Recent Cleaning Posts

What types of cleaning products does SERVPRO use? 4/18/2022

4/18/2022 (Permalink)

Cleaning products fall into two major categories; solvents and enzymes.


A solvent is any substance that is capable of dissolving another substance. Solvents can be water-soluble (wet) or oil-soluble (dry).

Water-Based Cleaning Products (Wet Solvents)

As discussed in the section on pH, water-based cleaning products fall into three sub-categories, acidic, neutral, and alkaline.

Water-soluble solvents can be mixed with water and can be extracted with water. Many traffic lane cleaning products are composed of glycol ether EB, which is basically the same as the antifreeze you use in your car. Citrus solvents are another water-soluble solvent from citric oil and are effective grease cutters. Alcohol-based solvents are water-soluble. Methyl, ethyl, and isopropyl are examples of alcohol found in cleaning formulations.

Oil-Based Cleaning Products (Dry Solvents)

Oil-based cleaning products fall into two sub-categories, volatile dry solvents (VDS) and non-volatile dry solvents (NVDS). The volatility of a product is based on how fast the product evaporates. Volatile dry solvents evaporate much faster than non-volatile dry solvents. The SERVPRO® Professional Cleaning Product line carries both volatile and non-volatile dry solvents. An oil-based cleaning product is used in situations where water could damage textiles or in removing soils that are oil-soluble.

In the past, some oil-based cleaning products used in the cleaning industry were too flammable or toxic by today’s standards. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have set standards for toxicity and flammability. Toxicity and flammability are identified for each SERVPRO® Professional Cleaning Product on the Safety Data Sheet (SDS). The SDS identifies products that have a flash point. Flash point is the temperature at which a liquid will give off vapors in a concentration sufficient to ignite if a source of ignition is present.

Dry solvents use products such as odorless mineral spirits, propyl bromides, and oil-based solvents. These products are used in dry cleaning methods and as spot removers for textiles. Oil-based cleaning products require special precautions for use because of flammability or toxicity. When using oil-based cleaning products, increase ventilation, use chemical-resistant gloves, wear respirators with organic vapor cartridges, wear splash goggles, and use minimal applications to prevent damage to fabrics, backings, and adhesives. Dry cleaning products should be stored in properly labeled and manufacturer-approved containers.


Simply stated, enzymes are the digestive juices of bacteria. In the cleaning industry, enzymes are sometimes called digestive cleaners, since they use digestion as the process of breaking down insoluble protein soils to a soluble state. They are effective on proteins such as starch, blood, perspiration, nicotine, body discharges, dairy products, eggs, and fish slime.

Some products not only have enzymes but have actual living bacteria cultures, such as SERVPRO’s #114 Urine Odor and Stain Remover. Since living organisms are present when using enzymes, pH, temperature control, and moisture are important. Enzymes work best in a neutral solution; the temperature should be kept between 100 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and the soiled area must be kept damp. Allow 15 minutes to one hour for effective digestion. After digestion is complete, the proteins have been broken down and may be removed with water, detergents, or ammonia solutions. In heavily soiled situations, multiple applications of the enzymes may be needed.


Many of the soils we remove from textiles will leave a stain. A stain occurs when color (dye molecules) has been added to the fibers or fabric. When removing soils (unwanted foreign matter) from textiles, we use a detergent (water-based or oil-based) or an enzyme, but when we are trying to remove a stain from textiles, we should use a bleach. Bleaches chemically alter the dye molecules to reverse the coloration of a stain.

There are two categories of bleaches, oxidizing bleaches and reducing bleaches. SERVPRO® carries both in its Professional Cleaning Product line.

Oxidizing Bleaches

Oxidizing bleaches alter the dye molecule by adding oxygen, which changes their chemical structure and breaks them down. Chlorine bleach, sodium hypochlorite, is a very strong oxidizing bleach. Chlorine bleach can damage protein fibers, can corrode metal, and if mixed with a strong alkaline product like ammonia, can create toxic chlorine gas. SERVPRO® has removed sodium hypochlorite from all of its Professional Cleaning Products and does not recommend its use. Hydrogen peroxide is another common oxidizing bleach. Most hydrogen-peroxide-based products are neutralized by sunlight and must be stored in a dark bottle and in a dark place. SERVPRO’s Oxi-Zap (#278) is a stabilized hydrogen peroxide.

Reducing Bleaches

Reducing bleaches alter the dye molecule by removing oxygen, which changes their chemical structure and breaks them down. A reducing bleach is the opposite of an oxidizing bleach; a reducing bleach will neutralize the bleaching action of the oxidizer and vice versa.

Topical Treatments

Stain Resistance and Soil Release Treatments

The four general types of fabric treatments that assist in the release of soils and/or resist staining are soil repellents, soil release agents, soil repellent and soil release combination agents, and stain-resistant agents.

Soil Repellents

Soil repellents coat fibers and slow down the absorption of soils. There are two types of agents used as soil repellents, fluorochemicals and silicones. Fluorochemicals cause both water-based and oil-based soils to bead up on the surface so they can be wiped away and removed. Silicones are resistant to water-based soils but provide little resistance to oil-based soils. Silicones attract and bond with some oily soils and make it very difficult to remove the soil. Silicones should not be used as a protectant on carpets.

The primary purpose of soil repellents is to delay the absorption of soils into the fibers. Delaying soil absorption allows more time to remove soils before they become a permanent stain. However, if soils are left on fabrics treated with soil repellents for a long time, the soils may bond with the soil repellent and make soil removal very difficult.

Soil repellents work well on nylon, polyester, wool, acrylics, and cottons and cotton blends. DuPont and 3M Scotchgard are the biggest producers of soil repellents. If a silicone soil repellent is applied to a fabric that has been treated with a fluorochemical treatment, soil resistance is compromised. Before applying a soil repellent treatment, determine if the fabric has been treated and what type of product was used. Silicone treatments reduce the flame retardancy of fabrics.

Soil Release Agents

Soil release agents work opposite to soil repellents. Soil repellents make fabrics very hydrophobic—they resist water penetration. Soil release agents make fabrics hydrophilic—they more readily absorb water. By making a fabric more absorptive, detergents can easily penetrate the fabric and release the soils. Scotchgard™ Stain Release is a popular soil release product.

Soil Repellent and Soil Release Combination Agents

Since soil repellents and soil release agents work opposite to each other—one makes fibers hydrophobic and the other makes fibers hydrophilic—it was difficult to produce a product that could do both. Dual-Action Scotchgard™ by the 3M Company contains fluorochemicals and a polymer, which reverse their orientation to the fabric depending whether the fabric is wet or dry. When the fabric is dry, the fluorochemical is oriented towards the surface of the fiber to provide soil repellent properties. When the fabric is wet, the polymer, which is hydrophilic, is oriented towards the surface of fibers to make them more absorptive to cleaning products. Soil repellent/soil release agents may be applied to cotton blend and synthetic fabrics.

