Where Does All The Dirt Go?

Where Does All The Dirt Go?

It seems I get asked this question quite frequently. And not just by new clients or prospective ones either. Sometimes, even “long term” customers, who’ve never shown much interest before in exactly how I get their carpet so clean, will suddenly show great interest in “the mechanics” of my VLM (very low moisture) carpet cleaning system. That’s when I get “put on the spot”, as it were. Because of this, I have created what I consider to be a “consumer digestible” explanation of how my particular VLM carpet cleaning system works.

But, before I go into that, let me digress for a moment…

My own VLM carpet cleaning system currently employs a standard 175 RPM 17 inch rotary machine, cotton and blended thick style bonnet pads, thin terry cotton pads, an “astro-turf” scrub pad, a bucket and wringer combo with an immersion heater, a high performance upright vacuum cleaner, several sprayers, etc.

As you can see, this puts me in the category of “Bonnet Cleaning”. Now some of you may cringe when you hear that word!

My guess is that most professional carpet cleaners consider Bonnet Cleaning to be a “maintenance” type of carpet cleaning system (whether they admit it or not). Actually, that opinion would only be partially correct. Properly scheduled and performed “standard” or “surface” type bonnet cleaning procedures can maintain a carpet very well in between what many consider to be “deeper” cleanings (IE: Hot Water Extraction).

Ah yes! There’s that very important word: “deeper”.

How deep, you ask? I say, as deep as your knowledge and your particular VLM system’s potential can take you! And that includes Bonnet Cleaning. I firmly believe that Bonnet Cleaning’s ultimate “potential” for soil removal has yet to be achieved. There are many more ways that the elements of:
(C)hemical action, and

have yet to be applied to Bonnet Cleaning, that one could say it is still in it’s infancy as
far as reaching it’s ultimate cleaning potential! Furthermore, this opinion extends to
embrace all VLM systems.

We must be creative and think “ahead of the curve” in how we utilize the VLM systems
available to us or simply invent some new element within our own system that takes it
to a higher level of performance. I happen to know that this kind of “brain storming” is going on right now, even as you read these words! This is one of the aspects of VLM Cleaning Technology that is really exciting! There is always something new to explore and learn.
Ok, back to my original point about answering the customer’s question: “Where does all
the dirt go?”…

My response (with regard to Bonnet Cleaning) goes something like this:

“What type of dirt?” It is important that your customer understand that “dirt” is a very
broad term. Then, I quickly go on to explain that a good estimate is that 80% of the
carpet soil load is “loose particulate” soil that can be dislodged with a pile lifter or high performance vacuum cleaner. This is why daily vacuuming is so beneficial to the carpet’s longevity.

The other 20% is soil that has accumulated and attached itself to the carpet fiber with a
“binder”. Cooking grease and soot are just two examples of this type of soil.

I don’t want my customer’s eyes to glaze over by my giving too many overly descriptive
details, so I explain that the majority of the remaining soil is “emulsified and suspended”
by the cleaning agent. Then, it is “loosened” even further with the rotary brush. And
finally, it is “removed” by absorption via the cotton bonnet pad.

In actuality, there is a much more complex and scientific explanation for how the soil is
removed, but explaining it to your customers would probably only serve to confuse
them. What they are really wanting is an explanation that they can easily visualize. If
you give them that, they will truly consider you to be “the expert” and feel very lucky
indeed to have you caring for their carpet!

So, the next time your customer asks, “Where does all the dirt go?”, have your explanation “tailored” and ready to go in an easy to visualize format. This can permanently solidify your relationship with them. And that is the goal we should all seek!

Mark Stanley

November 30, 2005 / by / in
VLM Central: Charting A New Course

Friends… Here it is. The end of an era (sort of).

While it is true that this is the “final issue” of the VLM Central E-zine, all articles contained within this site will remain safe, secure, and (as always) free for everyone to research and benefit from.

My main goal when I started this website was to eventually accumulate so much powerful user-submitted information that it would become a “deep” resource that all of us could mine “nuggets” from for years to come.

So, with this goal in mind, (beginning in Fall 2003), I am going to change the “format’ that the information here is currently presented in. This site’s current format is that of a quarterly e-zine.

This format will be dropped and replaced with a new one that will allow for new and updated information to be published on an ongoing and continuous basis. This new format will actually make this site more like a “library” than an “e-zine”. The library format will be much easier for me to maintain and update, as well as allow for a much broader spectrum of information to be stored, categorize, and retrieved.

Additionally, there are many more user-submitted marketing materials that I have ready for publishing. They should ready to download by early Fall 2003. Stay tuned!!

