Assessing the quality and performance of portable carpet extractors
AS more BSCS begin offering carpet cleaning services in the facilities they maintain, many will want to advance from “quick-clean” methods—shampoo, bonnet, or dry cleaning— to what most technicians claim is a superior technology: portable carpet extractors. While there are many different “portys,” as they are frequently called, available these days, not all have been certified by the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI). Because equipment can be so important to cleaning outcomes, including how fast or slow the carpet cleaning can be performed, BSCs should become more familiar with this certification program and what it means in terms of a machine’s effectiveness.
"The Seal of Approval program helps BSCs select equipment that has met specific standards and criteria in order to ensure effective carpet cleaning."
CRI established the program, now referred to as the Seal of Approval (SOA), about 10 years ago. Its main benefit for BSCs, as with most of these types of certification programs, is that they do a lot of your shopping homework for you. The program helps you select equipment that has met specific standards and criteria in order to ensure that you get the most effective carpet cleaning equipment for your money.
This CRI program is not intended to suggest that one extractor is better than another or that a certified machine is more effective than one that has not been certified. However, according to CRI it means “that consumers can make informed decisions… [It also allows] manufacturers to improve their products [so that they produce] equipment that is cleaner, healthier, and lasts longer. Everyone benefits.”
In order to earn the Seal of Approval, the CRI looks at how carpet extractors perform across a variety of categories:
Soil removal: This test is designed to help determine the cleaning effectiveness of the extractor. The test uses precise guidelines, such as how many passes it takes for the machine to remove a certain amount of soil from an area of carpet, in order to determine what level of certification the machine can qualify for. For example, if the porty removes 55 to 69 percent of soil from the test area, it is potentially eligible to earn Bronze Certification. If it removes 70 to 79 percent, it can earn Silver Certification. Gold Certification requires 80 to 89 percent, and removing 90 to 100 percent earns Platinum Certification. However, the machine must also pass the other tests shown below in order to officially earn the designated certifications.
Moisture removal: With a low-moisture carpet extractor, about one gallon of water is used per minute. With an older machine, it could take as much as two gallons of water per minute. This test focuses on how effectively the machine removes moisture from the carpet, no matter how much is released in the cleaning process. Typically, this means the machine must either use less water, have more powerful vacuums, or both.
This is especially important because moisture and soil can be a potentially toxic mix. With time, this combination can lead to fungal and bacteria growth that can harm indoor air quality. What’s more, too much moisture left in the carpet after cleaning can prolong drying times and possibly cause a slip-and-fall accident, as building users walk from a wet carpet onto a hard-surface floor. During CRI’s testing procedure, the machine is allowed four passes over a test carpet that contains a specific amount of water. Passing this test requires that the machine leaves no more than eight ounces of water per square yard in the carpet.
Appearance/texture retention: As a carpet is cleaned, especially when it’s done frequently, there can be changes in its appearance. However, the CRI states that such changes should be relatively minor and not dramatically affect the carpet’s appearance. To determine how effectively the machine meets this criterion, the CRI uses the Texture Appearance Retention Reference Grading Scales, which provide a visual aid in assessing appearance changes in carpet pile.
We should note that manufacturers voluntarily submit their portable extractors (as well as vacuum cleaners or chemicals) to CRI for evaluation. Following the CRI testing, an independent board of scientists reviews the results and makes the recommendation as to whether the machine should be certified and at what level. Furthermore, the status level of a machine can change after obtaining the Seal of Approval. For instance, the addition of new technologies, such as laminar wands, can improve the ratings of some extractors. In one case, an extractor that previously received a Silver Certification was re-tested after adding a laminar wand, and the new technology bumped up the CRI certification to the Gold level.
Benefits of Certification
As previously mentioned, the primary benefit of certification is the fact that the program has evaluated and tested these machines ahead of time to determine their effectiveness. This saves BSCs time and money from having to learn on their own through trial and error. That said, there are several other benefits to the Seal of Approval for both BSCs and their clients:
• A certified machine can help protect indoor environmental quality by reducing or eliminating the growth of bacteria or fungi in the carpet.
• A certified carpet extractor can help improve indoor air quality by more effectively extracting soil from carpet fibers.
• By more effectively removing soil from carpet, the machine can increase the life span of the carpet, as very often it is soil that damages carpet fibers over time.
• With a certified machine, the overall cleaning of carpet is usually faster. Carpet cleaning is typically charged on a square foot basis and not by time, so this means the faster and more effectively the carpet is cleaned, the more money the BSC stands to make.
Additionally, the Seal of Approval has one more key benefit: the overall appearance of a facility can be improved with a top-quality machine. Floors, whether carpet or hard surface, are often the first thing people notice when they enter a building, and their appearance can either make or break the initial impression building users have of a facility’s overall cleanliness and quality. Selecting a portable carpet extractor that has earned the CRI Seal of Approval can help ensure this first impression is the best it can possibly be.
Bob Abrams is a carpet care expert and product manager for Nilfisk commercial business, maker of U.S. Products brand professional carpet extractors manufactured for use by the jansan industry. He may be reached via his company website at www.usproducts.com.