Stain-Resistant Treatments

Stain-resistant treatments are designed to prevent or reduce staining from dyes commonly found in foods. Kool Aid®, soft drinks, and many foods have anionic dyes that are similar to dyes used to dye fabrics. Anionic food dyes have a negative charge that bonds to fiber dye sites and can cause a permanent stain.

Stain-resistant treatments are made from sulfonated aromatic aldehyde condensation products (SAC), which produce a negatively charged surface on fibers. This negative charge repels negatively charged dye molecules. Because SAC is yellow, over-application or uneven application may cause yellowing in fabrics.

DuPont® and Monsanto® manufacture stain-resistant treatments that are commonly applied to nylon fibers. Invecta® produces a stain-resistant product for wool fabrics called Wool Shield™. Soil retardants, soil release agents, and stain-resistant treatments are applied by textile mills, retailers, consumers, and by professional cleaners. In many cases, the fabric manufacturer’s warranty is voided if the retailer or customer applies a treatment to a fabric treated by the manufacturer.

Treatments applied by textile mills are typically more effective, but all treatments will wear off from use and abrasion, and cleaning the fabric removes some of the treatment. Most treatments must be periodically reapplied by a professional to maintain their effectiveness. SERVPRO® has soil repellents and stain-resistant agents in the product line made by 3M Scotchgard™, such as Scotchgard™ Carpet & Upholstery Protector Concentrate and Upholstery & Carpet Guard Plus (#187 and #160). EZ Production Guideline Applying Topical Treatments and the SERVPRO® Professional Cleaning Products Reference Manual (#35026) have application instructions.

Fire Retardant Treatments

In some cases, fabrics must be treated with a fire retardant. Most states and municipalities require any textiles used in upholstery, draperies, or room divider partitions or textiles used for any purpose in schools, public facilities, and commercial establishments to be inherently fire-retardant or be treated to make them fire-retardant. Some fibers, such as modacrylic, are inherently fire-resistant, and textile mills treat some fabrics with fire retardants during manufacturing. However, in many cases, fire retardant treatments must be applied by the retailer, customer, or a professional company such as a SERVPRO® Franchise.

Even though a fabric has been treated with fire retardants, cleaning removes most of the treatment. After cleaning fabrics where fire retardancy is required, retreatment is normally necessary. Flame Stop (#181), is a water-based fire retardant. EZ Production Guideline Applying Fire Retardant provides step-by-step procedures for applying Flame Stop (#181).

Anti-static Treatments

In dry climates or during periods of low humidity, textiles can build up high levels of static electricity. There are several products specifically designed to reduce static electricity buildup in carpets and fabrics. These treatments act as insulators on fibers to prevent static buildup. Anti-static treatments typically last about one year. Cleaning removes the treatment, so it must be reapplied after cleaning.

SERVPRO: Science of Cleaning Part 2 of 2 4/11/2022

4/11/2022 (Permalink)

This is part 2 of 2 in a series.


One of the most important concepts to understand in cleaning is pH. pH (potential of hydrogen) is a numeric scale used to specify the acidity, neutrality, or alkalinity of a water-based cleaning product. Technically speaking, pH is approximately the negative of the base 10 logarithm of the molar concentration, measured in units of moles per liter, of hydrogen ions. More simply stated, pH is the number of positive or negative hydrogen ions in a water-based product. The pH scale goes from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. Pure water is neutral. However, because most water has impurities, such as dissolved minerals, it will vary somewhat from a pH of 7.

Generally speaking, acids neutralize alkalis and alkalis neutralize acids. Most soils are acidic in nature, so you will find that most cleaning products are alkaline.

Acids are substances with a pH less than 7. Another word for acid is “sour.” Carbonated beverages contain carbolic acid and normally have a pH of about 4, making them mildly acidic. Vinegar contains acetic acid and normally has a pH of about 3. Mild acids will not burn the skin or cause much damage to textiles. Stronger acids such as those used in swimming pools, muriatic acid, sulfuric (battery) acid, or nitric acid will do considerable damage to skin, carpets, and fabrics. They are very dangerous if taken internally.

An alkali is any substance with a pH higher than 7. Soap has a pH of about 9, making it a mild alkali. Mild alkalis will not damage skin or fabrics. A solution of baking soda, which is sometimes used for upset stomachs, has a pH of about 10. Lye and caustic soda have a pH of about 14. These strong alkalis will burn your skin and damage textiles. Other terms for alkaline substances are “base” and “hot.”

The pH scale is logarithmic, using a base of 10. That is, a pH of 8 is ten times stronger than a pH of 7, a pH of 9 is one hundred times stronger than a pH of 7, a pH of 10 is one thousand times stronger than a pH of 7, and so on. This holds true on the acidic side of the scale. The concentration and pH of the cleaning product determines its strength.

Because of the nature of the scale, the further away from neutral a product is, the stronger it becomes in relation to the pH next to it. For example, a product with a pH of 14 is 9,000,000 units stronger than a product with a pH of 13, but the difference between a product of pH 8 and a product with a pH of 9 is only 90 units.

This concept becomes very important when we are trying to neutralize a very strong acid or alkali. For example, to neutralize an acidic condition with a pH of 2, you should use an alkali with a pH of about 12. It would take large volumes of a weak alkali with a pH of 8 or 9 to neutralize the pH of 2.

We test for pH using hydrion paper. To test a spot for pH, moisten the spot with water known to be neutral and blot the test paper in the moisture. Unexposed hydrion paper is a light tan color. When exposed to mild acids, the color changes to a darker tan or light orange. Strong acids change the paper to a dark red. Mild alkalis change the paper to light green or light blue. Strong alkalis change the paper to dark blue.

Oil-based cleaning products (dry solvents) do not have a pH. A substance must be water-based to have a pH, so pH test paper will not react to oil or grease, other than being stained by the oil or grease.

You can use a scale on the test paper container to compare against the color and shade of the exposed paper to determine the specific pH. Test all spots and areas that have been cleaned with a strong acid or alkaline cleaning product to ensure it is returned to neutral after cleaning. Leaving textiles in a strong acidic or alkaline state can damage the materials.

NOTE: Immediately rinse the area you tested and blot with a clean towel because dyes in the hydrion test paper can discolor fabrics.

Most soils are on the acidic side of the scale. Detergents are usually alkaline. The chemical action of the detergent must be balanced against the soil. Alkaline cleaning products neutralize acidic soils enabling more efficient cleaning. For example, most traffic lane pre-sprays are alkaline because most normal soils are acidic. The pH of cleaning products is manipulated to let the products do the work. Of course, if the soil is alkaline, an acidic cleaning product should be used. Below is a list of common soils and their pH.

