ICS Magazine

Tools of the Trade

October 12, 2006

Certainly item No.1 (and possibly Nos. 2, 3 or more) must be your primary cleaning/production system. The more methods and systems you offer, the more primary cleaning units you will have on the truck. There also should be tools or attachments for "off the floor" cleaning such as furniture, stairs, personnel panels (cubicles) and possibly even draperies. Each of these items is a separate profit center. Of prime importance is some sort of vacuuming system to address the dry particle soils that may make up as much as 80 percent of the soils present in the fabric being cleaned. This may be an upright model or a canister type with its own attachments, preferably including a power head of some sort to offer agitation of the face pile while vacuuming is being performed. There are even small power heads for use off the floor. Power heads may be electrically driven or powered by the recovery airflow. Ideally, this vacuum system should have HEPA capabilities to trap the soils being removed.

In most cases you will need some type of spraying system to apply such materials as pre-sprays or pre-treatments, or to apply post-cleaning chemicals including fabric protectors, odor-control agents or acid-side neutralizers. This spraying system may be a compression (pump-up) style or an in-line type when your primary cleaning system provides a flow of pressurized water, which will siphon material from a jug into the pressurized water creating a solution of the proper pH, depending upon your needs and your selected concentrate in the jug. Or these systems may as simple as a trigger sprayer.

And how about repair parts for these sprayers? It seems as though they always malfunction when you are using them. It may also be beneficial to carry a measuring cup and buckets for precise mixing of these pre-treat/finishing agents. Using the "glug" method may cost additional chemical dollars or cause damage to the fabrics you are cleaning.

If your service includes removal and resetting of furnishings, there should also be slider devices to aid in moving furnishings in or out. As I've grown older, I find an increasing necessity to use a furniture-lifting tool to place and remove these sliders as well as placing expanded foam blocks or plastic tabs to place under furniture bases and legs. Blocking and tabbing is truly a case of "an ounce of protection..."

And how about devices to connect to water sources on-site, to fill or feed your primary cleaning unit? These may include faucet adapters for tapping into water faucets within the cleaning site as well as water keys to turn on the water at commercial facilities, and hose bib handles for residential situations when you discover the water is not accessible because the vandals took the handles. Also, determine where the waste generated by the cleaning process can be disposed of. That information may come from the property owner or the local health department.

Most of the items mentioned above are necessary to perform the cleaning processes that provide the income that keeps your money engine running, but there are also additional items to address safety and neatness as well as lights to locate and identify spots and spills. A high-intensity inspection light may assist in identifying physical soils or pile/nap distortion. A long-wave UV light will aid in locating urine or detergent residues that may be an issue. Include items such as sponges, towels, mops and drop cloths to address spills and overspray and "caution" devices for general safety. Also be sure to load up your personal protective equipment (PPE) such as respirators, safety goggles, particle masks, suitable gloves, eye wash kits or first aid kits, as well as a charged, functioning fire extinguisher.

If your cleaning process includes pulling hoses or cords through areas being cleaned, it may be beneficial to carry some type of corner guards to prevent damage to walls and door jambs and the expense to you as well the inconvenience to the customer that accompanies repairing this damage. You may also consider some type of assembly to seal off exterior doorways if your cleaning processes require a door be left ajar for hose or cord entry; just another small investment that silently tells the customer that you care about their comfort. It will also prevent the entry of small creatures, such as lizards and bugs. There should also be finishing tools such as brushes, rakes, groomers to even out the nap lay on some carpets and some upholstery fabrics.

And don't forget about miscellaneous items such as a small mechanical tool kit as well as an extension cord. You may not carry every item I have discussed but the more of them you have the smoother your cleaning day will go.

After you have loaded those items you consider necessary, I hope there is still room in the truck for the cleaning techs (and the money they generate). I hope that this all gives you food for thought as you outfit your truck. Until next month, see ya!