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Selecting Cleaning Equipment

By Michael Hilton

Carpet Care Equipment Suggestions

For any task, proper tools are required to make the job easier and to complete the task effectively. For your home carpet installation, these tools will help maintain that new appearance longer. Often, carpet care equipment purchases are a blind purchase. In the past, consumers were forced to rely on the salesperson's recommendations for their equipment purchases. What the consumer may not know is a sales incentive or exclusive distribution arrangements that may be available to the seller on a particular brand. Incentives may include cruises or other trips, or possibly increased commission. Also, recommendations for carpet care equipment may be based on bells and whistles of the unit rather than actual performance.

Vacuum Cleaners

The vacuum cleaner is the most important maintenance tool available for carpet care. 86% of all soil contained in carpet, only can be removed through vacuuming. This machine must be effective; otherwise all the diligence in the world will not protect your carpet investment. Carpet industry evaluations have shown that vacuum cleaners remove between 18% and 82% of the soil typically found in carpet. It is not necessary to purchase an 82% removal machine, but the 18% machine should be avoided at all costs. The removal % of a vacuum cleaner is not available from any source, but a program offered by the Carpet and Rug Institute (Vacuum Cleaner Testing Program) is underway to assist the consumer in making this decision. While this program does not identify the removal percentage of any vacuum cleaner it doe establish a standard and recognizes equipment that meets this standard. Approved vacuum Cleaners are listed on the CRI web site. You might note that Eureka and Sanitaire Vacuum Cleaners are mysteriously absent from the list of approved Vacuum Cleaners.

Some equipment manufacturers may mislead the consumer by labeling machines with fictitious “cleaning power” ratings or by listing “watts” or other useless titles that actually provide very little insight into the equipment's actual performance. Other vacuum cleaner manufacturers with slick sales presentations promote gimmicks such as filtration using a water basin, cyclonic action, or multiple filters.

Vacuum Wattage

Vacuum cleaners have notoriously been guilty by using this type of deceptive practice. Watts, for example, have nothing to do with the amount of soil the equipment is capable of removing. Wattage is simply an indicator of the amount of electricity the unit burns. There may be no difference in the amount of soil a 10-watt machine removes versus a 12-watt machine. Also, ideas such as water filtration sound fascinating and highly believable, but in reality, do not hold up to scientific scrutiny.

The Vacuum Cleaner Testing Program sets a minimum soil removal standard (unknown to the consumer) and assigns a pass/fail rating. Dry soil is very damaging to carpet fibers. It cuts and scars these fibers causing them to look dingy and soiled. The scarring of these fibers has a similar effect to scratching glass. Once scratched, glass always appears dirty. This damage is irreversible.

The second criterion for this vacuum-testing program is damage to the pile fiber by overly-aggressive vacuum brushes. Testing has revealed that stiff vacuum cleaner brushes can fray, disentangle, and permanently damage pile fibers. In some instances, a few weeks of vacuum cleaner use with a non-conforming vacuum cleaner can simulate the effects of more than a year of foot traffic.

The final criterion is particulate emissions. It seems that every vacuum cleaner manufacturer is selling indoor air quality, allergen reduction, and health attributes of their unit, but there has been no reliable method of evaluating their claims. Carpet industry testing revealed that some vacuum cleaners making these filtration claims removed very little soil. In essence a vacuum cleaner that removes no soil, filters every thing that is removed, right? This statement may not be very far from the truth for some vacuum cleaners. Also, by placing a high filtration bag on an ordinary unit, filtration may be improved, but soil removal may be negatively affected. In some cases, these high filtration bags reduce airflow (suction) created by the vacuum cleaner motor, reduce soil removal, create a back flow or resistance on the motor, and can shorten vacuum cleaner motor life. The CRI program has established a maximum emission of 65 micrograms of particles per cubic meter of air. Current indoor standards have been set somewhere around 100 micrograms per cubic meter of air. This will help insure that the vacuum cleaner operator is subjected to less dust than is normally found indoors.