Approximate pH Values of Soils

Biological Materials, pH

Blood, plasma, human 7.3 - 7.5

Spinal Fluid, human 7.3 - 7.5

Blood, whole, dog 6.9 - 7.2

Saliva, human 6.5 - 7.5

Gastric contents, human 1.0 - 3.0

Duodenal contents, human 4.8 - 8.2

Feces, human 4.6 - 8.4

Urine, human 4.8 - 8.4

Milk, human 6.6 - 7.6

Bile, human 6.8 - 7.0


Apples 2.9 - 3.3

Apricots 3.6 - 4.0

Asparagus 5.4 - 5.8

Bananas 4.5 - 4.7

Beer 4.0 - 5.0

Beans 5.0 - 6.0

Beets 4.9 - 5.5

Blackberries 3.2 - 3.6

Bread, white 5.0 - 6.0

Butter 6.1 - 6.4

Cabbage 5.2 - 5.4

Carrots 4.9 - 5.3

Cider 2.9 - 3.3

Corn 6.0 - 6.5

Crackers 6.5 - 8.5

Dates 6.2 - 6.4

Egg whites 7.6 - 8.0

Flour, wheat 5.5 - 6.5

Gooseberries 2.8 - 3.0

Grapefruit 3.0 - 3.3

Grapes 3.5 - 4.5

Hominy (rye) 6.8 - 8.0

Jams, fruit 3.5 - 4.0

Jellies, fruit 2.8 - 3.4

Lemons 2.2 - 2.4

Limes 1.8 - 2.0

Maple syrup 6.5 - 7.0

Milk, cows 6.3 - 6.6

Olives 3.6 - 3.8

Oranges 3.0 - 4.0

Oysters 6.1 - 6.6

Peaches 3.4 - 3.6

Pears 3.6 - 4.0

Peas 5.8 - 6.4

Pickle, dill 3.2 - 3.6

Pickle, sour 3.0 - 3.4

Pimento 4.6 - 5.2

Plums 2.8 - 3.0

Potatoes 5.6 - 6.0

Pumpkin 4.8 - 5.2

When tests show a soil to be strongly acidic (1–4) or strongly alkaline (10–14), you will probably need a cleaning product with a strong pH value to neutralize the spot. To be on the safe side, however, start with mild cleaning product and work up to the stronger ones until the pH of the spot is neutralized. Always pretest; pH alone is not an indication of compatibility with the textiles being cleaned.

Stain-resistant carpets and fabrics treated with soil protectants require a detergent with a pH of 10 or less to protect the topical treatment. The SERVPRO® Franchise System uses a neutral synthetic detergent to remove the normal household soils on these textiles.

Cleaning products used for normal maintenance-type cleaning are generally between a pH of 6 and 10. The stronger cleaning products are normally used for spot removal and restorative cleaning situations, such as water, fire, or mold losses. Below is a list of some SERVPRO® cleaning products by pH.

Some SERVPRO® Cleaning Products by pH

Acids: (below pH 7)

Product Number Product Name pH

361 Thickened Bowl Cleaner 0.5-1.5

116 & 444 Rusticide 0.5-2.0

355 Stone and Porcelain Cleaner 0.5-2.0

256S Citric Acid 1.0-2.0

9951 Formic Acid 1.0-2.0

278 Oxi-Zap 1.0-2.0

470 Colorfast Jet Extraction Upholstery Cleaner 2.0-3.0

259S Brown Out Booster 4.0-5.5

181 Flame Stop 4.0-6.0

205 & 446 Fabric Rinse and Color Set 4.5-6.5

Neutral: (pH = 7)

Product Number Product Name pH

261 Liquid Emulsifier 6.0-8.0

245 & 246 SpotER 6.0-7.0

175 Vanquish 12.4

252 Shampoo Super Concentrate 6.5-7.5

114 Urine Odor and Stain Remover 6.5-8.0

408 Bright-N-Neutral Cleaner 6.0-8.0

272 Pre-Spray & Traffic Lane Cleaner 6.5-8.5

Alkaline: (Above pH 7)

Product Number Product Name pH

460 Bonnet Brite 7.0-7.8

110 Stain Scrub 7.0-8.0

154F Sporicidin® 7.0-8.0

472S Haitian Cotton Upholstery Shampoo 7.5-8.5

162 Armor Guard 7.5-9.0

187 Scotchgard® Carpet and Upholstery Protector 8.0-9.0


255 Showcase Cleaner and Rinse 9.0-10.0

269 Powdered Emulsifier 9.4-9.8

140 SERVPRO® Orange 9.5-11.0

257S Brown Out 10.0-11.0

111 Blood and Stain Remover 10.0-11.5

204 Glass Cleaner, Super Concentrate 10.5-11.5

268 StainZap 10.5-12.0

351 Wall and All Surface Cleaner 10.5-12.5

106 Graffiti Remover 11.0-12.0

138 SERVPRO® Green 11.0-12.5

202 Multi-Purpose Glass Cleaner 11.5-12.5

357 Industrial Cleaner 12.5-13.5

449 Ammonia Spotter 12.5-13.5

356 Fire Star 12.5-14.0

As you can see, most SERVPRO® Professional Cleaning Products are on the alkaline side, and most soils are on the acidic side.


Polarity is another important concept in the chemistry of cleaning. Polarity refers to the electrical orientation of ions. Ions are electrically charged particles or molecules. Polarity of ionic substances can be negative, positive, none, or have both electrical charges.

Anionic (-) is a negatively charged molecule.

Anionic molecules are effective in emulsion of oils and have a tendency to foam. They are the most compatible with stain resisters on fabrics.

Cationic (+) is a positively charged molecule.

Cationics are most often found in deodorants, fabric softeners, anti-static formulations, biocides and bacteriostats. They are not compatible with fabric stain resisters and make a jelly-like substance when mixed with an anionic detergent.

Nonionic (o) has no electrical charge.

Nonionics are usually compatible with anionic and cationic detergents. They are good wetting agents.

Amphoteric (+ or -) molecules have both charges.

Amphoteric molecules can carry either charge, based upon the pH of the solution they are in. Amphoterics are primarily used in the textile dye process.

Just as in a magnet, like electrical charges repel and unlike charges are attracted to each other. A negatively charged ion is attracted to a positively charged ion. This concept is used to increase the power of cleaning products.

The reason polarity is so important in cleaning is because it explains solubility. Most cleaning involves the dissolving of soils into a cleaning product. Polarity and ionization are the chemical properties that make it possible for one substance to dissolve or be suspended in the other.

When soils are dissolved in a cleaning product, the electrical forces of the two (soil and cleaning product) are attracted to each other. The stronger the attraction between soil and cleaning product, the more easily and quickly the dissolving action takes place.

Consider what happens when a solid is dissolved in a liquid. In a solid, molecules are arranged in a very regular pattern. This means the attractive forces of the molecules are very strong. For solids to dissolve, the molecular forces of the dissolving solution must be strong enough to break the bond of the molecular forces holding the solid together.