Finally, I just want to say a great big THANK YOU to all of you who (over the last three years) have made the VLM Central E-zine a truly special and unique free website resource for carpet cleaning professionals worldwide to benefit from.

God bless you!

Mark Stanley

November 30, 2005 / by / in
View From Afar: Recession Rethought

I remember when I was a kid living in the UK. Back then, we had a saying about the fragility of the economy there, that went something like this,

“When America sneezes, Britain catches the flu”.

Today, because of the intertwining of most major world economies today, when any economy gets “the flu” everybody “sneezes”. Israel (where I currently reside), because of its unique internal circumstances, tends to be more of a “hostage to fortune” than most. We are, at the moment, suffering one of the worst of economical slow downs in Israel’s economically-checkered history. This has dramatically affected every individual & every company from the top down, regardless of size.

The difficulty of trying to survive at times like this makes you examine every aspect of your business in a far deeper way than usual. Even the most efficiently run company can be streamlined if only because certain expenses or methods of working that made sense in times of plenty are not logical during times of famine. Most of the things I have found hold true for here. I don’t know about America or any other country, but a number of these points, I am sure, hold true “generally”.

I don’t hold myself up as a trained expert in these matters, only in the way we of more advanced years are experts because of having lived through events (such as recessions) a number times.

The first point took me a while to realize.

In the past, giving a better service and doing better work ensured me of getting a better price for my services. Furthermore, I was not willing to compete on price alone. Today, however, giving a better service and doing better work might win you the job over your competition, but only at the same price, as there is only a set amount in most client’s budget (usually, much smaller than before) allowing no extra money for “finesse”. When times are good it is possible to concentrate on one section of the market or one service and make a good living.

However, during tough times you have to cast your net over a “wider field”. Every
business concentrates on a different market and offers different services so each owner
has to decide for themselves what the logical additional areas of service they should enter. What is worth keeping in mind is that the easiest and cheapest added services are ones that utilize the same equipment and/or can be easily offered as add-ons to existing

[Editor’s Note: Several examples of added services are “leather care”, “ceramic
tile and grout care”, “hardwood floor care”, etc.] Another approach to increasing business is to make the payment easier.

On that basis, I have recently started accepting credit cards. This can be especially
useful for convincing a customer to take advantage of those added services.

Even at a time of deep recession, there are potential marketing areas in which the situation is either unchanged or sometimes even increasing.

For example, the insurance industry usually finds an increase in claims for various reasons and this can be a very lucrative area. “Cleaning for health” is another sector that can be relatively unaffected, as people suffering from asthma, allergies, etc. are very often willing to pay for relief from their complaints, regardless of the economy.

It might seem self evident to state that it is very important to “ride out” a recession.

Obviously, nobody wants to go out of business, but sometimes, you can feel… “Is it really worth carrying on for such reduced earnings?” Very often the answer is yes. Here is why. When a recession is over, there is usually a burst of business activity and “the pie” is shared amongst less businesses. Furthermore, given what you learned during the
“battle to survive”, your business is likely to be run on “tighter lines” and so become
more profitable.

Writing this article has been a self indulgence.

Like most of us, I have a lot of ideas that are scattered randomly and writing this piece
has forced me to “defrag” my mind by sorting these ideas into some kind of order. A
friend of mine who writes computer programs that teach children English as a second
language had to write a business plan. He told me that even though he has owned his company for many years, writing a business plan taught him a great deal about his business. You can download business plan programs from the internet. I think it would be an interesting exercise. Finally, a personal word of thanks to Mark Stanley. I know how difficult it has been for me sometimes to scribe my few lines here, so how he manages to fit in all that he does, I don’t know. I suspect he has found a way of stretching the day to 30 hours. Anyway, a sincere thanks you for giving me the chance to contribute my 10 cents.

Harvey Fish
Copyright 2003 Harvey Fish. All rights reserved. Used here by permission of Harvey Fish.

November 30, 2005 / by / in
View From Afar: Dust Myths …or A “Mite” Knowledgeable

I wrote in my last article here, regarding the uses of vapor steam cleaning, that one of the main uses I have for it is an anti-allergen service that we offer. Dust mites allergies, asthma, etc. has become a very popular subject of discussion and an advertising point for many carpet cleaners. Before starting the anti-allergen service, I looked indepth into the subject. The following are some of the misconceptions that are common amongst both customers and cleaners.

MYTH: I don’t have dust mites in my home because I have never seen even one.

FACT: Dust mites are very tiny. Up to 12 of them can fit onto a period at the end of a sentence. Their feces are the allergens that cause all the health problems and are, of course, much smaller.

MYTH: My home is so clean that there is no way I could have dust mites!

