Encapsulation chemistry is a significant step forward for the carpet cleaning industry and is set to change many cleaning programs when cleaners. This overview of encapsulation is intended to take you through the chemistry of the concept and describe its application in cleaning programs/systems.
We have three unique Encapsulation Chemicals – Releasit, CleanCap and Encap-Green.
Benefits of Low Moisture Cleaning Methods
- Dries extremely quickly
- Vacuums out easily
- It eliminates recurring spill stains and wicking
- Lengthens time between restoration cleanings
- Extends life of the carpet
- Improves indoor air quality
- Reduces labor costs
How Soil Affects Carpet:
According to a well-documented study, dry soil comprises 79% of the total soil in a carpet. Most dry soil can be readily removed by routine dry vacuuming. It's the oily and sticky soils (the other 21%) that attract and hold dry soil to the surface. The result is a dull, grey and ugly appearance. Keep in mind; professional carpet cleaning is attempting to recover the smaller percentage of soil (the 21%). Encapsulation technology accomplishes this task with ease.
Traditional dry cleaning systems such as bonnet based cleaning methods (using cotton pads) remove some surface dirt, but can also drive soils deeper into the carpet fiber. Deeply embedded soils are seldom removed with bonnet cleaning methods; because they are simply interim or maintenance cleans.
Encapsulation cleaning is still classed as a low moisture cleaning system and is totally different than traditional dry/bonnet cleaning. Rather than trying to remove soils by transferring them into a bonnet pad, the Encapsulation process works by breaking down the soil from the carpet fibre and backing, surrounding (encapsulating) it into crystal particles that are easily removed with ordinary dry vacuuming.
As professional cleaners, we enjoy making use of the "cleaning pie" - that is temperature, agitation, chemical and time (T.A.C.T.) With the encapsulation cleaning process, it makes good use of the cleaning pie, but unlike steam cleaning, we can actually minimize some of these quadrants listed above.
If hot water is available, we encourage you to use it. However, if cold water is all that available, mixing your Encap chemicals with cold water will still produce stunning results. The next two sectors in the cleaning pie chart are vital - Agitation and Chemical – are key to successful cleaning with Encap. The more you agitate the carpet (or upholstery) with a high quality chemical, the better the result. Lastly unlike Hot Water Extraction (Steam Cleaning) pre-conditioning dwell time is almost non-existent (especially with show feed scrubbers) as it works the second it hits and is massaged into the carpet.
Encapsulation chemicals have detergency just like the hot water extraction chemicals that you use right now. So if you think encapsulation cleaning replaces detergency and surfactancy, don't worry – it won’t!
With Encapsulation cleaning, the carpet looks instantly clean! While the Encapsulation’s crystallizing polymer is curing it is also absorbing the sticky soils that hold dry soil in place. With these oily soils out of the way the carpet looks cleaner immediately. Detergent and soil particles can no longer attract other soils as they are surrounded and are easily removed by dry vacuuming. In addition to binding the detergent and soil residues the encapsulation chemistry coats the clean fibre with the same brittle film. This reduces the fibre’s affinity for oily and also dry soils. As this brittle film “breaks away” and more soil is removed, the appearance of the fibre improves as opposed to soiling more rapidly.
Chemistry – the real difference.
The large difference between hot water extraction chemicals and Encap chemicals is in the crystal polymers found within encapsulation chemicals. These polymers in our Encapsulate mixtures are like the "second wave" in an army attack.
After normal detergents in our presprays have done their work (attacking, separating soils from fibres, etc.) that is normally when they are flushed out via hot water extraction. However, with the Encap process, the crystallizing polymers that are in the Encap chemicals surround the detergent and soils and are now suspended or emulsified. Each time the carpet is vacuumed, it gets cleaner because more soils inside the crystal polymers are vacuumed away.
Encapsulation is promotes far quicker dry times as well, and not just because we are using far less water. The secondary reason is that when Encap polymers are in solution, the surfactants bond with them instead of with the water, allowing the water better evaporation - and shorter dry times.
Be warned though! A common failing exhibited in poorly formulated encapsulating cleaners is their inability to successfully embrittle the emulsified soil. These much cheaper products will generally show good grease cutting and emulsification action but be unable to encapsulate these residues once they are dislodged.
Generally, they dry down to a waxy-like substance, nothing like the crystalline structure that true Encap chemicals should exhibit. Although improving the general look and appearance of the carpet, the soil residues are not readily released by dry vacuuming and the carpet becomes choked with un-removed residues.
What you'll see is incredibly bright and clean carpet, day-in day-out.
Quite a few of our Encapsulation chemicals (Releasit and CleanCap) also benefits from using advanced fluorochemical technology. As the carpet is scrubbed the loosened soil and the fiber are both coated with the fluorochemical. The fluorochemical significantly facilitates the extraction of the encapsulated soil particles through routine vacuuming. Additionally, the fluorochemical lowers the surface tension which increases the wetting / cleaning ability. It also helps to increase the carpet's soil resistance. And it has terrific anti-wicking properties.
