Basic Cleaning Requirements
Three types of energy are required;
1. Chemical energy- provided by the synthetic cleaner
2. Mechanical energy (agitation) provided by machine or hand
3. Thermal energy -provided by warm or hot water.
Heated water breaks down water-soluble soiling faster as it reduces overall chemical usage because it reduces the surface tension. Heat also acts as a catalyst (Reactivity) promoting quicker reactions between chemicals and the soil thereby minimizing remain in place time.
Warm or hot water helps dissolve grease and oil in soil, agitation or hand rubbing helps pull the soil free, these types of energy interact and should be in proper balance.
Pre-test Spot Procedures
Diagnosis is the key, not guess work. Before using a cleaning product a detailer needs to know the material they are working on, what they are trying to remove and wither the product chosen is compatible with the material and will not damage it. With all cleaning products, always test a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure it won't discolour or stain the surface, and ensure that the pH of the product is suitable for the material. As can be seen stain removal requires some knowledge of basic chemistry.
Read the product labels and manufacturers safety data sheets (MSDS) to obtain a basic idea of contents, pH levels etc. Depending on the pH of the product you use you should return the surface to neutral (pH 7.0) before you apply any dressing or protective products.
Always select a chemical / cleaner that are biodegradable, environmentally friendly and safe to use by observing any precautions recommended so that they won’t harm you, your vehicle or the environment. Read the product labels and manufacturers safety data sheets (MSDS) to obtain a basic idea of contents, pH levels etc.
A pH scale 0 – 14 with pH 7 being neutral; pH controlled means it follows the major automotive manufacturer’s guidelines for exterior cleaners; the control limit being pH 12.0<. An acidic soil can be neutralized with an alkaline solution, this is why most so-called all-purpose cleaners (APC) are alkaline. An acidic based cleaner will counteract alkaline contamination.
Most cleaner’s contain detergents and surfactants and are acid or alkaline-based to solve a specific cleaning problem. There are also other things to consider besides its pH value when choosing a cleaner
When spraying any surface with a liquid, it is always advisable to spray a small area first (test area) then allow to dry to make sure the solution does not react with the surface.
Providing the cleaning product selected is suitable, apply several drops of the selected cleaning solution in an inconspicuous area and rub gently with a clean, white micro fibre towel. Do not over wet. Use small amounts of the product and blot frequently, do not rub or use too much pressure. Do not use the product if it adversely changes your fabric's colour or texture.
For the safe removal of stains; always use the least invasive product first, before stepping up to something stronger.
The first thing you should do upon discovering a stain is to act immediately. Don’t wait because heat and/or time will just cause the stain to set in deeper, resist the urge to rub it in this will make it much harder to remove. Be patient, some stains respond slowly, all stains and spills cannot be removed due to differences in fibres, dyes, construction, finishes, composition etc., it would also depend on the length of time the stain has remained on the article, etc. Some stains will require professional treatment.
Before deciding upon treatment, you should first access what ‘type’ of stain it is, before a stain can be removed the surface tension that bonds it must be released, then the stain encapsulated and held in suspension to be removed.
Use a suitable (dependent upon the type of stain) 20% stain remover with in a solution of and 80 percent distilled water, or shaving cream to remove stains from cloth seats. Spray a small amount of the solution onto the stain. Wait for a few minutes, and then scrub the stained area with a soft bristle brush or old toothbrush. Blot the area with a soft clean cloth
Diagnosis is the key, not guess work. With all cleaning products, always test a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure it won't discolour or stain the surface, and ensure that the pH of the product is suitable for the material. As can be seen stain removal requires some knowledge of basic chemistry.
Depending on the pH of the product you use you should return the surface to neutral (pH 7.0) before you apply any dressing or protective products. Always select a chemical / cleaner that are biodegradable, environmentally friendly and safe to use by observing any precautions recommended so that they won’t harm you, your vehicle or the environment. Read the product labels and manufacturers safety data sheets (MSDS) to obtain a basic idea of contents, pH levels etc.
