Truck-mounted unit

Truck-mounted unit
One of our truck-mounted units

Monday, December 9

I know what to do with my dirty carpets. I will get a hire machine. How difficult can it be?

In the immortal words of the robot in Lost in Space “Danger Will Robinson!”

We have just finished a job recently that confirmed a theme maintained by many professional carpet cleaning company owners and their technicians. Hire machines actually make work for professional carpet cleaning companies.

This may sound like clever bravado but time and again we have proved that home owners who have rented machines and cleaned their carpets are engaged in a downward spiral of grubby carpets getting grubbier with each ‘clean’. Eventually they despair and call in a professional.

The lightweight machines rented out in the UK (mostly the same models/machines as used in the US market but 240v instead of the 120v used Stateside) are actually pretty good at the first part of the job.

They spread a luke-warm soapy solution very effectively around the carpet (sometimes with a revolving brush head) which makes sure this soapy solution is worked well into the carpet, and thus ensuring that your carpet now has a dirty, soapy scum on the ‘face fibre’ of the carpet. Any really dirty areas will have the dirt moved elsewhere and transferred to other, cleaner parts of the carpet.

You have to use the very soapy products that the hire machine company sells because they say you must only use their products in their machine. This is clearly just plain wrong because no mere liquid is going to damage the inner workings of what is in effect a wet vacuum system with filters and safeguards to stop liquids or foam reaching the electric vacuum motors. But they charge a great deal of money for these soapy products and they make a great deal of money out of selling a fairly cheap product. It is a win/win ‘solution’ for them.

If you are a consumer of these products/rental services though it is a lose/lose situation and I will now explain why.

While these machines are relatively efficient at spreading the soapy solution around the fibres of your carpet (gravity also helps it do the job thoroughly) they are very inadequate when it comes to recovering and rinsing the soapy solution. No amount of going back and forward will improve the situation as the vacuums and rinsing actions are just not up to the job of recovering the dirty ‘slurry’ that you are creating on the carpet surface. Each subsequent rinsing action/vacuum run just adds more water and makes a good result even less likely.

The result of this is that you may partially recover some of the soapy, dirty scum that you have just spread all over your carpet but unfortunately you will leave most of it embedded in the carpet where because of the action of the detergents it has the appearance of having ‘cleaned’ the carpet. It has of course done nothing of the sort as each fibre is now coated with a soapy ‘jacket’ that dries but still attracts dirt and soil like a magnet for anything being walked into your house on a daily basis.

If this were not bad enough you have at the same time effectively removed your carpets natural ability (in it’s clean state) to shed soil and turn it into dry dust which normally you would simply vacuum up on a regular basis. Carpet cleaning (the proper variety) is designed to strip the attached soil from your carpet fibres that has emulsified and joined with the fibre to make your carpet look dirty and unattractive but which cannot usually be vacuumed up and out of the carpet.

As with the jobs that we see, the carpets that have been poorly cleaned with hire machines end up very soiled indeed and it is as if there is a grey ‘mantle’ or ‘cast’ over the entire carpet – not just where the carpet was dirty in the first place but wherever it has been ‘cleaned’. 

So the remedy to a hire machine disaster is actually rather easy to achieve for a well-equipped operator. The better the standard of 'the rinse' action of the professional carpet cleaners system then the more emulsified soil will be released and extracted from the dirty (i.e. cleaned!) carpet and yet still leaving the carpet relatively dry.

So while I would not wish that everyone goes out and hires one of these machines and then does a dis-service to their carpets I don't really mind if their use increases because I know ultimately that the market for carpet cleaning will continue to grow for this (and other) reason(s).

Thursday, March 28

How often should you do it?

Sorry but this post is not going to be anywhere near as exciting as it may appear from the title.

One of the most basic requirement of a well-run home is cleanliness and most people devote at least some time during each day doing something towards that end. It might be wiping down kitchen surfaces or it might be cleaning the bathroom.

Whether it be wiping down work surfaces or cleaning out a fridge shelf, we all usually want to try to counter the effects our daily lives have on our domestic and work environments.

Quite often people will have a quick run around with the vacuum cleaner in the lounge or in the hallway if they have carpets there.

I am often asked to recommend a vacuum cleaner and people ask what machine it is that we use in our company.

We, like most professional cleaning companies in Europe, use a twin motor Sebo machine which is probably the most highly recommended professional machine bar none - they produce this commercial machine in two widths - a BS36 and a BS46.

The important point is they have two motors - one to drive the brush bar (the sweeper that beats the carpet and vibrates the dust particles to the face of the fibre) and one motor to drive the vacuum which sucks up this dry soil.

In terms of a domestic machine the one I recommend most often for carpet maintenance is the Miele S7210 - this is a very good machine and most importantly it is one of the very few (if not the only one) that has two motors just like the best commercial machines.

