Chemstractor Journal: My Chemstractor Experience (The Beginning)

Chemstractor Journal: My Chemstractor Experience (The Beginning)

What a machine! All stainless steel, accented in red, with tubes coming out of the sides. It looks like some sort of Space-Age robot from the old 1960s “Lost in Space” Television series. The instructions are dated pre-1990’s, and look somewhat outdated, as well. I couldn’t help but laugh a little bit at the nostalgic vibe of all this. Never the less, it was all shipped correctly and packaged very well. So far, I have no complaints. Assembling the machine was quite easy. There was no need to even read the instructions. Simply, snap on the waste tank and vacuum motor (all done in about 20 seconds). Next, mount the suction ring and the hoses, (this takes another minute or so), and presto! You are ready to go.

The moment of truth has arrived. I am going to run the machine for 30 minutes on the garage floor with the detergent flowing to break in the brush. All the while, I am thinking, “This thing is supposed to be hard to run. The tendency is to fight the machine rather than work with it.” I take a deep breath, pull the lever, and off she goes, smooth as butter! She glides on top of the garage floor like she is skating on ice!

She is very quiet, but that is because the vacuum is not running at this point. Right now, I am just breaking in the brush (no need to run the vacuum motor yet). Two minutes or so pass and I am gliding forward and backward with no control problems whatsoever. My wife pokes her head out and says, “That is nice! Will you please scrub the entire garage?” “Ok!”, I say and proceed to foam the entire garage without taking anything out.

Thirty minutes later, I decide to clean a rug on the floor (the kind you wipe your feet on. It isn’t very dirty, but I want to see if the Chemstractor is going to fling that thing into orbit! So, I start cleaning (and Son-of-a-Gun!) the carpet does not even budge!. Now, I am impressed, and I am ready to enter the house.

“Man!” I say to myself, “How do I get this thing up that one stair into the house?” You can’t pick it up! So, I pop down the wheels (which pop out when you are cleaning) and drag the thing backwards up the stair. This technique worked very well. So far, no problem.

I start cleaning my indoor wall-to-wall carpet, which is really clean, but I want to see if the it will fuzz or shed. The carpet did not fuzz or shed, which I thought may be a possibility because it is new carpet, and continues to shed as we vacuum. There was very little fuzzing.

This machine cleans really fast! I cannot believe the speed difference, over my CCS Oscillator or my old LMX Dry Foam Extractor. It maneuvers extremely well and only a light touch is needed. The LMX touts ease of use, but I would have to say that the Chemstractor is just as easy to use. Squeeze the handle, push to detergent button, and off you go.

Defoamer application is simple. You spray defoamer in the waste tank and you are done. This is much easier than the new LMX machines, which eat defoamer, and has a defoamer tank which is very cumbersome, hard to reach. The Chemstractor puts everything on top of the motor and all of it is easy to reach. The waste water inside of the Chemstractor was really dirty, so, needless to say, I am very impressed.

I really like the extraction capabilities of the Chemstractor over my CCS Oscillator, which has no extraction other than the vacuuming I do after cleaning. Break-Down took about five minutes.

The next morning, I wake up to find that my carpets are “crunchy”. However, after a thorough vacuuming, the crunchiness went away. I believe this was caused by not doing a very good job of extracting the foam that I put into the carpet.

I remember, back when we lived in Yakima, after cleaning my carpet with the Von Shrader LMX, it dried crunchy, too. When I would clean other carpets, I never had the same crunchy effect. Perhaps, there is something similar between my carpet in Yakima and the carpeting I have now. It wasn’t until much later, I learned that the problem was due to very poor extraction because of my own operator error!

Stay tuned for my next article:

“Side By Side Comparison Cleaning (Chemstractor & CCS Oscillator)”

John Merritt

November 29, 2005 / by / in
What Is Dry Carpet Cleaning?

(DAM = Dry Absorbent Media)

Of all the carpet cleaning methods available, dry carpet cleaning seems to be the most extraordinary and mysterious. Perhaps this is because most people have not yet had the opportunity to see dry carpet cleaning in action. We have used dry carpet cleaning (and other cleaning methods) for over 9 years, so we hope that you will allow us to explain DAM (Dry Absorbent Media) dry carpet cleaning to you.

What is dry carpet cleaning?

Dry carpet cleaning is a method that uses a controlled amount of moisture – applied in a unique way to clean the carpet and leave it dry and ready to use immediately. Conventional cleaning professionals often point out that DAM (Dry Absorbent Media) methods are not really “dry.” And they are right! Dry carpet cleaning methods are not dry (as in Webster’s definition of “dry”); they are moisture controlled. This precise description is important.

Have you ever used a moist paper towel to clean a counter surface? A paper towel can be perfectly moistened to loosen and absorb the soil. That is exactly how dry carpet cleaning works – just the right amount of moisture to clean carpet, without over saturating. If your table surface is really dirty, you use another paper towel; likewise, if the carpet is really dirty, we use more dry carpet cleaner.

To properly clean a carpet, we must use moisture. So the dry carpet cleaning process is not dry, but since a slight amount of moisture is used, the end result is a dry, clean carpet.

How can the carpet be dry and clean?

To really understand this, we must first, understand that 85% of the soil in carpet can be removed by vacuuming. Dry carpet cleaning methods have championed the vacuuming-step as the most important step in cleaning. “Let’s remove as much of the dry soil as is physically possible before we add any cleaning liquids” is a maxim that works. The lingering 15% of the soil is oily or greasy and cannot be removed by vacuuming. The secret of dry carpet cleaning is that the moistened DAM is used to absorb and remove this oily soil and then the product (DAM) and soil is removed by a vacuum cleaner.

