Why Do We Clean Upholstery?

IMG_0159The reasons may vary from company to company:

  • Our carpet cleaning customers expect it of us.
  • We do not have to develop the market. Our carpet cleaning customers often ask us or expect us to be able to clean their upholstery
  • Properly trained, we can make good money at it.

According to two different industry surveys, people who have had their carpet cleaned by a professional said that upholstery cleaning was the “add-on” service that the technician most often tried to sell to them. Why would upholstery cleaning be the most likely “add-on sale”? It is an “easy” sale, and the customer expects us to be able to do it!

But I want you to think about that for a minute. Think about all of the other service menu items your company could offer as an “add-on sale?”

  • Fabric protection
  • Tile & Grout cleaning
  • Pressure washing
  • Restorative cleaning for stone surfaces
  • Wood floor recoating and renovation
  • Rug cleaning

The diversification choices available to the professional carpet cleaning contractor are wide and varied. Yet upholstery cleaning is the most likely “add-on” service most are likely to offer. Now compare upholstery cleaning to other add-on services. Isn’t upholstery cleaning one of the highest risk and potentially the lowest profit margin add-on service we provide? The truth is that most upholstery is easy to clean. What should stop us in our tracks though is the fact that the very small risk of cleaning an upholstered piece that does not resupholsterypond to cleaning properly still exposes us as cleaners to a very large potential loss.

Is upholstery cleaning really that complicated? Preview the technical talk that you may have learned about related to upholstery cleaning for just a moment. These are all things we may encounter when cleaning upholstery

(1) Weaves

(2) Textures

(3) Cellulosic man-made fibers

(4) Polymer based synthetic fibers

(5) Natural fibers

(6) Multiple layers of fabric

(7) Incorrect cleaning codes

(8) Unstable dyes/coloring

(9) Thoughtless manufacturing techniques

(10) Fabric manufacturer ignorance (marking the foam underneath with a permanent marker whose ink may transfer when the outside fabric gets wet qualifies as one example to me)

What should our attention is that fact that occasionally when we clean a lot of upholstery; we get “caught.” You can do everything “right” and still have something go very wrong. You can do what you are taught to do, in accordance with industry standards of cleaning, and still have the upholstered fabric respond in a negative way. If you clean enough upholstery, you will eventually have to “buy” a piece when that happens. You can have all of the liability waivers and pre-inspection forms in the world, but eventually you will have a situation where re-covering or buying the couch is less expensive than a long drawn out fight with a customer. You either need to make sure you have the right kind of insurance coverage to help you in this situation, or you need to charge enough and set enough money aside to deal with this when it happens. Preferably you should do both. But there-in lays another challenge.

The increased “value” (price) needed to justify the time and effort it will take your company to clean the piece safely and correctly (in accordance with industry standards of care) isn’t always manifest in the perceived “value” the furniture has to your customer. How is the “value” defined or determined? Did they purchase the sofa from a high end furniture retailer for thousands of dollars, or is it a “hand me down” sofa from Aunt Edna they got for free?

 Do not kid yourself! It is true that almost every stitch of fabric out there can be cleaned, BUT not everyone wants to pay you enough to do the pre-testing, and follow the right cleaning procedures in cleaning it. You may have to learn how to say “NO, THANK YOU!” Just because we can clean a certain piece of upholstery doesn’t mean we should clean that piece of upholstery!

Now there are some really unique upholstered fabrics out there that can’t be cleaned and that you would be best to walk away from. Some fabrics are just plain not cleanable, by any method, using any system! The truth is though…that most upholstery cleaning related problems are caused by us – when we overwet the fabric and/or use too aggressive of a pH in our cleaning chemistry.

What are some of the basic differences between cleaning carpet and cleaning upholstery?

  • “Thickness” of the fabric. Upholstery is a thin fabric. Carpet is a much heavier textile.
  • Layers – some upholstered fabric has more than one fabric in its construction.
  • Construction – upholstery is most often a woven fabric. Carpet is usually a tufted textile.
  • What’s behind it? Carpet has a pad or cushion and usually a wood or concrete subfloor. Upholstery has foam cushion and the wood, metal or plastic framework of the furniture.