FACT: Every home has dust mites and the aim of sanitizing is not to completely eradicate the mites (this is impossible), but to lower them to below a certain point that is called a “trigger level”. That is the threshold at which all of these allergies, etc. can be kicked off.

Regular household cleaning is unlikely to lower the level of dust mites to below the trigger point. The best a consumer can do is use a HEPA {high-efficiency-particulate-arrestor} vacuum cleaner so as not to remove the dust out of the carpet/mattress/upholstery and then blow it back into the air. The HEPA vacuum has a series of filters that ensures that over 99% of dust remains inside the vacuum.

MYTH: Maybe the answer is to get rid of all the carpets in the home.

FACT: There are two points here.

First of all, there has to be a degree of moderation. If you were to remove all the things in a house that could contain dust mites you would end up living in a monk’s cell. Also there is a growing number of experts who believe that the advantages of removing carpeting is counter-balanced by the fact that the dust that lays on hard flooring is propelled into the air much more easily than from carpeting. However, carpeting needs to be regularly vacuumed by a HEPA vacuum as discussed above or with a Non-HEPA vacuum by somebody who does not suffer from asthma allergies etc.

Now we come to the professional carpet cleaning and the controversial question “Does
regular expert carpet cleaning help with this problem?” The answer is slightly more
complicated than a simple yes or no because you have to split the dust mite problem
into two parts.

Part one is the dust mite itself. The common house dust mite has eight legs, each leg has a sucker and hooks so is not easily dislodged and washed away by the normal carpet cleaning process and chemicals.

Part two is the dust mite’s feces (and as was said earlier they are the source of the illness causing allergens). A sticky substance holds the feces together and when dried out they crumble and are light enough to blow into the air, where they are subsequently inhaled.

Therefore, you can remove a certain percentage of the dust-mites and their waste product but again, it is questionable whether you can get it below that crucial level without the use of additional specialized products. There are different types of anti-allergen products that are derived from a variety of sources including:

tannic acid
fruit seeds

The one I personally use is Dustmitex for the following reasons. It is made from Boron; consequently, it is a totally natural powder. After dissolving with water, it is completely clear so when sprayed onto a fabric it does not stain. For me, it also has one other personal benefit. It is a powder and is much cheaper to transport (I hate shipping water half way round the world!). When it comes to dust mite treatment, very low moisture cleaning (VLM) has a big advantage over extraction or even straight shampooing. The wetter the environment the more the Dust mites flourish, so consequently, VLM systems do not give the dust mites time to thrive.

I also run a “stand alone” anti-allergen service that is mainly the sanitization of mattresses and pillows with a HEPA vacuum a steam-vapor machine and the Dustmitex.
There has been so much written recently about the tremendous increase in the number
of suffers with asthma and allergies that I can only see it being an expanding market for
the foreseeable future.

Harvey Fish Copyright 2003 Harvey Fish. All rights reserved. Used here by permission of Harvey Fish

November 30, 2005 / by / in
Cleaning In The Middle East

I hope this article, which offers a different aspect of conditions in our profession, will be of interest to you. It is from the point of view of someone living and working in the Middle Eastern country of Israel. Israel is a country of great contrasts. On one hand, many of the cleaning situations I have to deal with here seem somewhat “old world” in nature. On the other hand, Israel arguably has the most advanced Hi-Tech Industry outside of the US. I am operating my business in a country that is, at times literally a “war zone”.

My History In England

First, let me give you a little background history as to how a guy from the North of England ended up running a cleaning business in the North of Israel. It has been a combination of consciously made decisions together with blind circumstances pushing me in a given direction.

In England, I lived in Liverpool (of Beatles and soccer fame). I entered the carpet cleaning trade by a very round about way. A partner and I owned four small retail clothing stores. All of them were fully carpeted. So, my partner and I decided that it was worthwhile buying a small hot water extractor for us to clean the carpets with on a regular basis (today, of course, I think, “Thank goodness not too many other business owners (which are now my potential clients) feel that way too!”) We bought a small orange Trewax single motor extractor. The people who sold us the machine also offered a training course. So my partner and I flipped a coin and chance chose me to become “The Expert”.

I often think it is very strange how one’s future path can be ordained by something as mundane as to which side a circular piece of metal (a coin) falls.

As the retail business declined due to a recession in the United Kingdom economy, we looked for extra things to supplement our dwindling incomes. We concluded that it was a shame to have the carpet extractor sitting idle for three and a half weeks out of four and that we should put it to profitable use cleaning rugs for other people. Looking back, I am embarrassed to say how little we really knew about the technical side of carpet cleaning at that time, and even now, I am still learning so much.

