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Cleaning Paradigm Shifts of the 21st Century - Part Two: Transformative

As a reminder from Part One: A paradigm is a way of looking at something from a different viewpoint. A paradigm shift is the action, trend, or movement away from the status quo, or “trending in a new direction”. In the simplest terms, we’ll use everyone’s favorite, “CHANGE”.  Change happens (especially in our industry) for reasons that include, but are not limited to innovation, education, standardization and especially, regulation. They may happen by choice or even be forced, but rest assured, they will happen.

This three part series is focusing on major changes to the cleaning industry, both evolving and transformative, as well as regulatory. These changes may be well down the road, or even the new norm, while others are evolving as we speak. As we noted earlier in the series, changes can be interpreted as progressive and for the better while others may seem regressive, depending on your point of view.


Merriam Webster defines transformative as “causing or able to cause an important and lasting change in someone or something”. Transformative Change really means doing things differently. This is vital in our everyday lives as it relates to change in business, change in culture, change in government, and change in societal behavior. Transformative Change can further be divided into two camps; “It’s changing, I better adapt” (the rules are changing) or “this is how it is currently, but I’m changing it” (I choose to be innovative).


Bridgewater Corp (Bridgepoint Systems / Hydro-Force Manufacturing etc.) have always been considered innovators when it comes to chemistry and equipment specific to the cleaning industry. In addition, with our extensive distribution channels, many entrepreneurs and inventors came to us with “The Next Great Thing” and needed our help to get it going. Gordon Hanks always had a soft spot for these guys, since he was once one of them.

A young entrepreneur came to us with an invention (the original tile spinner) with the message of, “I’ve changed the game when it comes to tile and grout cleaning”. Up to that point it was wands with brush heads, mops and buckets, and various other adapted tools we “engineers” came up with to do whatever we needed done. Our first assessment was, “that’s impressive”. Our second was, “no one will pay $1495 for that tool, no matter how cool it is. Well, crow never tasted so good.

We put together an early morning demo at a local Media Play in Salt Lake City and invited several customers. They had light blue tile with white grout that was actually black due to all the winter traffic, snow and crud that had been dragged in. That tool, along with an aggressive hard surface cleaner we had (eventually became Viper Venom) made the tile and grout look new, with incredible ease. We sold over 20 of those tools “nobody will buy” in about 15 minutes. He truly “changed the game” in tile and grout cleaning. The rotary spinners are the standard today and there should be one on every cleaning truck in the industry. If you are not currently cleaning tile and grout, you need to change your thinking as you are losing a tremendous amount of revenue by not offering this service.

Download Tile & Grout Brochure Here

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Another Transformative Change was the monumental improvement in encapsulation cleaning (specifically chemistry) and the industry wide acceptance. For decades, “low moisture” meant bonnet cleaning, dry foam or shampoo cleaning with various applications or absorbent compound / dry powder cleaning. Those methods met with a lot of resistance with cleaners and carpet mills alike, especially when done incorrectly. Encapsulation cleaning wasn’t new, but the chemistry improved to the point where it became the standard for low moisture cleaning and was widely accepted by carpet mills as a maintenance system.

The improvement with encapsulation chemistry mostly evolved around new and improved types of surfactants and polymers. These anionic surfactants typically produced more foam which provide lubrication during the agitation process and suspension of soils. The solution and encapsulated soils dry into a crystal lattice structure, or brittle film that shatters, but does not reattach to the fibers. These particulates are easily removed during subsequent vacuuming. Furthermore, the polymer left behind coats the fibers and offers good soil resistance, helping the carpet stay cleaner longer.

Some of the benefits of this system are that it is very easy to learn, train and implement. Production rates are much higher, often exceeding 3,000 – 4,000 sq ft per hour or more. It greatly reduces wicking or yellowing and dries in less than an hour. Anyone doing any commercial work in any volume, that doesn’t also offer encapsulation cleaning, is simply working too hard.

Transformative Change is not just for process. It’s evident in the chemistry you use every day. While more subtle, quality suppliers are forced to alter the sourcing and use of various raw materials in the manufacturing of their chemistry, in order to adapt to an ever-changing regulatory environment. Note, we used the term “quality suppliers”. Maybe we should say “responsible suppliers”. Not every manufacturer follows the rules. Whether it be choice or ignorance, it’s unfortunate to see some of the labels, SDS’ and formulas being sold in the marketplace.

We received a call in early Fall 2001, from a representative of The California Air Resources Board (CARB) asking how our formula adjustments were going regarding legislative changes taking effect January 1st, 2002. After our initial “what the heck are you talking about phase”, we scrambled to adjust to the new regulatory reality. In essence, the most popular cleaning solvent at the time, butyl cellosolve (butoxyethanol), was being severely restricted in carpet cleaning formulas. We made the proper adjustments, as did other key players, and switched to other VOC compliant solvents, or even replaced many with non-ionic (grease cutting) surfactants.

An interesting result was that when the “green movement” became popular, we found that many of the non-ionic surfactants we were already using were considered green in nature. Many traditionalists complained and were fearful that changes away from butoxyethanol would reduce cleaning performance and increase costs. Smaller players ignored the rules, and we suspect some may still not acknowledge them.

Our commitment to playing by the rules and using green, as long as performance is not sacrificed, has enabled us to create some very unique, high performance cleaning solutions. It led to our Green Balance Manufacturing Standard in 2014, with around 50 formulas meeting the criteria of 99.5% green in the bottle. THIS IS OUR OWN STANDARD. More of this in part three. In short, by not sticking our proverbial head in the stand, we opened our eyes and were able to create some innovative cleaning solutions. We all have benefitted from that commitment to doing the right thing. While we are not huge fans of some of the regulations hitting the industry, we’re comfortable with this and are very pleased with the products we bring to market.

Whether forced or innovative, Transformative Change will continue to happen. Our commitment to you is to stay out in front of it, continue to innovate and leave the industry better than we found it.

Watch for Part Three in this series, “Regulatory Change” - Coming Soon



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