Encapsulation Captivates Cleaning Community

Until recently, encapsulation technology has been all but a novelty, but new advancements in this product sector are proving that the technology is an important part of the modern cleaning program.


Encapsulation solutions can best be described as polymer-based formulas that are applied to hard floors or — more often — carpet.


Rick Gelinas, president of Excellent Supply and Releasit, St. Petersburg, Fla., explains that the crystallizing polymer in encapsulation formulas is an “oil-loving” polymer, which means that it binds easily to oils, dirt, grime and old residues. Encapsulating formulas come in the form of shampoo-type products, pre-spray rinses and spot cleaners, Gelinas says.

Products containing an encapsulation polymer are also available in bonnet shampoos, dry foam shampoos, traffic lane pre-sprays and in spotters, adds Curtis Gregg, brand manager at National Chemical Laboratories, Philadelphia.


No matter how much cleaning potential a product has, it needs to be used properly to achieve the desired result. Most distributors say that agitation of the solution into the fibers and down to the floor is essential.

When you agitate the carpet, dirt particles are broken into tiny pieces, which enables the encapsulation solution to do its job, explains Mark Kling, vice president of sales and marketing for DSC Products, Muskegon, Mich.


He says the small pieces attract each other, and, ultimately, the encapsulation solution.


“As the solution dries, it encapsulates the dirt,” Kling explains. “It will harden and crack and form crystals that are removable by general vacuuming or pile lifting.”


Another benefit of encapsulation is that it doesn’t leave a residue, or if it does, it is a beneficial residue that resists stains; this is much different than many other types of carpet cleaning chemicals that may leave a deleterious residue.


Utilization of the Product

There are several applications well suited to encapsulation, and as the technology advances, encapsulation’s role in cleaning programs is changing. One of the biggest benefits of encapsulation is expedited dry time.

Bob Gorsky, market channel manager for corporate accounts for Windsor Industries, Englewood, Colo., says hot water extraction can be a lengthy process because of dry times. 

“With encapsulation, in about 20 minutes the carpet is dry and people can walk on it,” he says. Several facility types benefit from encapsulation, including hotels, schools, hospitals, airports and other very busy facilities. 

“These places want to keep their carpet clean, groomed and protected, but at the same time, they don’t have the time to put somebody out there with an extractor unless it’s late at night.”

Gregg also says the more water that is used, the more negatively indoor air quality is affected since it must all evaporate. Less water also means less chance for “wicking” or re-appearance of stains pulled up from the backing material. Finally, Gregg says low moisture cleaning can lengthen the time between cleanings, thus lengthening the life of the carpet.

Tom Cochran, president of Misco Product Corp.’s Majestic division, Reading Pa., says quick dry times absolutely can help the health of a facility’s occupants. Mildew can begin growing within four hours when a carpet is wet.

Encapsulation is seen as an alternative to hot water extraction, but manufacturers agree: there is a need for both types of cleaning.


“When we go to a distributor or they go to an end user, we give them the tools to show them that this particular process will help them keep the carpet clean and groomed and protected, and keep it looking good ... until they get to the time where they can deep extract,” says Gorsky.

By all accounts, encapsulating products will have a profound impact on the way people clean. For example, Gelinas says when the shampoo encapsulation method first came out, it was used for interim cleaning between hot water extraction cleanings. Today, some facilities that have implemented encapsulation have cut the frequency of hot water extraction. 

“I have a lot of New York State using encapsulation for maintenance cleaning right now, especially in the central state area — hospitals, airports, hotels, convention centers,” says Gorsky. “It’s very easy to do and it’s hard for anyone to mess it up. It really can be used for many environments, systems and methods.”

One of the best things about encapsulators is the versatility in application and removal of the product, says Cochran. “There are many different ways you can spray it on the carpet and agitate it in, or you can put it in and extract it,” he says. “You can use it almost any way you want to use it.”


Making Cents

To be truly viable, cleaning innovations must make financial sense — encapsulators do that, manufacturers say. 

“The issue has been that this chemical is definitely more expensive than traditional chemistry,” says Warner. “The big question is, as my dad used to say, ‘Is the juice worth the squeeze?’ Well, in the case of carpet care, it was really obvious that encapsulation was necessary and people jumped at it because of the issues related to resoiling of carpets.”

While the upfront cost of the chemical may be more, it’s worth it. The biggest savings come from the efficiencies provided by encapsulation. 

“You can do an encapsulation treatment in the morning before school starts, or before the hospital or nursing home or other facility opens, which is a big time-saver,” says Cochran.

Kling cites studies showing that encapsulation can clean up to 5,000 square feet per hour, though he thinks it is realistically closer to 3,000 square feet per hour, depending on the area and what machine is used. The chemical typically stretches for anywhere between 500 to 1,000 square feet per gallon, depending on the type of carpet and that saturation point.

There are other ways encapsulation saves money, besides the time/cost benefits. Brodie explains that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has blood-borne pathogen rules that require any company with more than five employees to have some way of cleaning a potentially hazardous situation. Encapsulation can do that, protecting companies from non-compliance fines.


Facilities can also benefit from the use of encapsulation technology because it improves indoor air quality, therefore improving worker attendance and productivity, Gregg adds.

While the immediate benefits of encapsulation are evident, it is also a useful tool in preventing future damage to carpets. 

“Carpets are typically going to stay clean about 50 percent longer,” says Gelinas. “You can come in with a good encapsulation program on a carpet that has kind of bottomed out and it begins to get easier and easier to maintain because the polymer there is working with you instead of against you.”