A Word About HEPA

There is no such thing as a High Efficiency Particle Arrestor (HEPA) vacuum. HEPA refers to a filter that can be placed on any vacuum cleaner. The vacuum cleaner industry has turned HEPA into a buzzword. As mentioned above, a vacuum cleaner with HEPA filtration may not remove as much soil as is necessary to properly clean an environment. To qualify as a HEPA filter it must filter 99.9% of particles .3 micrometers (microns) and smaller. However, respirable particles can be as large as 5 to 10 microns. This rating of particle size only, provides no clue as to the mass or number of particles that a vacuum cleaner emits that can be inhaled in the respirable particle size zone. The total mass or number of particles must be considered to anticipate the amount of exposure. One final note, tests show that some HEPA filters on vacuum cleaners claiming HEPA filtration quickly become clogged and the soil bypasses this filter around the edges, greatly diminishing filtration performance.

This vacuum cleaner testing program is a voluntary program. As you might guess, not all vacuum cleaner manufacturers are happy with this program, because it issues a “green label” to products that meet this standard. As a result, many LARGE vacuum cleaner manufacturers have decided not to participate. This is a disservice to the consumer because a verifiable test method exists for comparing vacuum cleaners and some vacuum manufacturers prefer to continue to market their products using the worn path of dubious marketing and performance claims. For this program to benefit the consumer, the consumer must ask for these products and stick to your guns about purchasing only products that meet this standard. The market place will eventually encourage these manufacturers to participate, if the consumer presses the issue. The consumer must assume that any product that does not carry this label, does not meet minimum program requirements and therefore should not be considered for purchase.

Vacuum cleaner manufacturers, like Hoover, make good quality vacuum cleaners and very poor vacuum cleaners. Many of these manufacturers prefer to market their own equipment using dubious marketing claims, rather than unbiased test results. If you find a vacuum cleaner that you like, look for the "green CRI label" before purchasing the vacuum cleaner. If the green label is not displayed, select another vacuum cleaner.

Spot Removal (carpet stain removal) Extractor

One of the most cherished carpet care items that you will ever own is a spot removal (carpet stain removal) extractor. The Little Green Machine by Bissell is the best known, but any other similar machine would be appropriate. These extractors are cherished because they can turn a potential nightmare into a normal incident. These can be used for normal wet spills such as water leaks from dishwashers and broken pipes, for unavoidable drink spills, and they are the only effective way to rinse detergent residues when performing spot removal (carpet stain removal). With one of these units, any spill is as simple as prespotting with a detergent, agitating the area slightly to loosen soil, and extract the stain and detergent.

These units inject water into the spill to dilute the spill and extract the spill with its vacuum action. If you've never owned one, you don't know what you are missing. If you've owned one, you already know you couldn't live without it.

Cleaning Extractor

A cleaning extractor is different from a spot removal (carpet stain removal) extractor and not nearly as necessary, but it can make life simpler. Some areas of your new carpet may require cleaning on a monthly basis. Owning one eliminates a monthly Rug Doctor rental or a $50 minimum for a professional cleaner. With a few rentals, or 3 professional touch ups you can easily own one of these units for your own use. Remember that you should clean your entire carpet on a yearly basis. You should never clean less frequently than every 18 months. These units will never replace the quality of cleaning that a professional can offer, but they may be able to extend the time between these cleanings. Some areas, such as entries or areas adjacent to hard floors should be cleaned regularly before soil spreads further into your home. These areas may require cleaning every 4-6 weeks to maintain a like new appearance.

Bissell makes some of the of the best performing carpet extractors for consumer use, based on carpet industry testing and they have been willing to participate in carpet industry-sponsored testing.

Rotovac also makes a great carpet cleaning attachment for professional carpet cleaners that lowers carpet cleaning prices, by increasing carpet cleaning speed and improves carpet cleaning results.

About the Author
Michael Hilton was the original creator of Carpet Buyers Handbook. Having owned and operated a carpet wholesale company, Hilton has a vast knowledge about all-things carpet related as well as other types of flooring.

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