What are the basic differences in soiling conditions between carpet and upholstery? Upholstery is most affected by the following types of soil:

  • Skin and body oils
  • Dead skin
  • Hair treatments/sprays
  • Airborne oils
  • Pet hair
  • Food and beverage spills
  • Skin lotions and treatments

The Goal of Upholstery Cleaning

As you learn more about how upholstery is constructed, you will learn about fiber content, weaves, finishes, and construction of fabric. Any or all of these components can have an effect on the cleaning process. You have to be concerned about the quality of your cleaning results (usually appearance improvement); shrinkage; browning; yellowing; weak or fugitive dyes that may bleed; spots and stains; and change in the texture of the fabric.

Your expertise in carpet cleaning gives you an excellent base knowledge to help you out when cleaning upholstery, but it does not make you expert upholstery cleaner. One reason for this is that with carpet you are dealing with only a few fibers or blends, and there are only a few basic methods of carpet construction.  In furniture cleaning, the fibers, blends, and construction of the fabric is much more varied, in fact most upholstery fabrics are blends of more than one fiber.

You will have to be aware of many more possibilities when cleaning upholstery than with carpet. Where carpets are tougher and meant to handle years of abuse, most furniture fabrics are delicate and designed for their decorative effect rather than their durability and cleanability.  We say this not to scare you, but to make you aware that a little added expertise is required to handle most of today’s furniture fabrics. When it comes to pre-testing and cleaning upholstery, you have one main goal: remove as much soil as possible, without changing the color or texture of the fabric.  If you forget this, and you are too aggressive, you may find yourself in a situation that is difficult to correct.

Three rules to successful and safe upholstery cleaning

It is important to know that you can clean a fabric successfully without knowing the exact fiber if you follow the basic rules of cleaning, and if you TEST your cleaning method to be sure that it is safe for that piece. Pretesting is important because it provides useful information about dyes, finishes, and construction. Three of the most important rules you can remember in cleaning upholstery are:

Control your moisture – Many cleaning related problems are directly related to over-DM3 3_4 front drama with hosewetting. You should always avoid overwetting. Use the proper tools and cleaning procedures and you can avoid most of these problems. This is where the HydraMaster DriMaster 3 Upholstery tool can make a HUGE difference. With the DriMaster 3 Upholstery Tool, the cleaning solution is applied in a thin, flat fluid stream for even application. The constant solution flow is trained by the patented injector bar and slotted vacuum port system, which means there is no spray jet to clog. The cleaning solution shears across the fabric rather than directly spraying into it, which greatly minimizes the likelihood of over-wetting the fabric. In addition, the immediate vacuum recovery of solution flow means less residual moisture, which leaves the fabric cleaner and dryer.

Control your pH – Too high of pH can cause bleeding, browning, and other types of problems. Most times you will be using a mild alkaline, and at times a neutral or even an Upholstery Collageacid chemical may be needed. In addition, remember that the soil you are trying to clean from upholstery is quite different than typical carpet soil. Review the list above. HydraMaster has formulated a line of cleaning solutions that are specifically designed to safely and effectively clean the various types of upholstery you will encounter. Check out the complete line here.

Speed up your drying – Most problems occur during the drying step, not instantly. By reducing the dry time of the fabric, you will greatly reduce the chance of bleeding, browning, or wicking.  An air mover can be your best friend in cleaning upholstery. AHM1000 Upholstery Drying HM1000-3quarterviewsmaller, lightweight airmover will be more likely to be carried into your customer’s homes by your technicians and are small enough the airflow can be directly applied to the upholstery and its cushions. The HydraMaster HM1000 Epic Micro Airmover works perfectly for this and costs a great deal less than conventional airmovers.

For more information about the most effective ways to clean upholstery, you can download our FREE cleaning app for your smartphone, tablet or computer. If you would prefer something more conventional, feel free to download our free cleaning procedures guide for upholstery you can print out here.

Wastewater Disposal – What’s a cleaner and restorer supposed to do?

lsWhy should I be concerned about the wastewater resulting from my carpet cleaning services?