a) Organic stains- these include proteins and fats, body oils, mould yeast, bacteria, bugs and carbohydrates. Organic soil is cleaned with an alkaline (pH 8+).Most of the stains found in the vehicle interior are of an organic nature and require an alkaline type cleaner. Some organic stains (i.e. milk, blood, vomit, urine) should be removed with an enzyme type cleaner and a disinfectant applied to the area
b) Non-Organic stains- mostly found on the exterior of the vehicle, hard water scale (calcium) lime deposits, Road tar, grease and oil film, and require an acid (pH 6 or less) type cleaner.
c) Petroleum soils - substances that do not contain water, nor are they miscible, these soil types include, motor oils, and crease and road tar, and require a petroleum-based solvent type cleaner.
a) Water Soluble Stains- These stains can be dissolved in cool water or loosened with water based cleaner, coffee; soft drinks, cocoa and chocolate are good examples.
b) Oil soluble stains- These are stains that are comprised of oily or greasy substances, which include cooking, oil from fried foods and suntan oil.
c) Combination Stains- These stains contain both water based and oil-soluble properties. Cleaning these stains require treatment with a petroleum solvent followed by water based cleaning solution.
d) Unidentifiable Stains- Sometimes stains cannot be identified. Treat these stains like a combination stain. Clean with a petroleum solvent followed by water based cleaner.
As can be seen with the above lists an all-purpose cleaner (APC) will probably not clean stains effectively (Most are butyl based, which is a huge known carcinogen) With all cleaning products (especially solvents) always test a small inconspicuous area first to ensure it won't discolour, stain or etch the surface, and ensure that the pH of the product is suitable for the material.
Stain removal requires some knowledge of basic chemistry. Read the product labels and always select a chemical / cleaner that are biodegradable, environmentally friendly and safe to use by observing any precautions recommended so that they won’t harm you, your vehicle or the environment. (See also Vehicle Interior Detailing and Solvents)
Before using a cleaning product a detailer needs to know the material they are working on, what they are trying to remove and wither the product chosen is compatible with the material and will not damage it.
Diagnosis is the key, not guess work. With all cleaning products, always test a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure it won't discolour or stain the surface, and ensure that the pH of the product is suitable for the material. As can be seen stain removal requires some knowledge of basic chemistry. Read the product labels and manufacturers safety data sheets (MSDS) to obtain a basic idea of contents, pH levels etc.
Always select a chemical / cleaner that are biodegradable, environmentally friendly and safe to use by observing any precautions recommended so that they won’t harm you, your vehicle or the environment
All Purpose Cleaner (APC)
As you can see from the above list the so-called ‘all-purpose cleaner’ (APC) cannot remove all stains, usually a high pH (6.0+) it’s better to use a specific stain remover than to compromise. Always select a chemical / cleaner that are biodegradable, environmentally friendly and safe to use by observing any precautions recommended so that they won’t harm you, your vehicle or the environment
Many well-intentioned detailers use the so-called all-purpose cleaning (APC) chemical for detailing. Using a product like Simple Green or a degreaser to clean everything from wheels to carpets is both dangerous and harmful to the materials used for modern automobile materials. A safer alternate is a Limonene (citrus-based) solvent, they are biodegradable, environmentally friendly and safe to use. There is no such thing as a one size fits all type chemical cleaner, regardless of what a car care product vendor would have you believe.
Most detailing chemicals are formulated to remove specific stains and a little knowledge of their pH and chemical content will help in their correct selection and use; the most common types of chemicals include surfactants, solvents, wetting agents, Saponifiers and Chelators (See also article on “Basic soap and Detergent Chemistry)
There has been a recent increase in interest in strong, low VOC degreasers. In general degreasing cleaners use three mechanisms for breaking down and removing grease and / or oil (1) dissolving the grease with a solvent ( 2) encapsulating the oils with detergents so that they can be washed away with water and (3) Chemically changing the oils so that they can be washed away with water. Most degreasers use a combination of all three of these techniques (see relevant MSDS).
They are usually an aqueous blend of soaps, synthetic detergent, solvents and inorganic alkaline builders, with a small amount of Sodium hydroxide, which help turn the oils to be cleaned into soap. This is a major reason why degreasers are so caustic. Since the user is going to be cleaning a lot of grease and oil, the formulator puts a lot of extra caustic into the cleaner to break down the grease and oil into soap. Use a degreaser highly diluted as a ‘spot’ cleaner and then polish as it will ‘dull the surface and then replace protection
A safer alternate is a Limonene (citrus-based) solvent, they are biodegradable, environmentally friendly and safe to use so that they won’t harm you, your vehicle or the environment
Some stains can be removed, some cannot. Those that resist all efforts of removal are usually not stains at all. They are actually areas that have been dyed. Example: Fruit drinks contain chemical dye, Coffee was once used to colour fabric and requires a professional, concentrated stain remover.
