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Patti Goellner

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Carpet Extraction | Steam Cleaning

Carpet extraction is known by many names. The most common is steam cleaning. I always chuckle when folks tell me they had their carpets steam cleaned because no machine I’m aware of actually uses steam to clean carpet. The reason being is you would most likely void your warranty, and steam has a good chance of damaging your carpet. So even though you will see me refer to it as steam cleaning here remember it is Carpet Extraction.  Steam Cleaning is putting water  with a chemical designed to release the dirt from the carpet fibers into your carpet, then extracting the water, and soil out of the carpet. There are three types of carpet steam cleaners. The first is the truck mounted extractor. These are used by many professional carpet steam cleaners. The heater, pump, and vacuum are usually mounted in a van. When they come to steam clean your carpet they pull up to your house, and unroll a long hose with a wand attached. The hose has two components. The large hose is for water recovery, and the smaller hose is the high pressure hose used to shoot the cleaning solution into the carpet under pressure. The operator connects these hoses to a cleaning wand used to apply the water under high pressure to your carpet, and recover as much as possible from the carpet back through the large hose to a storage tank in the van. In the hands of a true professional they can do an excellent job steam cleaning your carpet, and they can do it very fast. Unfortunately this industry has its share of less than highly trained operators running around. Please ask about the qualifications of the individual steam cleaning your carpets. Truck mounted extractors can inject a lot of water into carpet at a very high temperature. The opportunity to really damage your carpet exists if the operator doesn’t know what they’re doing. The lowest price steam cleaner advertised in the TV Guide is usually not the guy you want to call. You get what you pay for, and this is true of just about everything in life.
The second type of steam cleaner is called a box extractor. It consists of a box which has two tanks. One for the dirty water recovered, and one for the cleaning solution. The box also has a vacuum in it for recovering the dirty water, and a pump to inject the cleaning solution. The operator has a hose connected to the box with a cleaning wand attached. The large hose is for the recovery of dirty water, and the small hose is the high pressure hose. This is an effective method, and was the very first extractor used. You don’t see these in use very often because more effective extractors have been invented. The biggest downside, and the reason you don’t see them as much is operator fatigue. The operator starts out fresh, but can become fatigued in a short time with this method. The operator is bent over scrubbing your carpet with the wand. He’s injecting and removing water while bent at the waist. It doesn’t take very long for your back to begin feeling the pain. 
The third type is the self contained steam cleaner. A self contained extractor injects the cleaning solution into your carpet under pressure, scrubs the carpet with a nylon brush, and recovers the water through what’s called a shoe in the front of the unit. You work backwards with these units. The reason is apparent if you turn the steam cleaning machine over. The jets the solution comes out is towards the back of the machine. The nylon scrubbing action takes place in the middle of the machine, and the water recovery happens through the shoe located in the front of the machine. You operate this machine standing straight up, and pull the machine backwards. There is a button or control for injecting the cleaning solution. This design of carpet extractors started to appear around the late 80’s. The manufacturers making household vacuums copied this design in the late 90’s, and started offering the public cheap do it yourself carpet steam cleaning machines. A commercial self contained extractor in the 4.5 gallon range is around $1700.00. The larger the unit the price goes much higher. You can go to the discount stores, and buy a cheap made in China self contained steam cleaner with a 1 gallon tank for starting at  $149.00 . Remember, “The you get what you pay for” saying I used in the truck mount description? It is really true with these units. Most are just junk. The one exception I can endorse is the Procision carpet extractor made by Royal Appliance. It carries a three year warranty, and is as close in design features to the commercial units I’ve found. The retail price averages around $300.00. The only downside to the unit is it’s made in China. Self contained extractors do an excellent job of steam cleaning carpet in the hands of a trained operator. It’s also very difficult to damage carpet with these units because the pump pressure is low, and they don’t heat the water.