Cleaning Solutions

SOA Solutions: Top Performers on Spots and Stains

Spills and spots are inevitable, but they do not have to be permanent. The right cleaning solutions can help keep your facility’s carpet looking its best between professional deep cleanings. To identify superior performing cleaning products, CRI has developed the Seal of Approval program for solutions.

CRI worked with an independent laboratory to test off-the-shelf spot removers and pre-spray solutions. Of the 25 products tested, only four cleaned a soiled carpet sample better than water alone. Some caused the cleaned carpet area to resoil faster and — worse — some products damaged the carpet’s color and texture.

Strict Standards for Testing Cleaning Solutions

The CRI Seal of Approval program was launched in 2004 to test the cleaning effectiveness of spot removers, pre-spray, and in-tank cleaning chemicals. CRI uses scientifically accredited cleaning standards to identify which cleaning solutions work best. To earn the Seal of Approval, spot removers and pre-spray/in-tank cleaning solutions are tested on the following criteria:

  • Overall cleaning effectiveness — This ensures that the product removes soil and spots better than plain water.
  • Rate of resoiling — This ensures that the product does not attract dirt to the cleaned areas faster than the rest of the carpet.
  • pH — A more neutral pH ensures that carpet dyes and fibers are not adversely affected.
  • Surface texture change— The product must leave the carpet pile minimally changed after repeated cleanings.
  • Optical brighteners — None are allowed, as they can leave some patches of carpet lighter than the rest.
  • Colorfastness — Products must not be so aggressive that they cause a color change in the carpet.

Water is used as a control variable. This means that the performance of a product is measured against the performance of water, for all of the criteria outlined above.

ANCHOR – Cleaning Solution Testing Criteria

Cleaning Solution Testing Criteria

Spot Testing Program Takes on the Toughest Stains

Staining agents tested include mustard, ketchup, hot black coffee, grape juice, permanent marker, chocolate syrup, dirty motor oil, and American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC) synthetic soil.

  • Evaluation of cleaning efficacy is performed using the AATCC Gray Scale for staining and is rated by three independent, trained technicians.
  • Resoiling is tested by applying AATCC synthetic soil to the cleaned carpet sample. As with efficacy, the differential soil level between the cleaned sample and control sample is rated by trained technicians.

Spot Remover Testing Criteria

1.  Removal Efficacy
The evaluation of the effectiveness of spot and stain removal products is achieved by means of rating removal of specific staining agents when cleaned with the cleaning product. A parallel comparison using plain water for removal is used.

  • The cumulative total removal efficacy must be 10% better than water

2.  Resoiling
The propensity of cleaning product(s) residue to attract soil at an accelerated rate is measured by first applying the product to a section of the control material then using ASTM D-6540 Accelerated Soiling of Pile Yarn Floor Covering, to soil both the product treated and non-treated area of the control sample. The differential soil level between the product treated and control area of the sample indicates the level of accelerated soiling contributed by the cleaning product.

  • A maximum of a 1/2 step color change allowed based on AATCC Gray Scale.

3.  pH
Products which are extremely acidic or alkaline have been known to adversely affect dyes, treatments, and fibers. Products with a more neutral pH are generally considered safer to use when cleaning carpets or rugs. The formula is tested by a standard pH meter following the manufacturers’ recommended dilution.

  • pH between 4 and 10

4.  Optical Brighteners
The presence of optical brighteners in carpet cleaning products has been known to adversely affect long-term appearance.

  • No optical brighteners

5.  Colorfastness to Light
Cleaning product residues present on pile yarn floor coverings have been known to adversely affect dyes and accelerate color change. The level to which a product residue contributes to color change is determined by exposing a product treated standard test carpet with an untreated control sample to accelerated light in accordance with AATCC Test Method 16. Accelerated color change in treated test carpet is considered unacceptable.

  • No color change
CRI Test Method 110 (39 KB)

Evaluation Procedures for CRI Carpet Spot Cleaning Product Certification.

