Cleaning & Restoration Association News

Is It You or Your Machine?

April 9, 2008
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What’s the best way to clean this? What’s the best way to clean that? All the buzz usually centers on the big, strong, powerful machine or the latest and greatest juicy chemical.

We talk about the horsepower, the psi, the cfm, and inches of lift. I must admit, I love to see and hear about what’s just hit the market when it comes to the super suckers, the number of wands they run and the high production per hour they are capable of.

More than just about any subject, I get excited about developing chemistry that takes out red / yellow / green / blue and any other colors of the rainbow. I love to see the grease, oil and soil begin to melt away and disappear with just a pre-spray, even before I extract it.

It’s really a wonder to see the difference that advanced chemistry combined with powerful, technically superior equipment can make on a filthy, stained carpet. I love to hear my customers exclaim, “Oh my, that is a day-and-night difference!” I bet you hear that a lot, because of what you bring to the table.

It’s you that makes the big difference in cleaning – much more than your equipment or chemicals. I started cleaning 34 years ago. I started with a small portable extractor with 30 psi and a vacuum system that sucked about as much as I could manage through a straw. I used one basic powdered cleaning chemical that could peel skin off your hands if exposed for too long. Yet even with all this sub-par equipment and chemistry, I managed to build a happy clientele that appreciated my work and referred me to their friends.

Cleaning is about personal skill and technique combined with using all the tools at your disposal. I made effective use of small hand-held tools along with care and concern for the customer and found this made a huge difference. Even after our company grew and we initiated use of bigger machines and more sophisticated chemicals, we still depended on these hand tools and service to set us apart.

I learned early on that my customers had dirty upholstery that needed cleaning. My little machine could do that. I never let a job go by without suggesting to the customer that their upholstery may need cleaning, and that I had the expertise to do it. I let them know that I would use a careful hand cleaning combined with machine extraction. I discovered how effective the large tightly filled horsehair brush was. It put the tips of thousands of firm but gentle bristles in touch with the upholstery, creating excellent agitation. I worked in a secret formula of shampoo, builders and sometimes color safe oxidizers. No other brush could compare and, in fact, to this day, no other brush compares.

When working with delicate fabrics I would employ a natural sponge. This is a great tool when applying cleaning solution to delicate fabrics especially if that solution is foamy. The natural sponge will hold on to moisture in the form of foam and slowly release it onto the fabric. This controls moisture while adding just enough agitation.

I was never without a hair dryer. Basically, the hair dryer will help you speed drying in specific areas. You can use it to prevent water spots when doing specialty spotting, or dry out your test area to see results. And speaking of spotting, I never left the shop without a little pack of cotton swabs. Upholstery spotting work can be delicate work; the cotton swab could apply just that drop or two of spotting agent, use the dry side to blot and agitate. When you are faced with taking a small stain out of a designer fabric, get your cotton swab ready.

Now let’s get back to carpet. One hand tool I used many years ago that is just as important today is the carpet groomer. It took only a few seconds following my pre-spray to agitate the traffic lanes with the groomer. This worked the pre-spray into the carpet, agitated the fibers and soil on them, and as a bonus it impressed the customer. This is a practice I highly recommend. In addition I took the time then and would again today to rake and groom the carpet following cleaning. I would include the customer in this by taking her to the living room and show her the two possibilities – raking toward her or away from her – and then let her choose. There are several reasons for grooming the carpet, including expedited drying and giving the carpet a finished look, but the main reason I groomed is because I knew the other guy wouldn’t. It set me apart.

Cleaning is more about what you do rather than what your machine does. Take the time to use these hand tools of the trade. Those mentioned here and many others available to you help set you apart from your competition. You become a technician, tradesman and artist all rolled into one. I promise, your customers will take notice and love the extra care you give their valued possessions.

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