Reduced Moisture

Dry carpet cleaning methods use specialized anionic cleaning agents. The difference between hot water extraction (HWE) and dry absorbent media (DAM) systems is in the amount of moisture used and the actual delivery of moisture. Remember the “moist paper towel” follows the principles of cleaning – using a proper blend of moisture, agitation, temperature and timed

Similarly, dry carpet cleaning uses a mixture of water, and safe cleaning agents to satisfy cleaning. The deep, thorough brushing of the carpeted area satisfies the time and agitation components. Some cleaning methods use heat; dry carpet cleaning employs repetitive physical contact at room temperature.

Carpet… Millions of Vertical Surfaces!

The necessary cleaning agents are mixed with a soft, natural, absorbent base; this blend
is called the “cleaner.” This cleaner is applied to the carpet and brushed through the
pile, utilizing physical contact with a special machine. The cleaner is the absorbent
media, as you would use to clean a wall or a kitchen counter. The cleaner delivers the
liquid to the carpet, dissolves and traps the soil – until removed by vacuuming.

The dry carpet cleaning machine usually has two counter-rotating brushes that move and distribute the cleaner through carpet fiber. This brushing or circulating action is an
important part of the dry carpet cleaning process. Why? Because the brushing technique
is designed so that the cleaner has an opportunity to contact all the dirty fibers in the
carpet. The cleaner applies the necessary moisture to the fiber surface, the liquid
dissolves the soil, and the cleaner reabsorbs that soil.

Brush, Vacuum, Use. Zero Down-Time

Some systems incorporate vacuuming and pile lifting in a single piece of equipment.
Others use standard vacuuming equipment. Either way, the key is proper and effective
vacuuming to remove the cleaner that now holds all the carpet’s soil (including dust,
mold spores and allergens). Proper vacuuming includes using equipment with a built-in
agitator, such as a beater bar, to move all the cleaner into the vacuum’s air stream.
When this vacuuming is done, the job is done. And the carpet is ready to be used.

Dry Carpet Cleaning; The Customers First Choice

So why should you consider dry carpet cleaning? Dry carpet cleaning is safe for all
fibers, and excellent for natural fibers, such as wool, silk, and cotton. Manufacturers and
importers of these natural fibers often recommend dry carpet cleaning as the cleaning
method of choice. Simply put, dry carpet cleaning is convenient, environmentally safe
and dry!

Intelligent Cleaning

With dry carpet cleaning, you can clean only the areas of carpet that need cleaning, such as traffic areas. Since very little moisture is involved, it is easy to clean a area and blend it into surrounding areas. No watermarks or streaks, minimal residue and the soil is efficiently removed. Dry carpet cleaning can be done at any time, day or night, even while people are walking on the carpet.

A distinctive of dry carpet cleaning is the ability to clean anytime making DAM cleaning perfect for commercial or retail facilities. Areas that most often need cleaning, many times, cannot be closed to traffic. Imagine turning a hotel room in 15 minutes, cleaning the carpet in a retail store just before it opens, refreshing the carpet in a restaurant right before the lunch or dinner rush. This is what we call “zero down time”.

Regular Cleaning Is Intelligent Cleaning!

When is dry carpet cleaning the best way to go? Other than the cleaning of delicate natural fibers mentioned above, it is the application of “intelligent cleaning” (scheduled cleaning maintenance) that is perhaps the best use of dry carpet cleaning. The amazing convenience of dry carpet cleaning is not only a new and wonderful thought in the homeowners mind, but because of “industry politics” it is a topic of great confusion within the carpet cleaning industry.

Intelligently scheduled maintenance is misunderstood and is often categorized as “Marginal Cleaning”, with little purpose – something you do to “put off the real cleaning”, which takes much more time and effort.”

It’s Carpet Cleaning Not Rocket Science!

Dry carpet cleaning removes soil efficiently while controlling moisture, leaving little residue and leaving the carpet dry, clean and ready to walk on. When dry carpet cleaning is used on a regular basis, the carpet is clean and stays clean longer.

These facts, I hope, help solve the “mystery” of what dry (DAM) carpet cleaning does, and why it is so valuable. Similar to the moist paper towel used in the home, dry carpet cleaning is a simple logical procedure which is appropriate in accomplishing clean and dry carpet.

In 1995 aggressive R&D resulted in Swedry® Carpet Cleaner and the invention of the acronym DAM (Dry Absorbent Media).

Greg Cantrell 1-800-Dry-Carpet

November 29, 2005 / by / in
Misc.: Improving Your Bottom Line Or… Fun With Numbers !!

I would like to show you why it is so important that you charge enough for your services (without charging so much that you lose the volume of work necessary to stay busy). This can be accomplished by gradually raising your prices through out the year.

For example, if you start the year charging .20 per square foot and finish the year at .30 per square foot, you will have, at least, doubled your net income per week or have been able to cut the amount of work you do by half, while still maintaining the same income level.

.30/sq ft is a desirable point to be at because you don’t need to live in a large city or be in business 10 years or more to reach to this income level. I know many people, who, even based in small towns, charge this rate with a 1-truck operation. Conversely, some cleaners will not be able to raise their rate this fast and may have to take 2 or more years to get there.

We will assume the average job is 700 sq ft and the cost of cleaning carpet in a small town is .10/sq ft. This is a low rate, but will illustrate the point. If your cost of cleaning is higher than .10/sq ft, then the differences will be even greater than those shown here:

Example #1 [Cleaning @ .30/sq ft]

700 square feet per job multiplied by 10 jobs per week (2 jobs per day) = 7000 square feet of carpet cleaned per week.

7000 square feet multiplied by .30 per = $2100 per week in gross income.

$2100 per week minus $700 (cost of cleaning at 7000 sq ft x .10) = $1400 per week in net income.

