- THE MAGAZINE
Whether you’re a startup company looking to get into the floor maintenance business or a well-established company looking to expand your offerings, the cost of floor maintenance equipment can be overwhelming. These costs have always been amplified because, in the past, floor maintenance equipment had been adapted for either carpet cleaning or hard floor maintenance. This was generally acceptable because carpet cleaning and hard floor maintenance technicians were divided in their vocations and the two trades infrequently crossed paths.
Today, due to the equality of carpet and hard surface flooring materials being sold, companies find themselves in the position of requiring equipment that is capable of fulfilling both operations. The equipment manufacturers of both carpet cleaning equipment and hard surface equipment proceeded to adapt their respective equipment to cross channels. The results of their efforts can be seen throughout the industries giving companies equipment that is flexible enough to use on both surfaces.
The rotary floor machine has been around for over a century and has been the primary equipment used for floor maintenance on almost all hard surfaces. Although its purpose originated for hard surfaces, as more and more carpet entered the market, it was adapted to perform other tasks such as shampooing and bonnet cleaning. The only real alteration was either changing the pad holder to secure bonnets for bonnet cleaning or changing to a soft nylon brush and solution tank for shampooing. These changes allowed floor maintenance technicians to use the rotary floor machine on both carpeted and hard surface flooring. Although carpet maintenance equipment may have changed over the years, the rotary floor machine is still a great investment to agitate heavily soiled carpets and to apply low-moisture encapsulation chemistry.
Cylindrical brush machine technology, which has been used to apply low-moisture encapsulation chemistry on carpets, has been adapted for use on hard surfaces and is very effective on hard floors that have textured or irregular surfaces. The only change needed to modify the cylindrical brush machine into hard surface equipment is by replacing the carpet brushes with floor maintenance brushes. The more aggressive brushes dislodge the soil from the surface while the upward pulling motion of the counter-rotating brushes pulls the soil to the surface for easier extraction.
Periodic or interim maintenance, regardless of whether it is carpet or hard surface, almost always incorporates the wet service function. The processes require solution application, agitation, solution removal and detailing. Creating equipment that incorporates the entire process has been accomplished by both carpet and hard surface equipment manufacturers. From the hard surface manufacturers, the automatic scrubbing machine, and from the carpet manufacturers, truckmount and portable extraction equipment with hard surface tools as attachments. Although both these carpet and hard surface equipment selections are flexible in operation, the selection of equipment that works best for your company will be determined by the flooring materials you are required to maintain and the environments you work in.
The automatic scrubbing machine is used primarily for hard surfaces in large open areas. They apply solution, agitate using pads or brushes and extract the contaminated solution quickly and efficiently with a contained vacuum system. These machines have been adapted to perform the same functions in wide open areas on carpet simply by switching to cylindrical brushes. Of course the chemicals and concentrations will change, but the machines will still perform the same function. Currently some of these automatic scrubbing machines are outfitted for either carpet or hard surface, but more are becoming versatile enough to perform either. Another important factor to consider with the automatic scrubbing machine is size. In the past they have always been large machines, but today they have many different sizes to accommodate the customer’s needs.
The hot water extractor is the primary equipment for the carpet cleaner and provides the same functions as the automatic scrubbing machine - a pressurized solution tank for applying solution, specialized nozzles for injecting the cleaning solution into the carpet and exceptional vacuum for extracting the contaminated solution. Over the past few decades, the hot water extractor manufacturers, both truckmount and portable, have been making tools that allow the technician to perform hard surface maintenance as well. These adaptations have given the carpet cleaner an opportunity to add hard floor maintenance to their offering and are especially beneficial for the residential carpet cleaner.
Because the hot water extractor can deliver heated cleaning solution by means of a pressurized system, it has the ability to dislodge soil from low lying areas. This is particularly true of textured and uneven surfaces, such as those found in most grouted flooring applications, although in heavily soiled environments, a cleaning solution may have to be applied first and allowed to dwell to soften or release soil before extraction. These floor tools can be small hand tools for getting behind objects, floor wands with multiple nozzles fixed inside the extraction head or a pressurized spinning tool which rotates inside a shroud. Each of these tools delivers benefits because they dislodge and extract the soil in a continuous motion before the soil can settle back down on the floor surface.
The flooring industry is in a constant state of change - new flooring materials are entering the market every day and with it comes the need to clean them. Manufacturers of cleaning equipment have changed strategies to look at the floor maintenance technicians as being multi-talented and not being just a carpet cleaner or a floor maintenance technician. They are developing equipment that is adaptable to both vocations, for use in multiple environments and with variations in size to accommodate any sized company.
This flexibility gives the technicians the necessary equipment to provide services on diverse flooring materials efficiently and effectively. By embracing both carpet cleaning technology and hard floor maintenance technology, the manufacturers of cleaning equipment are giving the floor maintenance technician the power of diversity and by extension the ability to expand their offering and provide better customer service.