Tag: SmartStrand

Re-Visiting the Cleaning of Harvey Norman SmartStrand, EcoStrand & Triexta based Carpets.

It’s been a few years since I first posted on the cleaning of Triexta based carpet fibres, and I thought that the topic should be re-visited again.

There are two types of polyester. PET polyester (think plastic coke bottle), and PTT polyester (also known as Triexta). It is my understanding that PTT polyester was either invented, or patented by DuPont in the early 1940’s. PTT has much greater resilience (re-bound elasticity) than PET polyester. PTT (Triexta) is typically manufactured from crude oil derivatives. Sorona on the other hand, uses oil derived from corn starch. You might think of this in the same way as what ethanol is to unleaded petrol. One is derived from crude oils, the other from plant oils.

I am coming across more and more Triexta all the time in my carpet cleaning travels, and recently cleaned no less than 5 homes in a single week that had Triexta based carpets. In addition to this, I maintain regular dialogue with several carpet inspectors, and know and maintain dialogue with a number of the representatives that conduct warranty work on behalf of the retailers of Triexta carpets. So I feel as though I am in a good position to give my professional opinion on how I see this carpet performing in the field, over time.

So lets dispel some myths.

Myth 1. Does Triexta stand up to use by rhinos? There are two parts to this question. Wear, and soiling. I have never bothered to read the clauses in a carpet warranty, but I have seen elongation of, and mild fuzziness in the traffic lanes of some Triexta carpets. If abrasive soils like sand are not regularly vacuumed out of a carpet, they act as sand paper and microscopically etch the fibre. If concrete can be worn down with usage, you can bet plastic carpet will wear as well. The second part of this is soiling, which I’ll answer next. But lets be honest here, rhino use on carpet is not representative of how carpets are used in the home.

Myth 2. Can Triexta be cleaned with water alone? The short answer is absolutely NOT! Rhino’s basically excrete water soluble soils. Imagine a tarpaulin on which a pet has done its business. You can hose it off with water. So there are some soils that can be removed with water alone (coffee, tea, urine*, faeces, cordial, wine etc). But there are other soils such as fats, oils, some inks, solvent based paints, grease, texta, particle soiling, soot etc that not only do NOT clean out with water, but are either absorbed by the fibre, or form an electrostatic charge with the fibre. For the very reason you clean your dishes with dishwashing detergent, we need detergency to remove oily substances from Triexta. There is a good reason Triexta is not demonstrated for 2 weeks in a mechanics workshop. It wouldn’t stand up to it!

Myth 3. Is Triexta pet proof? The short answer is again NO! Wall to wall carpet can not be taken outside and hosed down, and anybody who thinks steam cleaning results in complete exhaustion of soiling is grossly mistaken (see my article here). When a pet urinates on a carpet, gravity acts on the urine and it is quickly taken into the backing of the carpet (and sometimes into the underlay or beyond). The sheer limitations of the physics of the onsite extraction cleaning process, coupled with practical limitations for drying present a problem to the carpet cleaner. Small, localised urine deposits may be able to be treated, but if the carpet is being used as a kitty litter, it’s write off – no matter what the salesperson tells you! The rhino adverts for Triexta are misleading in that the surface soiling is removed by water, but you are not shown the underside of the carpet, and the re-emerging stains that would undoubtedly appear upon drying. Not to mention the unrecovered odours!

Myth 4. Is Triexta easy to clean? The short answer is sometimes, but not always. Water soluble soils that reside in the top of the pile clean with ease, but most water soluble soils are acted upon by gravity, and rarely stay in the top of the pile. For this reason wicking (re-emerging stains after cleaning) are a frequent problem with cleaning Triexta. Oily soils are absorbed into the fibre, and required intense agitation coupled with high alkalinity to be separated from fibre. Now for reasons I don’t quite understand, fine particle soiling is also a frequent problem in traffic lanes, edges, door junctions etc on Triexta. Fine, dark coloured particles can form an electrostatic charge with the fibre, and because the fibres are so soft and fine, there is a lot of surface area for soil to accumulate. Unless the correct hydrotropes are used in the cleaning process, no amount of cleaning will remove it. Think of this type of soil bond in the same way toner is bound to paper in the photocopying process.