Pre-spray and in-tank products pass multiple spectrophotometer readings

As with spot removing products, pre-spray and in-tank products are applied to carpet according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

  • Cleaning efficacy is based on a product’s ability to remove soil and thereby improve the appearance of the carpet. The differential soil level between the cleaned sample and the control is rated instrumentally and by a panel of independent technicians using the AATCC Gray Scale for color change.
  • The rate of resoiling is evaluated by applying the test product to a standard carpet sample. Then, by applying synthetic soil in accordance with ASTM D-6540, the differential soil level between the cleaned sample and the control is rated instrumentally and by trained technicians.

Pre-Spray & In-Tank Testing Criteria

1.  Soil Removal Efficacy
Uniformly soiled control carpets are cleaned using specific extraction equipment and procedures then rated visually and instrumentally to determine the degree to which the cleaning product was able to restore the control carpet to its original appearance. Water only cleaning is used for comparison.

  • Minimum of a 1/2 step better than water only cleaning according to the AATCC Gray Scale.​

2.  Resoiling
The propensity of cleaning product(s) residue to attract soil at an accelerated rate is measured by first applying the product to control material then using ASTM D6540 Accelerated Soiling of Pile Yarn Floor Covering, to soil both the product treated and non-treated control samples. The differential soil level between the product treated and control samples indicates the level of accelerated soiling contributed by the cleaning product.

  • Equal to or better than water according to the AATCC Gray Scale.​

3.  pH
Products which are extremely acidic or alkaline have been known to adversely affect dyes, treatments and fibers. Products with a more neutral pH are generally considered safer to use when cleaning carpets or rugs. The formula is tested by a standard pH meter following the manufacturers’ recommended dilution.

  • pH between 4 and 10​

4.  Optical Brighteners
The presence of optical brighteners in carpet cleaning products has been known to adversely affect the fiber color, appearance and long term performance. The cleaning agent is evaluated for optical brightener content using fluorescence.

  • No optical brighteners​

5.  Colorfastness to Light
Cleaning product residues present on pile yarn floor coverings have been known to adversely affect dyes and accelerate color change. The level to which a product residue contributes to color change is determined by exposing treated standard test carpet with a comparison untreated control sample to accelerated light in accordance with AATCC Test Method 16E.

  • No color change​
CRI Test Method 111 (327 KB)

Evaluation Procedures for CRI Carpet Cleaning Certification of In-Tank and Pre-Spray Cleaning Products.

The ability to remove malodorous spots and stains from carpet contributes to its long term performance and consumer satisfaction. The evaluation of the effectiveness of pet stain removal and odor removal chemicals is achieved by rating specific staining agents which have been cleaned with a particular cleaning chemical.

  • Staining agents tested include cat urine, synthetic pet vomit, dog feces and American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC) synthetic soil
  • For odor removal evaluations two test specimens are prepared, (2.5 ± 0.5 ml of cat urine within a 37 ± 3 mm (1.5 inch) circle centered in the 50 mm (2 inch) x 50 mm (2 inch) carpet test specimen using a disposable pipette), one to be cleaned with selected cleaning agent and one to be cleaned with distilled water.

Pet Stain and Odor Remover Cleaning Products Testing Criteria

1.  Removal Efficacy
The evaluation of the effectiveness of spot and stain removal products is achieved by means of rating removal of specific staining agents when cleaned with the cleaning product. A parallel comparison using plain water for removal is used.

  • The stain removal efficacy must be equal to or better than water only cleaning.
  • The odor removal efficacy must be rated a minimum of 3 points higher than water only cleaning.​

2.  Resoiling
The propensity of cleaning product(s) residue to attract soil at an accelerated rate is measured by first applying the product to a section of the control material then using ASTM D-6540 Accelerated Soiling of Pile Yarn Floor Covering, to soil both the product treated and non-treated area of the control sample. The differential soil level between the product treated and control area of the sample indicates the level of accelerated soiling contributed by the cleaning product.

  • A maximum of a 1/2 step change allowed based on AATCC Gray Scale.​

3.  pH
Products which are extremely acidic or alkaline have been known to adversely affect dyes, treatments and fibers. Products with a more neutral pH are generally considered safer to use when cleaning carpets or rugs. The formula is tested by a standard pH meter following the manufacturers’ recommended dilution.

