Are Dishwashing Liquids Safe For Stains?

"Handy" Is Not Always "Safe"

“Don’t believe everything you read!” Our colleagues at The Woolsafe Organization discovered there was a lot of truth in that old adage when they did the follow-up research on an article that appeared in Which? Magazine, a popular European publication that advises consumers on “which” products they should buy. 

A recent issue contained a feature article about commonly available spot and stain removers. The article concluded that in some cases, dishwashing liquid was at least as effective as specialized spot removers sold under well-known brands names. These findings were immediately – and gleefully – reported in the national press under headings such as “Ditch stain removers, soapy water will do” and “Washing-up liquid beats costly carpet cleaners”.

The application of detergents not specifically designed for use on carpets (or rugs) has long been a point of dispute for the carpet industry. It is a well-established fact that using dishwashing liquid or other cleaners not designed for carpet cleaning invariably leads to accelerated soiling. The residue left by the cleaner attracts soil.

The technical experts at The Woolsafe Organization who studied the details of the magazine report were not impressed with some of the experiments that were cited. Since the list of products tested contained a number of WOOLSAFE Approved products, they decided to run their own comparative tests.

The Woolsafe Organization has built part of its reputation on the effectiveness of their testing, so pH, alkalinity, colorfastness and re-soiling tests are included in their study. By contrast, the magazine ran only a single test.

Not all the Woolsafe tests have been completed yet, but a number of interesting facts have already emerged. It has been confirmed that the dishwashing liquid used in the magazine test does indeed cause rapid and serious re-soiling problems. This means that even though a spot or stain might disappear with the use of dishwashing liquid, after a few days the area that was cleaned will appear larger and darker because of soil attraction.

Interestingly, the dishwashing liquid used in the original magazine test carries a very specific warning: “DO NOT USE ON FABRICS!” Several other of the dish-type products also have a high pH or are strongly buffered on the alkaline side, which is highly undesirable for carpets and rugs with a wool or advanced generation nylon pile, as it greatly increases the risk of color bleeding from dark colors into lighter ones. 

Confirmed by standardized colorfastness tests carried out subsequently, this is another instance of solving one problem and creating another and possibly a greater one. Once all the tests are carried out and assessments completed, Fiber-Seal will report the findings in full to set the record straight.

The Woolsafe Organization has been testing all types of carpet cleaning chemicals for over ten years, and it is important to note that there is a lot more to these sophisticated products than the simple disappearance of some stains. A lot of research and development work goes into formulating these specialized chemicals, which explains why they perform much better – and are safer – over the long term.

There is always a need for independent testing and comparing of cleaning products, but such comparisons must include all pertinent factors so that a buying decision can be made which considers ALL aspects of a product, not just a single one.

This article was adapted from a piece originally published by The WoolSafe Organization (UK). It is recreated here with their permission.

Another Reminder

It’s easy to understand why dishwashing liquid is a “no no” when removing spots and stains from carpet. These products were not developed with this use in mind. The more dangerous products, however, are those that are labeled for use on carpet, but that contain aggressive ingredients.

As mentioned in previous articles, the use of cleaning products containing “bleaching agents” should be avoided on most floor coverings (and certainly on upholstery fabrics). Oxygenated cleaning agents fall into this category. In addition to possible bleaching, the high pH of many of these products can cause problems such as browning or dye bleeding.

On The Bright Side

As always, the experts of your local Fiber-Seal Service Center are just a phone call away when you need assistance with the care of fine interior textiles. We have developed safe and effective spotting agents that are being used in thousands of homes every day. These products are the perfect complement to our superior fabric protection treatment, used to help keep elegant interiors looking great all year long.

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