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Low-moisture equipment: Becoming the machine of choice

September 19, 2010
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For a real estate or property management company, choosing a carpet cleaning professional can be a daunting task since there are more than 35,000 reputable service providers in the United States. Many times, managers turn to other real estate professionals for referrals.

However, if that does not work, they may consider a company’s accreditations, certifications and affiliations.

Secured business
Once a cleaning company is selected, it can be a long and lucrative association for the carpet cleaner because managers often prefer to work with just a few vendors they can depend on.

Furthermore, for the carpet cleaner, because tenants are always moving in and out of rental apartments, this can prove to be a long-standing, steady arrangement.

When a tenant moves out, the apartment unit must be prepared as quickly as possible, which usually means a fresh coat of paint for the walls, a thorough cleaning and, almost always, a carpet cleaning.

Unfortunately, apartment renters are often not careful and concerned about a property’s upkeep.

This means the carpet may be excessively soiled by the former tenant.

Usually, the management company or property owner will want the carpet to not only be clean for the next tenant, but also to last at least three years.

The manager/owner will encourage the carpet cleaner to take the steps necessary to make this happen.

The necessary steps
The selection of the cleaning method — whether shampoo, bonnet or hot water extraction — is very important.

The tools must be effective enough to remove soil as well as help extend the life of the carpet.

In many cases, bonnet and shampoo are used only where the carpet is left in a relatively clean condition; however, on excessively soiled carpet, the most effective cleaning system to use is hot water extraction.

Sometimes carpet cleaning technicians will first shampoo/bonnet clean a carpet and then extract.

The combination loosens soils deeply embedded in carpet fibers, which are then removed with the extractor.

But, because of the usually short turnaround time between when one tenant leaves the unit and another moves in, carpet cleaning technicians must be sure that the method selected allows carpets to dry as quickly as possible.

Some extraction equipment requires 48 or more hours for carpets to thoroughly dry.

To rectify this situation, low-moisture extractors as well as a new generation of low-moisture systems — sometimes referred to as low-moisture extractors 2.0 — are now being employed.

“Many older extractors as well as some still on the market today simply put too much water — as much as three or four gallons per minute — into the carpets when cleaning and/or have ineffective vacuum systems,” says Steve Williams, vice president of research for U.S. Products. “This combination leaves the carpets wet for as long as two to three days.”

According to Williams, these machines started being replaced about four or five years ago with low-moisture carpet extractors that release only about one gallon of water per minute into carpets, if not less, have powerful vacuum systems and leave carpets dry in as little as 30 minutes.

In the past couple of years, we have seen a new generation of low-moisture machines introduced that are more like a system, with each component in the system working together to improve the effectiveness of the carpet extractor as well as expedite drying time.

The major components of these new systems include advanced pre-heating units, vacuums and wands.

Pre-heating units
It has been well established that heat increases the effectiveness of cleaning chemicals and also helps speed drying time.
However, maintaining this heat on a consistent basis has been a concern with low-moisture extractors.

Some manufacturers have recognized this problem and are taking steps to assure enough heat is provided to adequately do the job.

Advanced vacuum systems
Carpet extractor engineers have long sought ways to improve water recovery, which is key to rapid carpet drying.

The addition of multi-stage vacuum systems has improved this situation considerably; however, a rather simple redesign of some low-moisture extractors has taken this to the next level.

Often, the vacuum hoses in an extractor have bends and “elbows” that slow down airflow.

Eliminating these airflow restrictions by top-mounting the vacuum system, for example, has resulted in enhanced water recovery.

New wand technologies
There have been relatively few recent developments in wand technology.

However, new wands are now being manufactured that are lighter, easier to work with and significantly help improve airflow.

These new designs have been redesigned to remove airflow “turbulence” that occurs in conventional wands.

Previously, engineers tried to rectify this problem by installing powerful vacuum systems.

However, by using new types of vacuum tubes, the airflow has been smoothed out, improving the airflow.
Independent, third-party testing indicates that the airflow on some of these new wands has been doubled.

“Low-moisture carpet extractors are also an essential element in green carpet cleaning,” Williams explains. “With all of these components working in harmony, not only do the carpets dry faster — helping to prevent contamination problems — but also less solution used usually means less cleaning chemical used, an essential element of green cleaning.”

On to training
According to Williams, new low-moisture extractors are operated essentially the same way as conventional machines.

“They may even be easier to operate because many of these machines are lighter, ergonomically designed and have improved vacuum systems that help minimize the number of ‘passes’ over the carpet,” Williams says. “However, as with any new cleaning tool or equipment, it is best not to learn the machine on your customers’ carpet. Instead, many JanSan distributors will help carpet cleaners learn how to use the equipment in their facilities on a test area.”

Just as conventional cleaning products are now being replaced with those that are more environmentally preferable, it is expected that the low-moisture extractor will become the machine of choice in the near future.

“This will make carpet cleaning healthier for users, whether cleaning vacant apartments or convention halls and probably more effective as well,” Williams concludes.

Jeff Simpson, along with his wife, own A-1 Clean Sweep, a carpet cleaning firm in Tecumseh, MI.
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