2. Definitions and Industry Terms



Detergency is the imparting of free-flowing abilities to undesired foreign   substances without damaging the material to which they are attached. Independently or collectively, it is created from four all-encompassing elements:


  1. Chemistry


  1. Heat / Temperature (Electromagnetic Energy)


  1. Agitation (Mechanical Energy)


  1. Time (which is always a factor).


The strength of each element is accumulative with the others. Each element can be increased or decreased to compensate for the others allowing the amount of detergency to remain the same.  There are practical limits on how far each element can go. The cleaner has a propensity to decrease time and to overly increase the rest. In some situations, the cleaner may not have applied enough of these elements to reach a desired amount of cleaning.


In addition, these elements are referred to as the fundamentals of soil suspension. Professional cleaners should be familiar with that term. A cleaning technician should use the fundamentals of soil suspension as a tool in developing cleaning plan.


Detergents are blends of substances that either suspends, encapsulates, dissolves, and/or chemically reacts with soil. Once a free-flowing ability is achieved, the removal of undesirable substances is accomplished with mechanical and/or thermo energy plus time. Soil is only one of several undesirable foreign substances that cause damage to the carpet. The chemistries holding undesirable materials are:


Adsorption, which is an attraction onto the surface of the fiber. It will have a texture that can be felt. Adsorbed soils will require an increased amount of agitation to create its detergency


Absorption is an infusing inside the fiber based upon a common polarity. Absorbed substances do not have a texture such as beverage stains.


Chemical reactions are a chemical bonding. Detergency for chemical reactions will require stronger chemicals, and possibly heat. Most chemically reactive soils are stains.


States of Matter
There are three states of matter common to cleaning. Everything will either be a solid, liquid, or gas. There are also in-between states called gels and fogs.


Soil comes in three varieties: real, apparent, and imaginary. Real soils are substances that are unwanted and foreign to the carpet’s construction. Apparent soils are light reflections that may or may not come from texture variations. Imaginary soil is made from emotions and feelings.


Insoluble Substances

If a substance cannot dissolve in either wet or dry solvent, it is said to be an “insoluble substance.” The lion’s share of soil is insoluble. Insoluble substances that adhere after vacuuming will need to be removed with chemical reactions, suspension, or encapsulation.



If a substance absorbs water, it is said to be HYDROPHILIC, meaning it likes water. (Hydro is a Latin word for water, and philic is a Latin word for ‘like.) Water-base solutions will infuse within the substance. If other substances are dissolved into the water, such as a beverage like Kool Aid, that dye may chemically bond to the fiber. Thus, there is a stain that could result.



If a substance does not like water, it is said to be HYDROPHOBIC, meaning it  does not like water.       Water will bead on its surface. (Phobic is a Latin word for fear.).



If a substance absorbs oil, it is LIPOPHILIC or OLEOPHILIC, meaning it likes oil. Oil-based solutions will infuse within the substance. (Lipo and oleo are Latin words for fat and oil.). If the oil does not evaporate, it will attract soil.



If a substance does not like oil, it is LIPOPHOBIC or OLEOPHOBIC, meaning it does not like oil. Oil will bead on its surface.



Natural fibers and Nylon are hydrophilic thus stain easily with water-based substances. Olefin and Polyester are described as being oleophillic or hydrophobic. Oils may only ‘wet out’ Nylon as opposed to absorbing. Fluorochemical protectants make all fibers hydrophobic and lipophobic/oleophobic or even prevent their wetting out.



Bleaches are substances that remove distinct and unwanted colorants with oxygen. Unwanted colorants may exist in the form of soils or stains. There are two types of bleaches:


  1. Bleaches that add oxygen are called oxidizers.
  2. Bleaches that remove oxygen are called reducers


They are chemical opposites. Synthetic or acid colorants are eliminated by reducers; natural or nonpolar colorants are eliminated by oxidizers. Bleaches can go too far and damage the dye in the carpet. Mild reducers and oxidizers are used in detergents; strong reducers and oxidizers are used only in spotters


Biological Reactions

There arealso biological chemical reactions coming from enzymes. Enzymes change the oils of food into something non-sticky. Food or natural oils are called “lipo-oils” There is no wall dividing detergents and spotters. This means enzyme detergents can be used as spotters. It should be noted however, that deodorants are of a different kind of enzyme.



Involves the use of specialized machines to clean carpets with recently developed chemical technologies that permit no-moisture or “very low moisture” (VLM) cleaning, resulting in carpet beautification, and removal of stains, dirt, grit, sand, and allergens. Clean carpets are recognized by manufacturers as being more visually pleasing, potentially longer-lasting and probably healthier than poorly maintained carpets.[1]


Carpet cleaning is reportedly widely misunderstood, and chemical developers have only within recent decades created Encapsulation:


The use of encapsulation to create a crystalline residue that can be immediately vacuumed (as opposed to the dry powder residue of wet-cleaning systems, which generally requires an additional day before vacuuming) is a newer technology that has recently become an accepted method for commercial and residential carpet


Dry carpet cleaning new carpet care technologies.

Particularly, encapsulation and other green technologies work better, are easier to use, require less training, save more time and money, and lead to less re-soiling than prior methods.[2] Dry carpet cleaning can also aid in achieving U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Design (LEED) certification.

Back to: Low Moisture Carpet Cleaning