Green Cleaning Hotel Carpet
By Mike Sawchuk President & General Manager, Enviro-Solutions | August 07, 2010
There are probably scores of inventions that were made by "accident." This often happens when scientists and engineers are trying to develop a product for one purpose but find that it could be used for something else, sometimes something entirely different than what was originally intended. This is essentially how the most effective system to test carpet extractors was developed, and it has allowed hotel housekeepers to keep carpets healthier, cleaner, and Greener. And in this case it came about with a touch of science fiction to boot.
Lloyd Starks of KeyMaster Technologies, Inc. in Kennewick, Washington has always been fascinated by Buck Rogers, a fictional, futuristic cartoon character who was an early space-age hero to scores of young children when he was first introduced in 1928. Now nearly 60 years old, Starks holds the patent for X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzer technology, an invention first used by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to examine space shuttle components and identify miniscule cracks and flaws that could become potentially hazardous problems in space.
While working with a major carpet manufacturer on a system to detect and distinguish different carpet protection systems on carpets, Starks realized that XRF technology could possibly be used to determine how effectively a carpet has been cleaned. In fact, XRF is so powerful that it can measure not only the amount of soil and impurities in a carpet but the type of soil as well. "Every atom has a fingerprint of sorts," says Starks, "and XRF reveals those fingerprints, even when they are soils."
To test his theory, he worked with the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) to develop a carpet extractor testing program using XRF technology. Sample carpets were tested before cleaning to detect how much and what type of soil was present in the carpet fibers. They were then retested after being cleaned with different portable carpet extractors, such as those used in hotel properties, to evaluate the performance of the machines by seeing how much soil was removed. The before-and-after testing measured not only how much soil was removed but also how much moisture the different machines left in the carpets compared to one another. This is significant because moisture left in carpets can impair indoor air quality (IAQ), cause rapid resoiling of the carpets, and, if wet for more than 48 to 72 hours, create a breeding ground for mold and mildew to develop-which can have very serious health consequences.
Proving that XRF could play a significant role in testing the performance and effectiveness of carpet extractors, CRI developed what is now known as the Seal of Approval (SOA) program. Manufacturers can have CRI test their machines on test carpet samples that have been mechanically soiled, and then each machine that meets CRI's standards is given a bronze, silver, or gold (the highest rating) SOA rating, depending on the test results. Machines with an SOA rating are considered Greener because they are more effective at removing contaminants and moisture from carpets after cleaning. The SOA program provides a certification system for carpet extractors, just as Green cleaning products are tested and then those with passing results are certified Green. This has had several benefits for the cleaning industry as well as the end user.
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