Friday, May 18, 2012

Fixing a debacle

So... you know how we spent 6 hours on Tuesday cleaning the carpets? And you know how I said that water stain came right up? Yeah... I should have waited until it dried.

The edges of the stain are not as exact, but that would be because the entire carpet is brown now. Now so brown that you can even see it in pictures, I tried. Possibly not even so brown that the Old People eyes will even notice. But it's brown! Just like that plain water stain was!

My favorite part? The section that is worst is actually the one with plain water and vinegar, but the spots where I used soap are a bit better. Why is this my favorite part? Oh, that would be because when I called the professional carpet cleaning company to ask them why plain water turned my carpet brown, they said it's because I used soap in the carpet cleaner. Uhmm.... No. Plain water turned the carpet brown first, hence the needing to clean it to begin with.

After I had one person tell me that the only thing that touched the carpet was carbonated water, I had someone else offer to fax/mail me the Material Safety Data Sheets explaining all the exact chemicals that are in their "all natural" cleaning products--but only after I specified that my doctor wanted the info so we could treat my asthma properly. She laughed when I said that man I spoke to on my previous call told me they only used carbonated water, and I asked her to go listen to the call. She then looked in the notes he'd written about the call, said he did say he told me that, apologized for him misleading me, and suggested that at this point our best option would be to hire a professional company or to use "an acidic solution" to re-rinse the carpets to get out any remaining soap.

The problem remains, however, that the plain water was the worst in all of this, and that the carpet did not start turning brown until immediately after we used plain water to rinse. Even the plain vinegar solution spots are worse than the spots where we used soap. It stands to reason, therefore, that the soap is not the issue here.

That being said, there could still be soap residue in the carpets independent of the discoloration, which would cause dirt to collect very rapidly if that were the case. Mr. Moon and I decided that we would rather wait a couple months (until we can afford the expense, time and effort) to repeat the process, since we will probably have to do this every few months anyway (did I mention I hate white carpet? well, carpets in general).

Our plan at this point is the following:

* First, to liberally spread salt over the carpet and smoosh it in, as we did when an old roommate's cat brought home fleas. This will bind itself to a lot of the dirt particles in the carpeting, as well as any soap residue, both of which we discovered by accident. In the case of the fleas, it dehydrates all stages of flea development, including eggs, thus killing the infestation. Works like a charm. For fleas, let sit for 48-72 hours for best results. Longer can't hurt, but a minimum of 24 hours. In this instance, we're only planning to let the salt sit overnight. In any event, the salt is a neutral pH, which relates to the next step...

* Since both employees at the carpet cleaning company made such a big deal out of using an acidic solution to clean because alkaline products tend to leave a residue, we will skip the soap on the next time through and stick with a heavier vinegar solution than we used before. I'm probably going to go so far as to pick up some pH testing strips, to ensure our cleaning solution is truly acidic. I suspect that part of the issue here may be that we have fairly soft water, which would have a high (alkaline) pH level, which may mean I need to adjust my vinegar levels.

Would we do it again?
I've used soap to clean carpets before in this solution, and a number of natural cleaning blogs around the internet seem to have no problem with it either. When the carpet was wet I ran my hand over it and got no soapy smell or sticky/slippery feeling on my hands besides water, so I feel fairly comfortable saying that if there is soap residue, it's not detectable. I think this situation really just boils down to the water reacting badly with the chemicals used by the cleaning company, and needing to get those chemicals out of the carpet. If the chemicals are naturally-occurring plant-based compounds as the company claims, the salt should neutralize them. Which could explain why the stains only started coming out once we added baking soda. There are differences between sodium chloride (table salt) and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), their pH level in solution for one, but for many applications they're both just sodium/salts. On top of all of that, my asthma has gotten BETTER since we did the carpets, even though the cottonwoods are blooming (which is usually a recipe for disaster in my world).

So the answer is, Yes, I would do it again this way, because it's worked before and I'm more comfortable with the products I used than the ones used by professional cleaning companies. At least my way, I know what got put on my carpet and I can adjust as necessary. Calling and threatening to complain to the Better Business Bureau before I could get them to offer me MSDS should have been totally unnecessary.

As for the "professional" companies?
This is the second place I have had experience with a "natural cleaning solution, low-water" method of cleaning the carpets and I am not just unimpressed, I'm mad. Stains that they said were permanent came up with plain water and a towel. There is a noticeable line about 2 inches from the wall in both houses where you can see that the systems they used didn't clean all the way to the edge. Both houses also include a line of dirt in the carpeting about halfway down where you can see that it never got cleaned to the bottom of the fiber. In our old apartment, you could even FEEL that the under-layer of carpeting wasn't wet, right after they did it--and the fibers were stiff and nasty-feeling. This leads me to believe that these services are only offering a surface clean, at a similar if not more expensive price of traditional services that DON'T claim they can be dry enough for furniture in an hour. My recommendation is to either do it yourself, or just go for a company that's not "low water," and preferably one who will agree to using little to no manufactured chemicals in their machine. Low water in this case means not clean, which means that water is just wasted because it didn't even do its job.

But the best/greenest advice is to get rid of carpeted flooring, and go for smooth-surface flooring that can be mopped easily, as that would use the least water of all. In the end, that would have avoided this whole debacle in the first place. Oh, you spilled your water? Put a towel over it and move on with your day.

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