Several times a month, we get a question about where the wastewater (or recovered material) generated from operating a truckmount, portable. or even low moisture carpet cleaning system should be disposed of. It does not take long when perusing on-line forums or Facebook groups made up of cleaners and restorers to hear the story of a carpet cleaner who has found trouble with local law enforcement agents over what is the illegal dumping of wastewater from a waste tank into the storm sewer system. Stories are told of large fines being levied against the cleaning company. This always generates a lot of questions from other carpet cleaning companies about what the proper way to dispose of wastewater is.

We could give you our opinion, but it is always better to hear from independent experts:

“Wastewater from carpet cleaning may contain dirt, soap, oil, grease, solvents, and other toxic chemicals (that pre-existed in the carpet). These common pollutants can enter our waterways and harm the plants and animals that live there”

Good business practices for Carpet cleaning and wastewater disposal – State of Washington Department of Ecology

“There are at least five areas of potential concern regarding wastewater disposal: Synthetic fibers, solvent spotters, pesticides, phosphates, and industrial soils”

Wastewater Disposal Procedures – Society of Cleaning and Restoration Technicians (SCRT), Copyright 1994, Third Edition 2010

It is unethical and ILLEGAL to dispose of your wastewater into the storm drain system

“Storm drains discharge directly into lakes, creeks, and waterways untreated. This is illegal dumpingwhy it is dangerous and ILLEGAL to dispose of carpet cleaning wastewater into the storm drain system (including driveways, parking lots, and street gutters). Carpet cleaning businesses must implement appropriate best management practices (BMPs) to prevent these pollutants from entering storm drains or ditches.”

Good business practices for Carpet cleaning and wastewater disposal – State of Washington Department of Ecology

“There shall be NO discharge of wastewater to storm water management systems or onto streets, curbing or drains feeding these systems”

Wastewater Disposal Procedures – Society of Cleaning and Restoration Technicians (SCRT), Copyright 1994, Third Edition 2010

So what is the best way to dispose of wastewater resulting from my carpet cleaning services?

“Disposing wastewater within a sanitary sewage treatment system is allowed in most municipalities (consult with local regulations). Under most conditions, this is the preferred method of wastewater disposal.”

Wastewater Disposal Procedures – Society of Cleaning and Restoration Technicians (SCRT), Copyright 1994, Third Edition 2010

“Arrange with the client to allow you to discharge into the toilet, bathtub, or utility sink that flows to the sanitary sewage treatment system. If this is not possible, plan to transport the wastewater off-site and dispose of it properly and an authorized discharge point.”

Good business practices for Carpet cleaning and wastewater disposal – State of Washington Department of Ecology

They HydraMaster Automatic Wastewater Disposal System (AWDS) is the most efficient HM_AWDS_Masked-112957smway to transfer your wastewater back into the home or business you are cleaning so that it can be disposed of into a bathtub, toilet, or industrial sink where it enters into the sanitary sewage treatment system. Stay compliant – Stay Safe! Transporting 70-100 gallons of wastewater back to your facility or another disposal site adds hundreds of pounds of weight to your van potentially causing additional wear and tear and increases your fuel consumption.

Best practices for carpet cleaning wastewater management to help protect the environment and be a good citizen of your community:

  • Check with local and state authorities for any special provisions on wastewater management to ensure you are in compliance with regulations
  • Make sure that your equipment is well serviced and that all filters are operating properly. Maintain tanks, hoses, and fittings to prevent wastewater leaks or accidental discharges
  • All recovered wastewater should be pre-filtered to remove synthetic fiber and other non-biodegradable materials, prior to disposal with your AWDS.
  • Train all operators and cleaning technicians on appropriate carpet cleaning best management practices as well as pollution prevention and wastewater discharge requirements. Never discharge wastewater directly into the street, curbing, parking lot, or any area leading to the storm sewer system. Never discharge wastewater directly into natural bodies of water or to land surrounding natural bodies of water.
  • The pH of your wastewater should range from 5.5 to 9
  • Use your AWDS system to transport your wastewater into a home or business where it can be properly discharged into the sanitary sewage treatment system.



