By Tom Forsythe
I have heard it said often that any cleaning agent which needs “boosting” — or increasing the original strength of a product — is not a good cleaning agent. It can also be said that if you have an extremely soiled carpet and subsequently do not use boosters in your cleaning agent for optimum performance, then you are not concerned about the best results and/or labor costs of the job.
While there are varying opinions on this, we have seen millions of pounds of booster formulas sold in recent decades. Based on this fact, many, if not most, professional cleaners agree with the benefits of boosting — when needed.
Let’s see what’s available to you, as the professional cleaner, regarding boosting agents on the market today.
At times, there are formulary issues when boosting a cleaning product. D’limonene is a great degreaser that is challenging to formulate into a water-based product.
To make d’limonene water soluble requires at least four times more surfactant than d’limonene to create a clear solution in water. D’limonene is a solvent not soluble in water, so making it without water is the natural way to package it. Adding one to two ounces in a ready-to-use pre-conditioning agent provides a great fragrance and enough additional degreasing power when it is required. This limited amount will form a liquid solution as a result of the surfactants available in both the prespray and d’limonene booster.
D’limonene is also expensive, so even if you could easily add it to a water-based product, why would you add to the cost when it is not always necessary? Add d’limonene as a booster where the need and extra expense is warranted.
Fragrances are essential oils. Orange oil is an essential oil composed of more than 90 percent d’limonene and has the same formulary issues as d’limonene. It is also better to boost in the ready-to-use solution only when you need a stronger fragrance.
Hydrogen peroxide is also great for cleaning and brightening certain fibers, such as synthetic fibers, but can in certain concentrations and situations have a negative effect on natural fibers. Testing for color loss is recommended, although it may not always be practical in the field.
Hydrogen peroxide, in liquid form, is more effective as a stand-alone product and will lose its strength over time in the bottle as it reacts to added raw materials.
Sodium percarbonate is a powdered form of hydrogen peroxide with the alkaline accelerator built with it. You can add this version of booster to almost any pre-conditioning agent with positive effects at point-of-use. It is more stable in this form as it only activates in the presence of water, which is why in some powdered formulas the sodium percarbonate is coated to protect from water in some surfactants and all dyes. This coating protects it in the package, but also extends the time it takes to mix properly.
Powders versus liquids
Although I’ve written about this before in Cleanfax, it is worthy of review, especially when considering boosting agents.
There are formulary differences between liquids and powders. Powdered alkaline products are safer to handle than liquids. Building a liquid to be at optimum alkalinity at ready-to-use dilutions can be both a shipping and safety hazard in the concentrate. In this situation, it is better to boost a diluted liquid with a high-alkaline powder than to build it into the formula.
Powdered products have limited absorbency for liquids at 5 to 10 percent. Liquid solvent or surfactant boosters at one volume ounce per gallon can double the solvent/surfactant cleaning power to a diluted (1 to 32) powdered formula.
Products which provide the most alkalinity to powdered formulas are, in most cases, even less absorbent (5 percent liquid) to solvents and surfactants. This formula limitation means that a solvent or surfactant booster can even be more beneficial for high-pH powdered formulas.
Hopefully, the benefit of boosting has been demonstrated. Intuitively, over time, a cleaner knows the strengths and limitations of his chemicals. He also will know when to boost and which booster to use.
The science of boosting can become an art form as a cleaner begins to adapt to different cleaning situations to produce the best cleaning results for his customers.
Tom Forsythe has worked for Bridgepoint Systems for nearly 20 years and has developed more than 200 chemical products, including those which are primarily boosting agents.