Why is crystallization so important?
Our Encap products employ innovative polymer technologies to form a distinct crystal when they dry. The crystal is the vehicle that enables a good encapsulator to capture soil so it can be removed through post-vacuuming. Although some products may claim to "encapsulate" on the label and they may get the carpet to look good initially, (it's easy to get a carpet to look cleaner) the real concern should be whether or not the encapsulated soil can be removed with post-vacuuming.
Here's a simple test that you can perform to establish what an "encapsulation" product does when it dries. It's very easy. Just take a few drops of the product and dry it in a glass dish overnight. Check the content the next day. Did it form a true crystal? Does it readily release from the dish? Or did it dry sticky, gooey? Was it not completely dried? Or was it possibly stuck like a barnacle to the dish?
This simple dish-drying test will reveal the products soil releasing ability. A good encapsulation product should form a distinct crystal that will break up and release from the dish. Keep in mind that crystallization is the medium that holds the soil in suspension until it can be extracted with post-vacuuming. The soil can't be vacuumed from the carpet if poor crystallizing or no crystallizing occurs.
The Encapsulation Process Step by Step
Step 1 - Pre-Vacuuming: The first step that should be performed before any carpet cleaning process is a good pre-vacuuming. According to a well-documented study, dry soil comprises 79% of the total soil in a carpet. Removal of the dry soil is very important. If we were to add a cleaning solution to a carpet filled with dry soil we would, in effect, make mud. Therefore a good vacuuming program should be encouraged for all commercial clients. And if the carpet is in need of vacuuming at the time of cleaning it should be pre-vacuumed before proceeding.
Step 2 - Pre-Treating (if you don’t have a shower feed system on your scrubber): If there are extremely heavily soiled, pre-treating can assist the cleaning process. Use a coarse tip on your sprayer. Simply spray enough solution to dampen the carpet. Mix up the Encap chemical at approx 1 part of Encapsulation chemical to 16 parts of water (which is double the normal 1:32 dilution ratio) Do not allow the pre-spray to dry before you progress with the cleaning. Allowing a few minutes of extra dwell time can help a grubby carpet clean more easily. After a period of dwell time, proceed with scrubbing the carpet in the normal manner dispensing the detergent through the solution tank on your Orbot or Cimex machine.
Step 3 - Scrubbing Technique: Fill the solution tank of your scrubber with CleanCap, Encap Green or Releasit Encap-Clean DS mixed at 1:32. Scrub the carpet by working the scrubber at a moderate pace. Make a wet pass by holding the solution valve open applying enough chemical to the carpet to make the Encap chemical turn to a very, very thin layer of foam (It is very important to see the slight foam. If you don’t see this white layer briefly appear on the carpet, you are not cleaning to the best of the chemicals ability) then return over the same pass without releasing more detergent – therefore just doing a scrubbing pass. In most cases one wet-pass followed with one dry-pass is all that's needed (if a Cimex or Orbot is being used). If the carpet needs a little more scrubbing because it’s heavily soiled simply make additional dry passes (just a touch more solution can be applied during the extra passes). Note: Avoid over-wetting the carpet – only apply enough cleaning solution to lightly whiten the surface – we just want to wet out the fibre.
So a 20 litre drum of any of our Encapsulation chemicals (CleanCap, Releasit or Encap-Green) which costs between $ 241 - $ 422 depending on your product choice will clean an average of 2640 square metres of carpet. If you get a low price of $1.50 per square metre, that means the turn over of a 20 litre drum of any of our Encapsulation chemicals can generate an turn over of $3,960.00! Not a bad return on investment; wouldn’t you say so?
Step 4 – Collect your money and be happy to know that you have now just earned your business another happy ‘cheerleader’ client! The encapsulated dirt will be removed by subsequent dry vacuumings. You can either charge to come back and do it yourself (very few cleaners actually do this) or let the homeowner (if residential) or their general cleaners (if in a commercial business environment) do this as part of their standard vacuuming routine.
Scrubbing Equipment: Any scrubber with strong agitation can be used for encapsulation cleaning. The "muscle" of this cleaning method is AGITATION. That's why we recommend Cimex and Orbot scrubbers for encapsulation over a standard 175-rpm scrubber (ie – Polivac, Truvox, Taski etc). They Orbot and Cimex machines safely produce the highest degree of agitation of any scrubbers on the market. Their effectiveness is unmatched. The Cimex has 3 planetary counter-rotating brushes. The 3 brushes spin clockwise while the drive deck turns counter-clockwise. So it’s actually turning in both directions simultaneously (kind of like the teacup ride at the fair). Therefore it actually scrubs all sides of the fiber with each pass. To put this into context, the Cimex is over 6 times more efficient than a standard rotary machine. Three brushes spinning at 400 rpm as compared to one brush turning at 175 rpm means there's a 600% increase in cleaning aggression. In other words, if we were to clean a very dirty carpet with 3 passes using the Cimex it would require 18 passes with a standard rotary machine to accomplish the same thing. And since the planetary cleaning heads are counter-rotating, there's no tip bloom or damage to the carpet. The Cimex machine can clean between 185-300 square metres per hour.
