Dirty Little Secrets of pH – Part 3
© Copyright 2009
The first problem of most cleaning problems was the ‘rug sucker’ and their mad scientist approach to cleaning. One might figure that if a cup of cleaner did a pretty good job, why not use a gallon? Remember earlier in this series where the carpet looked good and then when it dried there was that brown color appearing on the carpet? Remember the same carpet when the ‘rug sucker’ used a gallon of cleaning agent, left the country and when your carpet dried it had a hole in the living room floor and you could wave at your washing machine in the basement below? This is an exaggerated example of pH imbalance.
To understand pH balancing, think of dirt as being soil. Remove the’s‘ from soil and you have oil. This is the sticky stuff which makes your carpet and fibers look dirty or soiled. Oils are acids and in order to break down an acid you need an alkaline. The goal of pH balancing is to return the item being cleaned to as close to a 7 on the pH scale as is possible. Seven is neutral and water (pure water), is considered a 7. An acid wants to dominate as does an alkaline. In order to achieve pH balance, you force one side of the scale to move towards 7, or a neutral state.
The chemicals or cleaning agents are mixed with water and this becomes an aqueous solution. (that there is the fancy way of sayin’ wet or water stuff). 🙂
The last thing which could occur after the water has evaporated is a chemical reaction. This is what happened to the carpet with the brown spots or that left a hole in your living room floor. This is chemical burning and is a direct consequence of not understanding and applying the principles of pH balancing. Another way to understand this is that the chemical was too ‘hot.’
Both an acid and an alkaline can burn. Battery acid (pH=0), and liquid drain cleaner (pH=14), are direct opposites on the pH scale and each are 10 million times stronger or ‘hotter’ than pure water. Up or down the pH scale, the numbers rise or fall exponentially in their relationship with 7 or a neutral state. So you can clearly understand there is no room for guessing or for the mad scientist approach to cleaning.
It took carpets a long time to dry due to mostly user error and ineffient equipment. The hotter the water, the less chemical was needed and the quicker it would dry. Professionals would apply methods of air circulation to speed the drying process by opening windows when possible or with the use of powerful fans (air movers).
Over wetting the carpet would force dirt deeper into the carpet. After the ‘rug sucker’ left and the carpet was drying, much of this soil was drawn to the surface. This is called ‘wicking’ just like the wick draws the kerosene from a lamp.
In addition to this soil, the rug sucker left chemical residue which now acts like a magnet, attracting more soil or dirt to it.
Sand and grit not removed from inefficient, insufficient and irregular vacuuming, not removed during cleaning would scratch the fibers.
In order for carpet to be dyed it must be porous. These pores are called ‘dye sites.’ The darker the color the more dye sites were filled. The lighter the color, the less dye sites were filled. So what happened when the sand and grit ground the carpet and scratched the fibers? These dye sites could receive the soil into them, trapping them inside and further discoloring your carpet. This is called ‘encapsulated soil’ or ‘stuck in dirt. 🙂
It is soil no longer on the fibers, it’s in the fibers.
So the fiber mills had to address this problem. To the rescue was the DuPont Company with Teflon.
Teflon was invented in 1938 and the patent rights were acquired by DuPont in 1950. An early advanced use was in the Manhattan Project as a material to coat valves and seals in the pipes holding highly reactive uranium hexafluoride in the vast uranium enrichment plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, when it was known as K-25. It has also been used to line the walls of nuclear reactors! It soon found all kinds of uses from kitchen utensils to cook ware. In the United States, Kansas City, Missouri resident Marion A. Trozzolo, who had been using the substance on scientific utensils, marketed the first frying pan, “The Happy Pan,” in 1961.
Don’t forget your cookware test.
Put some baking soda paste (a little water mixed with baking soda). Stir this paste in a Teflon coated pan. Heat up the pan and then taste the paste. I said taste, don’t swallow it! And they tell us ‘nothing sticks to it?’ Well if that were true you would NOT taste something really strange from this test and you do, the teflon. The point to all of this is it is a chemical reaction of the Teflon being picked up by the baking soda paste.
Along with these chemicals, if the rug sucker did not understand or apply the principles of pH, how were they supposed to make a living? If they could not clean something, how could they charge you? Remember The Dirty little secrets of Soap in this series? The soap makers were running into problems too. They had to contend with hard water and stiff or hard clothes after they were cleaned. They had problems with their products adversely affecting our washing machines.
So they marketed fabric softeners and things like rust inhibitors and other things. These “other” ingredients had nothing to do with cleaning our clothes, only to protect our washing machines that their products were causing to rust and wear out. Remember the ‘dingy-ies,’ gray and yellowing of our clothing? Chemical companies (that is what a soap company is), started adding what are called ‘optical brighteners’ to their products. Have you ever wondered why liquid fabric softeners, and even some shampoos for our hair is blue? It was added not because it is just a pretty color. Most of these blue color products contain ‘optical brighteners.’ Many even say this right on the label. Well hey, if it works on clothing and makes everything appear brighter and cleaner, why not use it to clean carpet. So they did.
Remember that first generation nylon shag carpet? It seemed to magnify the dirt from the shape of the fiber’s refraction of light. So if the ‘rug sucker’ could not clean it, why not make it appear like it is clean? That is precisely what an optical brightener does! They make stuff look clean, even if it is not. There are some situations were an optical brightener may be less expensive than replacing the carpet and the reason it is needed in the first place is because, the carpet became worn (wear also effects the way light refracts), and dingy from regular or irregular, inadequate cleaning or pH balancing.
But Teflon had to be applied over the carpet as a spray. New carpeting had it applied at the factory, but older carpet had to have it sprayed in the home and even the new carpeting because, it would eventually break down. More contaminates meant more cleaning, not just for the carpet, but indoor air quality would later get its own name, ‘sick building syndrome.’ The Teflon coating had some benefit in slowing spills and keeping some of them from becoming stains, but its primary purpose was to coat the fiber so sand and grit did not scratch; cut the fibers and allow soil to become permanently trapped within them. A spot can be removed, but a stain is permanent. Once the carpet has become permanently stained, our only choice is to replace it or dye it. WOW another new industry was born, complete with more chemicals, in-home carpet dyeing.
One of the last things to do before you just had to replace your carpet, was developed again, by our friends, the chemical companies.
If we can’t clean it or make it look clean anymore, well, let’s just dye it. The best way to dye carpet is called solution dyeing. It is dyed during the liquid polymer state. But you can’t do that with what is already there, so let’s just apply it.
WOW, this stuff is really getting dirty! We are not done. There is much more to come and more ‘Dirty Little Secrets‘ to share next time.