Myths, Fables & Fact about Vacuum Science

423s-blowerBy Chris Ryan, HydraMaster Truckmount Product Manager

Never in recorded history has a subject been discussed as much, and understood as little, as vacuum systems and their effects on carpet cleaning. There are hundreds of professional cleaners who own truckmounts that are more than willing to share their knowledge, and opinion, about vacuum performance. The ultimate measure of vacuum performance when it comes to the carpet cleaning customer is how long the carpet takes to dry. But even that has many variables, even at 400+ cfm vacuum performance and higher.

gardner-denver-blowerGiven the complexity of vacuum theory and the industry confusion surrounding it, carpet cleaning businesses often end up on a blind quest when searching for a truckmount with a more powerful vacuum.

To keep from being vulnerable to claims that go beyond the real world of vacuum physics, let’s explore some of the misconceptions out there.

Myth #1: The more lift a system has, the better the cleaning will be

To illustrate why this is a myth, put a marble on a table and place your vacuum hose over it, sealing the cuff to the table.  Now start your machine.  Because of the seal, the vacuum gauge will show its highest lift, but the marble hasn’t moved.  Now crack the seal of the cuff and let in some air.  Even though the gauge show a drop in lift, the marble races down the hose due to air flow.  So while lift is easily measure on a gauge, it doesn’t tell you how much air is being displaced in a vacuum system, and it is airflow (usually expressed in cubic feet per minute or CFM) that conveys soil back through the hoses to the recovery tank.

Myth #2 The more CFM a vacuum has, the drier the carpet will be after cleaning.

Airflow, measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM), can’t be evaluated alone any more than lift can.  That’s because lift and airflow are inversely dependent.  If one goes up, the other goes down.

To illustrate, let’s suppose your truckmount vacuum gauge reads 6” Hg level of lift.  At this level, the system is capable of moving about 175CFM of airflow.  Now suppose you add more hose or improve the wand seal.  The gauge will probably show lift climb to a level of 10”Hg, but airflow will drop to about 150 CFM.  One goes up, the other down.

So, you can’t give too much weight to CFM measurements alone when judging a vacuum system.  The most effective cleaning is accomplished only when there is proper balance between lift and airflow.

At HydraMaster, we measure air watts to quantify and predict where the “sweet spot” of a vacuum’s performance curve lies.  And we calculate the speed at which air is flowing at every point in the system to ensure enough velocity to suspend the recover water and keep it moving throughout the system.

Myth #3:  Vacuum Pressure reading on the vacuum gauge represents the entire load on the machine.

Modern day carpet cleaning machines are set at many different vacuum pressure limits. Some are done intentional and others are just doing what the industry standard has been for decades. Ideally a range of 12”-14” Hg is ideal based on myths #1 and #2.

What is easy to overlook on any carpet cleaning machine is the amount of pressure “restriction” on the blower and engine exhaust side. It is important to understand that the positive pressure measurement on this side of the blower is referred to as back pressure and is added to the measured vacuum pressure on the inlet side of the blower. So if your back pressure is about 3” Hg and you set your vacuum breaker at 14” your CFM will be the output of the blower at 17” Hg. It is possible to have to different machines side by side set at the same vacuum pressure level, but produce different CFM. The machine with the greater back pressure will have lower CFM.

Designs that can impact back pressure can be; pipe diameter, number of elbows, silencer, heat exchanger, and the type of geometry used for each of these. Sometimes it is necessary to make connections less efficient for the sake of packaging or economy, but overall you should ask the manufacturer what the overall back pressure is of a particular piece of equipment.

How Does The CDS XDrive Power Delivery System Work?

The concept behind the revolutionary, game changing technology of the CDS XDrive lies in the Xcellerated Drive System. Power delivery and performance will no longer be measured by horsepower. IMG_9855

The CDS XDRIVE revolutionizes direct drive and PTO truckmounts in the cleaning and restoration industry with computer programmed operational precision. The CDS XDrive uses the power and heating source already provided by the host vehicle engine.

TransitDrawing_ZiggyThe Xcellerated Drive System is state of the art technology that uses a specially designed generator mounted to the host vehicle engine and driven by a belt system. This generator transfers to a computerized power monitoring control center. This collected energy is delivered at precise pre-programmed consistent levels to an electric motor. The electric motor powers a shaft and belt system delivering consistent direct non-fluctuating energy to the vacuum blower and solution pump.  This computerized system provides the most consistent power delivery control to the vacuum blower and other major components of ANY truckmount – slide-in or direct drive – providing your customers with faster drying times and more consistent cleaning.  This computerized system provides a higher level of consistent energy transfer than a drive shaft or power take off system, reducing the fluctuations in vacuum blower airflow production. Essentially, a drive shaft or power take off system has been replaced with precise, computerized electric energy delivering system. Traditional RPM’s and Horsepower measurements have been replaced with wattage generation. The CDS produces a maximum power flow of 18Kw.