Water, often called the “universal solvent,” dissolves many substances. A water molecule consists of two positively charged hydrogen atoms held together by one oxygen atom with a -2 negative charge. Opposite ends of the molecule carry opposite electrical charges (this is called a “polar molecule”). Water molecules have a positive and a negative pole. This molecular polarity makes water particularly useful in cleaning because it can dissolve many substances.

An example will illustrate this molecular polarity of water in action. When salt dissolves in water, a positively charged sodium ion (Na+) is surrounded by molecules of water with their negative ends directed at the sodium. Negatively charged chloride ions in salt (Cl-) are surrounded by molecules of water with their positive ends directed at the chloride. The salt ions are surrounded by water molecules and are “caged.” This cage of water molecules helps neutralize or insulate the charge of the sodium and chlorine molecules to keep them from being attracted to each other. Without this “insulation” they would rejoin, crystallize, and fall out of solution.

Solutions made up of nonpolar molecules, lacking either positive or negative charges, cannot dissolve ionic solids. Nonpolar molecules cannot break the solid apart and cannot insulate the ions of the solid from each other. When ionic solids are in solutions of nonpolar molecules, they attract each other, separate from the solution, and recrystallize as solids.

Substances similar in molecular attractive forces tend to be soluble in one another. Remember the general principle “Like dissolves like.” Polar molecules dissolve other polar molecules and non-polar molecules dissolve non-polar substances.

Some general relationships exist between pH and polarity. Acids are usually cationic (+) and alkalis are usually anionic (-). Acids have an excess of positively charged hydronium ions (single hydrogen atoms), and alkalis have an excess of negatively charged hydroxyl molecules (an oxygen atom combined with a single hydrogen atom). When you neutralize an acid with an alkali, the excess hydrogen atoms in the acid combine with the hydroxyl molecules to form water (H20) and a salt. This makes it easier to remove the neutralized soil, and the neutral state prevents damage to fabrics and carpets.

Cationics are not compatible with stain-resistant fabrics and carpets. Using a cationic product can neutralize the stain-resistant treatment and void the warranty on the material.

This brief discussion shows how important the chemical action element is to effective cleaning. Imagine if we had no detergents or solvents. How clean would your hair and body be without shampoos and soap? No amount of scrubbing with plain water would give you that clean feel you get after using soap and shampoo in a quick shower. Our homes, furnishings, rugs, drapes, and upholstery need chemical help to look and feel their best.


The fourth element of cleaning is temperature. Increasing the temperature of a cleaning product increases the speed of the chemical action between the solution and the soils. Heat makes molecules move faster and, therefore, clean more quickly. Of course, each cleaning product and method has an appropriate temperature. You could get products too hot to use safely or hot enough to damage the textiles being cleaned.

Some cleaning products can be rendered ineffective by too much heat, such as product #114, Urine Odor and Stain Remover, which is an enzymatic cleaner. Follow the EZ Production Guidelines, the SERVPRO® Professional Cleaning Products Reference Manual (#35026) and Safety Data Sheets for each cleaning product and method, and you will get the best results.

Heat has several effects in cleaning. Most soils become more soluble as the temperature rises. Heat puts matter in motion. Increased motion keeps dissolved particles from sticking. They bounce off each other and spread out in the cleaning product.

Heat reduces surface tension. This allows cleaning products to penetrate easier and speeds up suspension of soils. Increased temperature helps destroy living organisms. Heat is a common means of controlling microorganisms.

SERVPRO: Science of Cleaning Part 1 of 2 4/4/2022

4/4/2022 (Permalink)

This is part 1 of 2 in a series.

A good way to remember the elements of soil suspension is to use the first letters from each to form the acrostic TACT. It is necessary to have all four elements. If you decrease one, you must increase another to keep the effectiveness of your cleaning process.


The time element of soil suspension is referred to as dwell time. Dwell time is the amount of time the cleaning product must be in contact with the soils to properly dissolve and/or emulsify them. If adequate dwell time is not allotted, the results of the cleaning process can be less than desirable.

Dwell time varies from product to product and from cleaning method to cleaning method. Always refer to the product label and the SERVPRO® Professional Cleaning Products Reference Manual (#35026) and follow the SERVPRO® EZ Production Guidelines Manual (#35712) to determine proper dwell time.


The second element of soil suspension is agitation. Agitation refers to mechanical agitation. This can be accomplished by moving the fibers being cleaned, the cleaning product, or both. This is achieved by water pressure, oscillating or rotating brushes, sonic vibrations, scrubbing, wiping, or any other force available as part of the cleaning process. For example, hot water extraction uses water pressure, airflow, and the motion of the wand to agitate the fibers.

For proper cleaning to occur, soils must be dislodged from the surface they are attached to. Once the soil bond is broken, the soils can be suspended and removed. Agitation is often the most effective way to dislodge soils. Additional agitation may be needed in heavily soiled areas. Agitation helps to lift matted fibers and distributes the cleaning product evenly throughout the textile.

Be cautious with the amount of agitation used on some textiles. Some weaves are very delicate and some types of fibers are easily damaged by aggressive agitation. Care must be taken to prevent damage to the fabric.

Chemical Action

The third element of soil suspension is chemical action. There are numerous chemical actions that take place during the cleaning process. The three most important are detergency, pH, and polarity.


The word detergent comes from the word deterge, which simply means “to clean”; therefore, anything that cleans is a detergent. Detergents can be water-based or oil-based. Water-based detergents have the desired property of being soluble in water and at the same time being able to emulsify oily soils.

Following are some terms used to describe solubility. Hydro means “water”; lipo means “oil.” Phobic means “fear” and philic means “love.”





For example, when a substance will not dissolve in water, it is called hydrophobic, and when it readily dissolves in water, it is hydrophilic. Detergents bridge the gap between the hydrophobic oily soils and water.

Soap has been around for hundreds of years, but prior to the 1800s, it was considered a luxury. The general idea before the 1800s was that soap was not needed—“Sweat kept a man clean.” After the industrial age, soap became a necessity to wash off the smoke and grime of the great industrial cities.

Soap is made by reacting animal fats with water and a strong alkali (base) such as lye or caustic soda. The reaction between the strong alkali and fats releases an ion that has a negatively charged head connected to a long hydrocarbon chain. This process is called saponification. You can experience this when a strong alkaline product comes in contact with your skin. Your skin feels slick and hot as the oils on your skin are turning into soap.

The hydrocarbon chain or tail of soap resembles the hydrocarbons found in oil, gasoline, grease, and animal fats. This tail will not dissolve in water, but it will dissolve other similar hydrocarbons like grease and oil. The head of the soap ion is attracted to and surrounded by water molecules. The tail breaks oily soils apart and holds them within the detergent. They then become an emulsion and can be flushed away.

Soap has some drawbacks. If not thoroughly rinsed, soaps will leave a sticky residue that can cause resoiling. When soap combines with hard water (water that contains mineral ions such as calcium or magnesium), it forms insoluble salts. This stops the cleaning action and forms a scum. Since most water is “hard” to some degree, this is a real problem.