 I know I can recommend it because it is the one we use in our own house. It has won at least one Which? consumer test as best vacuum cleaner for domestic use. They are not cheap but show me a really good tool that is!

So here are the two machines side by side - the commercial machine is a dull grey colour (left) and the domestic machine is available in a yellow and several other colours.

So the inevitable question is how often do you do it? Well once a day is not too often but may be seen as a bit OCD so lets say three times a week is good and once a week is not enough. At the end of the day you decide - but first of all get a good vacuum cleaner.

Oh yes and I should add we never recommend Dyson machines - sorry Sir James but you will find most commercial cleaners would not be seen dead with one in their van. And since they stopped manufacturing them in the UK it is much easier to be able to get this off our chests.

Sunday, March 17

We name the guilty...

Just another normal upholstery cleaning job today. Typical in many ways because the homeowners i.e. my clients have done what many, many other carpet and furniture owners have done - they have self-medicated!

It sounds a bit dramatic but I can't think of any other way of describing this obsession people have with cleaning their own carpets and upholstery. Many are called to this job but few are chosen to do it -- properly.

As with today's victim who has fallen for the beautifully labelled bottle of soapy gunk that purports to be the one shot solution to dirty, grubby carpets and upholstery.

The problem is that even if it provides a brief holiday from the grubby appearance of the carpets and soiled furniture, this holiday will last for a very short time indeed.

As soon as the carpet or furniture dries and goes back into normal circulation it will start to 'grub-up' much quicker than normal because the soapy residue left behind by the amateur textile technician is now actually attracting dirt!

Soon the furniture is looking worse than ever and needs cleaning again - so the instant supermarket-bought remedies come out from under the sink and the cycle begins again - except this time there is more gunk on the furniture and carpets than before and hence the problem just gets worse.

I am not saying there is anything inherently wrong with these products - but then I would not say that outright as I do not want to be sued by these multi-national behemoths - it is just that the products have the capacity firstly to be overused and secondly to be wrongly applied and thirdly to not be rinsed out after they have done their job.

I do feel that 'doing their job' does not really cover the effect they have on carpet and upholstery. Undoubtedly the greatest problem is the residual product left in the carpet or on the upholstery and this can only be solved by the rinsing action - this rinsing action almost never happens to the degree required to flush all the product out of the fibres being cleaned - hence the problem.

This is not an exhaustive list but the products include:  Vanish, 1001, Rug Doctor Pro, Vax AAA, Tesco Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner, Sainsbury Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner, Essential Waitrose Carpet Cleaner

See the difference - no really!

We clean a lot of end-of-tenancy properties - especially when the seasons start to turn in our part of the world (the New Forest, UK) and winter 'long' lets give way to shorter holiday lets and vice versa in the autumn.

Usually the holiday visitors treat their temporary home with respect and care - but we do get called on to clean carpets and hard floors at some stage during the 'season' to keep the properties looking pristine for the next guests.

The winter 'long' lets present a different sort of challenge as often the longer-term temporary residents are less than careful with the furnishings which may not have been in the greatest condition when they moved in. Memories are short with such things.

Sometimes people do forget how clean the property was when they moved in. One thing is for sure we don't often find a black-top* in a residential property - but the following video shows they do happen.

*A black-top is the humourous name the industry reserves for sticky (black) restaurant and pub carpets

Thursday, November 22

Do you have quality of life?

It occurred to me today that what we do as an industry is worthwhile!

This is not the first time this has happened and it will not be the last time. I have always known it was worthwhile but often you tend to take what you do for granted.

But you know the feeling, you do the job - the best one you can - and then you go to the next job and so life carries on in its own merry way.

Sometimes though you are brought to your senses by a customer who tells you that you have done a very good job steam cleaning their carpets and that you have improved their "quality of life".

We had a customer like this recently who is a very regular user of our services - we clean their carpets every six months and when we arrive at the job it is always the same sad scene - the household in question has several small children and a dog.

When we leave the picture is very much improved; to such an extent that the customer was moved to make the comment about their "quality of life".

I was just checking the results of our cleaning operation and commented quite casually that the money they spent on cleaning could have paid for new carpets by now! An exaggeration perhaps  but you know what I mean - sometimes you just talk for the sake of talking - or maybe that's just me.

This was when it hit me though. Or rather the customer hit me with their reply; "Yes, but then I would still need them cleaning". Not only that but they would have paid out a huge amount of money plus the cost of cleaning anyway - so suddenly it made sense - clean carpets improve the quality of people's lives...

Friday, June 29

Spend a little, save a lot...

An ingenious little gadget that can be bought online very cheaply (and new) compared to its original selling price has just come into my possession.

