Dry & Very Low Moisture Cleaning Systems: A Comparison of Methods

How is one system judged “better” than another? By user preference and specific needs. In an effort to help you better understand how the diverse cleaning systems vary in method and usage, we sent questionnaires to several manufacturers.

It’s come to be known as one of the cleaning industry’s oldest arguments: hot water extraction vs. pads; dry vs. low moisture; foam vs. dry compound; and so on. How is one system judged “better” than another? By user preference and specific needs.

In an effort to help you better understand how the diverse cleaning systems vary in method and usage, we sent questionnaires to several manufacturers. Their answers just may help put some of the arguments to rest.

For your convenience, a directory of manufacturers for the various units follows.


Q. How do you describe your system?

A. Very Low Moisture (VLM) and Oscillating Pad (OP). There are many different methods included here, but they have differing cleaning abilities and are quite different in application as well. Dry compounds are totally different along with foam, however bonnet and pad cleaning are similar. Although similar, they achieve differing results. Bonnets, which are used with rotary machines, are usually heavy cotton mop type bonnets; while OP is used with cotton terry cloth pads and an oscillating floor machine. The oscillating floor machines and cotton pads do a deeper cleaning of the carpets, especially in the residential setting. They also remove more soil.

Many of our customers describe us as “dry” cleaners, but we never make that claim. If they have used hot water extraction (HWE) in the past, they see us as dry cleaners.


Q. When was this method first introduced?

A. Oscillating Pads have been around for many years, we started with them in 1974 and perfected an OP machine to use with Argosheen and cotton terry cloth towels. In the beginning, we used pads made from bathmats from prisons, Holiday Inn, etc., and wherever we could get terry cloth material. I believe Argo and Company first came out with the idea. They started by producing Argosheen in the 40s, using cotton mops in the 50s, moved onto bonnets in the 60s, and finally in the 80s produced an orbital machine of their own.


Q. What sparked the idea to develop this method?

A. Actually it was the results we were achieving and the comments from our customers. They are the ones who drove us to perfect and enhance this method. Their comments were “Never having their carpets look so good,” or “Our carpets never stayed clean so long.” We were thought of as “surface cleaners” for many years by the HWE crowd, and it wasn’t until many of them started using this method to aid in cleaning commercial carpet to stop wick-backs that they began to understand just how well and deep the OP method cleans. Many use both methods with each other. Some truck mount users have even sold their units in favor of using the OP method. Others now use OP whenever they clean above the first floor of a building.

Granted the most important components in carpet cleaning are the operator, their ability, and their “desire” to do the best for their customers. Whether hot water extraction, bonnet or OP, without the effort, knowledge and desire of the operator, the carpets would not be cleaned as they should be.


Q. How does your system work?

A. We begin by vacuuming the carpet, then spraying a product like Argosheen or Procyon on the carpet. Placing heavy-duty cotton terry pads on the carpet follows this, and then our oscillating floor machine drives them. The cotton pads pick up the soil and you use as many pads as are needed to complete a thorough deep cleaning of the carpet. Then the carpet is vacuumed again while still damp, which is part of the grooming. In approximately an hour, it’s ready to use. The pads are then taken home and washed where the dirt goes down the drain.

The cleaner releases the soil, grease, and etc. from the carpet, and the cotton terry cloth pads pick up the soil. The fibers are wiped clean, but because of the oscillation, they don’t just pick the dirt up from the surface but deep down in the pile as well. The agitation aids greatly in removing spots and stains. It also vibrates to the surface particulate matter that has been held down in the pile by the matting of the fibers. The vacuuming afterward picks up the particulates that may have been vibrated to the surface out of matted carpet, i.e. sand, grit, old dry cleaning particulates, or hair, plus it grooms the carpet.

Furniture may be set right back on the clean carpet without the need for blocks or foil; it’s just damp and too dry for the furniture to leave stains. The only exception may be the very red mahogany or red cherry furniture.


Q. What are its advantages?

  • Quick drying time, which can actually be from 15 minutes – 11/2 hours on the really nasty carpets.
  • Safe chemicals.
  • Doesn’t take much room to store in your van or truck.
  • Carpets stay clean longer.
  • No wick-backs.
  • During the winter, there are no risks to going cleaning at 40 below zero, and there isn’t a machine in the truck to freeze.
  • You can carry everything you need into the home.
  • No truck doors or house doors that need to be left open, which is especially important on night commercial jobs.
  • There is virtually no set-up time with OP cleaning.
  • Many also can charge more for OP cleaning. Because of the quick drying advantages, many customers are willing to pay a premium.
  • It takes very little training to do professional quality work with the OP method. A person can literally clean their own carpets for training and go out and do professional work the next day.
  • It is quiet and you can do cleaning on many commercial jobs while people are working, which equates to less night work.
  • OPing is very economical, not only in the initial cost of equipment, but the chemical usage is also inexpensive.