What went into the decision to develop and apply the technology that powers the CDS XDrive Truckmount?

As we previously discussed, none of the new unibody construction vans can work with theZiggy 1 present drive shaft technology of the HydraMaster CDS Truckmount, nor any of the designs of our competitors. Thus a new power transfer process had to be developed to have a van powered truckmount in the new unibody vans.

The future of power take off and/or direct drive units installed in some of the new vehicle designs could have potentially taken on a number of forms: tailshaft power take offs; transmission power take offs,; water and oil hydraulics, pneumatic power: direct driving the blower from the engine within the engine compartment; and alternative fuels are all ideas that we evaluated.

As many long time cleaners can testify to, the use of Hydraulic power transfer in our industry does not have a very successful track record. Though the technology associated with hydraulic power has improved, one thing that kept pushing us away from hydraulics is the fact when you have hydraulic power, you have hydraulic oil leaks. Just look at the tarmac the next time you are on an airplane. Carpet cleaners who spend hours cleaning up the carpet and hard surface floors inside their customer’s home or business would not look too positively on a truckmount that dripped hydraulic oil on their customer’s driveway or parking lot. .Squirrel on a hamster wheel

We even considered the fact that California may eventually require high powered squirrels running on hamster wheels to power green reduced-emission truckmounts.

In the end, our research kept taking us to one place – the hybrid and pure use of electronic power generation at kilowatt levels that were now achievable to power a truckmount. Our next update (#3)  will explain how the power delivery system does work on this amazing new truckmount.

XDRIVE Power System

Why did HydraMaster choose the Ford Transit as the initial host vehicle for their new truckmount technology?

The first step was the XDRIVE power transfer technology as the driver. None of the new unibody construction vans can work with the drive shaft technology of the HydraMaster CDS Truckmount, nor any of the designs of our competitors. Thus, a new power transfer system needed to be created.

HydraMaster did a significant amount of research in the industry on where cleaning and DSCF0434retrestoration companies planned to go in the future when it came to the purchase of their next work vehicle. With the long term viability of standard cargo vans being brought into question by increasingly stringent EPA fuel efficiency and emissions regulations, we wanted to know what cleaners and restorers were thinking about when it came to their future vehicle purchases. The Ford Transit was the dominant choice amongst companies who planned to purchase one of the new unibody construction vans. In addition, the inverse mounted engine on the Dodge Promaster makes any power take off hook-up extremely difficult, and would add a great deal of expense to the product. Clearly, the first place to start on the design and engineering of the new XDRIVE hybrid technology turned out to be the Ford Transit, especially since HydraMaster already manufactures the industry’s leading direct drive unit –the CDS, which goes exclusively into Chevy or Ford cargo vans.

IMG_9851retIn our investigations, The Ford Transit offered the most efficient platform for our new CDS XDRIVE Direct Drive truckmount. The lightweight, unibody construction is built with high strength steel as well as boron steel in select areas. The medium and high roof options to the Transit offer cleaning and restoration companies something they have long asked for in a van – you can stand up in the back of the van. In addition, the extra cargo space can be used to carry more gear. Owners of the Ford Transit who were already using the van in their cleaning and restoration business identified several other distinct advantages:

  • The lightweight construction and V6 engine provided them with $600-$1,000 in annual fuel cost savings versus a Chevy or Ford cargo van
  • They love the excellent turning radius.
  • They like the modern look and sleek appearance
  • They love the power, smooth ride, and low deck of the Transit
  • The LED package lights light up the entire interior
  • And of course, they love being able to stand up and all of the extra space!

So after careful consideration, the Ford Transit became the obvious choice for the new CDS XDRIVE Direct Drive Truckmount. Through our vehicle partner, Hudiburg Fleet Services we have already secured a continuing line of Ford Transit’s for when the XDRIVE is released. Best of all, they will be at prices there is no way you can get in your local market.


