Mar 2, 2015

8 hacks for a professional carpet cleaner

8 hacks for professional carpet cleaners

Carpet cleaning can be a fun and lucrative job, but without a few preventative measures it can quickly turn into a headache.

Equipment, hoses and careless technicians can easily damage customers’ property. You need to first train your techs to be aware of their surroundings, but there are further measures you can take to have peace of mind. Many of these will make you look more professional.

Here are eight things that will help prevent problems on your next job. A small investment can save you thousands!

1. Walking mats

We recommend using these regardless of the type of flooring, but if your customer has hardwood floors, they are a must. More expensive nylon or olefin entrance mats are easier to use, longer lasting, easier to roll up and store in the van and are easy to clean, but come at a higher cost. A 3'x10' roll will run about $110. To take it a step further, you can even have your logo printed on the mat. Many online retailers offer this service for about $100 more on average.

A cheaper option is to use painters’ drop cloths. These are inexpensive and readily available at any hardware or paint store. Drop cloths come in a variety of sizes; we primarily use the 4'x15' canvas drop cloths at found Home Depot and Lowe’s. The drop cloths are a bit more versatile as they can be used like a corner-guard and prevent damage to wall corners and stair posts. These cloths can be cleaned via a washing machine, although they will lose some of their repellent barrier by doing so.

Using mats in a client’s home will not only prevent damage, but it will show the client that you are a professional that cares about preventing damage to their property. Another bonus to having your own mats down is that you can quickly and easily wipe off your shoes when entering the home.

2. Stair hooks

Stair hooks, also known as hose hooks, are fantastic little tools to use to prevent your hoses from constantly falling down the stairs and pulling on your wand. It's especially useful when a technician is working alone. The Velcro strap wraps around both the extraction and solution hose and the hook can be placed on a hand rail or stair spindle.

Although the metal hook has a rubber coating, it can still damage wood if there is enough weight pulling, so be sure to place a towel between the hook and the wood you are hooking it to.

These straps can also be used to hang hoses for storage at the shop or in your van. We've noticed that the straps have about a six-month lifespan as they will occasionally get wet and lose their Velcro power. They run about $11 at Interlink Supply.

3. Moisture probe and black light

I bet 50 percent of the homes we as carpet cleaners go in have pets, and in most cases, that's probably the reason we are there. If you're hired to clean the carpets of a home with pet urine, you are doing your client, and yourself, a disservice by not having both a moisture probe and a black light. I promise your sales will increase dramatically by using these tools; you'll likely make back the investment in the first job you do.

Moisture probe

A moisture probe is designed to detect moisture in carpet and padding above 17 percent. So how does this tool help identify urine? Well, in some cases, the urine may simply not be quite dry. When urine is dry, however, it turns into a salt. Salt contains moisture, so therefore a moisture probe will detect urine salts in carpet and padding.

Black UV light

A black light will illuminate organic material in furnishings. It's a fantastic tool to help identify urine in carpet. They come in a variety of sizes and prices. We recommend using one that costs at least $50. We’ve found that the cheaper versions don’t illuminate urine as well as the more powerful and more expensive ones.

Why it's so important

There are two scenarios:
  • The client may be downplaying the problem, or lying, to keep cleaning costs down
  • The client might be unaware of how bad the problem is
If the client is lying you need to protect yourself by pointing out all the urine damage. If the client is unaware, then you need to be able to show them the amount of damage. Pet urine removal is a very common problem and a lucrative business for carpet cleaners.

4. Booties/Foot guards

These seem like such an obvious thing to keep in the truck, but you'd be surprised. I've had clients tell me that previous carpet cleaners would come in and track mud on their carpet during the walk-through, and when confronted by the client, the carpet cleaner would simply say, "It's OK. I'm cleaning the carpets anyway, right?"

Wow! What an unprofessional thing to do. Instead of looking and sounding unprofessional, just wear booties during the walk-through and also the post-inspection when cleaning carpet.

5. Carpet scissors

You don't necessarily want to use this tool often, and it's tempting to just snip out that little stain that won't budge, but having carpet scissors can save you a lot of time.

When cleaning carpet you'll often see little carpet yarns sticking out but still stuck to the carpet backing. Duckbill shears are a great tool for removing these stubborn yarns. They can also be used to remove gum or paint. We try to only use them if either the gum or paint is still suspended on the top of the carpet; that way, only a very short amount of carpet is being cut.

If you feel the need to cut something beyond just the surface of the carpet, you should ask your client for permission first and explain why cutting the carpet is necessary.

6. Sticky tabs

We LOVE these things. Yes, they are more expensive than plastic tabs, but they are fantastic to have, especially when working alone.