Q. What additional equipment would a carpet cleaner need to fully realize the potential of this method?

A. We use the CCS Oscillator, a Powr-Flite vacuum, a Sears two-gallon stainless steel sprayer, a glider pack, the Argosheen or whatever cleaning product, cotton terry pads, and an oscillating stair cleaner. Nothing else is needed to do a complete, quality deep cleaning carpet cleaning job.

If a person wanted to enter the carpet-cleaning field, they could be set up with all the required equipment for less than $3,500.

If a hot water extraction cleaner wanted to add this tool to their arsenal, then they could purchase the equipment and pads for approximately $2,000-$2,100.

As you can see, not only is the OP method effective for cleaning commercial and residential carpets, it’s also economical.


Q. How do you dispel the myths and misconceptions surrounding this method of cleaning?

A. Actually, just being VLM offers you a niche market. There are so many unsatisfied customers out there that have had hot water extraction and were very disappointed with the results.

As far as dispelling myths, i.e. “surface cleaner,” we go out regularly and prove the method. We take jobs that others would walk away from just to prove the quality of VLM cleaning. Virtually every customer we have used to use hot water extraction. They have stayed with us year after year, and became our cheerleaders, thus making us a repeat customer and referral company. This is probably the firmest base for any carpet cleaning company. When your customers are the ones referring you and touting your great work and craftsmanship, then you will grow and succeed. Your customer list grows at an accelerated rate every year, and your cost of marketing becomes nil or very small. This simply means more money in your pocket and less expenses.

I have not seen nor heard of anyone using the OP method that has not liked it, nor enjoyed employing it in his or her carpet cleaning business. Customers readily accept the different method because of its advantages. Any myths or misconceptions out there aren’t held by anyone who has utilized this method as either a stand-alone or as an added tool to their cleaning arsenal.


Q. Is there anything you would like to add that you feel would benefit ICS readers?

A. VLM or OP has come of age with hot water extraction operators as well. While often used for aiding in eliminating wick-backs, quick drying the carpets, and removing additional soils, it gives hot water extraction guys an alternative to pulling hoses upstairs, or having to leave a building door open on a night job.

If two workers are on a truck doing residential both methods can be employed, the OP will clean the basement or commercial type carpets quicker and easier and the other tech can clean with the wand upstairs. If you are selling your cleaning and not your method, then this isn’t even questioned by the customers.

On commercial jobs, both can be employed as well. OPing the traffic lanes will help remove heavy traffic patterns, plus allow those areas to be dry quicker; thus enabling the company to utilize the carpet sooner. With both methods on the job, the stains that were liquids can be OP’ed quickly to eliminate the wick-backs.

One example of how well VLM cleaning does is our local country club that had used six different area hot water extraction cleaners. Within two weeks of cleaning, the carpets looked terrible. They kept trying different cleaners with the same results. We have been cleaning those carpets now for two years. Our first visit was lengthy, and we used a lot of pads. But, we got out what the other cleaners had left behind.

From then on, it took about half as many pads, we clean them every three months now and the carpets stay looking nice. The manager keeps trying to push for four-month intervals now, but we insist that if he wants the carpet to stay “new” looking, then he needs to stay on top of it and have it cleaned every three months like we suggested.


Q. How do you describe your system?

A. We refer to both our LMX Carpet Extraction System and the MACH-12 High Speed Carpet Extraction System as low moisture extraction systems. When first introduced, they were referred to as dry foam extraction systems but we have moved away from using this terminology because of some perceived negative connotations and/or confusion with dry cleaning processes.


Q. When was this method first introduced?

A. The Von Schrader Co. began its manufacturing history with a unique dry foam carpet extraction cleaning system called “the Rug Washer” in 1935. Cleaning right down to the bottom of the carpet and fast drying times were early Von Schrader guarantees.


Q. What sparked the idea to develop this method?

A. Von Schrader Co. heritage begins with an enterprising young man named Francis Von Schrader. He left his position with a nationally known company in the electric appliance field to pursue a goal of “helping people find ways to help themselves” and started the Von Schrader Co. with a shoestring investment. His company helped pioneer the on-location cleaning industry.