It’s a well-made little device called a Spillmaster and it was invented by Morphy Richards.

Search one out on Ebay and you should pick it up for about £8 including the postage/carriage costs.

The idea of the device is it turns an ordinary vacuum cleaner (virtually any vacuum cleaner) into a wet vac. There are adapters to make it fit your vacuum cleaner (probably).

Spillmaster at work. Pick the glass up first!

We are often called to properties that have had a calamitous liquid accident of some sort and it seems, as luck would have it, they mostly occur very soon after people have had new wool carpets laid! I don’t know why these accidents happen at this precise moment but they do!

Often the clients have either not persevered with their clean-up or they have managed to compound the problems by spreading the spilled fluid around in a wholly unnecessary and arbitrary manner – usually this happens because they are in a bit of a panic. The phrase ‘gay abandon’ comes to mind but of course the use of such phrases now probably breaks the law in several US states.

Much of this (shall we call it) frantic activity is accompanied by lavish use of one of those spray bottles of carpet cleaner fluid.

As I tell customers who use these products they are all very well (up to a point i.e. the point when you put them in the cupboard) but the more they spray on the stain the more it tends to merely mask or hide the marks left by the staining fluid.

With this there is also the likelihood that the active ingredient (usually sodium percarbonate) will bleach the stain and more importantly some of the carpet that surrounds the stain. And therefore we now have two problems for a carpet cleaner. A partly removed stain and a partly bleached carpet.

With this cheap and functional device you can simply suck up the fluid thoroughly and hence prevent any ‘gay abandon’ at all!

So buy one and avoid having to call us in to clean up the mess – we are fed up clearing up your mess (this is a joke by the way we love cleaning up mess!).

See an online demo of the device on Youtube:

If you must call us in to clear up your mess our website is at

Sunday, April 29

To vac or not to vac - that is the question...

Yes springtime is just about over and here in the UK it is the time we as a nation start to think about two things. What to do in the garden with the dead daffodil leaves and spring cleaning!

For the this is our busiest time of the year and this year - despite the double-dip recession - is no exception.

As an industry we are faced with a tidal wave of facts and figures bandied about by those we buy from, those we consult, and from people we admire or rely on as 'experts'.

Possibly the most 'bandied about' fact concerns the composition of the accumulated muck in your carpet that carpet cleaning (in all its forms) seeks to remove.

These 'experts' opine that 80% of this accumulated muck is 'dry soil' which they suggest can be removed by dry vacuum alone.

Carpet cleaners might be forgiven for feeling a tad naked when confronted with this 'fact'. Does it mean that our whole multi-million pound service industry is based on the 20% of accumulated soil that the consumer cannot deal with on their own?

In truth most carpet cleaners would be hard pushed to prove this so-called ‘fact’. All professional carpet cleaners will in most cases vacuum the carpet before they commence the specialist cleaning operation that they sell. In our case that subsequent specialist operation is the finest steam carpet cleaning that money can buy!

Most home owners do vacuum their carpets on a pretty regular basis - some vacuum very occasionally and a few people (tenants and other people such as say students who are apparently pre-occupied with other things) never vacuum their carpets at all... ever!

The job needs to be done twice weekly or even daily on entrance areas around your main doors. There we have said it now - you need a daily vacuum regime!

But even if you have the best vaccing regime in the world you will at some stage still need to engage the services of a professional carpet cleaner.

Often we will be called in to homes with specific problems identified by the home-owner. Often it is traffic lanes and shuffle spots (where people's feet rest when they sit down in a chair) that are making people think their carpets look dirty and discoloured.

Usually they are right - dirt has attached itself to the pile of the carpet by electro-static action or because the dirt itself contained moisture - either way its not possible to simply vacuum this attached dirt away - no matter how good the vacuum.

Chemspec pile lifter vacuum

We will use a commercial vacuum cleaner (it has two motors) first or in extreme cases we may use a pile-lifting vacuum - this is a heavy-duty vacuum cleaner with a very stiff roller brush that really penetrates to the bottom of the pile to beat up, agitate and remove deep down dry soil. Above is the particular Chemspec model that we use:

The secret of the success of any operation in terms of dust removal is to know what you are dealing with. To do this you have to get down and dirty with your carpet.

So don't be shy, get on your knees and do what we do to examine how much dry soil, hair, dust mite litter, pet dander and cut pile there is deep down in the carpet. If necessary then use a magnifying glass like we do.

Extreme example of cut pile and soil removed from a hotel carpet using a Chemspec pile lifter

If there is a lot then we certainly don't want to get the carpet damp or steam it when there is a chance this soil will be converted into sticky mud that is adding to the poor appearance of the carpet. If its dry and removable we want to remove it dry.

So the next time you think about your carpets and you have a magnifying glass in your hand you know what to do!