Sticky Soap and Magic Water Marketing Myths
January 30, 2018
Posted by D. A. Burns
Have you heard a phrase like this lately?
“Our process uses (insert name of “magic water” here) that doesn’t contain sticky soap and harsh chemicals like other cleaners use …”
This is a type of carpet cleaning marketing that infers everyone else is doing something wrong, and that these companies use nothing but “magic water” to clean your textiles. Unfortunately, this type of marketing is easy to believe, but isn’t true.
Consider these four misleading statements:
- Everyone else uses “sticky soaps”.
- Everyone else uses “harsh chemicals”.
- We use only water to clean.
- Our water is special.
Sticky Soap Myth
“Carpet cleaning requires sticky soap, leaving a soil-attracting residue.”
No one uses soap to clean carpet. No one has cleaned carpet with soap since the 1950s … that was before on-site, hot water extraction cleaning was developed.
So, where does this marketing myth come from?
Way back then, the only way to clean installed carpet on-site was to use a soap-based shampoo. Once the foam dried, a vacuum cleaner was used to remove the visible excess, but most of the shampoo remained, and the process just pushed the soil deep into the carpet, while the shampoo residue reflected light to make the carpet appear clean. The belief that your carpet gets dirty faster after cleaning stemmed from this cleaning method.
The invention of detergent resulted in no “sticky soap” residue to make the carpet attract soil. The evolution of truck-mounted, hot water extraction cleaning resulted in very little cleaning solution being used at all – just enough to release and carry soil away. And, the soil is removed from deep in the carpet.
Harsh Chemicals Myth
“Carpet cleaning requires harsh chemicals.”
No responsible, professional cleaner will use any cleaning agents stronger than what is needed to suspend and remove soil.
Where does the “harsh chemical” marketing myth come from?
A very small segment of beginners, part-timers and uneducated carpet cleaners may not understand why professional cleaning solutions cost so much compared to products they can buy at an auto parts store or janitorial supply house. It’s because, eventually, these cheaper cleaning solutions will do some damage to the carpet.
A cleaning company that cares for their customer’s health – and their employee’s health – will seek out cleaning products that are both effective and safe, no matter the cost.
Water-Only Cleaning Myth
“We clean with water only.”
There isn’t even a grain of truth in this marketing myth. Water alone does not break down soil well, does not hold and carry soil well, and cannot do anything to remove oily soils.
Special Water Myth
“Our water is special (empowered, energized).”
There are three “marketing waters” currently being advertised as being able to clean without the use of any cleaning solution. These “magic” waters are:
- Carbonated Water
- De-ionized Water
- Electrolyzed Water
Carbonated water is used by one cleaning franchise to differentiate themselves from the competition. It has not been proven to have any benefits to the cleaning process, and will not perform as a stand-alone cleaning product. Ask the carbonated water cleaner what they are spraying on the carpet, or look in their truck to see the cleaning solutions they use to actually clean the carpet.
De-ionized water is being marketed by several companies as having magic properties. De-ionization works to remove metal salts and other impurities from water. This is a good thing, as “hard” water makes it more difficult for detergent to work properly and those mineral residues can leave textiles feeling stiff. This is important in geographic areas that experience high mineral content in the water.
Why is this not important in our area, the Pacific Northwest?
The Puget Sound area has some of the “softest” water in the world; so, for cleaning purposes, there is no advantage to using de-ionized water. If the company marketing this brand of “magic” water states it will clean without chemicals, again ask, what are they spraying on the carpet. Or look in their truck to see the variety of cleaning chemistry they carry.
The process of running electricity through water containing salt will produce Sodium Hydroxide and Chlorine. If used in high enough concentrations, both can be effective as disinfectants. Sodium hydroxide is used as a caustic grease cutter and drain cleaner. It works as a saponifier, mixing with oils and grease and turning them into soap.
There are several issues with this type of “magic” water. High pH residue can cause a chemical burn when used on wool or silk fibers, and can also destabilize carpet dyes. Chlorine can cause dyes to fade, ruining the color on your carpet or rug. (It is common for these companies to also advertise that “soap residue” is not a good thing!)
Put them all together, and a cleaning company using electrolyzed water will also need to use some kind of cleaning solution to rinse the residue from the carpet and neutralize the chemical nature of this water.
See if a company that promotes their version of this “magic water” as their “natural and eco-friendly” cleaning product, really believes in their own marketing. Take a look in their cleaning truck. What are all of those cleaning chemicals?
If you want to determine how water-only cleaning will work without incurring the cost of an experimental carpet cleaning, try washing your clothes without adding detergent. Or your hands, or your hair. You’ll probably be much happier with the results using a cleaning solution formulated for the cleaning purpose.