Grease, tar and oil stains require strong degreasers to be completely removed from thick carpet and velour upholstery.
Over the counter products do not have the chemical concentration necessary for this job. A thorough stain removal / cleaning process would require the following; the correct chemical cleaner, heat, agitation and water to act as a carrier system and as a final rinse.
With all cleaning products (especially solvents) always test a small inconspicuous area first to ensure it won't discolour, stain or etch the surface, and ensure that the pH of the product is suitable for the material
Before cleaning a stain ascertain the material and try detergent and water before using a specific cleaner. Start with a 10:1 solution and decrease dilution as necessary; 303™ Spot & Stain Remover, P21S® Total Auto Wash, Iz einszett Vinyl-Rubber Care' between these cleaners you should be able to remove 99% of stains occurring in a vehicle fabrics and around the vehicle interior. Once fabric is clean apply a fabric protection. 303™ High Tech Fabric Guard and UV Protection, 303™ Aerospace Protectant to all surfaces
Specific fabric stains-
Spot Removal: Water based spot remover effective on oil and water based stains such as blood, soft drinks, light grease, oil, tar, coffee, tea, floor finishes, copier toner, spills, dirt, grime and more. TOTL
a) Blood- remove the stain as soon as possible; if it sets it will be more difficult to remove. Once the stain has been removed the area should also be treated with a disinfectant (Lysol™ Disinfectant). Take all necessary precautions when dealing with blood (latex cloves, and etc.) and when disposing of blood stained items.
Wipe down the area with a damp micro fibre towel and then remove blood stains using a 2:1 solution cold distilled water / Hydrogen peroxide, this will eliminate the stain and provide a disinfectant.
Finally rinse the area with a damp micro fibre towel. Take all necessary precautions when dealing with bodily fluid stains (latex cloves and etc.) and when disposing of soiled items.
b) Bituminous Asphalt Stain Removal-
A solvent (Stoner™ Tarminator) can also dissolve a variety of oil and petroleum based products, it's safe to use on all types of paint, plastics, synthetic fibres, carpet and upholstery. If used on vehicle paintwork re-apply a protect rant after use. Something else you can try is isopropyl alcohol (IPA) using a sponge or towels gently blot until the stain is lifted. Blot again with cool water to rinse. Dry with a thick towel.
A dry cleaning solvent will also remove asphalt, as with the alcohol, pour onto a sponge or cloth and blot. Keep blotting until the stain is lifted and then blot with cool water until all traces of the chemical is removed; blot dry with a thick towel.
c) Organic Stains
NOT a masking agent; it contains no enzymes or harsh chemicals. It is the only neutralizer that works for all types of odours. It is the only formula you can apply directly to your pet's skin, or use in an enclosed area. X-O Cleaner & Odor Neutralizer is made from essential oils harvested from plant material (herbs, shrubs and trees). The natural ingredients provide a level of effectiveness and safety not found in regular odour removal products – TOTL
d) Protein Stain Remover
Protein Stain Remover HT-67 will remove blood, urine pet, and food stains, but what makes it unique is its formulation. The stain remover is a highly concentrated, biodegradable powder that is designed to be mixed with an all-purpose cleaner (i.e. P21S® Total Auto Wash) - TOTL
Application - Mix 1/4 cup to a gallon diluted, HT-49. Spray on the stained area and let set for a few minutes. Scrub with a carpet or upholstery brush. Spray and rinse with water, allow to dry and then vacuum.
e) Pet stains and odours- Enzyme is specially formulated using enzyme action to eliminate odours caused by pet urine or vomit to digest the stains and odours left behind by pet urine and faeces. (PETsMART)
f) Soft drink – wipe with a damp 100% cotton towel immediately, if the sugars are allowed to caramelize the stain may be impossible to remover. Use a ‘spot’ cleaner (303™ Spot & Stain Remover) or a Limonene (citrus-based) solvent (P21S® Total Auto Wash)
g) Red Stains- The cleaning challenge will be the removal of the food colouring (Allura Red AC, E129) Try to find out the source of the stain (Koolaid, Gatorade, Red wine, etc.) It is important to know the source as many old coffee or tea stains can look like red dye stains and many stains if treated improperly can "set" and then be a major task to remove
Removing red stains is one of the toughest to remove because most carpet cleaners or spot removers will not eliminate them. Usually a red food dye is used and if spilled on fabric or upholstery it will dye it.
