Learning to do testing:
Our trip to the mill in Dalton Georgia last month taught me a thing or two about “testing”. Man was it ever a revelation for me! I learned that, with a relatively simple test process, real results can be easily measured and compared.
Do not believe everything you see or hear:
I saw a HWE product that had been tested in the mill in Dalton before our visit (I will not reveal the name of this product because I refuse to belittle anyone’s product.) However, it would cause “resoiling” to occur so badly that it would actually cause a clean piece of carpet to become soiled when it was used as directed. This product is manufactured by one of the “industry leaders”. Yet, the product performs very poorly.
So, here is my concern.
We cleaners pick up the latest trade magazine and see a cool advertisement for this “super” product and we purchase some of it. Now, how many dissatisfied clients will we lose before we figure out that our cleaning agent has failed to deliver the results that we expected? We have to ask ourselves, “How many of our current products are really not all that good?” Testing is the only way to find out for sure.
The famous dish test:
We have all heard about the test where a detergent is placed in a dish and it is allowed to dry. Then the dry residue in the dish is checked to see how well it dried. This test is helpful in determining whether or not the product leaves behind a brittle residue after it dries. The idea is that a brittle residue will not attract more soil.
First, most of the better quality products on the market today are manufactured with a “friable surfactant”. Knowing whether a product dries crumbly is useful, but it provides no significant information beyond that. We still do not know anything about how the product will clean a carpet. Will its crumbly residue actually resist resoiling or not?
How a carpet mill performs testing:
We learned at the mill in Georgia that testing is a relatively simple procedure. It was interesting to learn how the test soil is introduced to the carpet. They actually place pieces of carpet along with test soil, pellets, and ball bearings into a tumbler. The ball bearings and the pellets grind the test soil into the carpet. Then, they install the carpet on the floor and brush in more soil and pellets.
Additionally, they spill coffee and soda on the carpet. Next, the carpet is cleaned to see how a machine and/or cleaning agent will perform. Then, the carpet is judged for appearance. Afterwards, the carpet will be resoiled and inspected again to see how well the previously cleaned section of carpet resists resoiling. They will also judge the fiber for “abrasion”.
How to set up a test of your own:
A carpet cleaner can easily duplicate this type of a test on a small scale. Simply, obtain a section of carpet and cut it into small 12″x12″ pieces. Then take the sections and grind them into the dirt. Your backyard or alleyway variety of dirt will do just fine. Next, apply a sticky substance such as soda or fruit juice to the carpet sample and then grind in more dirt. You can even add a little vegetable oil to the concoction (or whatever else you would like to add). Get crazy with it. Simply make certain that the same soiling condition is exposed to all of the carpet sections that you wish to test. Do not stop soiling the carpet until it is visibly trashed tremendously! Let the mess dry. Now you are ready to start testing.
How to perform a “workbench” chemical test:
Begin by vacuuming each of the carpet samples identically. Vacuuming a 12″ square of carpet with an upright vacuum is a bit of a trick, but it can be done.
#1) Place the vacuum cleaner on top of the carpet square.
#2) Turn on the vacuum cleaner.
#3) Slowly pull the carpet square out from under the vacuum cleaner.
#4) Count the number of passes that are made on each sample.
#5) Dilute your cleaning agents according to their normal usage instructions.
Replicate your cleaning system in a “workbench” setting. For example, if you are comparing shampoos that are designed to be
– soil encapsulated
– post vacuumed out of the carpet
then you can simply build a “workbench” version of the cleaning process.
#6) Using a handheld brush (and counting the number of cleaning strokes), scrub each carpet sample with each of the shampoo products your testing.
#7) Allow the samples to dry thoroughly.
#8) Post vacuum.
This will allow you to test the chemicals under identical conditions. Similar workbench versions can be easily setup to approximate HWE cleaning or OP cleaning.
This workbench test of cleaning agents is only comparing “apples to apples” versions of detergent chemistry (this is obviously not a test of different types of cleaning equipment). If you wanted to test machines then you could simply create larger test conditions to facilitate the equipment you would like to test.
My testing results:
I tested three “encapsulating” type detergent products. In my tests, I soiled the carpet as described above. Then, I cleaned each section as described above. I allowed the products to dry and performed post vacuuming. I examined the results in direct sunlight and with a Radio Shack handheld microscope. I immediately saw a difference in the three products. One of the products (I will call it Product-C) looked worse than the others did. The results of the other two products (I will call them Product-A and Product-B) were almost indistinguishable.
I then recleaned all three samples again and allowed them to dry. So each of the three samples had two cleanings performed at this point. I then introduced the three samples to dry soil again to see how they would resoil. Product-A and Product-B looked great while Product-C showed a resoil condition. However, Product-C was now out of the running altogether.
I then revacuumed and recleaned Product-A and Product-B one more time and compared the results. Again, the results were very similar, with Product-A winning out by an almost imperceptible margin. This testing provided me with a good look at how the chemistry of these three products would perform in the field.
The manufacturers response:
I spoke with the manufacturer of Product-C about my testing. I was told that I should compare the product in a “real world” setting. I was told that I should use Product-C for a period of time on some actual carpeting that I clean. This way, I would be able to see the results over a period of six months or so.
“Hmmm, let’s see now…” I should purchase and use a product for six months that tested poorly in order to seei f it is going to perform any better on my client’s carpet.
Does that sound like the prudent thing to do?
What I have described above is a simple test. Is it scientific? Sure it is. Tests such as these are performed everyday in the finest laboratories. These labs may be more impressive looking than my workshop, but my results can be just as conclusive. I may not have a Ph.D. in chemistry or physics, but I can easily see what is working and what is not working with my own two eyes.
By testing, you will see if what you have been told by the manufacturer is true or not. Therefore, my advice to you is to test everything! I know that I will be testing everything now on. It is very educational and fun to do.
Sell your results:
Once you have established what works best for you, shout those results from the rooftops! Let your clients know about it. Include it in your marketing pieces. Add it to your newsletter. Let folks know how you established that your product is great.
Do not expect to convert the world:
You will never convince everyone that your product is the best, so don’t even try. Furthermore, it would be wrong to defame a manufacturer by posting negative results about their product. After all, it could be argued that your testing methods might be “flawed” in some way.
However, you can easily see for yourself whether or not the product you are using will perform as well as you are expecting. Having this knowledge (proof) in your possession will truly “arm you for success”!