The recession bit deeper and the Stores bit the proverbial “dust”. The cleaning side was still only a sideline so it was not yet profitable enough to support one family (never mind two). My wife Avril and I had always loved the sun and outdoor life, so we decided to take our fledgling family (two boys: Jason, 7 years old and Daniel, 2 years old at the time) to live in the city of Haifa in the north of Israel.

My History In Israel

I knew that I had had enough of retailing for two lifetimes and so even before we
emigrated, I had settled on the idea of maybe doing carpet cleaning out there. Shortly
after we arrived in Israel, I found out almost immediately how totally different many
things here were from England.

First of all, inflation in the UK was regarded as being high at nine percent. In Israel,
inflation was at an incredible rate of ONE THOUSAND PERCENT !! Can you can imagine trying to do business in a market where inflation was nearly one hundred percent per month? All prices where quoted in US Dollars and only exchanged to Shekels on the day of payment (in theory, anyway). I learned a lot of hard arithmetic and business lessons in those days. If you received your money even only a week late, it would lose twenty five percent of its value!

Today, I am pleased to say that inflation in Israel is more or less the same as it is in the United States or Europe.

The other main difference was that in Britain almost every home office and shop had
wall-to-wall carpeting throughout. In Israel at that time most homes had small area rugs
that were sent to the dry cleaners for cleaning and offices and shops where usually tiled.

I met an Irish guy who was doing commercial window cleaning in the center of the country and so added this as well to my list of services. Having somebody on a regular basis to clean windows was almost an “unknown thing” so I had to first sell the basic concept before I sold myself. Furthermore, my Hebrew was so poor at that stage that very often unless there was a “yes” or “no” in their answer, it was difficult to tell whether I had gotten the job or not.

Chance meetings with two fellow Englishmen helped to push me and my business forward.

The first one was with Tony Conroy who was head of the Cleaning and Maintenance Department for The Bahai World Center. The Bahai Religion is a world religion based in Haifa and they are a fascinating group of people. Anybody interested in reading about these people check out their web site at: www.bahai.org

Tony’s cleaning responsibilities ranged from antiquities to toilets and most stops in
between! He had a team of janitors who where composed of mainly volunteers who would stay with him for a maximum of one year. With only a few permanent staff members, he had to constantly retrain people. Amongst the Bahais collection of beautiful oriental carpets where some so delicate and valuable that when they required cleaning, they were sent to a company in France where they were placed over special racks and painstakingly cleaned “square inch by square inch” by girls using small camel hair brushes.

As this was pre-Internet days, Tony became my mentor and only true source of professional advice and information, as well as a close friend. He helped me out of more scrapes than I can count and I owe him a debt that can never be fully repaid.

The other fellow countryman who had a major influence on my progress, I met as I was moving (window cleaning pail in hand) up an escalator in a shopping mall. He was the manager of several branches in a nationwide chain of pharmacy stores. After cleaning his windows on a regular basis for a few months, he complained to me about the trouble he was having with his hard floor cleaning contractor.

I decided to take a gamble based on nothing but hope. There are no training schools in Israel for hard surface cleaning so I flew back to England and did a hard floor training course. I also read a lot of books and articles and drove Tony crazy with my questions.

Armed with a head filled with theory and with nearly zero practical experience, I drafted a “floor cleaning and polishing program” for the pharmacy company and was given one store to do. I will not bore you with the ups and downs of our initial problems of how theory and practice do not always match, but after a number of years we are now doing most of their stores in our area. Furthermore, over the years, wall-to-wall carpeting has become more popular in Israel and so we are starting to market our carpet cleaning services and are hopeful that we can attract a reasonable sized group of clientele.

My little company has grown now to include my eldest son, Jason who joined the firm after he finished his regular Army service and is now Works Manager. My wife, Avril, handles the accounting. They have helped greatly to not only advance the company, but to also raise the standard of our work considerably. I also have 8 or 9 part-time employees.

The Cleaning Industry

In Israel As I said at the beginning of this article, Israel, due to its history, geographical location, and population mix is an intriguing, annoying, tiring but never boring country. The main problem of working in the “field of cleaning” in Israel is the lack of availability of many basic items. For example, only black, red, and white floor buffing pads are available. If you ask for green pads, you are looked at blankly and asked why black or red are not suitable? I often find it frustrating to read on one of the forums I subscribe to about this or that chemical or tool that would suit me perfectly just to find it does not exist here. Part of the problem is the size of Israel’s population or rather, lack of it (approximately five million). An even bigger problem is the lack of professional education. This is not only true of the staff working where the “rubber hits the road” but also of the local distributors.

