ICS Magazine

ICS 50th: Chuck Monson

February 4, 2013

Chuck Monson is the Vice President of Rotovac Corporation.

(My brother) Cliff Monson started his own carpet cleaning company in Hawaii in 1975 at the young age of 22. Within one year he was able to obtain the Sears Carpet Cleaning concession for all the Hawaiian Islands. Always striving to be the best and never settling for mediocre, Cliff was not satisfied with the cleaning performance of the traditional manual wand. In 1977, Cliff flew from Hawaii all the way back to Arlington, VA to visit the national carpet cleaning trade organization, which was then called AIDS International. (For obvious reasons the trade organization later changed their name to what it is today, ASCAR.)

Cliff wanted to find out if there was a better method of carpet cleaning than the labor intensive manual wand. To his surprise, he discovered that the wand was indeed considered the best method available at that time. The wand by itself did not produce good enough results for Cliff, so he eventually settled on utilizing the two-step cleaning method of pre-scrubbing the carpet with a rotary machine, followed by a manual wand rinse extraction. The problem with this method was that it was very time consuming and the true cleaning results still depended on how well the technician went over the carpet with the wand in order to rinse out all of the soil and soap residue. That's when the light bulb went off in Cliff’s head and he came up with an idea that would prove to be the most significant advancement in carpet cleaning technology since the invention of hot water extraction. Rather than deploy rotary shampoo scrubbing followed by extraction with a wand, Cliff envisioned a rotary tool that would spray, scrub and extract with rotary vacuum heads all in one process called “Rotary Jet Extraction.”

To build a prototype and obtain a patent is a very costly venture, but Cliff believed so strongly in his idea that he was willing to gamble it all. Cliff sold his carpet cleaning company and charged down the road from mind to matter at full speed ahead. Within two years, Cliff had a working prototype and several patents awarded for his Rotary Extraction Device.

In the winter of 1979, Cliff contacted Mike Palmer, owner of HydraMaster in Seattle, WA. HydraMaster was the largest manufacturer of truckmounted carpet cleaning equipment at the time. Cliff explained to Mike that he had a prototype and patents on what he believed to be the next major evolution in carpet cleaning. Mike Palmer said that he instantly recognized the merits of Rotary Extraction after Cliff's description of the machine and the process. Cliff flew from Hawaii to Seattle with his prototype in the winter of 1980 and eventually licensed the patents to HydraMaster under a royalty agreement.

Carpet cleaners across the country loved the way the RX-20 cleaned, but there were some concerns regarding the weight, cost and dry times that Cliff wanted to address. With these issues in mind, Cliff came up with a new design and started his own manufacturing company in 1989 to build a lighter-weight, lower-cost machine called the Rotovac. After several years of research and development, the first Rotovac's were sold in 1996. At nearly half the weight and half the cost of the RX-20, the Rotovac Powerwand was an instant hit in the carpet cleaning industry.

Several of Cliff's friends started their own carpet cleaning businesses after learning about the Rotovac. This gave Cliff the idea of going after the business start-up market. Cliff focused his effort on helping people start their own carpet cleaning businesses with the Rotovac Business Startup Package. Rotovac has now started over 10,000 people in the carpet cleaning business and there are over 30,000 Rotary Extractors in the field today. Thousands of carpet cleaners credit Cliff and Rotovac for their company's success and longevity.

In 2005 Cliff came up with another winner called the Rotovac 360. The 360 is a single-head machine like the RX-20, but with many user-friendly improvements and features. The Rotovac 360 is by far the most popular Rotary Extractor on the market today. There are many individuals who have built companies that manufacture truckmount and portable equipment, or started retail stores selling carpet cleaning equipment, or started carpet cleaning franchises, but no one has contributed such a tremendous improvement in carpet cleaning technology, started more people in the carpet cleaning business or helped more people to be able to stay in the carpet cleaning business than Cliff Monson and Rotovac. Cliff Monson has actually changed the way carpets are cleaned around the world.