(a) Soak the area with a solution of 1 quart warm water, 1/2 teaspoon liquid fabric detergent, and 1 tablespoon ammonia for 30 minutes. Rinse well and allow to dry
For persistent stain:
Soak in a solution of 1 quart warm distilled water and 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar for 1 hour. Rinse well and allow to dry.
If stain is set:
Apply isopropyl alcohol to the area and tamp (a method of bringing a brush down with light strokes on stained durable fabrics and materials).
As stain loosens, blot liquid and stain with absorbent pad. Keep both the stain and pad moist with alcohol and change pad as it picks up stain. Rinse well and allow to dry
(b) Use Red Stain Remover (TOTL) is a unique formulation that removes super tough red stains. Spray the solution on the stain and agitated with a brush to make sure it has penetrated the fibre. Allow it to sit a few minutes to insure the chemical "action" dissolves the dye.
Alternative process - Place a dry towel over the area and press with a hot iron, as the heat draws the dye to the towel so it can be lifted from the fabric
Either process may take a couple of applications especially if stain is old, or has been allowed to set for some time. Follow with a thorough by hand-cleaning using Woolite® Heavy Traffic Carpet Cleaner, or with a carpet extractor. Once carpet is thoroughly dry protect it from future stains (using 303 Fabric Protector)
h) Road Paint / Asphalt Remover- lay the smooth side of the wipe over the contamination to saturate the surface. Let it sit for about one minute to soften the paint. Use the textured side of a new wipe and rub vigorously.
Use firm pressure and a lot of action. Particularly difficult cases may take a second application. Once you have removed the road paint, wash off the chemical with shampoo or glass cleaner. A quick spot polish should bring back the original shine. (Do not use on paint jobs less than 90 days old)The same technique can be used for old tar removal. If the first application doesn't remove it completely, apply a new wipe and repeat the process.
i) Road Salt Stains -Use a stiff brush to dislodge any loose road salt and then vacuum, spray the area with a carpet cleaner and let it soak in, rinse with plenty of water and repeat until most of the stain has been lifted. Finally clean carpets by spraying the area with a carpet shampoo rinse and then remove with a carpet extractor.
(Dry) Salt is inert but be aware that once you add water ( by meting the snow / ice ) to salt it becomes alkaline (corrosive) take care to dry the affected area thoroughly after the salt has been removed and neutralize it with an mild acid (vinegar) Spray vinegar, agitate, allow to remain in place and then use an extractor. Actually, any mildly acidic product should neutralize alkaline salt crystals
j) Rust Stains- Removing Rust Stains
Remove as much of the rust stain as possible before applying a treatment.
· Apply a Limonene (citrus-based) cleaner P21S Total Auto Wash onto the stain so that the spot is thoroughly saturated.
· Sprinkle salt onto TAW.
· Allow the salt and Limonene to react with the stain for 24 hours.
· Refresh the TAW to keep the spot damp.
· Blot the stain (do not rub, as this may damage the fibres).
· Thoroughly rinse the spot with clean water.
· Repeat as necessary.
k) Wax (candle or crayon)- to remove melted wax from carpeting, place an absorbent paper towel folded 4-5 times over the wax and with a hot iron run it back and forth on the towel (renewing as required) this will re-liquefy the wax and the towel will absorb it. Repeat as necessary.
l) Water Marks (Browning)
Clean and extract as normal. Follow with a sprayed mist of a 'souring agent' to prevent browning, colour bleed and those awful 'water marks'. Extract with plain water (no detergent). Wait to dry. Evaluate. (Color Stabilizer and Souring Agent, Pro's Choice)
Stachybotrys Chartarum [: fungi that grow in the form of multi- cellular filaments, called hyphae]
[Many moulds can begin growing at 4 °C (39 °F), the temperature within a typical refrigerator, or less. When conditions do not enable growth, moulds may remain alive in a dormant state depending on the species, within a large range of temperatures before they die. The many different meld species vary enormously in their tolerance to temperature and humidity extremes. Certain moulds can survive harsh conditions such as the snow-covered soils of Antarctica, refrigeration, highly acidic solvents, and even petroleum products such as jet fuel. Xerophilic moulds use the humidity in the air as their only water source; other moulds need more moisture. Mold has a musty odor.]