I often find that I know more about the use of a certain item than the folks selling it. It is not about my superb knowledge but rather their lack of it. It is a perfect example of the saying ” In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king”. As far as I know, there are no truck-mounted carpet cleaning systems here. Whether this has to do with the very high number of apartment dwellers, I do not know. I personally use a combination of extraction and spin bonnet cleaning. Our vacuum cleaner is a Holloway Power Brush. The majority of wall-to-wall carpeting here is glued down to the floors due to the fact that most floors are either tiled or made of concrete.

They have an interesting method here of getting the large quantities of dust and sand out of area rugs. They turn them over for a few days and the process of people walking over the back vibrates the grit and sand to the floor. I have adopted this method as well by vacuuming the back sometimes ten or twelve times. The amount of dust and sand that comes out can be incredible.

While the greater part of our work is fairly routine, we have had some “out of the ordinary” circumstances, like for instance, what happened during the Gulf War. As most of Sadam Hussein’s rocket attacks occurred during the evenings, we were advised to finish working by five in the afternoon. Furthermore, because of the threat of chemical warfare, every home had what was called a “sealed” room. On one particular occasion, I lost track of time and suddenly the air raid sirens started and I found myself in the sealed room with these total strangers!

We also clean the carpets for The American Sixth Fleet when it is in port. It is usually the Captain’s quarters and Officers mess that are carpeted and though they are usually not very big jobs, they are a welcome break from the routine.

Hopefully this has given you some idea of the working conditions out here. When I first came here, I wrote back to friend of mine in England that the standard equipment for cleaning floors was an old squeegee and floor cloth and that the state-of-the-art equipment was a “new” squeegee and floor cloth! :o)

Though things may have not changed as fast as I would have hoped for, there are small signs of progress. As an English speaker, I am lucky to be able to tap into the vast resources of the Internet. However, I believe that the best way forward is for the client to be educated in what is feasible and make this choice rather than them employing the services of a contractor who is satisfied to stay with the “low level” status of his service. If this “client education” can be accomplished, we will really start to see major progress here.

Anyone with questions, suggestions, or comments can contact me at: info@mediclean.co.il Harvey Fish

November 30, 2005 / by / in
View From Afar: Getting All Steamed Up!

Vapor steam as a cleaning agent has caused lots of controversy and has strong supporters as well as equally vocal detractors. Just to lay out my own position, I have worked with vapor steam now for a number of years and tend to fall between the two camps.

One of the problems with the reputation of steam vapor is that it has been and still is over-hyped. In a way, it is like the “Internet Bubble” that was promoted as the wonder solution for everything and when it was found lacking, the bubble burst. Similarly with vapor steam, because of the highly exaggerated claims that cannot possibly be achieved, the system’s many excellent features are discounted also.

The types of steam vapor machines available are as follows:

HANDHELD: For the professional, these are useless (toys, at best).

DOMESTIC: Go for top of the line! Make sure it has a variable pressure control. Some of the newer models have the excellent added feature of allowing you to add water at any point without having to stop working while it heats up.

INDUSTRIAL: These have much higher steam pressure and are usually used for heavier work like cleaning the inside of very greasy commercial ovens and industrial machinery .

I have two vapor steam cleaning machines. My Karcher 1500 is a high-end domestic model. However, it is more than adequate for most jobs. The water takes about ten minutes to heat up to 150c and the steam pressure can be altered from 3.2 to 5.7 bars.

My other machine is a Ghibli Vapor Vacuum. Both the temperature and steam pressure numbers are about the same as the Karcher. The main extras that the Ghibli has are the built-in wet-vac, a larger water tank, and a detergent feed option. It is, in general, a more commercial type of machine.

I have used steam vapor as an added tool for carpet and upholstery cleaning, floor polishing, and general cleaning. I have found that in each one of these fields, steam vapor performs certain tasks better, quicker, or more efficiently.


For example, in carpet cleaning, steam vapor is excellent at removing chewing gum. With a cloth attached to its steam nozzle head, it can clean carpet side panels. Furthermore, steam vapor is outstanding for stain removal and sanitizing carpets. [
However, as a “stand-alone” method of cleaning carpets, it is much too slow and does
not clean any better than the more conventional methods. ]

In floor polishing, I have used it combined with a small amount of stripper for
cleaning difficult to reach areas. The steam vapor seems to boost the stripper for cleaning dirt out from under shelves as well as for cleaning grout (though only in small
areas, as it is a bit too slow to use on large areas of grout).