Q. How does your system work?

A. Our equipment applies low moisture cleaning solution with an exclusive full-bristle brush that effectively lifts the pile all the way to the base of the carpet. The emulsified soil is then immediately extracted with a powerful built-in vacuum—all in one forward pass by one person.


Q. What are its advantages?

  • Fast drying, usually in about an hour. Minimizes downtime—especially critical in institutions and other areas that may experience traffic 24 hours per day.
  • Safe, easy-to-understand and easy-to-operate. The lightweight, compact and portable equipment results in less user fatigue.
  • Faster production rates (sq. ft./hour) result in less labor hours expended and substantial labor cost savings realized.


Q. What additional equipment would a carpet cleaner need to fully realize the potential of this method?

A. Most definitely our Esprit Low Moisture Upholstery Extraction System, which is designed to safely clean virtually all upholstery fabrics—including leather—and can also be used to clean stairways, carpeted areas where maneuvering space is limited, fabric-covered walls and partitions, and automobile seats and interiors.


Q. How do you dispel the myths and misconceptions surrounding this method of cleaning?

A. Hot water extraction has many avid adherents who feel that theirs is the “only” effective method for carpet extraction cleaning. Even though independent testing has proven otherwise, it is difficult to convince them that there are alternative methods that will also effectively extraction clean carpets—without all the negatives that could result with excessive use of water.


Q. Is there anything you would like to add that you feel would benefit ICS readers?

A. The rising cost of labor is making any productivity-enhancing technology more attractive. With more consideration being given to regular schedules of frequent and selective appearance cleaning, cleaning professionals and facility management, increasingly, are looking to more efficient cleaning equipment and supplies. This certainly holds true when it comes to carpet and upholstery extraction cleaning.


Q. How do you describe your system?

A. HOST is best known as dry extraction because: 1.) The carpet is dry when you finish; and 2.) Dirt is absorbed by the cleaning product and extracted by vacuuming. However, it is also accurate to refer to HOST as a low moisture method.


Q. When was this method first introduced?

A. Racine Industries, Inc. introduced this method in 1938. There have been many changes and improvements since then. These changes were always made in conjunction with improvements and new developments in the way carpets are constructed.


Q. What sparked the idea to develop this method?

A. When wall-to-wall carpet was introduced, there was not a very effective way to clean it on location. Many carpets were wool or acrylic, so using large amounts of water and soap or shampoo would have caused problems. The downtime was also a factor. Harry Rench invented a forerunner of the HOST system to solve this problem.

HOST/Racine Industries invented dry extraction carpet cleaning. Early in the company’s history (prior to WWII), a joint venture was formed with a large carpet mill to market founder Rench’s dry cleaning invention. Thus, the mindset of the company historically has been as “carpet people.” That is, we understand carpet’s construction and characteristics, and therefore we design and engineer products and equipment to enhance and prolong its life.


Q. How does your system work?

A. The HOST System, as we know it today, grew out of what Rench learned through research and through making his early products: Keep the carpet as dry as possible, keep “control” of the cleaning agents (and the dirt!), and extract the dirt at the end of the process. Along the way HOST also developed the first synthetic detergents used in the USA.

The much-improved modern system features the extractorVAC™ carpet cleaning machines and HOST cleaner, called Sponges. The Sponges cleaner is soft, natural, “environmentally friendly” (not dusty), moistened with water, detergents and a small amount of safe solvent. The machine’s brushes work the Sponges through the carpet, dissolving and absorbing dirt and grease from the carpet fibers. Vacuuming performs the extraction—at the touch of a button. The result is beautifully clean, dry carpet! HOST is very easy to use and safe for people, pets and the carpet. It’s used commercially in facilities worldwide by in-house maintenance staff, building service contractors and professional carpet cleaners. Many carpet manufacturers recommend HOST to care for their products.


Q. What are its advantages?

A. Because little moisture is used, soiled areas such as traffic lanes can be cleaned and blended into the rest of the carpet without watermarks. Areas don’t have to be taken out of service for cleaning and there is no downtime, so it’s ideal for busy facilities. Low moisture content makes HOST an excellent choice for cleaning in humid climates, or wherever a short drying time is preferred.

Scientific research proves HOST dry extraction carpet cleaning removes dust mite and cat allergen and mold and reduces bacteria dramatically. This helps promote more healthful indoor environments.

Our equipment also lifts carpet pile as it cleans.


Q. What additional equipment would a carpet cleaner need to fully realize the potential of this method?

A. A cleaner who cleans primarily residences would benefit from owning the Freestyle® machine which brushes in the cleaner and vacuums it up again. The Freestyle is portable and physically easy to use, and maneuvers well in and around furnishings.