They come in 100' rolls, containing about 350 perforated tabs, and are priced at almost $18 per roll. On one side they are slightly "sticky" so when the tab is placed under the furniture leg, it will stay on when it's being moved around.

Before we start cleaning we'll put these tabs on all the pieces of furniture; that way, once we get to the room and are cleaning, the furniture piece will easily slide around. No need to worry about reaching far behind the piece of furniture and putting on plastic tabs.

7. Solution line lawn sticks

If you haven't figured it out yet, your hot solution line will burn grass. So whatever you do, try and keep the solution line off lawns. You may need to add more solution lines to your truck, or use additional lines when you are at a job; don't worry, the solution line is pressurized so it will have almost no effect on the cleaning power. However, adding vacuum lines will decrease your vacuum power with each line you add. So if it's a shorter distance to run vacuum lines over lawns, that should be fine; even if the vacuum line leaves the grass pressed down, it will bounce back up soon.

There are manufacturers that make lawn sticks to prop up solution lines off the grass, but we typically just try to find a space to park the van where that will not be a problem.

8. Air-movers

I'm amazed how many carpets cleaners still do not use air-movers on jobs. Just a little bit of air movement on the carpet can go a long way to improving drying time. If you clean carpet professionally, especially if you are a steam cleaner, you need to be using air-movers.

For years we used the big blue air-movers typically found on water-damage jobs. They definitely push quite a bit of air, but the drawback is that they are heavy, and pull a lot of amps.

A few years ago OmniDry started making a mini air-mover called an OmniPro. These are awesome little fans that pack a good punch of air for being so small. They pull only 2.3 amps and can be daisy-chained.

The best part about these little guys is that they weigh only 10lbs and are small enough to keep several on the truck.

If you have some hacks that improve your life on the job, we’d love to hear them!

Jul 12, 2014

Study: 97% reduction in allergies with truck-mounted carpet cleaning

A recent study by Airmid Healthgoup, a Dublin, Ireland-based research organization, reports that carpet and upholstery cleaning with truck-mounted equipment improves indoor air quality and reduces allergens with regularly scheduled professional cleaning.

"To maintain the healthiest environment for occupants, we recommend hot water extraction cleaning two to three times per year and vacuuming at regular intervals.”—Dr. Bruce Mitchell, CEO, Airmid Healthgroup.

Airmid teamed up with Stanley Steemer, a Dublin, Ohio-based company to help with the research. Stanley Steemer of course uses the hot-water extraction method as their primary cleaning process.
The study’s main focus was to find ways to improve indoor air quality.

“Our goal at Airmid is to identify and evaluate situations where indoor air quality is a concern, and then work with corporate household names to provide the best possible solution, through contract research and technology transfer,” said Dr. Mitchell.

 How they did it

The study took place in 20 U.S. homes in February 2013. Surface and air samples were taken before and after cleaning. The results seem to be very impressive: up to 97 percent reduction in allergens  in carpet and 96 percent reduction in soft furnishings.

From the graphs, which can be seen here, you'll notice a spike in airborne mold during the cleaning by what appears to be about 30-40 percent, but just one hour after the cleaning the levels drop dramatically and fall well below the original airborne mold count. There are also graphs displayed showing dog and cat allergen removal.
"Surface levels of dust mite allergens on carpets, for example, were reduced by 91 percent, of cat allergen by 95 percent, and of dog allergen by 97 percent. The cleaning process also resulted in a marked reduction in airborne cat allergen exposure," said Dr. Mitchell.

If carpet has contaminants, why don't I just get hardwood floors?

That's exactly what the Swedish government thought in the 1970s. During that period they reduced carpet in buildings by 70 percent, but years later studies revealed that allergies had increased 30 percent simultaneously. A fifteen-year study of this confirmed that, yes, carpet and soft furnishings contain allergens and other contaminants, but they were more easily removed from carpet, as opposed to hard surfaces, with regularly scheduled cleaning.
We tried finding the source of the study on the Swedish Statistics website but none existed. There are, however, several reputable websites that refer to the study, two of which can be found below:

Simply put, carpet acts as a large filter in a home, catching all these contaminants we are sensitive to. And with hot-water extraction, they can efficiently be removed, creating a healthier home and working environment.

Can we trust this study?

I do think it's notable that the study was sponsored and paid for by Stanley Steemer, which coincidentally uses hot-water extraction as their primary carpet cleaning system. 
It would be nice to see a larger case study involving more than twenty U.S. homes. We also don't know anything about the homes – whether the residents suffered from allergies, the geographic location of the homes, or if they had pets or kids. We also aren’t told the last time the carpets had been professionally cleaned.

We'd also like to see other cleaning methods in the study. This was an obvious attempt to tout hot-water extraction (which we agree is the best system), but there are many other methods by which to clean carpet, and many recent advancements in chemistry.