For general cleaning, steam vapor is wonderful for “detail work”, again, giving access into crevices, edges, etc. Additionally, it wonderfully brings stainless steel back up “clean and shiny”. As with most tools, there are dangers. For example: the paint or thin plastic coating that is often used to cover and protect metal can bubble if you leave the steam vapor aimed at the same spot for too long. Using steam vapor is mainly a common sense type of thing. I have also found it woks great for keeping my other carpet and floor cleaning
equipment clean. That alone almost makes its purchase worthwhile! :o)

I recently got a chance to quote a job for sanitizing the galleys on a cruise ship. The
galleys where, by and large, in good shape. The problem they had was with things like
cleaning out the edges between stainless steel trims (you this find on dish washers, ovens), cleaning behind handles, cleaning out the channels on ridged surfaces, etc. The
ship’s Director of Catering was blown away by the results and wanted us to start ASAP.
The problems came of course from the ship’s Director of Finance, who, in these recession biting times, does not want to pay out any money! The negotiations continue…

As I wrote in one of my recent postings, I have started a new side to my business with
an anti-allergen service (aimed at people with asthma, allergies or eczema) in which my
vapor steam machine plays a major part. I use it together with a HEPA vacuum cleaner
and a natural Boron spray liquid that neutralizes the dust mite’s feces (the element that
does all of the health damage). In conclusion, I think that a vapor steam machine is a very useful addition to anyone’s carpet cleaning arsonal. I am also sure, with the ingenuity shown by members of this and other forums, when vapor steam finds more general acceptance, other applications will be discovered for the system.

Harvey Fish

November 30, 2005 / by / in
View From Afar: Setting Up An Ad

Before you can get to the fun part of designing your own flier (playing with the image editor!) you have to do the “bread and butter” part of working out the basics. Such as:

A) What size leaflet?

B) How many colors?

C) What style headline do you want?

D) Which graphics do you want to include?

E) The bells and whistles. What Size Leaflet?

Basically, there are two regular sizes if you want to print your own fliers. They are A4 or A5.

A4 is the standard paper size for a PC printer and A5 is A4 folded in half. I personally think that A5 is the better size for fliers because,

#1) it is a more comfortable size for the customer to handle.
#2) it fits into mailboxes easier.
#3) it is much cheaper to produce.

How Many Colors?

Here, I am not talking about colors in graphics (where, usually, full color is best). I am referring to “text colors”.

Two colors are the most effective and the easiest to take in. If you use more than two colors, your customers will not find it comfortable to read. Although, what you can do is this (if, for example, the paper you are printing on is white and the text is in blue and red): You can create a block of red or blue and have a “cut-out” so that the letters are white. [Editor’s note: This style of lettering is commonly referred to as “knock out”]

What Style Of Headline Do You Want?

Nearly all of the many articles I have read about advertising or marketing emphasize the paramount importance of the “headline” in an advert. This headline can be short (e.g. “Where’s the beef!”) or long (e.g. “The loudest noise you will hear inside a Rolls Royce traveling down the road at sixty miles an hour is the ticking of the clock.”).

Both of these headlines are from very successful ad campaigns. A headline can be provocative, humorous, or just informative, but it has to be “eye catching” and carry the reader forward to the next part of the ad. The name of your company IS NOT a headline! Even Coca-Cola and McDonalds do not use their name as the headline in their advertising.

Which Graphics Should I Include?

A one page, one side flyer only needs one picture or graphic. This graphic can be a picture of a beautifully clean carpet in an ideal setting or if you have a humorous headline, it can “tie in” with that headline or a “before & after” set of photos. (Ok! I know I said, “use one picture”, but a before & after photo set may be counted as “one photo”, if you so desire!)

In my opinion, you do not want a picture of “yourself” cleaning the carpet. In the minds
of those viewing your ad, your picture being there is an “inconvenience”, no matter how
hard you try for it to be any other way. Potential clients just want to see your results. I have often seen a picture first. Soon after, that picture will have given me an idea for
the headline of a flier or poster.

The Bells And Whistles.

One of the most enjoyable things about many image-editing programs is their ability to
“filter” images. Image-filters are the effects that I spoke about in my previous article.

Effects like:
#1) “drop shadow”
#2) “solid lettering page curls”
#3) “feathering”, and many, many more are possible.

They can add a certain “life” to your work and can be used to emphasize the areas of your ad that you want to bring to the reader’s attention. Conversely, it is very important
to remember not to use image-filtering effects too much! Too many image-filtering effects can distract your viewer.

Take a good look at professional advertising and you will notice just how careful use of
this “bag of tricks” gives a more interesting overall appearance. You would be surprised
to know how many of the effects you see in these ads, you can easily create yourself!

