Choosing Carpet Cleaning Chemicals and Using Them Wisely
The choice of the right chemical for cleaning your carpet not only depends on the type of cleaning job you need done, but also how safe the particular chemical is for use inside the home. While many carpet cleaning chemical products are safe to use some are not quite so. Carpet cleaning chemicals can be broadly divided into four categories according to their functionality. There are chemicals for cleaning, for counteracting or removing odors, for sealing and protecting and for those meant for special tasks.
The carpet cleaning chemicals include those for removing soil, the pre-spray chemicals, chemicals used for spot and stain removal, the absorbent powder extraction chemicals and neutralizers. Presprays are used in hot water extraction systems. There are chemicals meant to control odors either get rid or neutralize carpet odors especially those left by pets and usually have a mild citrus fragrance.
These days many state of the art carpet cleaning products are available for carpet sealing and protection. These make carpet cleaning easier and protect the carpet from staining permanently. They come either as dry products or as sprays and help in maintaining the look and improving the life of carpets. Special purpose chemicals used include those used for reducing foam in extraction machines used in professional carpet cleaning.
Before using carpet cleaning chemicals you should read the product labels carefully as some of these, especially those meant for removing stains and spots need care while handling due to their toxic nature, as many of them contain chemical solvents that give off fumes that may cause illness, if inhaled excessively. Some of the other hazardous chemicals are formaldehyde, acids, disinfectants, lye and fragrances as these produce fumes. It is wise to use protective gear whenever recommended.
There are many stain repellent products available in the market and many of these contain toxic ingredients. One of the key ingredients in these products is perfluoro-octane sulfonate which recent research shows may not be as safe as believed earlier. Many of the carpet cleaning products give off fumes during application as well as drying and excessive exposure to these fumes may pose health hazards and cause indoor air pollution. Some cleaners contain toxic ingredients like isopropanol which is harmful when inhaled and butoxyethanol or ethanolamine that can cause harm through skin contact.
The chemicals that pose the maximum health risks are nitrilotriacetic acid, hydrofluoric acid, perchloroethylene, tributyl tin and tetrachloroethylene. These are to be avoided altogether. Other chemicals that need careful handling are aerosol propellants like butane, isobutane and propane, glycol ethers such as butoxythanol, and chemicals like sodium bisulfate, sodium carbonate, sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), ethanolamines and quaternary ammonium chloride. Use protective gear when using these.
The chemicals that are harmful to the environment are dibutyl pthalate, nonyl phenol ethoxylate, octyl phenol ethoxylate. These should be avoided if the washwater is to be released outside. CFC -22 and HCFC – 141 have been declared illegal for janitorial use.It is advisable to wear protective gloves, goggles and masks as recommended while using carpet cleaning products that contain toxic chemicals. The building occupants should remain outside while the carpet is being cleaned, while it is wet, or when it is freshly cleaned so that their exposure is minimized.
One should remember that the less frequently cleaned a carpet is the stronger chemicals it will need to do the job properly. Thus it is advisable to follow a carpet cleaning routine which involves using mild products for daily cleaning and slightly stronger products for weekly cleaning. It is best to avoid hazardous chemicals altogether or if it is really necessary to use them, let it be done by professionals.
There are environmental issues involved in using carpet cleaning chemicals also. As carpet cleaning causes wastewater that includes chemicals that are highly alkaline and contain high concentrations of enzymes and disinfectants, sodium bicarbonate dyes, polymers, bleaches, etc. most cities have imposed restriction on releasing the wastewater into the public sewerage system. You must check out the rules applicable to your area if you plan to go for carpet cleaning.
Sources: Many sources including the one at the Janitorial Products Pollution Prevention Project.