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Q: Once in a while I test the pH of my chemicals and also the carpet after cleaning. I find that litmus paper sometimes leaves color on the carpet. How does this paper work, and what can I do about the color transfer?
— Mike, Danbury, CT
Litmus paper is a very handy tool to measure the pH of your cleaning chemistry, especially when cleaning natural fibers in both carpet and furniture.
Most fibers are safer to clean with specific pH ranges, although that statement is often debated in regards to which pH is safe and which is not. You are better off using products approved for the fiber you are cleaning.
Litmus paper works by chemical reaction. When you dip the paper into the chemical, the pH reacts with the indicator dyes in the paper. You then compare the color change to a color scale and you can see the corresponding pH number, which runs from 0-14, with anything less than seven being acidic and above seven being alkaline (base). Seven is neutral.
To answer the second part of your question: What you are seeing is the transfer of litmus, a natural extract that changes color when the pH changes. This happens when you push the paper onto a wet fiber and the dye becomes soluble and then transfers. You can avoid this by first getting a clean, white towel damp with the chemical residue from the fiber (pushing the towel onto the cleaned textile) and then test the white towel with the litmus paper.
Or, even better, consider purchasing an electronic pH meter. Often referred to as “pH pens,” these are easy to use and give you a very accurate reading, and are much more convenient for testing the fiber surface.
Some of these meters come with quite a few options, all designed to give you more accurate information. You can avoid all kinds of pH measurement challenges by using an electronic meter.
Q: I have been looking for a truckmount. I’ve always run portables, but it seems the busier I get I need more power to do the job right. I like what I see with slide-in truckmounts. What are the advantages to these over portables?
— Jerrod, Sterling, SC
Congratulations, Jerrod. If you need “more power” that probably means you are staying busy and building a successful business.
Some cleaners are able to clean effectively with portable extractors. But there comes a time when some feel they need to move to truckmounted extractors.
Besides reducing job set-up time, truckmounts increase production by making better use of what we call the “cleaning pie” — the principles of cleaning. They are chemical, heat, agitation and time (CHAT). Some refer to the principles as time, agitation, chemical and temperature (TACT). Depends whom you talk to.
With a truckmount, you have more control over these principles of cleaning. Although some portables offer these options, nearly all truckmounts give you the ability to adjust the water pressure, the temperature, chemical dilution control and more. And you have the added benefit to much more vacuum… after all, once you apply preconditioner and suspend soils, you have to be able to physically remove (extract) those soils.
Today’s truckmounts are extremely powerful and productive. Some utilize heat exchange technology. Others are fuel-fired, producing hot temperatures on demand.
You mentioned you are looking for a slide-in unit. Many go that route and find the portability and convenience of installation to be a bonus. You can switch it to another van or work truck if necessary.
And don’t forget the added benefits to owning a truckmount: Large waste tanks for less frequent wastewater disposal issues; fresh water tanks, so you aren’t always looking for a water source on each job; and long vacuum and solution hose reach so you can clean virtually any home or business from where you park your truck. Be sure to investigate the convenience of a quality hose reel as well.
Once you purchase your new machine, you won’t be sorry.