Obituary - Paul G H Bakker, founder and chairman of WoolSafe and ITFA

Obituary - Paul G H Bakker, founder and chairman of WoolSafe and ITFA

Paul was born near The Hague, The Netherlands (5 Aug 1940) where he trained in textile sciences. He got his Diploma in Textile Research in Enschede, then came to the UK with his then fiancée (future wife), Titia to further their studies at Manchester.

Paul wrote his ‘Master of Sciences’ thesis on silk dyeing in 1968, but soon after he changed his focus to the other great animal fibre: wool. The family moved to Ilkley, West Yorkshire, where Paul worked as a research scientist for the International Wool Secretariate and later for Wools of New Zealand. 

He researched the acoustic and thermal properties of wool carpets, the latter especially in relation to underfloor heating, before concentrating on the cleaning and cleanability of wool carpets. 

Paul was involved in European and international (ISO) standardisation, and worked enthusiastically and tirelessly on the various committees, being instrumental to the development of several ISO and British standards. He was the convener of the group creating the widely used standard “Textile floor coverings -- Laboratory soiling tests” (ISO 11378) to investigate carpet soiling; and was instrumental in the development of the prototype of the Kappasoil machine used for it. 

It was during his time at Wools of New Zealand, that Paul, with other experts from the carpet and cleaning industries, developed the WoolSafe testing and approval programme for carpet cleaning products. This ground-breaking, and at its time unique testing programme paved the way to the safe and effective way to clean wool carpets. When Wools of New Zealand’s focus changed, Paul established an independent company, The WoolSafe Organisation, to administer the programme. Paul proved himself to be a very good businessman as well as an excellent scientist and grew WoolSafe to the successful international company it is now. He took great pride in taking the programme to Australia and the US, establishing the local offices there.

Paul recognised that even the best cleaning product can cause harm in the hands of untrained operators, so he worked out and promoted the WoolSafe Fibre Care Specialist training programme (1998) and established a global network of the trained professional carpet cleaners, now called WoolSafe Approved Service Providers. In 2006 the first training course to recognise and deal with wool carpet issues was held and the WoolSafe Registered Inspector network launched.

During his long professional career Paul participated in many Trade Shows and Conferences worldwide, building relationships and sharing his knowledge with fellow industry professionals through training courses and seminars.

Though Paul handed over the day to day running of the company in 2010 (after his 70th birthday), he never fully retired. As Chairman, Paul still kept himself informed, participated in the WoolSafe Conferences and suggested research projects and new business areas. 

Always up for new challenges, in 2017 Paul initiated the establishment of the International Textile Flooring Academy (ITFA), for the preservation of accumulated knowledge about carpets and rugs. Together with fellow founder Malcolm Sims, and working with many industry professionals with a wealth of practical skill and experience on textile flooring, they dedicated time and energy to pass this information on. 

Paul was a fair and caring boss, treating every member of his staff with respect, establishing lifelong friendships. His passing leaves a very deep void in our lives.

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