handy. It is also a convenient way to control a dog if you have company or some situation like that. Take the puppy outside very often for the first few days so that he learns that it is OK to relieve himself there and if an accident does happen inside don't scold just say NO in a slightly louder voice and take him outside. Letting the puppy run loose inside the house while it is very young is asking for trouble. You will find that most puppies housebreak themselves in just a few weeks. They soon learn that the cage and then the house is not a place to soil. Also be sure to reward all good behavior. And in a stern voice say ' NO ' when the dog makes a mistake. One of the very first things you should do when you get the puppy is have it checked by your veterinarian. It will probably need puppy shots anyway and sometimes a slight infection will result in many accidents that aren't the puppy's fault. By the way, I am not an animal trainer, all of the above information came from a veterinarian.

Now if there is an accident on your carpet just blot it up as quickly as possible and then use the spotter we left with you and blot that. It's a good idea to apply and blot several times as that dilutes the accident and the possibility of an odor. Just be sure not to over wet. Of course, if you have a question please call. Catching a spot early can stop a permanent stain or odor problem.

My sister lives about a hundred miles from here and uses a different cleaner. She said after he cleaned her sofa, she was surprised to see some faint backward numbers appear on it. Is that possible? How could that happen?

Yes. It is possible. Let's see if we can explain what happens and why you don't need to worry about it.

When a sofa or chair is being made, they start on a large flat work station called a cutting table. The fabric to be used is brought to the table and templates are laid on the fabric. These templates represent the pieces which will eventually become the various parts of the sofa or chair. Using the templates as guides, the fabric is cut.

Some workers make a habit of marking the inside of the fabric pieces so they will know where they all go. For example, on the part that will become the left arm, he might write LA. He may put numbers like 1 or 2 on the pieces that will become the seat cushions. The worker knows when the sofa is assembled, the numbers will be safely hidden inside. They will be invisible. He is happy because he has assured himself all the parts will go in the correct places. He is also happy because he believes no one will ever see his markings.

Someone will buy the sofa and it will eventually need to be cleaned. If an inexperienced cleaner cleans the sofa he may apply too much cleaning solution. The excess moisture may wick through the fabric to the back.

The reaction between the cleaning solution and the hidden writing is similar to what happens when a woman's tears reach her mascara. The writing begins to migrate. Slowly a number 3 or the letters LA will appear on the surface of the fabric. They always appear backward because we are seeing them from the back.

What can be done? Since the problem is out of your hands and ours, the best defense is caution. Whenever we encounter a piece of upholstered furniture that looks suspect, we carefully examine it for signs of internal markings. There are a few specific places to look for telltale evidence. Usually, if they have marked the fabric, they mark all the parts. If we find one mark, we can assume there are more.

If we suspect a problem, we can take steps to outmaneuver it. These may include a change in our cleaning solution, a change in our cleaning procedure, or a change in the drying procedure. Perhaps all three.

This type of problem is more prevalent in custom made or limited edition pieces of furniture. These involve more hands-on craftsmanship. Mass-produced furniture involves many machines and machines don't need to write on fabric.

Light colored fabrics readily show any marks which may bleed through. Fabrics with a smooth finish do the same. Dark or multicolored fabrics hide almost everything.

There are a couple of steps you can take to avoid trouble. First, light colored or custom made pieces need extra care. They need to be vacuumed regularly. They are not the ideal furnishing to put where our kids eat and watch TV. Remember too, when a furnishing is heavily soiled, deeper cleaning is needed to restore it. Higher quality furnishings respond better to routine cleanings performed regularly than to intensive cleanings performed sporadically.

This is not a common problem, and you should not be overly concerned. It is a shame the cleaner your sister used didn't know better. But you don't have to worry. We know what to watch for and how to deal with internal markings.

Upholstery cleaning in your home or office is always a good way to help your furnishings last longer and look better. Cleaning also aids in creating a healthy indoor environment. By combining education, experience, and the right procedures, we can always give your upholstered furnishings the care they deserve. Best of all, we offer no hidden surprises.

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