Example #2 [Cleaning @ .20/sq ft]

700 square feet per job multiplied by 20 jobs per week (4 jobs per day) = 14,000 square feet of carpet cleaned per week.

14,0000 square feet multiplied by .20 per = $2800 per week in gross income.

$2800 per week minus $1400 (cost of cleaning at 14,000 sq ft x .10) = $1400 per week in net income.

Now, both of these cleaners will net $70,000 per year, under both of these scenarios,
and assuming they can average these numbers for 50 weeks of the year.

The difference is this:

The cleaner charging .30 per square foot will only have to clean 350,000 square feet of carpet to get there, while the other cleaner, charging .20 per square foot, will have to clean 700,000 square feet of carpet to net the same figure.

Here is a 3-step “gradual” price increase that takes 1 year to accomplish:

#1) If you start in January with a price of .20 per square foot, add .04 to it. This brings you to .24 per square foot.

#2) In July, add another .04 to it. This brings you to .28 per square foot.

#3) When the following January comes, add .02 to you price. This brings you to .30 per square foot.

For your existing customers, you may choose to increase your price over a 2 year period, so that 80% to 90% of them can be retained. You will lose the people that were only dealing with you because of your original price. This, however, leaves you with more time for the customer that is looking for a quality carpet cleaner like yourself.

At this price, (.30) you also have the option of raising the number of jobs you do (up to 3 per day) over time. Based on the above definition of “the average job”, this raises your yearly income up to nearly $100,000! Or, if you prefer, you can stay at 2 jobs per day and have more time to spend with your family and enjoy life.

The choice is ultimately up to you.

Ken Harris

November 29, 2005 / by / in
Are You A Giver Or A Taker Company?

“What’s in it for me?” This expression is frequently heard in businesses everywhere. It’s become the general way of doing business for countless companies. Of course, we are all in business to make a profit. But when a business becomes a “giver” rather than just a “taker” it prospers in many ways. Last month marked our 19th year in business. I’d like to share a principle with you that we have tried to apply in our business. This principle has shaped the way we run our company. But let me tell you a little bit about our company first. I started Pioneer Maintenance back in 1982 out of the trunk of a twenty year old Ford Falcon. In the beginning, I did all types of cleaning services. I even shampooed a few carpets. The following year a friend introduced me to commercial carpet cleaning. I grew to love commercial carpet cleaning and it has become our specialty. Today we run 3 trucks and our business is steadily growing.

Now back to the subject of this article. Back in 1982, I decided that I needed to find a way to make my company stand out. I wanted to run an honest business. So I recognized that if a person hired our service, then I obviously would need to give them what they paid for. To put it another way, if the customer paid for a dozen, I knew I would need to provide them with a dozen. But then I came up with this simple idea.

Why not give them more than they bargained for the old baker’s dozen? While I saw many of my competitors shaving the quality of their service, I made it my goal to give more. In other words, while many of my competitors were providing service that fell short of a dozen, I was offering my customers thirteen (or more). I later learned that the principle of being a “giver” company is also taught by several respected business authorities.

Giving more really has worked for us. My customers have come to appreciate the little things that we do to keep them happy. A free bottle of spot cleaner. A thank you card. An area cleaned at no charge. A gift certificate for a store in the mall. Presenting ourselves as friendly professionals that the customer will enjoy having around. These are just a few of the things that we have regularly done to give our customers more than they expect.

But the biggest way that we give is in our actual service. We make certain that our services are as close to perfect as we can get. I have spent a great deal of time, effort and money trying to find better ways to provide our customers with quality carpet care. We’re not perfect and occasionally we do goof up. That’s why we guarantee every job we do. So we’re able to assure every customer that they will be completely satisfied. We would rather give them the service for free than have them unhappy with us. This kind of giving costs very little, but it yields very loyal customers.

I also like to keep in mind that we are not just cleaning their carpet. We are improving the quality of their life. Now you may be saying, “Whoa Rick, you’re getting a little bit hokey here”. Well think about it. A person spends 8 hours a day at work; that’s a third of their life. They likewise spend more time than that at home. When we consider that we’re making their environment cleaner, brighter and healthier then we have improved the quality of their life. When I keep this in mind it helps me to feel good about what I am doing. And, it causes me to want do the very best job that I possibly can. Trying to
maintain a “giver” company has been personally as well as financially rewarding.

This principle also extends into our relationships with our employees. We make working for us as easy as possible for our crew. We use excellent chemicals and efficient equipment. We also provide them with free uniforms. We train them thoroughly and help them to feel comfortable using a simple system that works. And then we pay each of them at least $20 per hour. Here again the principle of trying to be a “giver” company really pays off. I wouldn’t be able to reasonably expect to receive very much from my employees if I was not willing to give them something of value first.

Now let’s consider an example of a “taker” company. I know a cleaner in my area that is a taker. I’ve watched him through the years. In his business he only looks out for his own behind. And as a result he always seems to be getting bit in the behind! His customers are always unhappy. His employees are miserable. His trucks and equipment frequently break down. He only uses cheap chemicals. He doesn’t have a system for his crew to follow. Man, does he have a stinker for a business! As a result, his close-fisted business operation produces a constant state of chaos and worry. That’s no way to live.

The simple truth is “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving”. That applies to every aspect of life including business. I’ve seen it work in my business during these past 19 years. Applying this simple principle to your business will help you to enjoy a smooth running, satisfying and profitable business.

A final thought:
If you join the new Low Moisture Carpet Cleaners Association (LMCCA) you will also be “giving” something back. You will be helping to level the playing field in our industry. You will be contributing to the promotion of a sensible carpet cleaning alternative: (Low Moisture Carpet Cleaning). And, you will be in a position to improve your own business while you are at it.