Commercial cleaners would want to have a Liberator® machine. This is a self-contained unit that performs all the key carpet care functions at the flick of a switch. This machine deep power vacuums, lifts pile and area cleans in one pass though a building. The labor savings are huge. For facilities with heavy traffic, the dry soil removal capabilities of this machine are “off the charts,” as one user commented.


Q. How do you dispel the myths and misconceptions surrounding this method of cleaning?

A. Two things need to be cleared up! People are always saying that HOST is solvent based. That is untrue. Our cleaning formula contains water, detergents and a small amount of cleaning solvent, just like most other cleaning products for carpet.

The other is that because the system is unique, people seem skeptical about its effectiveness. When cleaners give our new equipment a try, they are nearly always impressed, and many add the system to the array of cleaning services they offer.

Sidebar: Multiple Methods--One Cleaner’s Thoughts

Gary R. Heacock of Heacock’s Custom Cleaning, Portland, OR.

Actually, no system is “best.” Each system is better under certain circumstances, so it’s wise to have more than one system in my opinion. This option gives you, the professional, the opportunity of choosing which is better for this particular job, this time, and under these circumstances. It is not, and should not be up to the customer to select which system is used because they don’t have the knowledge and experience to know the real difference between the systems.

There have been many situations where more than one system used at the same time is best!

Recently, I had scheduled a job that included a filthy, trashed out condo. I would have turned the job down if it weren't for an old, long-standing customer.

Primarily, the price was right, and since I had no other work scheduled, I went ahead and did the job. First, Turbo Steam, followed by the Chemstractor connected to the truck mount, followed by bonneting with dry cotton bonnets.

The carpet looked (almost) brand new, and the filter in my truck mount was filled with crud.

Here’s the point: Any single system would never have done the job.

Guide to Manufacturers

Dry/Very Low Moisture (VLM) Manufacturers Directory


America’s Preferred, Inc.
3000 W. MacArthur Blvd., Ste. 212
Santa Ana, CA 92704
Phone: (800) DRY-CARPET
Internet: www.swedry.com

Carpet Care Systems
82 Wildwood Drive
Versailles, KY 40383
Phone: (859) 873-0273
Internet: www.geurkink.com/ccs

Chem Max Corp.
6479 Norton Center Dr.
Norton Shores, MI 49441
Phone: (800) 858-7237

3240 Benchmark Dr.
Ladson, SC 29456
Phone: (843) 553-6200

501 Alvina Ln.
Cincinnati, OH 45255
Phone: (513) 528-4399
Internet: www.drymax.com

Host/Racine Industries
1405 16th St.
Racine, WI 53403
Phone: (800) 558-9439
Internet: www.hostcarpetcleaning.com

HydraMaster Corp.
11015 47th Ave. W.
Mukilteo, WA 98275
Phone: (800) 426-1301
Internet: www.hydramaster.com

Jalor Industries, Inc.
P.O. Box 445
Kulpsville, PA 19443
Phone: (800) 962-5010
Internet: www.carpetmate.com

Just Rite Cleaning Products
5700 Riverview Dr.
Lisle, IL 60532
Phone: (708) 964-6333

Kleenrite Inc.
2727 Girard Blvd. N.E.
Albuquerque, NM 87107
Phone: (505) 888-3100

920 Milliken Rd.
Spartanburg, SC 29303
Phone (864) 503-2531

325 S. Price Rd.
Chandler, AZ 85224
Phone: (800) 776-2436
Internet: www.prochem.com

Von Schrader Co.
1600 Junction Ave.
Racine, WI 53403
Phone: (800) 626-9616
Internet: www.vonschrader.com

Whittaker Co., R.E.
P.O. Box 989
302 S. Croton Ave.
New Castle, PA 16103
Phone: (724) 658-8568
Internet: www.rewhittaker.com


Bonnet/Orbital/Oscillating Manufacturers

Argo & Co.
P.O. Drawer 2747
Spartanburg, SC 29304
Phone: (803) 583-9766

Carpet Care Systems
82 Wildwood Dr.
Versailles, KY 40383
Phone: (859) 873-0273
Internet: www.geurkink.com/ccs

P.O. Box 320945
Birmingham, AL 35232
Phone: (205) 324-8070

Oreck Corp.
100 Corporate Park Dr., Suite 1640
Pembroke, MA 02359
Phone: (781) 826-1112

3101 Wichita Ct.
Fort Worth, TX 76140
Phone: (800) 880-2913
Internet: www.powrflite.com

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