In Conclusion…

If there are two things I know about potential customers, it is this:

#1) All customers (it does not matter if they are residential or commercial) have one interest only: “What’s in it for me!”

#2) They are all short on time!

Every day, we are totally inundated with information. It is estimated that we receive upwards of twenty times the amount of information that we did thirty years ago and thus, “standing out in the crowd”, is only that much harder. You, quite literally, have only a few seconds to catch the attention of your reader! This can only be done with a clearly laid out ad with all your “benefits” very clearly stated.

All of the things I have written here are based solely on what I have learned over the years and what I have read on the Internet, in books and magazines, etc. My personal experience in the advertising industry was selling it the far distant past.

I have found an excellent freeware image editor called: GIMP. In the next issue, we will use it to build a flyer!

Harvey Fish

November 30, 2005 / by / in
Lonnie’s Place: Image Is Everything

This time in Lonnie’s Place, I thought we would briefly cover the topic of “image”. Image, you say? Yes, image (the downfall of many carpet cleaners). We will start with a quick inventory:

1. Your vehicle.
2. Your personal appearance.
3. Your equipment.
4. Your work.
5. Your invoices.
6. Your advertisements.
7. Your client relations.

There are more things we could cover, but this is a good start.

1. Your vehicle:

Your vehicle is the first impression that many people have of you. It should be kept cleaned and waxed. The inside should be neat and organized. It should have some form of professional lettering and/or advertisement on its sides. It should also be free of any dents and in good repair. Your vehicle sends both a visual and a subconscious image to the client of the type of job you will most likely perform.

2. Your personal appearance:

The old saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression!” is true. Body odor, bad hygiene, and unpressed clothes are big mistakes. A clean, pressed uniform displaying your name and some certifications go along way towards putting a new client’s fears to rest. New clients fear “the unknown”; we are an unknown factor to them.

3. Your equipment:

Your equipment is your livelihood. It should always be kept clean, shiny, and in good repair. A dirty or broken piece of equipment (due to lack of proper maintenance) projects a very bad image in the client’s home. The client will also judge you by what you bring into their home, so let that judgement be a positive one.

4. Your work:

The quality of your work speaks volumes! Do not “cut corners” (clean them instead!). Wipe down the baseboards and the backs of furniture and inform the client that you do this because you care. When you start the job, be organized. When you finish the job, walk the client back through for their final approval.

5. Your invoices:

You are a professional. Use a professional looking invoice with your company’s name, phone number, and physical address (NOT a P.O. Box!). A P.O. Box can lead new clients to think you are not an established, trustworthy company.

6. Your advertisements:

Your ads should always be in good taste. Likewise using a consistent “theme” that runs through all of your marketing material is a very good idea. By “consistent”, I mean (for instance), if you have a sign on your vehicle that shows a picture of a Chemstractor, then it is a good idea to have that image as part of your other advertisements. This allows people to recognize you quickly.

7. Client relations:

This is “the big one”. How you interact with your client is absolutely critical! For example, by showing concern for the areas they are concerned with and by following up with a walk-through to check those areas with them, shows that you do indeed care about their concerns. You really need to do this. Make that client a “cheerleader” for you! I know you can do it; make them love you!

I know there is so much more to building a “World Class” image than just these points, alone. However, I believe that thinking and executing on them will dramatically improve your image.

Lonnie McDonald
LMCCA Director
President/CEO of LeatherPro
Integrity Carpet Cleaning Inc.

November 30, 2005 / by / in
Lonnie’s Place: IICRC METHODS TESTING (Part 2)

Good to be here. I find it therapeutic to sit and write to people, who live and breathe VLM, as I do. Well, as promised, I am penning you the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say. The IICRC met in Portland, Oregon where I had the pleasure of dining with our very own Gary Heacock. The meeting was the semi-annual Certification Board Meeting. Many things were discussed but the things that concern us the most are the use of the IICRC “testing protocol” or shall I say, the lack of it. You may ask, “The lack of it?”

Yes, as you may recall from the first part of this article (Click HERE it read it.), I noted that the IICRC testing protocol has the ability to define, in very specific terms, exactly what is and what is not, “restorative” cleaning. Well I am very sad to report that I saw no indication that this would happen other than the mentioning of the IICRC Tasting Protocol as having this ability but that it was not designed for that purpose.

To take it one step further; in a meeting, I suggested that this should be the case and that any definition of clean must carry with it a percentage of Delta E value as defined in the IICRC Testing Protocol. Furthermore, all references to high water flow or low moisture should be eliminated thus giving any method the chance to be defined as a “restorative method”. I was summarily dismissed by the Chairperson and told that “things were a much worse before this revision”. By worse, he meant that the definitions stated that only HWE was restorative.