The benefits of being a giver far outweigh those of being a taker.

Rick Gelinas

November 29, 2005 / by / in
Chemstractor Journal: My Chemstractor Experience (Part 2 – The Chemstractor and the CCS)

It was not the test I thought it would be! I picked my test subject. It was a very dirty and greasy low pile, commercial grade carpet on top of cement. The hot water extraction guy had already done his damage. The carpet was not clean (the soil had been smeared). Obviously, it was the operator and not the method that had produced
these substandard results. Perfect! I am ready to show the world what VLM (very low moisture) cleaning can do.

I arrive at the job on time, and soon thereafter am measuring off an area that will be cleaned by both the Chemstractor and the CCS Op machine, side-by-side, showing the cleaning capabilities of both machines. I am already in love with my CCS and I know it will perform well. I am hoping the Chemstractor, will do everything it is supposed to do. I prespray both areas with “Before”, a traffic lane cleaner manufactured by Von
Schrader. For the CCS, I am prespraying “Argosheen” mixed one part water to one part of Argo. This is a very greasy carpet!

Starting out with the CCS, it is slow going. The pads are coming up quite black and I quickly determine that I will not have enough pads to do the entire job. There is so much black grease in this carpet, that after three pads are totally filled with soil; I can only slightly lighten a 1-ft. by 1-ft. area. Oh my! I know the CCS will clean the carpet, but I will have to charge a dollar per foot (at this rate) just to make decent money on
this job. Given the current level of soiling, I quickly determine that it is time to launch the Chemstractor into service.

I run to the truck and grab the 2-1/2 gallon container of VonShrader “Grease Lightning” shampoo. Oh my! Something is wrong! The detergent is like jelly! Shake~Shake~Shake! I should have taken it out of the garage and let it warm-up. Well, maybe if I shake it vey hard, I can pour out enough to make a couple of gallons of shampoo. After all, I only need 12 ounces.

OK, now the Chemstractor is ready to roll. I have removed the brush, and replaced it with the same type of pad Rick Gelinas uses when he cleans commercial carpet (the beige colored buffing pad). I squeeze the handle and the Chemstractor veers to the left, banging into the wall. OK, a rotary machine does not handle like the CCS OP machine! I say to myself, “Remember everything Rick Gelinas told you. This is not hard. You can do it!” I squeeze the handle again, and the Chemstractor veers to left again, but this time I am smarter and I am standing in the center of the room. I am going in one big circle. I am so glad nobody is here to witness this!

OK, I will try to go back and forth instead of left to right. This is working better, but why am I not getting much foam? As a matter-of-fact, it is coming out very runny, and the circular motion of the pad flings it! Great! I am a very low moisture cleaner and I am soaking the carpet! I soon abandon my tests, and decide I had better get this carpet clean. I remove the pad, mount the brush back on, and try again. Ahh! This is much better. However, I can only go forward and backward, and not side to side.

After finishing the cleaning, and speaking with Rick, I deduce that my problem is what they call a “ID 10 T” error (spell it out and it reads: idiot!). I am suffering from an idiot error! Because of my inability to control the machine, I did not have the pad seated squarely on the ground, which created uneven cleaning, slinging of the detergent, poor extraction (because the extraction ring does not touch the carpet evenly), and veering of the machine. However, I do find that this machine cleans extremely fast. I am sure that, operated properly, it will do a fine job.

The Chemstractor website talks about the Chemstractor as being a “restorative cleaning process”. This, I believe. I also found that the machine was easier for me to manipulate using the brush rather than the pad. The “grab” of the pad really pulls the machine. Could this be because the pad has better surface contact with the carpet than the brush does?

After reviewing everything the next day, I found some areas that did not clean as well as I would have liked them to. The carpet was also still damp. This experience proves that the method cleans only as good as the operator allows it to. Isn’t that what all the pros say? The CCS machine, in my opinion, is a great machine. The Chemstractor is like a fast car that I still need to learn how to drive. Once I learn how to properly drive this beast, it will meet all carpet cleaning challenges head on. I have also learned that the greatest “performance variable” is me and not the equipment!

UPDATE: I have just spent the last hour polishing my garage with the Chemstractor. I have two jobs this weekend and must learn how to operate this machine. I have finally found the error of my ways.

#1. When the weight of the machine is concentrated at the 6:00 position, the machine veers to the left. When the weight of the machine is concentrated at the 12:00 position, it veers to the right. Previously, when starting the machine I would engage the motor with a pressure on the machine at the 6:00 position. The machine would automatically veer and I would cheat by using the third wheel to lift the pad even further off the carpet to help me control the Chemstractor. This is not the correct way to operate this machine.

Tonight, I learned that you should squarely seat the pad on the carpet then engage motor and make adjustments by lifting the handle up or down. I now have total control of my Chemstractor. The surface contact is much greater which will give me a much better clean than I experienced in the story above.

#2. As Rick Gelinas has stated, the pad works better than the brush. I can see, even in my garage, the difference between the pad and the brush.

John Merritt

November 29, 2005 / by / in
Chemist’s Corner: Formulated Disasters

To me, nothing is more exciting and fun than to mix this material with that material…. Mix this chemical with that chemical. The goal being to create an ideal formula for a perfect end product. I will also be the first to admit, with my 30 plus years in the industry, that I have had my share of hair pulling major disasters. Every year, we will read or hear about professional cleaners and homemakers who have died or had near death experiences, because they were formulating and mixing different products together. As we all realize, some chemicals/cleaning products just do not mix and can cause a time bomb disaster!

Many manufacturers, just like us, will design products that can be mixed together in order to boost another product’s cleaning performance. These mixable products are tested repeatedly for safety.