Without identifying and eliminating the source of the mould you can't get rid of it, there are many Counteractant type products that mask odours; what you need to do is remove and clean and thoroughly dry the whole area; carpets, upholstery (inc. foam and etc.) that is affected, including the headliner and metal floor pan (don’t forget to clean/replace the cabin air filter).
Just like mould and mildew contamination in other areas, you cannot wash or shampoo it away. This only exasperates the problem. Mould is a form of fungus which forms anywhere there’s moisture trapped in the air, and is spread by releasing millions of tiny spores into the air. You cannot see the spores but you may be able to see moulds, grey, green or black in colour, growing on damp surfaces.
Dirt and moisture are essential to mildew propagation, which is very difficult to eradicate as mould uses enzymes to digest nutrients from organic materials, the mould forms on top of the material and also down into its fibres leaving circular or black spots in an irregular pattern. Mould / mildew needs to be neutralized as it will not dissipate without treatment as the spores are still present and moisture will regenerate them
There are hundreds of thousands of types of mould, but only about ten types cause health problems, commonly sinusitis, bronchitis and other respiratory conditions, as well as allergies.
I would strongly recommend you wear appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE) safety glasses, respirators; etc. inhalation of mould could be very detrimental to your health and can cause an allergic reaction
There are many Counteractants products that only mask odours; what you need to do is remove and clean and disinfect the whole area; carpets, upholstery (including the upholstery foam and etc.) that is affected, including the headliner and metal floor pan. Don’t forget to clean/replace the cabin air filter.
Remove the seats and thoroughly clean the carpet with a carpet cleaner and a disinfectant. Then let it air dry, or use a heater to ensure that they are completely dry. To neutralize mould use 10:1 Distiller water / (non-chlorine) bleach solution, use a syringe to inject solution into seating foam, you may need to remove and replace the carpet padding.
Sporicidin® Enzyme Mold Stain Cleaner - concentrate is a blend of enzymes in a low foaming solution formulated to loosen and remove dried debris, protein, blood and mucin deposits. It effectively cleans both natural and synthetic fibres that have been soiled with organic and inorganic debris. Ideal for use as a pre-cleaner for mould remediation, and restoration applications
Remove as soon as is feasible as sand (abrasive) and saltwater (alkaline) will damage carpet fibres. Use a stiff brush and / or beat carpet to dislodge any loose sand and then use a brush to gently dislodge any grains caught in the fibres and then vacuum carpets. Spray the area with a carpet cleaner and let it soak in, rinse with plenty of water. Finally clean carpets by spraying the area with a carpet shampoo rinse and then remove with a carpet extractor.
Different cleaning methods to remove two different types of contaminants
General Rules for removing stains
a) Organic soil; use an alkaline cleaners.
b) Non-organic soil; remove with an acidic product.
c) Petroleum soil; remove with a petroleum-based cleaner.
1. Hot water and liquid soap to remove water-soluble contaminants:
2. Wax and Grease Remover to remove solvent soluble contaminants:
Grease and Oil (Stoner’s Tarminator)
Road Tar ditto
Tree Sap ditto
Bird Droppings ditto
Wax and Polishes (DuPont PrepSol)
Always be willing to learn; because the more you learn, the more you’ll realize what you don’t know.
It is said that knowledge is power, with the caveat that it includes access to a reliable information sources.
I would like to think that these articles become an asset to anyone who is new to detailing and to professional’s alike, as well as industry experts who seek to advance their knowledge.
I hope the article are informative.
By having some understanding of the ‘What’ and ‘Why’ as well as the ‘How’ along with a little science to help you understand how the chemicals we use react, you can achieve the results you desire.
I would appreciate it if you would share these articles as it helps other detailers further their knowledge.
Questions and/ or constructive comments are always appreciated.
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