In 1933, Proctor and Gamble® developed synthetic detergents that work well in hard water and leave fewer residues, limiting resoiling. In detergents, the electrostatic states can be more varied than in soap. The ions of detergents can have positive heads or negative heads (be either cationic or anionic). Some are bipolar compounds that have both a positive and a negative end.

They act as water softeners and remain stable in hard water. The use of soft water improves the effectiveness of the cleaning products.

Part 2 is coming soon!

SERVPRO Principles of Carpet Cleaning: What Makes Us Special? 3/28/2022

3/28/2022 (Permalink)

Cleaning is the process of properly removing soils without damaging or altering the appearance of the fibers or fabric. This definition is true of all cleaning, whether you are cleaning carpets, upholstery, walls, or any other surface. The six principles of effective cleaning are the following:

Remove dry soil.

Identify the surface.

Identify the type of soils.

Suspend the soils.

Remove the soils.

Dry the surface.

To understand these principles of cleaning, we need to begin with some basic physics. The mediums used to release and transport soils from a surface in the cleaning process are air and/or fluids. As they flow on, in, or through the materials being cleaned, they carry suspended particles with them. Air and fluids make effective cleaning possible if you manage them so they transport soils and contaminants where you can dispose of them properly. Together, air and fluids provide the mediums most commonly used for cleaning—vacuuming, extracting, dissolving, and emulsifying.

Remove Dry Soil

Studies show that approximately 74 to 79 percent of the soils found in textiles are what is called dry particulates. These dry particulates are made up of various things, such as skin cells, hair follicles, and dust mites. These dry particulates are easily removed when they are dry and become very difficult to remove once they become wet. All effective cleaning methods should begin by trying to remove as much of these dry particulates as possible. Using a vacuum or a dry cleaning sponge are two of the most commonly used dry soil removal methods. Vacuuming is very effective for most textile cleaning situations, but if the textiles were involved in a fire loss, the dry cleaning sponge may be more effective.

Identify the Surface

This involves determining if the surface to be cleaned is porous or nonporous and if the surface is natural or synthetic. All textiles are considered to be porous, so the first part is easy. The second part, trying to determine if the textile is natural or synthetic, is a bit harder and is a critical step in determining the proper cleaning method. All textiles are manufactured using fibers, and these fibers can be natural, synthetic, or a combination of natural and synthetic. Each type of fiber has their own advantages and disadvantages; see the chapter on fibers and fiber manufacturing for a complete list of the various fibers and their characteristics. Natural fibers tend to shrink and transfer color and, in the case of cellulosic fibers, can have cellulosic browning. When cleaning textiles with natural fibers, careful pretesting must be completed before using a wet cleaning method. Synthetic fibers do not have these characteristics and usually respond best to a wet cleaning method. Many fabrics are created with a blend of several different fibers and these can be a challenge for a SERVPRO® Franchise Professional. There are three basic tests that can be performed to help determine the type of fiber.

Burn Test

Each type of fiber has distinguishing characteristics when a sample is burned. Based on the flame, odor, ash, and smoke, a SERVPRO® Franchise Professional will be able to determine the type of fiber.

Chemical Test

Some fibers are dissolved by specific chemicals. Nylon is dissolved by formic acid, wool is dissolved by chlorine bleach and acetate is dissolved by acetone. A SERVPRO® Franchise Professional will be able to use these chemical tests to help them identify the type of fiber.

Specific Gravity Test

This test involves taking a sample of fibers and placing them in a cup of water and letting them become saturated. Olefin is the only fiber with a specific gravity less than 1, and only Olefin will continue to float even after being saturated in water.

For additional information about these tests and the specific steps to complete these tests, see the chapter on pretesting.

Identify the Type of Soil

Soils fall into two basic categories, water-based and oil-based. The basic idea is that if a soil is water-based, the soil will be easily removed with a water-based cleaning product, and if the soil is oil-based, the soil will be easily removed with an oil-based cleaning product.

Suspend the Soils

Soil suspension is accomplished using the four elements of cleaning; for more information see the “Elements of Cleaning” section. Soils that adhere to fibers and were not removed from the textiles during the dry soil removal step must be suspended within a cleaning product before they can be removed. The cleaning product is applied to the textile and agitated to help it penetrate and loosen soils. When selecting the cleaning product, you must first identify the type of soil and test the surface you are cleaning to ensure the textile will not be altered or damaged. Soils are suspended within the cleaning product in two ways, dissolving and emulsifying.


The definition of dissolve is to become a liquid, such as sugar being dissolved by water. When a soil is dissolved by the cleaning product, the soil is suspended in the cleaning product as a liquid. Any substance that dissolves another substance is a “solvent.” Water is considered the “universal solvent,” since it dissolves more substances than any other. Some soils are water-soluble and some are oil-soluble. For example, sugar easily dissolves in water, but oil or oil-based paint will not dissolve in water. The type of soil and the surface it is on will determine whether we dissolve it using a water-based cleaning product or an oil-based cleaning product. Oil-based cleaning products are petroleum derivatives, also called dry solvents, and their chemical structure is similar to oily soils, enabling them to dissolve oil-based soils. This principle is “Like dissolves like.” Substances that do not dissolve in either water or oil are considered to be insoluble.


Emulsifying is the process of creating an emulsion. An emulsion is the uniform distribution of one liquid in another without formation of a solution. Oil and water will not mix, but by using an emulsifier (detergents), a connecting link is made between oil and water molecules, allowing them to be evenly distributed in the cleaning product.

Remove the Soils

In textile cleaning, this is referred to as the rinse step. The cleaning product and suspended soils are removed. Depending on the cleaning method, rinsing may occur before or after drying. Hot water extraction uses wet vacuum extraction; other methods use a spin pad that absorbs the wet solution. Proper rinsing depends upon pressure, absorption, agitation, airflow, or water lift to penetrate the textile and extract the cleaning product and suspended soils.

Waste Water Disposal

Always follow any state, provincial, or local regulations when disposing of waste water. Requirements differ from state to state, providence to providence, and may even be different municipality to municipality. In most cases, waste water from textile cleaning may be disposed of through the commode or a utility sink into a sanitary sewer system.

Following are some general guidelines for waste disposal:

Do not dispose of dry solvents (oil-based products) into a sewer or septic system. All oil-based waste must be collected and disposed of at an approved disposal site.

Do not dispose of any cleaning wastes into a storm drain or gutter.

Do not dispose of any cleaning wastes into a septic system.

Waste water from textile cleaning, other than dry solvents, should be disposed of into a sanitary sewer system. Some municipalities require a permit to dispose of cleaning wastes into treated sewer lines.

Water with biohazards (medical hazards, human blood, or tissue) should be handled by a biohazard disposal firm. Check with local, state, or provincial authorities.

Dry the Surface

Drying is the process of removing the remaining moisture from the fibers so they can return to their normal appearance and texture. Drying prevents the fibers from attracting and holding additional soils and prevents the growth of microorganisms.