Today, more and more homeowners think they are saving money by purchasing a small carpet-cleaning unit. These do-it-yourself homeowners will spend $300.00 or more for a cleaning unit, but refuse to purchase quality cleaning agents. We are discovering that many of these people are formulating their own cleaning agents. They will mix all types of household products, such as:

#1) laundry detergents
#2) dish soaps
#3) dish washer detergents
#4) bathroom cleaners
#5) toilet bowl cleaners
#6) concrete cleaners
#7) bleaches, etc.

After creating a disaster on their carpet and fine furnishings, they will pick-up the telephone and call a professional carpet cleaner to solve their now major problems. Ah yes, now it is the task for the professional to step in and correct their problems… if they can be corrected!

If you, as a professional cleaner, have a secret formula, that works… that’s great! Nevertheless, if you are not sure when mixing products together what the result will be… why try it? Always think of your customers first. The safety of their family and pets should be your #1 concern. Please let the mixing of chemicals be done by an expert. Remember that you are in this business to solve your customer’s problems, not to create them. So, please be safe when mixing different chemicals!

Bill Scheuneman

November 29, 2005 / by / in
Chemist’s Corner: Examining Our Arsenal Of Cleaning Agents

My first thoughts are: “Mark Stanley, this site is OUTSTANDING!” Great job by you, and I know it must have taken a lot of time, effort, and imagination. It will set the standard for others to follow and we thank you for developing it. My second thought is: “I’m not sure whether to thank you or kick your butt for asking me to do an article ochemicals!” 🙂

Here is my background, for those who don’t know: I’ve been a “dry foamer” since 1972, introduced a small line of custom pro products in 1990, introduced retail products on the Internet in 1997, founded the Independent Foam Cleaners Association, (IFCA) with my good buddy George Hagele in 1993.

My cleaning method had been primarily “dry foam” extraction through the years, and for this article I will stay within the boundaries of that method. Right up front, I am not a chemist! This will be layman, experience type information, and if I get blasted by some chemical guru later, he’d better live far away.

I have been intrigued these last six or seven months, occasionally visiting some of the Internet carpet cleaning forums.

Actually, “intrigued” is not the right word. AMAZED would be more correct. I must say, I am really impressed by all the intelligent guys, and gal’s on the forums, and ours is no exception. We have some VERY sharp, (and humorous) people in our group, and the industry as a whole, and many of them put me to shame with their knowledge of cleaning chemicals and techniques.

There are a lot of cleaning chemicals on the market, and everyone has their favorites. What amazes me is the sheer number, and varieties of mixes and concoctions many operators utilize. The arsenals of some of these operators are huge and complex! But actually, I think most foamers are like me… they can’t understand all this! Our method is SIMPLE! We use four or five base products and several spotters, and “bada-bing-bada-boom”, we’re good to go! All of these products, I know very well!

Basically, we can categorize our method’s arsenal of cleaning agents this way:

1) Pre-spray.
2) High foam detergent.
3) Defoamer.
4) Spot removal/additives.
5) Rinse. (optional)
6) After spray. (optional)

Let’s take them one at a time.

#1) Pre-spray: If you are a dry foamer you have to use the right type of pre-spray. Most pre-sprays contain solvents to cut (emulsify) grease and oil. Solvents also cut foam production significantly, and without good foam production, you are going to have a very long day. The best pre-spray for our method should contain the proper balance of safe glycol’s, citrus, and a high foam anionic surfactant. This way you will get the benefit of the grease cutting ability, along with an enhancement of foam production, rather than a reduction. The pH should be no higher than 10.0 for warranty protection.

#2) Detergent: The best type would contain a pure anionic surfactant, with premium chelators, (softeners) and a state of the art brittle drying polymer. Detergents that use pure surfactants are something of a rarity in the industry. They are expensive, and they require heated storage by the chemical company in their raw form. The advantage is that almost all the inert fillers and “junk” is filtered out, and there is more active surfactant at work during the cleaning process. This is why fibers appear cleaner, and brighter with their use. Ideally the pH should be around 9.0, for synthetic carpet, and they should not contain optical brighteners. Most wool carpet, (always check your dyes) should be cleaned at a PH of 6.0 to 7.0. 1 ½ oz. white vinegar per diluted gal. will lower pH from 9.0 to 7.0.

Heat: Heat helps. No question about that. Heat produces better foam with better chemical action. But, how much heat is good?

I keep reading about these huge temperatures that some of the Hot Water Extraction (HWE) equipment manufacturers say their equipment is capable of producing. Some of them even claim that their machines can produce temperatures of 240 to 250 degrees, and more. These numbers may be true “in the can”, but if water were to hit the air at those temperatures, you would have “live steam” (at about 212 degrees) and according to my buddy George Hagele, (he minored in nuclear physics) live steam is great for dissolving grease and oil, but it is not a good medium to use for extraction. For good VACUUM extraction, you need water flow, or in our case: foam.

With in-line heat, we can get foam to have a temperature of about 150 degrees at the fiber, and that is certainly adequate in my mind. Yes, we do need a well-built, durable, heated foam machine. I have been saying that for years!

NOTE: Dilution ratio is important. Most detergents contain 10% solids, or less. The rest is water. Some of the best contain 20% or more. If these are active beneficial solids, your dilution ratio can be dramatically increased, and the actual cost of the product reflects upon this. If you pay $12 .00 a gallon for a product with a 16 to1 ratio, as opposed to $15.00 a gallon for a product with a 32 to1 ratio, you are not only losing money on the product, but also on the increased shipping costs.

