- THE MAGAZINE
As a young carpet cleaner, what I referred to as a “light wand” actually felt more like pushing a bag of cement around on the carpet. While this was much lighter than the drags wands I used when I first started cleaning, the new, really light wands are a fraction of the weight. Innovations including titanium, roto-molded plastic and carbon fibers have brought the science of ergonomics to the world of carpet cleaning.
Other advancements that have eased the stress on carpet cleaners and reduced the number of early retirements from the trade include:
- Changes to the shape and design of the carpet cleaning wand
- Wand valves that are easy to operate
- Glides are now more widely available since legal issues have been settled.
Let’s take a look at some of the many improvements and variations in recent years:
Light weight, wide head:
Titanium is a corrosion resistant, space-age metal with the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any metal. Some wands are now made almost entirely of titanium or have titanium heads. Additional innovations in low-weight, high-performance design include the use of carbon fiber composites and roto-molded plastic. These light, but strong, materials allow a carpet cleaning tech to clean a 14-, 15- or even 16-inch wide path for greater productivity and reduced fatigue.
If you have large areas of carpet to clean at one time or your work days are often long, you will appreciate the benefits of faster production time with less stress when these high performance wands are used.
Repeating the same motion hundreds of times in a day can result in repetitive stress injuries. That is exactly what cleaning techs do as they trigger and release a wand valve. Recently introduced soft touch valves are easier to operate and significantly reduce such injuries.
Soft touch valves operate smoothly, don’t require as much force to squeeze the trigger and are comfortable to grip. “Ergonomic” is the word to describe this design that considers the health of the technician. No more numb fingers, carpal tunnel syndrome or similar problems. Great for any company that wants to keep all its techs healthy and productive, almost any wand can be fitted with a soft touch valve.
Additionally, offset fittings keep the solution line away from your hand without the need for extra fittings or extra bulk and weight.
Many technicians have found top-mounted triggers to be more comfortable than the traditional arrangement of a valve trigger mounted under the vacuum tube.
A comfortable insulated grip that doesn’t transmit heat and a properly positioned handle are also important to comfort of the user. Many handles are adjustable. Remember that the only reason for a handle on the wand is to aid in repositioning the wand after each stroke. It is not meant as a place to provide downward force on the wand head. Doing so leads to hunched over posture, unnecessary exertion and sore back and shoulders.
The speed and effectiveness of a carpet tech finishing his work day late in the evening usually won’t match what he put forth when he started at 8 a.m. But electrically-powered rotary extraction wands continue to spin at the same speed, producing numerous cleaning passes and similar results all day long, no matter how long the day. This assures consistency on large jobs.
The availability of glides is another way that carpet cleaners can make the job easier. Teflon, Delrin, stainless steel and other low friction materials on the head of the wand allow it to move almost effortlessly over the face yarns. Properly engineered, a glide should also be more effective at water removal and thus shorten dry times.
Benefits of plastic:
In addition to their lighter weight compared to aluminum or stainless steel, the manufacturers of roto-molded plastic wands point out that plastic resists dents and scratches and retains a pleasing professional appearance longer. It is also less likely to scrape paint off a baseboard or gouge furniture.
When selecting a new wand, you can choose between a single bend style, which some prefer as easier to push across the carpet, and the double bend, or S-bend, design that makes it easier to get the wand head under tables, beds and some other furniture.
There are also specialized tools for cleaning stairs without stooping and cleaning under beds. There is less need to move furniture if you are able to clean under it with a specially designed tool.
A novel approach to customizing the cleaning wand to suit each cleaner’s individual needs is adjustable spray nozzles. Nozzles are mounted on a bracket that allows them to be moved closer to or further away from the carpet depending on the circumstances of each job. The technician can adjust for carpet pile height, glide or no glide, desire for wider coverage or positioning the jets closer to the carpet for less heat loss and so forth.
Wands that employ multiple jets allow jets to be located closer to the carpet. The cleaning solution will not cool down as much before reaching the carpet. Wand heads designed to partially enclose the spray with “wings” is another way to help keep the cleaning solution hotter. However there is valid argument that fewer jets allow bigger water droplets, which will lose heat much slower than the fine spray delivered by multiple jets.
Wand designers are also looking at design wands for maximum air flow and even suction across the entire cleaning path. This may be accomplished by reducing restrictions and increasing the size of the plenum where air, water and soil are brought into the wand.
Stationary extraction tools:
Stationary extraction tools, originally designed for water damage restoration, have demonstrated their ability to remove over 90% of water from carpet and the cushion (pad) underneath. This ability makes these tools ideal for use in spot and stain removal. Many stain removal procedures, such as oxidizers for pet urine stains and odors, require that the carpet and pad be saturated or that the carpet be thoroughly flushed. There is no more convenient and efficient way to accomplish this than with a stationary extraction tool. This can be one designed specifically for spot removal or a larger tool that can perform well in both the restoration and cleaning fields.
Recent advances in engineering with computer aided design (CAD) have produced extraction tools that are easier to use, more durable and extract more water from carpet and cushion than ever before.
If you realize that you are still using the same wand you cleaned with for years, it is time to give serious consideration to taking advantage of improved technology to make your job easier and improve your cleaning performance.