Myth 5. If the triexta won’t clean up, the retailer will replace it. Everything I have said up to now seems to be disparaging of triexta as a carpet fibre (and I’ll address this point below). Under certain conditions it can be problematic, and I talk with carpet cleaners all over the country who despite strictly following the cleaning regime outlined in the Australian Standard (AS/NZS3733), have problems getting acceptable cleaning results on Triexta. In too many cases the retailer will send somebody out, who will get some soil transfer onto a white microfibre cloth (read here to see why this is a cheap parlour trick with no basis as an acceptable measure of cleaning efficacy). Unfortunately this is usually an attempt to discredit the carpet cleaner and be absolved from any responsibility. I can’t answer as to whether retailers have replaced Triexta based carpets due to conditions not captured in the warranty, or for public relations reasons, but I do know that replacement is unlikely to happen.

Myth 6. I shouldn’t buy triexta. Providing the carpet is well maintained, used within the limits specified in the warranty, including regular vacuuming maintenance, spot cleaning immediately when required, and 6-12 monthly professional carpet cleaning by a reputable carpet cleaner, triexta provides a wonderfully soft and visually appealing soft floor covering that has excellent appearance retention. The point in this post has been to point out some of the limitations this particular carpet has. We need to rememeber that the product is a soft furnishing, not a slab of impermeable quartz!

Pictures to accompany this post are still to come. Stay tuned!

How Clean Should I Expect a Carpet to be After Carpet Cleaning?

How clean should a carpet be after it has been freshly cleaned? No other question will perplex most carpet cleaners as this very question, and with good reason.

The dictionary definition of clean is free from dirt, marks, or stains. So should a carpet be free from dirt, marks or stains once it is cleaned? Hardly! Hardly you said? Indeed. Let me explain.

No other question in the world of cleaning is so controversial as to define what is an acceptable level of clean, but we must recognise that complete of exhaustion of soil from a carpet is limited by sheers physics and time contraints. We can only ever reduce the level of soiling in a carpet.

Let me give some real-world examples to illustrate this before a semi-technical explanation.

Example 1. Take your dirty car to a DIY pressure cleaning car wash, and give it a thorough blast and clean. Let it dry in the sun. Then re-wet a section of the car with some water some water and wipe it with a white cloth. You will notice that there is some level of soil transfer to the cloth.

Example 2. Throw a freshly cleaned load of laundry back through the washing machine, and collect the effluent from the second wash in a bucket. I bet its still got some dirt in it!

Unfortunately, we can not get even close to the level of clean that either of the examples above are able to achieve on a fixed, wall to wall installation of carpet, unfortunately. Here is one semi-technical explanation as to why.

For the illustration, I will let you imagine a cup full of urine. Yuk! If I empty the cup and rinse it once with water, would you be prepared to drink from it? Of course not! You instantly recognize that a small amount of urine has clung to the inside wall of the glass, and some small quantity of urine is still going to be present after one rinse.

When we clean a carpet with an extraction wand, the same limitations are at play. The individual carpet fibre is under vacuum, and the soil embedded emulsion closest to the fibre moves at the least velocity due to parasitic drag. This is not intended to be a discussion on fluid dynamics, but in fact the physics governing fluid motion guarantees that some level of soil will always remain. With the carpet cleaning process, we are essentially undertaking a process of DILUTION, NOT complete EXHAUSTION/REMOVAL.

The quantity of soiling that is removed from a carpet, and the quantity of soil that remains is difficult and impractical to measure. The best practical tool we have to getting acceptable soil reduction levels is utilising the steam cleaning (hwe) process cleaning system recognised in the standard AS/NZS 3733 Textile Floor Coverings – Cleaning Maintenance, which is the most effective soil reduction process, through to the lesser capable dry cleaning (low moisture) systems, coupled with experience (to know which system is of best fit). There exists no acceptable and recognized method for concluding whether a carpet has been cleaned properly other than to review the regime undertaken by the carpet cleaner, and compare it to the standard. Re-wetting a carpet and wiping it with a white cloth will yield some soil transfer on a freshly cleaned carpet for all the reasons specified above, and is NOT an acceptable measure of the quality of a carpet cleaning service. In fact, AS/NZS3733 tacitly acknowledges that soil will be removed from a freshly cleaned carpet, by stating the carpet cleaning process needs to be followed up with post vacuuming upon drying of carpets AFTER cleaning. The purpose being to remove unrecovered dry soil.

The take away message in all of this is that regular carpet maintenance, which includes bi-weekly vacuuming (preferably with an upright, cylindrical brush vacuum or equivalent), and periodic professional carpet cleaning (cleaning before large quantities of soil are visible), is the best way to promote hygiene, appearance and longevity of a carpet, and to keep soil load to a minimum.

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