Degreasing detergent: High foam, oil stable, degreasing type detergent is also available. This type of detergent uses an oil stable, high foam surfactant, to enable you to do Restaurant (nightmare) conditions, where normal detergents would fail miserably. This type of detergent can have a solid content of over 30%, and the dilution ratio can be anywhere from 32 to 1, to 128 to 1, depending on the conditions. It woud literally devour grease and oil (a real MONSTER), and be a real TIME and MONEY SAVER!

I did a Massage Parlor once many years ago with regular detergent, and I thought my machine broke down. I almost croaked before I got out of that place. The carpet was loaded with oil, and I’m sure the lady owner could hear me swearing under my breath. If I had used the detergent mentioned above, I would have smoked it!

Yes, it was a legitimate parlor! No, I didn’t mention it to my wife! 🙂

#3) Defoamer: Although most liquid defoamers are silicone based, there is a huge difference in the quality, performance, dilution, and price. Newly developed types are light years better than the ones we had years ago. It is best to compare notes with fellow cleaners, or simply test one against another and choose.

#4) Spot Removal: This is a subject in itself, and I’m just going to cover the basics. I must admit, in 29 years of carpet cleaning, I have only attended 4 or 5 carpet cleaning classes, and two of them were for spot removal. Also, I do a lot of “tech stuff” reading, (not just my Conan the Barbarian books, George Hagele!). Actually, they ARE the only books that can hold my interest for more than five minutes (a great escape medium for a guy with my mentality). I wish Robert E. Howard would have lived longer, and done a hundred of them. Sorry… I digress. Basic spot removal principal (by the book).

VDS: Volatile dry solvent, such as OMS (odorless mineral spirits).

NVDS: Non volatile dry solvent, such as POG (paint, oil, grease remover). Follow with VDS.

NDS: Neutral detergent solution.

Acid: Tannin spotter, (acetic acid for yellows and browns, pH of 2.5 – 4.5).

Reduction: Strippers/Reducing agents such as sodium bisulfite, (weak – 6.0 pH) and sodium bisulfate, (strong – 3.0 pH) for browning/yellowing conditions.

Oxidation: Hydrogen peroxide, 3% -30%, and bleach.

Enzyme: Chemical agents that break down non-soluble proteins, and make them soluble in water.

Well that’s all very nice, but to be honest, I’m a KISS kinda guy. “Keep It Simple Stupid!” I did some spot removal tests for 3M years ago with some very basic spotters and the results were excellent. Fourteen different types of spots “stains” were treated and all responded well. The only really stubborn ones were mustard, and black (liquid) shoe polish, as I recall. I carry with me: OMS, POG, an alkaline all-purpose spotter, a tannin spotter, isopropyl alcohol 70% and 90%, ammonia, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide 3% and 30%, browning treatment, Whink rust remover, and red stain remover for heat transfer, (use a very thin, DRIPPING wet towel, iron on low steam heat setting, light pressure 15 to 20 seconds for best results. That looks like a lot, but I rarely have to use more than two or three a job.

Wood stains: that’s a tough one. I’ve had mixed results. I noticed a couple of recent posts in the ICS forum regarding them, and a couple of the procedures looked interesting. I just haven’t had time to experiment. Let’s get some input on this one. Ok?

Pet stains and odors: Tannin spotter, inject industrial enz/bac culture, mist odor neutralizer, cover with wet towel. (That’s a very short explanation!)

Additives and softeners: We have been using non-chlorine oxy bleach additives the last few years. Mainly to help with “grayed out” light Berbers. For hard water conditions, Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda is superb, and inexpensive. It is available at the grocery store. A little goes a long way, and foam production is dramatically improved when you are dealing with hard water. 1 tbsp. per 5 gallons of diluted detergent solution will raise the pH approximately one point, soften the water, help cut grease and oil, and
is a natural odor counteractant.

#5) Acid Rinse: Contrary to what many believe foamers also use rinses. We can spray and vac, or spray and towel. There is a debate among many in the industry as to, which is better for rinsing fibers, water or acid rinses.

From my own personal experience, I prefer the acid rinse. Our group of foamers, (IFCA) agreed. Most of us use the prepared fiber rinse, particularly around bare floor areas. They not only neutralize and remove a certain amount of residue, but they also take a little of the “slick” out of wet carpet, and make it a (little) safer for the homeowner. It’s very hazardous sometimes stepping off a wet carpet onto bare floor; especially ceramic tile.

I have “gone down” myself, a couple of times. I was running late one day a few years ago, and I was just finishing up. I was quickly stepping down a hallway while carrying my recovery tank (filled to the brim with “really black” recovery water) and when I hit the ceramic tile in the bathroom; I did a “back half gainer”! I landed flat on my back, and was covered with black water from neck to crotch! This was the same condo I had
done several times, and had cautioned the elderly couple that lived there to be careful of that Darn ceramic tile! I’ll never forget that little old lady’s voice coming from the TV room down the hall: “Homer, I think Bill took a tumble.”

So, if we, as professionals, can forget to be extra careful, so can our clients. I’ve got a
tough hide, and a hard head, but the 70-year-old homeowner can break a leg rather easily. Always lay towels in doorways, as reminders to them that the carpet is wet while you’re working, and always rinse, and dry step-off areas especially well before you leave. (Don’t forget stairs leading to bare floors.) Caution your clients again on your way out! The rest is usually pure luck. Did I mention good liability insurance?

#6) After sprays: Yes, I think they have merit when used properly. I would recommend the top two or three name brands simply because of their track record, but I notice a lot of you are using other lesser known brands, and achieving excellent results. This is another item we should compare notes on. Do they work well with brittle drying detergents? Yes, because you normally apply them while the carpet is still wet.

And, even if the carpet is dry, I doubt that the “adhesion” would be adversely affected, but I must admit to having not tested this concept. When we tested for 3M using a brittle drying detergent, the fluorochemical was applied while the carpet was still wet.