Drying time varies depending on the amount of moisture used in the cleaning process and the prevailing temperature and humidity conditions. All textiles should be dried as quickly as practical. Drying natural fibers or non-colorfast fabrics is essential since they may be more prone to problems associated with prolonged drying. Drying requires air movement, heat, and low humidity. Air movement may be achieved by natural air flow or by using air movers. Airflow can be enhanced by opening doors and windows or by operating ceiling fans or the HVAC system. The rate of evaporation increases with heat, so opening doors and windows on cold days may not be appropriate. Rooms should be kept at 72 degrees or higher.

Humidity has a significant effect on the rate of evaporation. Relative humidity over 60 percent slows drying time because the air is approaching saturation. On humid days it will take longer for textiles to dry, so additional drying techniques may be required.

How do I know SERVPRO made it clean? 3/21/2022

3/21/2022 (Permalink)

Types of Clean

The SERVPRO® Franchise System has further defined clean as a standard every SERVPRO® Franchise Professional should achieve for each customer. The SERVPRO® Franchise Professional should be able to explain cleaning results to their customers by using the SERVPRO® brand’s types of clean. Following are the six types of SERVPRO® Franchise System clean:

Looks clean

Smells clean

Feels clean

Stays clean

Dries fast

Is sanitized

Ask any SERVPRO® Franchise Professional what they sell and they will probably answer “Service! We are the SERVice PROfessionals.” While this is true, the “product” the SERVPRO® Franchise System is actually selling is CLEAN. Unlike most businesses that sell tangible items, such as parts or merchandise, the SERVPRO® System is selling a concept or, more accurately, a perception. The SERVPRO® cleaning products, equipment, training, and procedures are all part of the process that provides CLEAN. Without the practical and technical knowledge of cleaning, SERVPRO® Franchise Professionals cannot define the advantages and limitations of production services, produce the service, or explain the benefits of using a SERVPRO® Franchise.

Looks clean. “Looks clean” refers to the appearance of the item after cleaning. Are stains removed? Is heavy soiling still visible? Are fibers standing erect or still matted? Is it brighter? Does it look “better”? “Looks clean” is a comparison between the before and after. There must be a visible difference for the customer to be satisfied. When cleaning worn and damaged textiles, prequalify results with customers to make sure they understand cleaning cannot reverse wear or physical damages.

Smells clean. “Smells clean” refers to both the addition of pleasant odor and the absence of offensive odors, called malodors. The basic principle of deodorization is to remove the source of odors. SERVPRO® cleaning products leave a pleasant, short-term fragrance. No fragrance lasts forever, but effective cleaning can prevent the odor from returning. The initial impression is that “it smells so fresh and clean!” With the addition of various deodorizers to cleaning products, specific malodors can be eliminated, and a specific after-fragrance can be added as part of the cleaning process. The psychological effect of a positive smell after cleaning is that things look cleaner if they smell good.

Feels clean. What does clean feel like? How does your hair feel if it is freshly washed? Soft, smooth, luxurious, untangled, and not sticky, stiff, or matted. Fibers should feel that way too. The “hand” (feel) should be soft, luxurious, and inviting. Fibers should feel “squeaky clean.” Some fabrics, such as cotton velvets, require grooming immediately following cleaning to restore a soft hand and protect the appearance of the fabric. Badly worn fibers are not going to respond as well, but there will be an improvement. Looks and smells contribute to the psychological impact of “feels clean.”

Stays clean. “Stays clean” is measured and compared to previous services or expectations. Satisfaction of this definition is difficult to achieve. Stays clean is something the SERVPRO® Franchise Professional must qualify. For instance, with three kids and a dog in the house, carpets, upholstery, and draperies are not going to stay clean very long without application of a fiber protector and proper maintenance between cleanings.

Proper cleaning to satisfy the “stays clean” definition requires the correct method of cleaning be selected and properly performed for each textile. Soils and residues must be removed, and thorough rinsing is required. In many cases, application of a fiber protector will be necessary for the fibers to stay clean.

Customers need to understand that textile cleaning should be performed before the fabric becomes heavily soiled. When a fabric becomes heavily soiled, it is very difficult to return it to a satisfactory appearance. Customers are really not saving money by waiting long intervals between cleanings. They may be ruining their fine upholstered furniture, carpets, and draperies.

Dries fast. “Dries fast” is a tangible, measurable benefit. Drying time is relative, and only becomes a negative factor if it interferes with the lifestyle of the customer or ruins the textile. Fibers that do not dry quickly can develop some very real and damaging problems. Color bleeding is much more likely if upholstery and draperies are wet for a long period, and microorganisms may begin to grow and cause odor issues. Fabrics deteriorate and lose their strength. Seams can become weak and fail.

If a customer cannot use their room or furniture, the textiles did not dry fast enough. Few customers are willing to wait for a long time to use upholstered furniture, or walk on the carpets in their home or office. Getting fibers to dry fast can be a real advantage and requires proper application of the appropriate cleaning method.

Is sanitized. “Sanitized” is a definition of clean that is becoming more important in both homes and businesses as the public becomes more aware of indoor air quality (IAQ) issues. A sanitary condition is closely related to “smells clean,” since sanitizing relates to the reduction of microorganisms. Remember the definition of sanitary is a safe, healthy environment to live in. Cleaning for health is an important benefit many customers do not recognize until you point it out to them. Clearly define your services in terms of health benefits. When carpets, upholstery, and draperies are regularly cleaned, air quality is better, health is protected, and expensive furnishings last longer.

The six types of clean are the true foundation of the SERVPRO® Franchise System services and products. They enable a SERVPRO® Franchise Professional to properly understand and explain to customers what is needed to provide the total concept of clean for their benefit.

How to control bacteria and viruses in your living space 3/14/2022

3/14/2022 (Permalink)

Steps in Controlling Microbial Growth

The application of chemical agents should not be the restoration vendor’s primary method of controlling microbial growth. Since the presence of water promotes and sustains microbial growth, the primary steps in mitigation or remediation are (1) removing moisture by drying the environment and reducing humidity levels and (2) removing contaminated materials. Water damage restoration professionals should focus on fast drying of the structure (to reduce moisture levels) and not consider the application of chemical agents by themselves to be effective remediation of microbial contamination.

The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) points out that restorers are not effective if their only step is applying chemical agents (biocides) and they do not perform the more important steps of rapid drying and removal of contaminated materials:

“Effective remediation of water damaged or microbially contaminated buildings involves (a) the use of appropriate techniques to promote rapid drying, and (b) complete removal of contaminated materials rather than the application of biocides without these steps” (ACGIH Bioaerosals: Assessment and Control – publication #3180).

The Use of Professional Products

In certain situations, professional water damage restoration products may help slow or control the growth of microbes. When mitigation of a sanitary water situation is not prompt, the potential for microbial growth and contamination increases. The application of products after initial water extraction may help to control microbes and make the jobsite safer for workers to perform their tasks.

