- THE MAGAZINE
Have you noticed there isn’t as much carpet in homes today as there used to be? The home I owned in the mid 1980’s had 100% of the floor covered in carpet – yes, even the kitchen and bathrooms! It really wasn’t bad since my wife knew someone who could clean it often, that being yours truly. But the home I moved into 7 years ago has floors covered in ceramic tile, marble, travertine, hardwood and carpet. My main floor only has the bedroom carpeted.
The majority of my floor is covered with walnut hardwood. I really have had fun using a preservation system to maintain and protect the original finish, so hopefully I will never have to sand it down. And while I would love to talk about this process, I am going to save it for another day.
The different stones and tile in the home give it some variety and my wife chose them because they look good. Frankly, this is the style of the day.
Perhaps you have caught on to the point I want to make. If the only services you are offering are carpet and upholstery cleaning, you will find a somewhat diminished market as your customers replace their carpets with other floor coverings. My strong suggestion to you is to get into a position where you can say, “If it’s on the floor we can maintain it, clean it and protect it.” The carpet, tile, stone, hardwood care – whatever, should be part of your service offering.
Let’s start with perhaps the easiest diversification – tile and grout. For those of you that run truckmounts, this is a natural because you have already invested in the main piece of equipment needed. I’ll get back to the truckmount in just a minute, but let’s look at some other systems.
Of course you could get down on your hands and knees with a toothbrush, some chlorine bleach and a bunch of elbow grease, but trust me, I speak from experience when I say wouldn’t. We now have tools with a stand up handle and chiseled brushes that get into the grout lines with pretty good agitation. Combined with the right chemistry, they work really good to give extra agitation where needed, but you wouldn’t want to tackle a whole job with just this brush.
That brings us to the rotary scrubber. These have been around for 60 or more years and are still valuable and used in many varied situations. While they can be fitted with brushes that are intended to be effective on grout, I have found they can’t really get down into the grout to give the kind of agitation needed to break out the soil. I know some professionals that use them for pre-agitation before using a rotary extraction process and it certainly won’t hurt in those situations. Akin to the rotary scrubber is the Cimex machine with its three-headed system. Again, this delivers some agitation, but generally not enough to effectively break out the soil in the grout.
Now available are hard surface attachments that fit rotary extraction heads which are normally designed for carpet cleaning. Combined with water spray power from the jets, there are usually brushes imbedded which together offer a unique cleaning advantage. If you already have the equipment and the truckmount or powerful portable extractor available this will be an option.
Let me now suggest what I believe is the best combined cleaning system for tile and grout:
• Water Pressure: You will need either a high-pressure portable or truckmount that will run 1,000 PSI water pressure. In my experience, you can get a decent job with as little as 700 PSI, but the closer you get to 1,000 the better.
• Vacuum: Truckmounts will always have enough vacuum for water recovery and there are portables designed by just about every manufacturer with sufficient vacuum for this type of application as well.
• The proper chemistry is essential. Usually a strong alkaline cleaner is used initially to break out the greases and oils that hold in the soil. An acid-based product is also needed where some soils such as minerals from hard water need to be broken down.
• I like a battery-powered sprayer.
• The grout brush I talked about earlier will be needed for occasional agitation with tough stains and soil.
• Specialty jetted extraction wands: Mark Markovik, the inventor of the original Turbo and single-jetted grout tool, first showed me how to clean grout effectively. He did it with a little 5-inch tool with a single powerful jet. This type is tool is still essential for direct blasting and problem grout lines. Other tools such as a coving tool and multi-jetted heads are very handy to have.
• The rotary jet extraction tool is the real workhorse of the tile and grout cleaning system. Special wash jets are powered by the high pressure water and turn on a bar at between 1,500 and 2,000 rpm. Depending on how the tool is run, the grout will get hit by this high pressure from every direction. These tools come in 5- 7, 12 and 15-inch models.
The smaller 5-7” models are used as hand tools for above the round cleaning and some models can be adapted for use on a stand-up wand. Recently introduced are 7” models that incorporate a single jet in the point of the tool for corner and edge cleaning. I strongly recommend having the smaller 7” tool for use along with the bigger 12” or 15” model. This smaller tool has amazing cleaning power as all the force is applied into such a small area. For super soiled areas, and of course for getting around toilets and tight spots, this is a must.
Now that you are equipped all you need are some jobs. The obvious place to look is with your existing customers. Make sure your website and any printed literature references your ability to clean those nasty grout lines and bring the tile and grout back to new. You might want to consider mailing (hard mail and e-mail) to your existing customers and use testimonials if possible. Always have the tools with you so you can do a demonstration when you’re on a job. Often customers don’t know just how dirty their floor is until you show them.
Also keep in mind that you are now equipped to do stone cleaning. While honing and/or polishing take a little more expertise, you can use the equipment above for general cleaning. And don’t forget the garage floor. Do a quick demo to show your customer what you can do and you may land the garage with little effort.
It is essential that we maximize the use of our existing equipment and diversify into maintaining the different flooring just as our customers’ tastes in flooring is changing. Let your customer know that if it’s on the floor, you can take care of it.