Brittle dry tests: Everyone has their own slant on this one. Have you ever seen a detergent advertised as a “sticky” drier? I’ve seen so many false claims on this subject by suppliers, it makes me sick! Have you ever noticed how some suppliers “work” their tests? I’ve seen about a dozen different ways that they perform the tests to try to “achieve” a brittle drier.

Here is the method that I recommend: Pour some undiluted detergent in a flat dish, and fan it completely dry. Scrape it up with a razor blade. Is it brittle or not?

This translates in relative terms to all the other factors that will follow, i.e. dilution ratio, number of passes, vacuum efficiency, rinse or not, bonnet or not, remaining residue, and any other variable you can think of that comes afterward. If it is brittle in its pure state, at the onset, it will surely wind up better than one that is not, in the end.

Remember the guy who used to do all the “independent” tests for various manufacturers? They all came out on top! Give him enough time, and he could convince you that the ingredients in a pencil could power you to the moon!

That’s it folks!

Thanks again to Mark Stanley, John Merritt, Rick Larsen, Rick Gelinas, and Lonnie McDonald, for starting the LMCCA up! Stay focused, and don’t argue! Leave that to me and George… we’re good at it! 🙂

Bill Barnes

November 29, 2005 / by / in
Chemist’s Corner: Digesting Agents What They Are And How They Work

First, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Bill Scheuneman, President and Chairman of the Board of CleanCraft Products, Inc. I have been in the cleaning and chemical industry for over 30 years. I was asked to write a small article about enzymes. Without getting too technical, I’ll do my best to explain the importance of enzymes.

Enzymes are protein and bio-catalysts. They consist of amino acids held together by peptide bonds. Enzymes take part in the breakdown of food materials into simpler compounds. The presence of these bio-catalysts speed up chemical processes that would otherwise run very slowly. Scientific discoveries have shown some enzymes can increase a chemical process over 100 times faster.

Enzymes are biochemical catalysts that affect the rate at which specific reactions occur. Each enzyme usually catalyzes one particular kind of reaction. For example: Enzymes that are scientifically adapted to digest grease or oil will be used for that specific food source. The enzymes break down the waste so the bacteria can utilize the food source. The bacteria then digests the waste producing CO2 and H2O. Enzymes are not living, reproducing organisms.

Enzymes are produced by living, reproducing organisms called bacteria. Bacteria produce the specific enzymes needed to breakdown compounds so they can digest them. All organic compounds are a protein food source to bacteria. The different strains of bacteria will produce the right kind of enzymes to breakdown the waste for the them. The bacteria then utilize the broken down waste as food in its work.

Today, enzymes are playing an important role in developing environmentally safe chemical products. Every week, new types of enzymes are being discovered and produced. Many of these new enzymes can adapt to higher heat and PH factors.

The secret to any high quality chemical product using enzymes is formulation! A product must be formulated with a variety of different enzymes, because each enzyme has its own characteristic to perform for its intended use. By using the proper variety of enzymes in a cleaning agent, a faster working product that digests its food sources is produced. In turn, you have cleaner results!

All in all, enzymes are making a very important difference in cleaning products. It eliminates the use of harsh chemicals for a safer, cleaner environment. It eliminates the need of other costly products to digest spots, stains, and odors. Most important, enzymes deliver the professional cleaner quicker, cleaner results!

Bill Scheuneman

November 29, 2005 / by / in
Actions Speak Much Louder Than Words

The way you present yourself or the message you are sending is far more important to clients than the words you say.
Arriving on time immediately sets a positive tone. You’re communicating that the client is important, that you care about them and that you are concerned about effective and efficient use of your and their time. You gain credibility as a professional and demonstrate that promptness is one of your traits.

Arriving late, on the other hand, communicates a far different message. It can say: “I don’t care.”, “Clients are not important.”, and “I am disorganized.” Think about it.

Keep sending that positive message with your body language when meeting the client; smiling, maintaining eye contact, and a firm handshake. I give them two shakes. Two’s company three’s a crowd. Slowly move both arms behind your back, in the at-ease position. This lets the client know that you are friendly, easy going, and letting them into your heart.

Add a little personality and some small talk during the appointment. Male clients prefer topics such as sports, current events, politics, and business. Women, on the other hand, enjoy conversations involving personal items, home and family (especially, babies!).

Perform “knock your socks off” service. Now, you have just created a cheerleader and a relationship.

You also need to listen to your clients.

After every job, I ask, “Who have you used in the past?”. They will tell you. This is the key. Listen to what they are saying. They will even tell you why your company was selected by them. “Listen”. This will not only help you with your marketing, but will help you to know what is of interest to them for your newsletters.

Never be late, master your body language, learn the art of “small talk”, always perform outstanding work, and remember to listen carefully to what your clients have to say.

“Actions really do speak much louder than words”.

Rick Larson

November 29, 2005 / by / in
Testing Your Way To Success!

Learning to do testing:

Our trip to the mill in Dalton Georgia last month taught me a thing or two about “testing”. Man was it ever a revelation for me! I learned that, with a relatively simple test process, real results can be easily measured and compared.

Do not believe everything you see or hear:
I saw a HWE product that had been tested in the mill in Dalton before our visit (I will not reveal the name of this product because I refuse to belittle anyone’s product.) However, it would cause “resoiling” to occur so badly that it would actually cause a clean piece of carpet to become soiled when it was used as directed. This product is manufactured by one of the “industry leaders”. Yet, the product performs very poorly.

So, here is my concern.
We cleaners pick up the latest trade magazine and see a cool advertisement for this “super” product and we purchase some of it. Now, how many dissatisfied clients will we lose before we figure out that our cleaning agent has failed to deliver the results that we expected? We have to ask ourselves, “How many of our current products are really not all that good?” Testing is the only way to find out for sure.