  • pH between 4 and 10​

4.  Optical Brighteners
The presence of optical brighteners in carpet cleaning products has been known to adversely affect long term appearance.

  • No optical brighteners​

5.  Colorfastness to Light
The level to which a cleaning product residue contributes to color change is determined by exposing a product treated standard test carpet with an untreated control sample to accelerated light in accordance with AATCC Test Method 16. Visible color change in the treated test carpet is considered unacceptable.

CRI Test Method 116 (222 KB)

Standard Laboratory Practice for Consumer Applied Pet Stain and Odor Removal Chemical Evaluation on Pile Yarn Floor Coverings.

Encapsulate Solutions Cleaning Products Testing Criteria

1.  Visually and instrumental rating for efficacy
This test practice determines the encapsulate solution efficacy of carpet solutions which are designed to be used between deep cleaning maintenance. The encapsulate solution is tested on uniformly soiled control carpets then rated visually and instrumentally to determine the degree to which the solution was able to visually improve the appearance of the control carpet.

  • A minimum of one full step visual improvement per AATCC gray scale is required.​

2.  Resoiling
This test is intended to determine the effects of cleaning equipment, chemistry and technologies on the resoiling properties of a specified floor covering. A control test carpet (non-soiled) is cleaned according to the client’s directions, allowed to thoroughly dry, and then soiled per ASTM D6540-2012. An additional control carpet, that has not been cleaned, is soiled per ASTM D6540-2012. The differential soil level between the cleaned and soiled carpet and the non-cleaned control soiled carpet is evaluated using the AATCC Gray Scale for Color Change.

  • Less than a half-step differential per the AATCC gray scale is allowed.​

3.  pH
Chemicals which are extremely acidic or alkaline have been known to adversely affect dyes and factory applied soil and stain release treatments. Chemicals with a more neutral pH are generally considered safer to use when cleaning carpets or rugs. The diluted formula is tested by a standard pH meter.

  • pH between 4 and 10​

4.  Optical Brighteners
The presence of optical brighteners in carpet cleaning chemicals has been known to adversely affect fiber color, appearance and long term performance. The cleaning agent is evaluated for optical brightener content using fluorescence.

  • No optical brighteners​

5.  Colorfastness to Light
Cleaning chemical residues present on pile yarn floor coverings have been known to adversely affect dyes and accelerate color change. The level to which a chemical residue contributes to color change is determined by exposing a chemically treated standard test carpet with an untreated control sample to accelerated light in accordance with AATCC test Method 16. Accelerated color change in the treated test carpet is compared to the untreated test carpet after exposure.

  • Less than a half step differential per AATCC gray scale is allowed.
CRI Test Method 123 (513 KB)

Test Practice for Efficacy Evaluation of Encapsulate Solutions.

Other Testing Criteria

Similarly, spot removers, pre-spray and in-tank products are tested for pH levels, optical brightness, and colorfastness to light. Some cleaning products that are extremely acidic or alkaline can adversely affect dyes and certain carpet fibers. Seal of Approval-certified products have more neutral pH levels. They have no amount of optical brighteners because such additives are known to affect fiber color, appearance, and long-term performance. Finally, Seal of Approval carpet cleaning solutions must show that they do not contribute to residue on pile yarn that can accelerate color change.

Clean and Green

​CRI is also dedicated to protecting the environment. To that end, CRI is partnering with nationally recognized green certifiers such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Design for the Environment program to certify that Seal of Approval cleaning products do not damage the environment. In order to become a Seal of Approval green product, the manufacturer must provide CRI with documentation from one of the green partner organizations proving that its product meets the certifier’s environmental requirements.

The Bottom Line

Seal of Approval cleaning solutions effectively remove stains and soil without adversely affecting the appearance or the performance of the carpet — a wise investment for commercial and residential purchasers. So be sure to check that your carpet is being cleaned with CRI Seal of Approval-certified carpet cleaning solutions to get the most our of your carpet investment.