Is Self-Cleaning Carpet a Possibility?

Despite what we may predict, technology in the future always has a way of surprising us. Long before the digital revolution, the thought of a phone that could transmit and receive calls from anywhere in the world was a laughable idea. Now mobile phones that can do just that are a part of everyday life.

It makes me wonder what the future of carpet might hold in terms of new technologies.

Apparently Bill Griffin, owner of Cleaning Consultant Services Inc., beat me to the punch. In a recent article in the professional cleaning website CleanFax Digital Edition, Mr. Griffin explores the possibility that, sooner or later, we will have the option of putting what he calls, “self-cleaning carpet” in our homes and businesses.

What?

Well, perhaps not carpet that magically transforms overnight like in a fairy tale, but new technologies and innovations that will revolutionize how things, including carpet, can become clean.

Specifically, Griffin refers to treatments such as titanium dioxide (TiO₂). “Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is applied to a surface in such a way that when the surface is exposed to UV rays (sun or light), oxidation takes place, killing living organisms and basically bleaching the color out of the soil. The soil isn’t gone, but it is no longer visible and microbial growth is inhibited. This is similar to the reaction when bleach is applied to a surface or acid spotter is applied to rust.”

So far used primarily in hard surface products, a new generation of TiO₂ compounds is being developed for flexible materials, like fabrics and carpet.

“Other technologies have also made advances in the last 10 years that bring self-cleaning closer to reality. This includes such things as robotics, super-hydrophilic and phobic coatings, nanotechnology and bionics, bio-mimicry (lotus effect/texturization/micrometric architecture of surfaces) and hybrid water (oxidation, ionization, cavitation, vapor).”

The benefits to these new cleaning processes and products? According to Griffin, “lower maintenance costs and longer life cycles, green and sustainable benefits, less water and chemical use, and ease and effectiveness of cleaning.”

And, while the idea of “self-cleaning” may initially sound like bad news to a cleaning professional, it’s not necessarily an unwelcome development, he says.

“Some of the new technology may be integrated into cleaning equipment and treatments for homeowner and commercial use. Imagine a truckmount wand or vacuum cleaner with a UV light instead of, or in addition, to water vapor jets.”

But don’t expect to see “self-cleaning” carpets in a showroom anytime soon, Griffin says – changes like these are years away. But do keep cleaning and maintaining your carpets, using good equipment and products like those listed in the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Seal of Approval carpet cleaning testing program.

There are exciting new advances on the horizon for carpet, even though we don’t know exactly what shape they will take. One thing is sure: CRI will continue to provide valuable, science-based information on how to care and maintain the carpets you live with.

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