Cleaning & Restoration Association News

The Art of Water Extraction

September 18, 2007
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Is there art and skill involved in water extraction or is it simply a matter of riding around on a specialized extraction tool and calling it a day? I think we can all agree that there is both art and skill involved.

No matter what the equipment, the technician will always do better if he has training and experience. He will also do better - much better - if he cares enough to put the proper time into the procedure and has the proper equipment for the job.

Heaven forbid you or your technicians work for a company that says, “Give the carpet a quick once over extraction. If we leave some water in, so what? We will get more money for the equipment rental on the back end.” I am afraid this happens far too often. While developing drying equipment over the past few years, I have had occasion to participate in dozens of water damage restoration jobs with several different restoration companies. Overall the biggest weakness I see is poor water extraction resulting in extended drying times.

While it may be true that you can pick up extra money on the equipment rental, to me it is a sad concept when we don’t give the customer our best. Extended drying time results in greater cost to the insurer, more inconvenience for the customer, and increased likelihood of secondary damage and dangerous conditions from the water and related microbial growth.

“In place” drying where the carpet and pad are extracted simultaneously and the pad remains in place for drying, is a well-established and proven system for drying. Conventional drying systems using air movers and dehumidifiers, as well as heat-based systems are both effective at drying in these situations but both require excellent extraction to enhance drying.

Imagine putting a quart of water in a pan. Blow room temperature air at it and see how long it takes to evaporate. Now apply heat to it and watch it evaporate much quicker. Now take your vacuum hose and suck the water out of the pan – this is about 1,000 times faster than blowing air at it. Thorough extraction on carpet and pad is like sucking the water out of the pan and can save many hours or even days in the drying process.

Certainly, we don’t have space in this article to describe complete and correct procedures for flood extraction but because this is the Gadget Man writing we should at least look at the tools available. Generally there are five tools currently in use for flood water extraction – the light wand; the drag wand; the Water Claw; Hydro-X Xtreme Xtractor and the Rover HVE.

The ISCT (now SCRT) W.E.T. study published in August 2003 scientifically studied water removal using several different tools on varying types of carpet and pad. (It is important to note that the Rover HVE had not yet been invented at the time, so it obviously could not be included in the test.) If you are interested in obtaining the study or reading more about it, go to www.scrt.org.

Light wands or “scrub wands” have been around for many years. Used on direct glue-down carpet as found in many commercial buildings, the light wand will do a great job of water extraction. Use it to try sucking water from the pad through the carpet, though, and you will be wasting your energy.

In years gone by, my preferred tool (and about the only one available then) for water extraction was the weighted drag wand. We would start with a 50-pound drag wand and then add an additional 50 pounds of lead weights. It was somewhat difficult to move and created a bit of a strain on the back. The weighted drag wand did extract a fair amount of water, but never enough to consider drying the pad in place.

In recent years the restorer’s job of water extraction has become easier and much more effective. The Water Claw has proven very effective at removing subsurface water from both the pad and the carpet. While I would not consider it a fast process, it will fit into tight places like closets or bathrooms and is quite convenient on very small water losses.

The ride-on tools, Hydro-X and Rover HVE, have proven very popular and effective. I must say they are fun to drive and obviously require little effort from the operator. However, they are not race cars, and they do require patience. The pace must be slow to accomplish deep and effective water removal. Additional passes may be needed in extreme conditions to get maximum water removal. Run over a corner of the room with the tool and lift the carpet to expose the pad. Squeeze the pad to see how much water remains. This can give you an indication of the number of passes it will take for effective extraction.

None of these tools will work well unless the extraction equipment hooked up to them is powerful and develops proper airflow and vacuum lift. The Hydro-X is available with a self-contained vacuum system, which is very effective. The other units must be matched with extraction equipment that complements the extraction abilities of the tool.

Choosing the best tool for your company can be a challenge. You must consider your current budget but also your potential for growth. Your local distributor will have some or all of the tools for you to look at. They can guide you and give you information on the features and benefits of each. Go in and test drive the different tools. You can also talk to your friendly competition and see what they are using and what they like. Flood drying can be lucrative work, but no one will call you back if you don’t have the right equipment to do a good job.

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