The famous dish test:
We have all heard about the test where a detergent is placed in a dish and it is allowed to dry. Then the dry residue in the dish is checked to see how well it dried. This test is helpful in determining whether or not the product leaves behind a brittle residue after it dries. The idea is that a brittle residue will not attract more soil.

First, most of the better quality products on the market today are manufactured with a “friable surfactant”. Knowing whether a product dries crumbly is useful, but it provides no significant information beyond that. We still do not know anything about how the product will clean a carpet. Will its crumbly residue actually resist resoiling or not?

How a carpet mill performs testing:
We learned at the mill in Georgia that testing is a relatively simple procedure. It was interesting to learn how the test soil is introduced to the carpet. They actually place pieces of carpet along with test soil, pellets, and ball bearings into a tumbler. The ball bearings and the pellets grind the test soil into the carpet. Then, they install the carpet on the floor and brush in more soil and pellets.

Additionally, they spill coffee and soda on the carpet. Next, the carpet is cleaned to see how a machine and/or cleaning agent will perform. Then, the carpet is judged for appearance. Afterwards, the carpet will be resoiled and inspected again to see how well the previously cleaned section of carpet resists resoiling. They will also judge the fiber for “abrasion”.

How to set up a test of your own:
A carpet cleaner can easily duplicate this type of a test on a small scale. Simply, obtain a section of carpet and cut it into small 12″x12″ pieces. Then take the sections and grind them into the dirt. Your backyard or alleyway variety of dirt will do just fine. Next, apply a sticky substance such as soda or fruit juice to the carpet sample and then grind in more dirt. You can even add a little vegetable oil to the concoction (or whatever else you would like to add). Get crazy with it. Simply make certain that the same soiling condition is exposed to all of the carpet sections that you wish to test. Do not stop soiling the carpet until it is visibly trashed tremendously! Let the mess dry. Now you are ready to start testing.

How to perform a “workbench” chemical test:
Begin by vacuuming each of the carpet samples identically. Vacuuming a 12″ square of carpet with an upright vacuum is a bit of a trick, but it can be done.

#1) Place the vacuum cleaner on top of the carpet square.

#2) Turn on the vacuum cleaner.

#3) Slowly pull the carpet square out from under the vacuum cleaner.

#4) Count the number of passes that are made on each sample.

#5) Dilute your cleaning agents according to their normal usage instructions.

Replicate your cleaning system in a “workbench” setting. For example, if you are comparing shampoos that are designed to be

– scrubbed
– dried
– soil encapsulated
– post vacuumed out of the carpet

then you can simply build a “workbench” version of the cleaning process.

#6) Using a handheld brush (and counting the number of cleaning strokes), scrub each carpet sample with each of the shampoo products your testing.

#7) Allow the samples to dry thoroughly.

#8) Post vacuum.

This will allow you to test the chemicals under identical conditions. Similar workbench versions can be easily setup to approximate HWE cleaning or OP cleaning.

This workbench test of cleaning agents is only comparing “apples to apples” versions of detergent chemistry (this is obviously not a test of different types of cleaning equipment). If you wanted to test machines then you could simply create larger test conditions to facilitate the equipment you would like to test.

My testing results:
I tested three “encapsulating” type detergent products. In my tests, I soiled the carpet as described above. Then, I cleaned each section as described above. I allowed the products to dry and performed post vacuuming. I examined the results in direct sunlight and with a Radio Shack handheld microscope. I immediately saw a difference in the three products. One of the products (I will call it Product-C) looked worse than the others did. The results of the other two products (I will call them Product-A and Product-B) were almost indistinguishable.

I then recleaned all three samples again and allowed them to dry. So each of the three samples had two cleanings performed at this point. I then introduced the three samples to dry soil again to see how they would resoil. Product-A and Product-B looked great while Product-C showed a resoil condition. However, Product-C was now out of the running altogether.

I then revacuumed and recleaned Product-A and Product-B one more time and compared the results. Again, the results were very similar, with Product-A winning out by an almost imperceptible margin. This testing provided me with a good look at how the chemistry of these three products would perform in the field.

The manufacturers response:
I spoke with the manufacturer of Product-C about my testing. I was told that I should compare the product in a “real world” setting. I was told that I should use Product-C for a period of time on some actual carpeting that I clean. This way, I would be able to see the results over a period of six months or so.

“Hmmm, let’s see now…” I should purchase and use a product for six months that tested poorly in order to seei f it is going to perform any better on my client’s carpet.

Does that sound like the prudent thing to do?

Test everything:
What I have described above is a simple test. Is it scientific? Sure it is. Tests such as these are performed everyday in the finest laboratories. These labs may be more impressive looking than my workshop, but my results can be just as conclusive. I may not have a Ph.D. in chemistry or physics, but I can easily see what is working and what is not working with my own two eyes.

By testing, you will see if what you have been told by the manufacturer is true or not. Therefore, my advice to you is to test everything! I know that I will be testing everything now on. It is very educational and fun to do.

Sell your results:
Once you have established what works best for you, shout those results from the rooftops! Let your clients know about it. Include it in your marketing pieces. Add it to your newsletter. Let folks know how you established that your product is great.

Do not expect to convert the world:
You will never convince everyone that your product is the best, so don’t even try. Furthermore, it would be wrong to defame a manufacturer by posting negative results about their product. After all, it could be argued that your testing methods might be “flawed” in some way.

However, you can easily see for yourself whether or not the product you are using will perform as well as you are expecting. Having this knowledge (proof) in your possession will truly “arm you for success”!

November 29, 2005 / by / in