One product should not do it all

One product should not do it all

April 20, 2018

Walk down the cleaning aisle of any grocery or hardware store and you’ll see the word “multipurpose” on every shelf.

Maybe it’s human nature to want to consolidate functions into one product. But doing so can reflect a real, basic lack of understanding about science and… pretty much everything else.

It’s not just the general, consuming public that wants one thing to serve many purposes in one category. Unfortunately, that mentality exists in construction too.

PROSOCO CEO and President David Boyer sees the results of that mindset all too frequently. “It’s kind of sad in many ways, because you do see products out there that really shouldn’t be used for what they’re promoted to use. We see it all the time.”

"Do you brush your teeth with oven cleaner? I hope not."

Boyer has a standard response when he’s asked for a one-cleaner-does-all solution. “I say, ‘Go look under your bathroom sink, under your kitchen sink. How many different cleaners do you have under there? Do you brush your teeth with oven cleaner? I hope not.’

Different substrates and conditions dictate a purpose-built cleaner. That’s been the approach and that’s what sets us apart and has set us apart for many years.”

There’s a big trend in the industry with certain commodity manufacturers to try and market a one-product-fits-all solution, according to Tom Stalnaker, PROSOCO’s laboratory manager. “That may not be best for the building,” he says. “Buildings today have multiple types of substrates on it, brick, limestone, aluminum windows, concrete. One product to fit all may cause more damage than it does good. So instead of having the convenience of carrying one product, we prefer to find the right product for the right job. That’s why we specialize and recommend the safest product for the building substrate.”

Across all company product lines, PROSOCO’s research and product development philosophy has always been about understanding the substrate, understanding the problem and understanding the interaction between substrate and chemistry.

For example, when developing products to clean building exteriors, PROSOCO chemists look far beyond whether the stain was successfully removed, Stalnaker says. “We take a close examination of the substrate and what our chemicals are actually doing to that substrate.”

That routinely includes a petrographic examination of the substrate, which enables PROSOCO chemists to see what’s happening to the building on a microscopic level.

“We always look closely at the substrates to make sure we’re not causing any damage,” Stalnaker says.

On top of understanding individual substrates and how they interact with various chemicals, PROSOCO staff also strives to understand the root of the problem when customers call in or talk to us in the field.

When laboratory staff gets calls from customers looking for a particular product, or a match of a competitor’s product, that’s an opportunity to gain a broader understanding of the unique problem at hand.

Stalnaker says he will ask, “What are you trying to accomplish? What’s your goal? Are you trying to waterproof, protect, harden?”

“Instead of just saying ‘yes, we have a product like that,’ we’d rather tell them what the right product is. So we always ask more questions. We take the time to find out the information, to dig a little deeper, and then provide the right recommendation.”

Even if it’s a lesser sale, Stalnaker says, “We still provide the right product to accomplish what they want to accomplish.”

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