ICS Magazine

Cutting Down on Dry Time

September 16, 2002
Dry times are crucial to customer satisfaction

Two topics that always come up when the discussion concerns carpet cleaning, regardless of whether you're talking with a customer or another professional, are price and dry time.

However, when these topics arise among a group of professionals on Internet bulletin boards or in other locales, there tends to be some exaggeration. While cost is and always will be of great interest, I think that customers are more concerned about dry times. They may have experienced five- or six-day drying times when they last had their carpet cleaned, and the memories of the effect on the household are still fresh in their minds: the dirty, wet socks; the kids banned from lying on the family room floor to watch TV or do homework, all because the carpet is wet.

At least one successful cleaning franchise relies heavily on these consumer fears. Providing rapid drying and using it as a USP (Unique Selling Position) can do much to improve advertising response. Most cleaners have learned the procedures to achieve rapid drying, such as making extra dry strokes, setting up drying fans, using the customer's fans (especially ceiling fans), or using a low-moisture method of cleaning.

One of the most common tools employed in the quest for rapid drying is the customer's air conditioning system, which is especially effective when used in conjunction with ceiling fans. This approach moves moisture up into the room where it can be cooled and dried by the air conditioner. It is then fed back into the room to absorb some more moisture, and the cycle repeats. A matter of physics that may reduce the effectiveness of this procedure is that cold air won't hold as much water as warm air (that's why it rains).

My 30 years of experience has convinced me that, even in hot, humid Florida, faster drying can be achieved by opening windows and doors during cleaning. I am usually met with varying degrees of disbelief when I make that statement. The usual response? "You must be nuts, Bob. It's 92 degrees with a relative humidity of 95 percent when you arrive for a job. How can you use air that wet to assist in drying the carpet?"

Keep in mind that even though the air in the building is "cool and dry" when you arrive, when you start putting down 1.25 gallons per minute of 200-degree rinse water from your fire-breathing testosterone machine, you will rapidly outpace the ability of the air conditioner to maintain the relative humidity that existed when you arrived. If you would like to monitor exactly how much of a change you are creating, bring a digital hygrometer and put it in the area you will be cleaning before you start. Note the temperature and relative humidity when you begin, and again at 10 minute intervals. The change in temperature and relative humidity may surprise you.

If the home's windows and doors are open, this massive accumulation of hot, wet air can go outside and dissipate instead of staying inside where the air conditioning must deal with it. This effectiveness of this approach improves if you are working above ground; the higher up you get, the faster the airflow becomes, allowing more moisture to be removed.

Opening doors and windows will not always work in all situations. The weather may not always cooperate (I've postponed two jobs today due to tropical thunderstorms). But on many days it does, and in our case this allows us to provide customers with one-hour dry times, even when performing hot-water extraction cleaning.

The theme of the just-completed ISCT convention comes to mind: "Clean and Dry." How about "Get It Clean and Get It Dry"? Remember, you heard it here first. Until next month, see ya!