In my opinion, it only makes sense, in an industry where we measure soil removal by the micron (in vacuuming), that any method of fiber cleaning should be measured and defined more scientifically than, “Oh, a bunch of us got together and decided that only HWE was restorative.” What an injustice this is to caring people like Tom Hill and others who pushed this idea through in spite of the threats that came their way.

How can the IICRC be so near sighted that it will not use the very tool that it created? I am shocked and dismayed by this attitude. I have polled others at the meeting and the common theme is that, it is the HWE proponents that are keeping the definitions from being adequately defined. Most agreed that, a percentage system off the IICRC Testing Protocol might be more accurate and ultimately fairer in determining if a particular method is indeed “restorative”.

I enjoy my involvement in the IICRC and have met many within the organization that I call my friends. Nevertheless, the facts are still the facts. I shall forever oppose those who cannot produce “measurable proof” that one method is restorative and another is not. It is my opinion that ALL methods can be restorative. Any definition that does not include a measurement is, at best, just an opinion. Furthermore, relying on opinions, instead of hard scientific data, is an unacceptable way for the IICRC to define a method and its cleaning potential.

As for the “Well, this is a lot better than it used to be.” attitude that I received at one IICRC meeting, that makes about as much sense as using a pipe-wrench on a bolt (stripping it) when you should have used the correct tool in the first place! We have the correct tool (IICRC Testing Protocol). So, why isn’t it being used in determining the new S100 Standard?

As you can probably tell, I am very disappointed that the current political climate of the IICRC is not allowing any real progress to take place. Perhaps, in time, the IICRC Testing Protocol will be more completely integrated into the system.

Lonnie McDonald
LMCCA Director President/CEO of LeatherPro
Integrity Carpet Cleaning Inc.
By Lonnie McDonald Pesident of:
LeatherPro and Integrity Carpet Cleaning, Inc.

November 30, 2005 / by / in

Its History and Its Future

The IICRC has been developing METHODS TESTING for several years. In my next two articles, I will cover the history and the future of the IICRC’s Method Testing Protocols. Before I begin, I would like to thank Mark Stanley for inviting me to be a staff writer, it is a task that I do not take lightly and hope that you, the readers, will enjoy and benefit from as I pen each issue’s article.

The best information that I have acquired to this point shows that methods testing started in the 198Os with the goals of:

A) bringing a more concise scientific approach to carpet cleaning,

B) creating a system for testing the results of each method verses the long approved “we-think-this-is-the-best-way-to-clean” approach that left many methods singing the blues. The idea was ground-breaking and met with resistance as all the “we’ve-never-done-that-before” and the “Hey!-that-might-make-my-method-look-bad” or “that-might-make-another-method-equal-to-mine” voices chimed in.

The Methods Testing Protocol pressed on, dispite the opposition, largely due to the efforts of Tom Hill as well as other talented people at the IICRC.

To say, this was a large task is an understatement. How do you come up with a protocol that is fair to everyone? Think about it for a moment. You would have to clean a carpet that was the same age, the same type, had the same soil conditions, and realistically, the soil in the carpet should also be of the same age. The list goes on and on. Will the Methods Testing Protocol be 100% perfect? I doubt it, but it will certainly be better than the hearsay that tends to run-a-muck throughout our industry.

Some Details:

An independent laboratory does the testing and the approximate cost is $1800.00. For that fee, you can test the effectiveness of numerous things. One item in particular that caught my attention about methods testing this way was the possibility of setting a standard for “restorative cleaning”. This standard would say: “You must have X amount of soil removal and have Y amount of an increase in light reflection for any cleaning method to be classified as restorative”. The testing variables are naturally more complex than this, but for our purposes, I have simplified them this way.

Presently, Methods Testing is currently not formatted with the goal of determining which method is best, but this possibility certainly does exist. What do we do with this information once it is compiled? I believe it is inevitable that ALL methods will eventually be tested and guidelines set concerning what is “restorative” cleaning and what is “maintenance” cleaning. Wouldn’t it just blow everyone’s mind if VLM methods proved to be restorative by the IICRC’s very own Methods Testing Protocols?

The IICRC is summarizing the Methods Testing Protocol at this autumn’s meeting of the Certification Board. This meeting is set for October 14, 2001 and I have been invited by Tom Hill to be a guest. Should my schedule allow, I will make the trip and hear the results. I can tell you that what I have heard so far has been very positive and I look forward to the practical application of these protocols in the future.

Lonnie McDonald
LMCCA Director
President/CEO of LeatherPro Integrity Carpet Cleaning Inc.

November 30, 2005 / by / in