Today, hot-water extractors may be common, but cold-water machines have reasons to make a return.
Besides boosting productivity, cleaning professionals are turning to cold-water machines for operator safety. When cleaning carpets with hot water, the water creates steam — and that steam is full of cleaning chemicals.
“And where are they going? You’re breathing them,” says Glenn Rothstein, president of Bio-Shine Inc. in Spotswood, N.J.“That’s why I look at hot-water extraction as being the most unhealthy way to approach carpet cleaning out of all of them. Also, the hotter the water, the more you’re going to flash off the active ingredients. You’re going to put the active ingredients in the air and not on the floor.”
With cold water, the cleaning chemicals stay where they belong — in the carpet — which is better for users’ lungs, as well as for cleaning.
Worker productivity may also improve with the use of cold-water equipment. Hot-water carpet extractors with internal heaters can draw a lot of energy and potentially trip circuit breakers, cutting power to the area and negatively affecting productivity. When doing nighttime jobs, it’s not pleasant having the lights go out and plunging the room into darkness while in the middle of cleaning the carpet.
“When you blow a breaker in the middle of the night in an office building or even at someone’s house, you have to stop and find the breaker and put it back on — but it only overheats and pops again,” says Dan Dillon, owner of CleanItSupply.com and Clean It Janitorial Services, Norristown, Pa.
Some manufacturers have tried to get around that problem by creating hot-water extractors with two plugs that have to be plugged into separate circuits. The operator tries out different sockets, and once he finds two on separate circuits, a light goes on in the machine and work can continue.
The bad news with this solution is that it’s difficult to maneuver a machine with two cords.
“You’ve got cords lying everywhere. You’ve got wands all over the place. You’ve got your solution. You’ve got your recovery hose and then you’ve got two of these long extension cords, and you’re fishing all over the building trying to find two different circuits,” Dillon says. “It’s hard enough to find an outlet to begin with, let alone two different circuits.”
And with all that — the end user is still not guaranteed not to trip a circuit breaker.
Cold-water carpet extractors also draw a lot of energy and may trip circuits, but it’s not as common a problem as with hot-water machines.
With less starting and stopping, workers using cold-water extractors can remain productive and finish tasks quicker.
Some industry experts argue that productivity gains may be minimal because cold water doesn’t clean as well or as fast as hot water. Where janitors might get away with one pass with a hot-water extractor, a cold-water extractor may take two or three to get the carpet clean.
Linda Formicelli is a freelance writer based in Apex, N.C.