The effective use of professional products requires appropriate methods of application:

Use an EPA-registered broad spectrum disinfectant when a water damage presents potential for microbial contamination. SERVPRO® EPA-registered disinfectants for use on nonporous surfaces are Sporicidin® (#154), Concrobium (#127), Vanquish (#175), Benefect (#170), and Microban (#180).

Use products in complete accordance with the product labeling. Mix products in the dilution ratios recommended by the label. Follow application methods specified on the label.

During application of products, use quantities and methods that allow physical contact of the solution with all contaminated materials and surfaces. Products are not effective against microbes they do not physically contact.

Allow sufficient dwell time (in accordance with the product label) for the solution to be effective. Maintain temperature and pH levels at which the chemical agent is effective. Products should normally be applied to subfloor, tackless strip, walls, and wall bottom plates. Such organic materials encourage microbial growth and the development of odors associated with microbes.

A deodorizer, such as Wintergreen Deodorizer (#155), can be applied to carpet fibers, the back of carpets, and fabrics to reduce odors.

Cautions for Professional Product Application

The use of professional products must conform with applicable federal, state, and local regulations or laws.

Wear appropriate personal protective equipment.

Do not spray into HVAC systems while in operation.

Do not spray in occupied buildings. Occupants should not reenter the building after spraying until safe to do so.

Pretest to determine whether the product being applied will damage surfaces.

Clean surfaces before application of antimicrobials. Recommended concentrations for solutions are determined by testing on clean surfaces. Excessive levels of soiling or organic matter on a surface decrease the effectiveness of disinfectants. Organic matter can inactivate some products. Removing soils and organic matter through cleaning will likely increase the effectiveness of the antimicrobial as a decontamination treatment.

Following treatment and appropriate dwell time, remove remaining residues. Microbes are everywhere. Despite the application of chemical agents, microbes will re-contaminate an environment if water invades the structure again.

Disinfectants and Sewage Contamination

A treatment of antimicrobial is appropriate for sewage-contaminated environments after cleaning of contaminated surfaces has taken place, since antimicrobials are most effective as disinfectants when contacting microorganisms on clean surfaces. The presence of dirt and other organic contaminants reduces the effectiveness of most disinfectants.

Disinfectants and Mold Contamination

The effectiveness of disinfectants in mold remediation is being continually evaluated. Direct contact between molds and some disinfectants slows or inhibits mold growth. On the other hand, the effectiveness of disinfectants against mold spores and mycotoxins is questioned. While either chlorine bleach solution or a quaternary compound has some impact on molds, neither should be used as a primary step in remediation. The proper remediation of mold contamination should rely on physical removal of contaminated porous materials and effective drying of the environment.

Chemical vocabulary: Learn to speak SERVPRO 3/7/2022

3/7/2022 (Permalink)

When contamination exists, professional water damage restoration products may be helpful in returning the loss environment to a preloss condition. Competence in this area requires an awareness of the basic types of products, understanding proper product usage, and how to explain these products to customers and/or clients.

Chemical Terminology

Antimicrobial. The word antimicrobial means literally “against microbes.” An antimicrobial agent is any chemical used “against” microorganisms to prevent their development or to limit or stop their growth (examples would be fungistats and mildewstats). The word antimicrobial can sometimes refer more generally to various chemicals registered as disinfectants, germicides, fungicides, virucides, sporicides, mildewcides, or sanitizers.

Disinfectants. Disinfectants and germicides are antimicrobials that destroy about 99 percent of organisms they contact on surfaces where applied. They may or may not affect bacterial or fungal spores, which are usually dormant, reproductive bodies. Common disinfectants are quaternaries, phenols, formaldehydes, alcohols, and chlorines. SERVPRO® EPA-registered disinfectants include Sporicidin® (#154F), Concrobium (#127), Vanquish (#175), Benefect® (#170), and Microban® (#180).

Sanitizers. Sanitizers are used to decrease the number of microbials to acceptable levels. A product listed as a sanitizer reduces microbes to levels considered by public health authorities to be safe. Under the right conditions, however, the microbes may grow back again.

Sterilizers. A sterilizer destroys all microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi spores.

Sterilizing microbes in a water damage is generally not possible. Sterilizers can only be used on

inanimate surfaces that can withstand the chemicals. Chlorine products are used as sterilizing agents.

-stats. Mildewstats and fungistats (known as “stats”) slow the growth of fungi on organic materials such as textiles, leather, and paper. They do not necessarily kill microbes, but prevent their further growth when used according to label directions. Label statements such as “inhibit the growth of” normally mean the product is a stat rather than a disinfectant.

-cides. Biocides are chemical agents that destroy or kill living organisms (-cide meaning “kill”). For example, a “virucide” would kill or inactivate viruses. In the restoration industry, however, the term biocide is used generally to refer to any chemical agent that affects the growth of microbes like bacteria and fungi. Because of the general use of the term biocide, any particular product called a biocide may not actually “kill” microbes.

Sporicides. A disinfectant that is effective in controlling bacterial or fungal spores when used according to label directions.

Ingredients of Chemical Agents

Although many chemical agents are antimicrobial, most do not kill the wide variety of fungi and bacteria encountered in the average flood situation. The antimicrobials listed below are some of the most commonly used products in the restoration of water damages. Some of these chemical products will affect mold and some bacteria on contact, if applied in strong enough concentrations and according to label directions.

Phenolics. The original phenol disinfectants were coal tar derivatives and gave off an unpleasant odor. Today, some phenolics are synthetic with better odor-counteracting properties. Phenolics, due to their nature, function best at a pH range of 6 to 7. Since phenolics are not compatible with nonionic or cationic detergents, they must be formulated with anionic detergents or soap. A well formulated phenolic is effective against a broad spectrum of bacteria, as well as against fungi and viruses. Sporicidin® (#154F) is a phenolic.

Some problems exist with the use of phenols. They lose their disinfectant qualities over the course of time. Many have a strong phenolic odor, which can be an irritant to people. Phenolics are also sensitive to hard water and will leave a scum when used with hard water. They are usually acidic, meaning they are not naturally good cleaners. They are not approved as sanitizers for food contact areas.

Phenols are readily taken in through the skin or from breathing the vapors and may cause eye, nose, and throat irritation. Because of potential hazards, phenols should be limited to critical situations. High pH levels will neutralize the phenolic’s germicidal effects.

Chlorines. Chlorines are similar to iodophors (disinfectants containing iodine in combination with a surfactant), except that they do not stain porous materials yellow. Chlorines are strong oxidizing agents and can remove some types of dyes or dull the finish of resilient floors. They offer low toxicity with wide germicidal action against bacteria, viruses, and fungi (molds). Chlorines have a strong odor, can irritate the skin or respiratory system, and should always be used with caution. Vanquish (#175) is a chlorine.

