To the Editor:

The traditionally accepted definition for soil is “something foreign and unwanted to the construction of a carpet,” not something that is a part of it.

The IICRC S100 carpet cleaning standard fifth edition introduced new definitions that included components of the carpet as soil. However, the S100 is not consistent with itself. It has a traditional definition as well. There are three parts to the standard and each part offers definitions for soil. There is a standard section that is supposedly based upon a reference guide, plus a glossary. The standard says:

Soil: Any undesired substance that is deposited on, or that is foreign to, the construction of a textile material. Soil results from environmental conditions and use (e.g., dust and particles, shed fibers, foods and oily substances).

The key word is “or” which means there are two types of soil: One that is includes “any undesired substance” and then “that is foreign to.” The glossary’s definition is different and says:

Any substance that is deposited on and foreign to the construction of a textile, usually as a result of wear and usage; e.g., particles, fibers or water and dry solvent soluble substances.

The key difference here is “and” which means the substance has to deposit on, plus be foreign to the construction of the carpet. The word “wear” means the reduction of faceyarn; therefore, the intent is to include components of the carpet as soil. The reference guide has similar definition glossary which is:

Carpet soil can be defined simply as unwanted matter that is foreign to the construction of the textile floor covering.

There are some critics that say “it is esoteric to suggest that a this change will amount to anything.” Please read on and make your own evaluation. Changing the definition of soil will not serve anyone well.

  • For the cleaners, the contract with their client is to remove soil. Will they now be responsible to remove fuzzing?
  • For the carpet mill, if the color of the carpet is “undesirable,” could they be required to replace the carpet because it cannot be cleaned?

As to the “who” and “why” the definition is being changed may never be known. Research into soil’s definition has currently revealed no previous reference for this modification. In other words, the change seems to be original and deliberate.

Let us remember what happened to consumers with the definition of “wear”. Wear is defined as the loss of pile weight or fiber. This word’s meaning is inherent to a “natural fiber’s life-cycle.” Natural fibers wear out; synthetics do not. Keep in mind that wool’s appearance is maintained as it wears. Synthetic fibers, however, suffer a loss of appearance, but normally do not wear. Many carpet manufacturers offer a five-year or a 10-year “wear” warranty. According to these warranties, the carpet will need to lose 10 percent of its face fiber to qualify for the warranty. That will likely never happen.

The definition of wear should have been changed to include matting, crushing or permanent fiber damage caused by soiling, rather than loss of fiber. This is how most end-users define wear for their synthetics, but things do not go well for them when they file claims for these issues.

If the different definition of “soil” was meant to limit carpet mill liability, it may backfire. Thus, it is exceedingly important for cleaning technicians to “own” the language and not allow such changes.

Common sense needs to be re-introduced into our vocabulary. The new definition will greatly confuse the entire industry.

Keep in mind that the IICRC S100 had ANSI accreditation when it originally went on sale in October 2011. Since then, its ANSI accreditation has been withdrawn, and it is under revision to regain its approval. This revision is not related to this issue, but it creates an opportunity for others to make their concerns known.

Jim Smith – Frisco, TX