The Last Job of the Day: Caring for Your Truckmounted Equipment, Hose, and Cleaning Tools

If you have ever worked in a restaurant, you know the last chore of the night is always cleaning up the kitchen. That’s because it’s important for the kitchen to be fresh, clean, and of course healthy at the start of each new day.

The same can be said when it comes to caring for truckmounts. While many carpet cleaning technicians and cleaning professionals may believe their day should be “over and out” when they finish cleaning the carpets, it’s actually smart to make cleaning and caring for the machine itself the last job of the day. Always remember that customers will surely notice the machine you use. What kind of impression will it give them if your truckmount is soiled and dirty?

Before adding this step to your daily routine, however, be sure to review the manufacturer’s instructions as to how to care for your truckmount. Some machines may require specific maintenance on a set or regular schedule.

For most truckmounts, the following maintenance steps should be taken at the end of the work day:

  • Check fluid levels – it is always a great idea to do a quick check of your engine oil, blower oil, and solution pump oil. Many vacuum blowers are equipped with “sight” tubes to make part of this job easier. Always follow the recommendations of your machine’s manual.
  • Lubricate your vacuum blower with a quick squirt of lubricating oil. HydraMaster recommends TKX by LPS lubricating oil for the vacuum blowers used on its truckmounts. About a 5 second squirt works ideally. Many HydraMaster Truckmounts are quipped with a lubricating port on the front of the machine to assist with this.
  • When cleaning your truckmount at the end of the day, be sure the tank is clean and fresh by flushing it with pure water.  Leave the tank empty and prop the lid open to allow it to air dry. It is always a good idea to rinse out and clean your vacuum recovery tank, your vacuum tank drain, filter, and lint basket. It your machine is equipped with an automatic pump-out system for wastewater, don’t forget to clean and rinse it out too.
  • You may also find it necessary to occasionally run a little deodorizer (CleanMaster OdorMate Tropical Breeze works great!) through the vacuum hoses along with some CleanMaster DeFoam.  Be sure and rinse thoroughly. This keeps the hoses clean and sanitary and helps make sure air can move freely through the hose.
  • You should also de-scale the unit occasionally. We recommend the safer to use CleanMaster TM DeScaler throughout  the system. Make sure you follow the specific instructions from your machine manual to properly descale your machine.  Also rinse the chemical jug to clean out any residue and flush the chemical system with white vinegar to neutralize the system and clean out any residue.  Again, check the owner’s manual for information about if and how you should perform this task on your particular machine.
  • Rinse the machine’s wands and make sure they and all brushes are lint and hair free. It is easiest to clean these while they are still wet.  Use a wire comb to pull lint, hair, and other debris from brushes. Also, make sure there is no fraying or cracks on the hoses, wiring and cords on rotary extractors. These invariably become worse over time.
  • A soft toothbrush may be used to clean the jets on the wand to remove mineral deposits.
  • Wipe the machine down from top to bottom, and don’t forget the wheels on rotary extractors. This will ensure that you don’t roll any soil from yesterday’s job into the first job tomorrow morning.
  • The end of the day is also a good time to inspect and listen to the machine. Investigate anything unusual, including any unusual sounds you might hear when the machine is operating. If something sounds different than normal, check it out. We have found that sound changes or unusual noises are very often the most effective way for a “not mechanically inclined” cleaning technician to save the day when it comes to maintenance. “If you hear something, say something!”
  • Finally, it’s a good idea to check your chemicals at the end of the day as well. Make sure they are secured and the tops are tight, and wipe the containers down. This is also a great time to replenish your chemical inventory for tomorrow’s jobs.

HydraMaster Truckmounts include maintenance and lubricating schedule decal that is mounted right onto the visible area of KMBT_C654e-20151006075237the waste tank to help you remember many of these steps. But it is also a good idea to include this list on a checklist that the technicians who brought the truck back to the shop are required to sign off on. Remember the old Fram oil filter commercial – “You can pay now, or you can pay big time later.”

Remember, keeping your equipment and chemicals clean and well maintained ensures worker safety, enhances professionalism, and ultimately makes your next job a lot easier, faster, and more productive.