Quaternary Compounds. The most common type of disinfectant is the quaternary ammonium type. Quats are cationic and can be mixed with nonionic detergents. If mixed with detergents, they work best in the 9 to 10 pH range, the pH range in which detergents work best. Quaternary compounds are good broad spectrum disinfectants, effective against a wide variety of bacteria, fungi, and some viruses. Quats have a naturally pleasant odor and will counteract odors even without additional fragrance. They will not leave a residue in hard water. Being cationic, however, they are incompatible with anionics. Microban® (#180) is both a quaternary and a phenolic.

Botanicals. Botanical options are available utilizing thyme oil/thymol or citric acid. Many customers prefer a botanical option over the chemical compounds mentioned in this section. Some government building require the use of botanicals. Benefect® (#170) and Concrobium (#127) are both botanicals.

Cleaning vocabulary: Learn to speak SERVPRO 2/28/2022

2/28/2022 (Permalink)

Understanding the basic theory of cleaning is important in achieving satisfactory results regardless of the method used to clean textiles. In fact, understanding basic cleaning theory will help in selecting the best method to use. This theory is applied in the spot removal process.

Cleaning Industry Terms

Every career field has its special terminology. The following terms are part of cleaning industry professional terminology. Understanding and using them will give you credibility as a professional with your customers and within the industry. Learn them and use them.

Absorption is an action whereby liquids or gases are taken into the fibers or fabrics through capillary, osmotic, or chemical action. Absorption is used in cleaning to transfer soils or liquids from fabrics to another medium such as stain absorb powder or from upholstery to a towel.

Adsorption is the transference of a substance from one surface to another surface. The substance being transferred does not penetrate the fiber but is attached to the surface. The adsorption process is used in applying topical treatments such as fire retardants and stain retardants.

Agglomeration prevents the re-depositing of very fine soil particles into scratches, pores, or fibers. Agglomeration is the collection of extremely fine particles into large masses.

Bleaching agents come in two forms: oxidizing bleaches and reducing bleaches. Oxidizing bleaches add oxygen to help break down soils. Reducing bleaches (also called strippers) counteract oxidation reactions by removing oxygen. To increase the effectiveness of a reducing bleach, increase the acidity and the temperature.

Buffered cleaning products contain a chemical that maintains a uniform pH in the solution. For example, a cleaning product may be formulated to perform best at a high pH. Without buffering, as the cleaning product is used, the pH would continue to fall, and the efficiency of the product would decrease. With buffering, the original pH is maintained so that sustained, uniform cleaning continues during the entire cleaning operation.

Chelating agents react with hard water salts to make them water-soluble. Dissolving hard water salts prevents them from interfering with the cleaning power of the detergents and prevents the minerals in hard water from settling out and forming residues. Chelating agents are found in cleaning products such as Powdered Emulsifier (#269). Another term for chelating agents is sequestering agents.

Dispersion is the breaking up of solid soils so they can be separated and suspended in the cleaning solution. Suspension is important to prevent re-depositing of soils onto the surface. Another term used for breaking soils down is deflocculation.

Foam modifiers are used to increase or decrease the foaming characteristic of detergents. Some cleaning processes, such as Showcase, need lots of foam to lubricate the brushes and suspend soils. Foam modifiers help to tailor detergents for their intended use.

Lubrication is another important method of soil removal. Lubrication is the action of making something smooth and slippery. Washing your hands with soap and water is an example of lubrication. Much of the soil is not dissolved but is dislodged from the pores and wrinkles of the skin by lubrication. The objective in lubrication is to break the connection between the soil and the surface it is on and “skid” the soil into solution. Chewing gum, nail polish, and paint are sometimes removed by lubrication action.

Penetration. A surface such as a floor or wall appears smooth to the eye, but it has many small pits, cracks, and crevices. Soils can become embedded in these surface irregularities and are difficult to remove. The penetration ability of a detergent allows the cleaning product to flow into these pits and cracks, under and around the embedded soils. One way synthetic detergents aid penetration is by lowering the surface tension of the cleaning product by using surfactants.

Surfactants are used to lower the surface tension of water-based cleaning products. Water has surface tension that acts like a thin skin. Surface tension causes water to bead and slows penetration in porous materials such as fabrics. A surfactant lowers the surface tension and makes water “wetter.” Detergents, alcohol-based products, and heat act as surfactants.

What does SERVPRO clean really mean? 2/16/2022

2/16/2022 (Permalink)

How clean is clean? The word “clean” is a subjective term, and most everyone has a different concept of what clean is. Because of the different perceptions of clean, qualifying cleaning results is a critical step in textile cleaning. If a customer expects a worn, heavily soiled couch to look “new” after cleaning, the SERVPRO® Franchise employee must qualify and explain that cleaning will make the couch look better, but it will not look new. To clarify what the term clean means, three definitions have been developed.


For a surface to be considered sterile, it must be completely free of soils (soils are defined as any unwanted foreign matter on a surface) and microorganisms (microorganisms, also called pathogens, are viruses, bacteria, protozoa, prions, and fungi). Operating rooms are areas where sterilization would be crucial. To achieve the sterile level of clean, government-regulated products and specific procedures are required. Removal of 100 percent of the soils and microorganisms is extremely difficult.


The disinfected level of cleaning is achieved when at least 99 percent of the soils and microorganisms are removed from a surface. In the United States and Canada, disinfectants are regulated by the government and their use must be according to their label directions.

Applying a disinfectant and achieving the disinfected level of clean is not the same thing. Many factors determine whether a disinfectant will be effective, such as the concentration of the product, the length of contact time between the disinfectant and the surface, the type of surface being treated, and the condition of the surface. For example, most government-registered disinfectants are to be used on hard, nonporous surfaces that have been pre-cleaned before application of the disinfectant. These products are not intended to disinfect porous surfaces, such as textiles, because microorganisms penetrate and survive in very small pores. In situations where large amounts of contamination is involved, such as Category 2 or 3 water losses, mold losses, or trauma/crime scene losses, industry standards recommend discarding textiles and other porous materials since disinfection cannot be achieved.


In the sanitary level of clean, soils are removed. Some soils and microorganisms may still be on the surface, but they are at an acceptable level. Cleaning must always achieve the sanitary level as a minimum.

Regular cleaning is required to keep an environment sanitary. Without regular cleaning, areas will become unsanitary; however, even regular cleaning does not ensure the sanitary level of clean if poor equipment, improper procedures, or improper products are used. The SERVPRO® equipment and products have been thoroughly tested and are among the best in the industry. The SERVPRO® System has detailed production guidelines to help ensure cleaning is effective.

Identifying, removing, and properly disposing of soils are the keys to effective cleaning. People may assume their cleaning equipment is removing soils when it really is not. Some vacuum cleaners are not strong enough to remove particles from textiles. Others remove particles but let them pass through the collection bag back into the environment. If the equipment does not effectively remove cleaning product residues from textiles, these residues may cause the textile to rapidly resoil. The residues act as a magnet for additional soils.