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As winter approaches, I expect to see ample information in articles, on bulletin boards and from other informational resources on how to prevent your truckmount or portable cleaning equipment from freezing, and how to repair the resulting damage should the unthinkable occur.
That is also the time of year that I become envious of folks who live in Florida, Arizona, southern California and other places where it seldom — if ever — freezes. But that is a different story.
What I don''t recall reading each winter are stories about those technicians and business owners who brave the cold temperatures, icy roads, blowing snow and generally miserable winter conditions on a regular basis to clean carpet, give people in their service area cleaner living conditions, improved air quality and make life more pleasant, whether in the residential or commercial markets.
There are also many who respond to calls for help following a flood, fire, trauma situation or other disaster even when they would much rather stay seated close to the heater or fireplace.
The best thing about carpet cleaning jobs during the winter is that you work at a time of year that is often slow. Be glad for any business at this time of year, especially residential. Many of you rely on steady commercial work year-round.
Facing the cold
Truckmount operators know that they will be spending time outside setting up the van and then making several trips back and forth between the home or business and the truck.
Be prepared with clothing that can be worn in layers; consider a light sweater and a warm outer jacket over your usual summer uniform.
A number of companies make nice cold-weather gear that you can have embroidered or silk screened with your identification and company information. Replace that worn old jacket with a tax-deductible expense.
Water resistant gloves should be used while outside and when connecting hoses. You''ll be glad you kept your hands dry.
Protect your equipment
Residential carpet cleaners, who typically use truckmounts, must quickly set up their jobs during cold winter months, running fresh water hoses (if they do not carry a fresh water tank), solution hoses and bringing in sprayers, tools and other items that can quickly freeze. Think ahead. Once you set anything outside that can freeze, you must be ready to start your machine and get cleaning solutions flowing. (See "Truckmount hose woes" sidebar).
Commercial carpet cleaners may use a truckmount, or they may use portable extraction equipment, encapsulation equipment or other low moisture tools. Some are fortunate to never have to leave the building during the cleaning process. Yet many do their work from vans, using truckmounts and portables, which are subject to cold temperatures.
If any of your equipment were to freeze, even slightly, be sure it has been warmed up and completely thawed before you crank up the engine or flip the switch on your portable. Freezing conditions can quickly occur even inside a heated van, especially in the rear of the van, if the outside is cold enough. Even a few crystals of ice can damage a pump.
Many of your carpet and upholstery cleaning solutions will go well below 32 degrees Fahrenheit before they freeze. Thirty two is the freezing point for pure water, but add other materials and the freezing point drops; however, various raw materials in the cleaning bottles may freeze at different temperatures. This tends to separate ingredients. Be sure the product is completely thawed and then shaken or mixed together before use; otherwise, it won''t be the formula the manufacturer intended.
Not all products can survive freezing. Fabric protectors and sealers for stone, tile and grout are often negatively affected by freezing temperatures. Be careful to protect your investment. Testing any suspect products in a small area can save you from recleaning an entire job.
Winter weather often includes cold wind, which can lower hose temperatures quickly. Try to park where the building you are cleaning shields your van and hoses. Park close for shorter hose runs, but don''t forget the dangers of carbon monoxide.
On a related note, think before you head down a sloping driveway to park your vehicle. Icy roads may allow you to go down, but make it very hard to leave, a lesson I learned from personal experience.
Upon arriving at the home you are to clean, place a track-off mat near the front door. This prevents you from tracking ice and dirty slush into the home and makes a great first impression with your customer. The mats tell them you care. You can even have mats custom-made with your business name and logo.
Once you have completed your setup and are inside the home, don''t forget to install some type of "door shield" to cover the opening where your hoses come in. Include a door stop so the door doesn''t swing open any farther than it must. This keeps the warm air in and the cold air out.
Your customers will love your thoughtfulness and the fact that you are saving them energy and dollars. These door shields also help prevent pets from running in or out of the door opening.
Yard sticks that keep hoses from lying on the lawn and burning the grass during the summer are a great way to keep water hose and solution line off the cold ground in the winter.
If your cleaning tools include a portable or a low-moisture cleaning machine, such as a counter-rotating brush machine that is typical in commercial cleaning situations, you should be feeling very smart right now. You have fewer worries about freezing and you can go from the van into the home or business, close the door behind you and not get back into the cold weather until the job is done.
The performance of portable carpet cleaning units keeps improving. With the much shorter hose runs necessary for a portable inside a home or business compared to a truckmount in the driveway or parking lot, the cleaning results can compare favorably with a truckmount.
There may be times when carpet cleaning just isn''t practical, especially during storms or very cold, dangerous temperatures.
There may be cancellations in your near future. Put yourself in your customer''s shoes. Would you want to have your carpet cleaned during a Level 5 snow emergency?
Plan your winter accordingly. After all, it does come around every year.
Scott Warrington has more than 40 years of experience in the carpet cleaning industry and related fields. He serves as the technical support specialist for Bridgepoint Systems and Interlink Supply. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.