Utilizing Portable Floor Care Equipment

November 25, 2008
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Textile-cleaning professionals looking to achieve high-end cleaning results for a reasonable investment need to look into adding portable equipment to their cleaning arsenal.

Portable cleaning equipment will open more doors of revenue, enabling the cleaning contractor to offer their clients more options when it comes to maintaining carpet, in addition to cleaning and restoration of tile, stone and wood floors. In today’s business environment, to be a highly successful textile-cleaning contractor you must find your niche in the market. Learn to clean any surface in the home, including carpet, tile and grout, stone and wood floors. This way it is highly unlikely your client will have to call a competitor to provide a service you do not offer. Businesses that are profitable tend to offer an array of services to obtain maximum revenue from every job.

There are many carpet-cleaning jobs where security issues prevent leaving doors or windows open, such as in high-rise buildings. Portable carpet-cleaning machines have come a long way, technologically speaking, and can clean heavily soiled carpet without sacrificing the quality of cleaning we as professionals strive to deliver day in and day out.

Portable cleaning units can be utilized to clean tile and grout, upholstery, automobiles, office partitions, and reach areas truckmounts cannot. The portable carpet extractor is a great way to get started in the field of textile cleaning or to expand an existing janitorial cleaning business. The portable unit also is a tremendous backup machine for those running truckmounts. Today’s portables are workhorses generally designed from very strong polyethylene and rotationally molded for durability. 

Entry-level portable units are generally priced in the $1,000 to $1,500 range, and tend to include the following features/configuration:
  • Dual vacuum motors.
  • 140” to 150” of water lift.
  • 100 PSI pump; not adjustable.
  • 10- to 12-gallon solution and recovery tanks.
  • 20 to 25 feet of vacuum and solution lines.
  • 1 or 2 jet steel wand.
  • Approximate weight: 80 to 100 pounds.

This type of entry-level unit provides very good performance for a modest investment and lasts for years.

Larger portables will enable a textile cleaner to process both carpet cleaning jobs and hard-surface tile with one unit. This will save the contractor both time and money. These units are usually like a small truckmount, and will give the contractor truck-mounted power and heat using a compact unit. Many high-quality cleaning companies use this type of portable as their primary cleaning unit due to the versatility and performance without making an investment that breaks the bank.

High-end portables are generally in the  $4,500 to $6,000 range, depending on the configuration of the machine, and generally feature:
  • Auto fill/auto dump; with this feature there is no need to stop to empty and refill the unit which translates into a real timesaver and moneymaker.
  • Heater runs 185 to over 200 degrees; higher temperatures increases chemical activity, helps to decrease dry times and delivers a cleaner, healthier carpet.
  • 3-stage vacuums provide greater extraction power to leave carpets and floors drier than smaller units with less CFM.
  • Solution pumps achieve 1,000 to 1,200 PSI; ideal for hard-surface cleaning.


The beauty of the higher-end units is you can adjust the cleaning pressure for carpet or upholstery cleaning. Being able to adjust from 1,200 PSI down to between 150 and 500 PSI is a great feature of this type of unit. Inline chemical injection is also a nice feature to have. After you place your detergent next to the chemical feed line, choose a metering tip and you’re in business; the machine will inject the solution for you as the cleaning takes place. Units may run 25 feet of solution and vacuum. These units are almost indestructible and last for many, many years.

Spotting machines generally run in the $400 to $500 range. This type of unit is very small and compact.  Most weigh about 20 pounds. Units are used for detail work, e.g. car cleaning. The unit is great for touch ups or callbacks for a spot, and contractors also use them for small upholstery-cleaning jobs.

Specifications of spotting machine generally include:
  • Several small vacuum motors providing 55” to 70” of water lift
  • 50 PSI pump
  • No heat
  • 3-gallon solution and recovery tank
  • 6-to-8-foot vacuum and solution lines

  The professional cleaning contractor will love having this compact unit that is so easy to use and is very lightweight. There are now units on the market in the higher price range that feature heat.

The low-speed floor machine generally is in the $700 to $1,200 range. There will come a time when the textile cleaner needs to bonnet clean or diversify into hard-floor cleaning. A low-speed floor machine will add new sources of revenue. Many professionals also use a soft brush to agitate traffic areas, especially in restaurants where heavy grease and oil present a problem. Agitating these hard-to-clean areas with your low-speed machine fitted with a soft, broken-in carpet brush works wonders on problem areas found mostly in commercial applications. Rotary brush agitation is not recommended on stain-resistant carpet, wool fibers or velvet plush configurations.

Specifications of a low-speed floor machine generally include:
  • Generally 17” or 20 “ cleaning path
  • 1.5 horsepower
  • Planetary gearbox
  • Control operation by trigger grip
  • Trigger safety


      The bonnet/encapsulation machine falls into the $1,200 to $1,500 category. This type of equipment allows you to perform bonnet cleaning or encapsulation cleaning without having to stop and keep spraying with electric or pump-up devices as you clean. This machine will save the textile cleaner both time and money.

      Along with a ¾-HP motor for power, this unit basically has the same features or specifications as a 175-RPM floor machine with the addition of an auto electric spray mechanism and solution tank attached to the machine. There is a release that enables the technician to control chemical flow. This is a very versatile machine, especially in commercial applications.

        The 5-in-1 rotary floor machine gives the professional five applications with one machine. The price of this machine ranges from $1,000 to $2,500 or more, depending on accessories ordered. This new technology enables the contractor to clean multiple surfaces with one unit.

      The machine enables the technician to change the apron size on the bottom of the unit to obtain the desired cleaning path. Here’s a closer look at the five applications this machine can perform.
      1. Encapsulation and carpet shampooing. The shower feed carpet brush comes in five sizes so you can agitate pre-spray or perform encapsulation cleaning.
      2. Tile and grout. Simply attach the tile cleaning brush and see agitation at its finest.
      3. Stone. The machine can perform honing and polishing by using the weight kit which balances pressure which is critical for stone cleaning and restoration.
      4. Bonnet cleaning. Choose the right bonnet and appropriate drive block to match apron.
      5. VCT floor maintenance. Make sure you match the pad driver to the apron. Choose the right floor pad and shazam! You are ready to clean.

        We’ve touched on several types of portable floor care equipment, but this article certainly does not include all types the professional contractor has at his or her disposal. Other types of portable equipment include walk-behinds; auto-scrubbers; electric/propane burnishers; oscillating pad (OP) machines; cylindrical and rotating brush encapsulating machines and more. If you want to read further about OP or encapsulating machines, you can refer to “Low Moisture Carpet Cleaning for the Professional Textile Cleaner” at the ICS Web site at www.icsmag.com.

      Education is the key for professionals who desire to excel in their business and personal lives. Professionals embrace change and never stop learning. I enjoy meeting as many industry professionals as possible. Sign up for an IICRC class or a solid business course today; I guarantee you will have fun while learning how to take your business to the next level.

      Unleash the power of education! 

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