You may have heard the term pH used in the context of carpet cleaning, and wondered what it stood for. Or you may remember a little bit about pH from when you were in school, but because you don’t seem to remember much about it, decided that it probably didn’t matter that much. It may surprise you to learn that something that was included in the school curriculum in your high school chemistry has real-world applications other than changing the color of the liquid in a beaker.
pH stands for “potential of hydrogen,” and it stands for the level of hydrogen ions in a water-based solution. The higher the pH level, the higher the concentration of hydrogen ions, and vice versa. The pH scale runs from 0 to 14, with zero pH considered the most acidic, and 14 as the most alkaline. 7 pH is considered as a neutral point.
Why is this important in cleaning terms? It is important because both acidic and alkaline elements are capable of being corrosive. Used improperly, extreme pH levels can cause quite a bit of damage!
The aim, in any case, is to find a neutral point. How is this relevant to carpet cleaning? It becomes relevant when you consider that most contaminants can be classified as either acidic or alkaline, and you can neutralize either with their opposite on the pH level scale. This means that an acidic substance can be neutralized with an alkaline substance, and vice versa.
Acid-based pollutants can include any of the following:
You can, therefore, neutralize these kinds of carpet problems using alkaline-based cleaners, such as laundry detergent and ammonia. Alkaline pollutants, on the other hand, include any of the following substances:
These alkaline substances can be neutralized using acid-based cleaners, such as vinegar and lemon juice. So if you are dealing with a problem that is a combination of both alkalinity and acidity, such as rust on a carpet that is made of materials sensitive to acid, then you would need to figure out the proper pH level that would work in your specific situation.
This means that the level of acidity or alkalinity you will need to use in your cleaning solution will also need to be based on the type of fibers that the carpet is made of. You will, therefore, need to choose the proper pH level to clean the relevant pollutant, without damaging the carpet fibers or the dye.
For instance, wool and silk could probably tolerate a mild amount of acid. Cellulose can tolerate a mild amount of alkalinity. Both need to be mild, however, because extreme levels of acidity or alkalinity will damage the fibers.
If you are dealing with nylon, wool, and silk that are stain resistant, you will probably need to use a more neutral pH level because they are quite sensitive to alkaline substances. Olefin, on the other hand, can tolerate even a high degree of alkalinity.
This means that you need not only the proper information about the stain and the carpet, as well as a proper appreciation of the significance of changing pH levels. While properly-applied knowledge of pH levels can make for a deep, thorough and efficient cleaning process, a mistake or a wrong appreciation of the significance of pH levels in carpet cleaning can have the exact opposite effect. That can include a stain that manages to dig deeper into the carpet fibers, faded carpet dyes, and a ruined or damaged carpet.
For optimal carpet cleaner, a good familiarity with pH is therefore important. But if you aren’t very well-versed in the science of it, or if it sounds too complicated for you, it is probably best to leave your carpet cleaning needs to the professionals.