Cleaning & Restoration Association News

Wands and Extraction Tools: A Primer

August 6, 2007
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The cleaning wand, that ubiquitous instrument wielded with casual precision by legions of professional technicians, is at once a tool of monumental importance yet so common it is often regarded as little more than an afterthought.

A cornerstone of the professional’s equipment arsenal, the wand’s fundamental qualities are reflected in the definition offered by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification in the “S100 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Carpet Cleaning”:

Wand: A floor tool used to inject and extract solutions during “steam” cleaning.

Sturdy. Reliable. Succinct. What else is there? As it turns out, plenty.

Cleaning veterans are well versed in wand vernacular, but those new to the industry will quickly come to realize that, once you delve beneath the surface, the possibilities begin to literally take shape. Do you prefer a straight wand? How about an “s” bend? A double bend? And would you care for that in a single jet? Dual jet? Multi jet? Jet size? What’s the psi rating? Stainless steel construction? Brass valves? And what about glides? Well? We’re waiting.

Take into account as well the myriad stair tools, upholstery tools, hard-surface tools and other specialty extraction equipment on the market, and you may find yourself succumbing to what fishing writer John Gierach describes as voidophobia: the unreasoning fear of having empty vest pockets – or, in the cleaner’s case, empty space in the truck. Someone went through great time and effort to create this space; it seems almost disrespectful not to fill it up with something.

But here’s the rub: depending on your company, the services you offer and the market in which you operate, many of these “extra” extraction tools are vital, necessary components for running a successful business. How to best determine what you need? While everyone has their own opinion as to what the “best” extraction tools are, of this they are of one mind: try before you buy. A good distributor or supplier will be more than willing to let you test a variety of wands and other tools, as well as provide instruction and offer honest advice.

So, now you’ve got your wand; how do you use it? The late, great Bob Wittkamp, who for years wrote the “Carpet Cleaning Basics” column for ICS, believed in cleaners having a solid wanding technique. The following is Bob’s description of the proper way to employ a wand on the job:

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, then release the valve trigger and continue pulling the wand about 3 to 4 inches past the cutoff point to pick up excess solution; push the wand back up, finishing at the starting point, and repeat.

As the wand is returned to the starting area, move it left or right, depending upon which direction 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 or perpendicular to wand stroke direction. If the streaks are parallel to the direction of wand stroking, they are overlap problems. If the streaks are perpendicular, the cause is often 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.

In addition to the “standard” scrub wand, there is a category of extraction tools out there commonly known as rotary extraction equipment, two examples of which are HydraMaster’s RX-20HE and the Rotovac Powerwand.

As the spray jets inject the cleaning solution, the vacuum slots simultaneously scrub and extract the solution back out. The RX-20HE features three spray jets matched with 5 vacuum slots, and makes more than 650 cleaning passes per minute. The Powerwand has two stainless steel cleaning heads, each with three solution jets and three vacuum slots, producing 1,500 multi-directional cleaning passes per minute.

Depending on who you ask, the average cleaner working with a standard wand will make somewhere in the neighborhood of 60-70 passes per minute.

So what is the best extraction tool for you? The ICS Bulletin Board is a quick and informative resource that, as of this writing, when “carpet wands” is entered in the search function, stops after the first 200 threads dealing with glides; drag wands; tips and tricks; power heads; composition, jet size and more. It’s not an all-knowing, one-stop shop, but it should provide you with more than enough solid information to get you on your way. If you liked this article, circle 157 on the Reader Inquiry Card.

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