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The Role of Polymer in Encapsulation Carpet Cleaning

Written by: Rick Gelinas



Time to read 3 min

A good Encapsulation Polymer is the vehicle that captures soil and holds it in suspension so it can be recovered through post vacuuming.

I thought today we could talk a little bit about the role that encap polymers play. There seems to be some confusion within our industry about the function of polymer in an encapsulation detergent. Well if gasoline is what powers your truck’s engine, a good polymer is the fuel of a good encap detergent.

The polymers that are being developed for modern encap products are specially designed for use in carpet detergents. During the last decade in particular there have been significant advancements in polymer technologies. These textile polymers have been engineered to encapsulate soil from carpet fiber. It’s a brilliant development for our industry, as we’ll now consider.

A primary function of encap polymers is to surround and encapsulate soil. A good encap detergent’s polymer is capable of consuming sticky and oily soils. The soil that is binding to the surface of the carpet gets displaced from the fiber as the encap detergent is brushed through the carpet pile. Picture the polymer playing Pacman with the soil - chomp, chomp, chomp.

The polymerized fluid that’s now in the carpet contains the soil that was formerly attached to the fiber. Since the soil is no longer on the visible surface of the carpet, the carpet looks clean following the cleaning (even though the diluted soil is still present as it’s awaiting post-vacuuming).

As the carpet dries, the polymerized encap detergent dries to a brittle crisp residue. This process is commonly referred to as crystallization, because the dried product often resembles a crystal formation. This dried polymeric residue holds the key to soil recovery. Following the cleaning, the normal course of routine vacuuming will begin the process of extracting the soil from the carpet.

Prior to vacuuming, the dried polymeric detergent is surrounding the fiber. As the carpet gets walked on, the fiber flexes and the polymer naturally breaks free from the fiber. During the days immediately following the cleaning, the polymerized soil will continue to shear away from the fiber - as the carpet fiber continuously flexes and routine vacuuming works to recover the soil.

The role of the polymer is critical to the function of encapsulation. If an encapsulation product fails to have a good polymer package, the encapsulation and soil recovery process will be hampered. With little or no polymer, there’s no way to capture soil so that it can be extracted during post vacuuming. Where is the vehicle for soil recovery? As you can see, polymers are a necessary component for a good encapsulation formulation to perform properly.

A question that we sometimes hear about polymeric encap detergents relates to vacuuming. Some have asked: ‘what if post-vacuuming is not performed very well’? Obviously, a thorough post-vacuuming will help to recover soil more efficiently. Yet even when mediocre vacuuming is performed, the soil will continue to be recovered as outlined above, it will simply take a little longer to be accomplished.

A useful feature of the polymer that we use in Releasit is that when it is re-wet it will become soluble again. In other words it will turn back to a fluid; and then when it dries again it will re-crystalize all over again. So there’s never any way for a build-up of polymer to develop in the carpet.

Another benefit of a good encap polymer is its ability to resist soil. We’ve all heard stories where a customer delayed having their carpet cleaned because they were afraid the carpet would rapidly resoil following the cleaning. That can’t happen with a good polymeric detergent. There is no dirt attracting residue left in the carpet; there’s only a brittle soil-resistant polymer helping the carpet to stay clean longer.

Polymeric encapsulation products can also help to inhibit the wicking process. This makes it easier to bring recurring spill stains under control. Problematic traffic lanes can be brought under control too.

Well this covers a few of of the basic roles that polymer plays in encapsulation. Today there are a handful of "encap" detergents in our industry that contain a solid polymer package... yet there are many that don't. If you’d like to try a free sample pack of Releasit please go to I’d love for you to have a chance to compare Releasit with other encap products that you may currently be working with.