A Wand by Any Other Name

November 6, 2001
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Victor Lafleur, a technician for Carbone's Carpets in Scotia, NY, pushes a wand on a domestic Oriental.
When cleaners look for new equipment, they may find themselves overwhelmed by the variety of tools available to them. In the world of wands and upholstery tools, the variety is both head spinning and calming. There's something for every category of cleaning. It's all a matter of selecting the right piece of equipment for your specific needs.

"The biggest thing to look for," says Glen Wilson, product manager, Prochem (www.prochem.com), Chandler, Ariz., "is quality and durability in a wand. Moving them in and out of your truck, they're going to get bent up. A wand is something you're going to be using everyday, so it's not something you should skimp on because you're not going to save yourself any money" in the long run.

Things to consider before buying
If you're considering the purchase of a new wand or upholstery tools, it's important to know the primary use of the tool, whether it's for commercial or residential use. Also, the wand's weight and length are important factors, though most have adjustable handles that allow technicians to maintain an upright working position, thus eliminating back problems.

The double bend feature also enables techs to work more efficiently in that many pieces of furniture with 6-plus inches of clearance will no longer need to be moved.

Basically, the types of wands available are: Carpet wands, furniture tools, stair tools, crevice/air filtration, drapery tools, detailers and hard floor tools.

"Most cleaners use the wand that comes with their truckmount or portable," says Taf Baig, president, Magic Wand Co. (www.magicwandco.com), Warrenville, Ill. "Being creatures of habit, we get used to the wand that we used first. Over time, carpet cleaners get fatigued. So, they need to look at something that reduces fatigue. That may be the time to look at lightweight wands, such as the glide wand."

The need for speed
Cleaners also want a wand or upholstery tool that helps them to complete the job quickly, and completely. If a cleaner uses a system that produces lots of heat and vacuum, such as in a truckmount system, they're well set to do quality work. A good power tool should fit the bill.

However, if they're using a portable and are lacking in heat and vacuum, a power tool also would work by adding stronger agitation into the mix.

"It's either using a rotary extractor (for higher heat and vacuum), or using more chemicals. This is not preferred, however," says Bill Jensen, national sales manager, Hydramaster Corp. (www.hydramaster.com), Mukilteo, Wash. "Chemicals are usually a compensation for using a portable to make up the difference in less heat and vacuum. Or spending more time in getting the job done."

According to Jensen, rotary extractors "take the labor out of the equation." He believes that the next wave of wands will be those that "leave carpets drier than ever; they'll be very low moisture (VLM), or even dry foam. The next wave of extraction wands and rotary power heads will be VLM."

Baig says he received a call from a customer who uses a portable. He read in Magic Wand literature about the RX-20 power extractor, and thought he'd need it to clean dirty carpet. However, because he used a 10-gallon portable, Baig steered his customer in another direction.

"What he needed was a tool to replace the lack of heat, vacuum and water," explains Baig. "I suggested a brush wand because it'll give him the agitation he needs to do a better job. He loves his machine and doesn't want to move to a hotter truckmount or a portable with a better vacuum. Since he had a portable with enough heat, a brush wand was what he needed because it introduced agitation, which he needed."

On the other hand, a cleaner who uses a truckmount and has gobs of heat and vacuum at his disposal might want a brush wand. "But, I'd tell him he didn't need it," continues Baig. "He'd need an RX-20 because it would work better in his situation. Every situation is different."

A 3-jet truckmount wand is used as an in-plant tool.
Width, Weight and Tube Size
Most wands are about 12-inches wide. They are generally made of steel, and weigh in at between 10- and 12-pounds. Very few are made of aluminum, and even fewer of titanium. The material is an important consideration for cleaners in the market for a new wand. If it's made of stainless steel, the wand's longevity is almost lifetime. An aluminum wand is usually a thicker gauge metal, making it more unwieldy. The problem with aluminum, says Baig, is its propensity to be corroded by chemicals.

HydraMaster's Jensen said wands are differentiated by shape, head size (anywhere from 10 inches up to 14- or even 16-inches) or the number of jets used.

"We have a lot of people who prefer an 11-inch wand because they can move it around a bathroom more readily," Jensen says. "It all depends on what you're doing. Overseas, the work is more commercial, so they prefer a wider wand; in a home a wider wand isn't so easy to use around furniture."

In a nutshell, truckmount wands are usually considered when high heat is discussed. But, the greatest heat loss is at the wand head: The more the distance between the jet and carpet, the greater the heat loss. This explains why a single-jet wand is cooler when the spray reaches the carpet.

According to Prochem's Wilson, his company viewed just that as a consideration in developing "tri" and "quad" jet heads. Cleaning professionals, he says, understand that hot water cleans better, requires less scrubbing and dries faster.

All agree, however, that the number of jets a wand uses determines its best use. Cleaners should know their cleaning goals and the system they use when making a purchasing decision on how many jets a wand uses.

Ed Starsiak brushes out a domestic Oriental as his partner at Carbone's Carpets, Scotia, NY, Victor Lafleur, uses a Butler System truckmount wand to get the cleaning job done.
Time to Buy
The manufacturers we interviewed for this article all agreed that size, weight, number of jets, even head and tube size, are all a matter of personal preference. Cleaners use what they're comfortable with, and may consider other aspects such as those just outlined when purchasing a new wand.

Ease of use is equally important. All three agree that it's important that they listen to their customers, which often leads to incorporating new design elements in their products, all generated through real world, carpet cleaner use.

"If a cleaner is looking to reduce fatigue, look for a lightweight wand," says Magic Wand's Baig. "If they're looking for speed on dirty carpets and they have heat and vacuum, the RX-20 is what they need. If their machine lacks heat and vacuum, look at brush wands. If the cleaner is attached their heavier wands, look to wheel kits to eliminate fatigue."

Prochem's Wilson believes that cleaners have a formulaic approach to their purchasing needs. He suggests they continue to do just that: Visit their local dealer and "grab a couple wands and pick the one that feels the most comfortable to them."

According to Jensen, a wand is a "personal item," whether the cleaner works in a commercial or residential setting. "Comfort is a big factor in making that purchasing decision," he says. "I think the trigger is important; where it's located and the reach to it. The same with upholstery tools. Get a wand that's comfortable to use. That's the main thing. Cleaning a carpet with a scrub wand is hard work. It's like hoeing a field. You need to get one that's comfortable and easy to use, and that does a good job of extraction."

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