Carpet Cleaning Basics: Dancing With Wanda

If you were to profile the equipment employed by the average carpet-cleaning tech using the hot-water extraction system in today's industry, odds are good your list will include what we generally call a wand.

This high incidence of use may not be tied to any particular advantage of the wand itself; the wand is generally the lowest-priced floor cleaning attachment.

Wands will vary in tube size. Most commonly they will be 1.5 inches or 2 inches. The larger the diameter of the tube, the higher the recovered airflow, measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). Increasing CFM will normally result in carpets drying faster.

Wands take on myriad shapes, including wands with a vacuum tube with one bend, two bends, or no bends. The two-bend wand seems to move over the carpet with less effort than a single bend. A two-bend wand will have the spray jets quite close to the carpet, in some cases 2 inches or less. They will have an opening size of about 01 to 015.

Having the jets closer to the carpet will deliver hotter water to the carpet since water loses heat as it move thru the air. However, as the jets get closer to the carpet, the threat of distortion of the carpet pile increases. The only incidence of yarn distortion from the wand/jets that I have ever seen was with a two-bend, four-jet wand and a heat-exchange machine that was spiking up to 300 degrees. Not your normal situation, you will agree.

My favorite wand, in service for about 25 years now, is a single-bend, single-jet, 2.5-inch model. The jet, an 8006, is situated about 6 inches off the carpet. You might think that, with the jet that far off the carpet, there may be a problem of low heat. But with only one jet and the large opening, the water droplets flowing from the jet will be larger than from a four-jet with 015 openings. Then there's the added benefit of having only one jet to clean. And that jet is easy to monitor, as it's right out in the open with no shrouding.

Once you have your wand in hand, it's time to hone your trouble-free skill with it. Often referred to as a scrub wand, move it up and back on the floor while injecting rinsing solution (water) into the carpet and extracting it. Strokes should overlap somewhat, to ensure that all areas are thoroughly rinsed. Generally, you would start at one of the far corners of the room being cleaned and move from left to right or right to left, depending on circumstances. And remember, the length of the stroke will be determined mostly by the height of the technician and the length of the wand tube.

Find your starting point, move the wand head to this position, and squeeze the valve trigger to allow solution to flow through the jet and into the carpet. Pull the wand toward you a comfortable distance, release the valve trigger and continue pulling the wand about 3 to 4 inches to past the cutoff point to pick up excess solution, then push the wand back up, finishing at the starting point, and repeat: squeeze the trigger again and pull the wand toward you a comfortable distance, release the valve trigger, and move the wand back up to the starting point. As the wand is returned to the starting area, move it left or right, depending upon which direction the cleaning is proceeding. Repeat this pattern until the wand has reached the end of the area being cleaned. Now up and back, over and over, ad infinitum, until all areas have been rinsed of soil and cleaning agents.

During the entire process, you must be aware of proper overlap to avoid problems. If any problems develop, they will normally be related to clean streaks or dirty streaks either parallel to wand stroke direction or perpendicular to wand stroke direction. If streaks parallel the direction of wand stroking, they are overlap problems. If streaks are perpendicular to the wand travel direction, the cause often times is the technician's failure to continue the wand stroke after the solution flow has stopped. As you change the direction of travel, most wands jets will be beyond the reach of the vacuum slot, leaving excess solution and requiring you to pull 3 to 4 inches past the solution shutoff point.

It is important that you constantly monitor solution flow from jets to ensure that solution flow is even across the width of spray. If the flow is distorted, take the time to locate any obstruction in the opening of the jet and remove the material causing the distortion. It will be necessary to remove jet to clear the obstruction, and not just push the material causing the obstruction back into the jet, since the material will shortly work its way back into the jet opening, causing the distortion to reoccur.

It all sounds so simple, doesn't it? Like many other tasks we deal with, "practice makes perfect." A properly sized and outfitted wand should not lead to back pain from the cleaning process. There are currently varied plastic/Teflon glides, slides, etc., that make it easier to move wand across the carpet, and allow for more rapid drying.

Some techs refer to the entire wanding procedure as "Dancing with Wanda" or "Wiggling the Wand." Call it what you want, but learn to do it correctly and profit from the thousands of square feet of carpet you will clean with this tool over its lifespan. Perhaps you can use substitute "Dancing with Wanda" for some of those trips to the gym, eh? What a deal! Healthy and profitable; you can't beat that.

I hope that this short discussion helps you and your techs accomplish lots of trouble-free cleaning. Until next month, see ya!

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