Pads versus Brushes: We recommend using FibrePlus™ scrubbing pads. These pads are well suited for scrubbing carpets with the correct degree of agitation. Why scrub with pads rather than brushes? Consider this illustration – you have a greasy frying pan to clean. You could get it clean by scrubbing it with a scrub brush, but if you scrub it with one of those green kitchen pads the pan will clean up even easier. Why? It’s because the pads make more surface contact. So when we scrub a carpet with a pad the same principle holds true. We have better agitation and we use less solution to get the job done. FibrePlus™ pads will generally clean an average of 650 - 950 square metres before they wear thin and need to be replaced. FibrePlus™ pads are available for the 19" Cimex machine, as well all 17” and 21” sizes for the Orbot and standard rotaries scrubbers.
Recurring Spills: Our Encapsulation chemicals stops wicking and recurring spill stains. This method works! With this simple 4-step process we can now say good-bye to recurring spills for good.
1. When approaching a spill stain - isolate the stain - thoroughly scrub the carpet surrounding the spill stain, leaving the stain untouched at this stage.
2. Next aggressively scrub DRY PASSES across the spot. Criss-cross the scrubber back and forth over the stain. Scrub the stain continuously for a full minute or two (without releasing any detergent to the spot). We don't want to get the area wet with additional detergent. In this way, the spot is being aggressively cleaned with minimal moisture. This is not a totally dry scrub. Moisture is captured within the FibrePlus pad from the surrounding area as the scrubber criss-crosses back and forth over the stain. However the moisture is being kept to an absolute minimum. By scrubbing for a full minute or two, the spill stain is receiving an EXTREMELY thorough scrubbing.
3. Prepare a spray bottle of Encap solution mixed 50/50 with water to use as an effective spill stain treatment. After cleaning the spot thoroughly as described above, spray the spot with a few squirts of this concentrated Encap juice.
4. The final step is to make one quicker dry pass over the treated spot with the scrubber to work the 50/50 mix Encap solution down into the fiber. Now the spot won't return!
Wicking: The Encapsulation process can correct the majority of wicking problems. Wicking is one of the most common problems seen with commercial carpets. How many times have we heard the sad story that goes something like this?... Bob is a professional carpet cleaner all the way. Bob cleans a commercial carpet and does a terrific job! It looks great when he's finished and the building manager tells Bob that the carpet looks beautiful as he is packing up his truck. However the next morning Bob receives the disturbing “morning after” phone call – “Bob something’s wrong, the carpet looks worse than before you cleaned it”. Why the problem? Commercial carpet is most frequently a flat glue-down construction. So there’s essentially no airflow, hence extraction can become a bit more challenging. Commercial carpets are often loop construction. The densely packed loops can trap a tremendous amount of dry soil. A considerable amount of commercial carpeting is olefin/polyprop and we all know that it can be difficult to clean. So clearly commercial carpet presents a set of challenging conditions that can exacerbate wicking problems. The Encapsulation chemicals excel at stopping wicking. So the disturbing “morning after” phone calls can now become a thing of the past.
Post-Vacuuming: The crystallizing technology of Encapsulation detergents was designed so that the encapsulated soil can be extracted through routine post-vacuuming. How can the post-vacuuming be accomplished? You could return the following day to provide the post-vacuuming service (it takes about 24 hours for the polymer to fully cure and for total crystallization to occur). Or if the building has a vacuuming program in place, (and most commercial buildings do) the carpet could simply be vacuumed at the next regular vacuuming interval. Some have asked – but what if their vacuuming is not all that great? Not a problem. Instead of recovering the crystallized residue with one vacuuming, perhaps it will take a couple of vacuumings. One great vacuuming, two good vacuumings, three average vacuumings, five fair vacuumings, or ten poor vacuumings – you get the picture, the encapsulated soil should eventually be removed. The carpet will continue to look good even before the micro-encapsulated soil-laden particles are vacuumed. And even if all the crystallized residue doesn't get vacuumed out entirely; the crystals will resolublize during the next encapsulation cleaning and form new crystals as it dries – hence the crystallization cycle begins again.
The goal of carpet cleaners everywhere is to get carpet as clean and as dry as possible. While the upfront cost of the Encapsulation chemicals may be more, it’s worth it. The biggest savings come from the efficiencies provided by encapsulation – and this is what makes it actually one of the cheapest cleaning processes you could possibly provide your clients. Why not prove it to yourself today?