What to look for when choosing a professional carpet cleaning machine

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by Tom Watson on March 10, 2013

What makes the cleaning industry so wonderful is that there’s just so many different ways to make money. One of those ways is by adding carpet cleaning to your list of available services.

While performing just the basic cleaning duties in homes or businesses will earn you a pretty penny, carpet cleaning ups the ante by allowing you to earn much more money in a lot less time.

Many companies charge in the $60 to $100.00 per hour range for carpet cleaning services. So by adding this service you get to make money off the customer from the regular cleaning services you provide THEN you get to supersize that income by adding the carpet cleaning.

Important factors when choosing a carpet machine

I’m a big fan of doing your homework and making informed decisions. When you do you tend to get the best outcome given your unique situation. This is also why there is no one size fits all approach. What’s best for one may not be best for another. So we’ll discuss a few issues for you to think about before making a purchase.

You will need to weigh out which ones are most important for you and your company. Keep in mind that I won’t be covering truck mounted systems due to their high cost. Instead I’ll focus on the lower priced and easier to operate portable carpet cleaning machines. In no particular order, here is what you need to think about…

  1. Price.
  2. Size of unit.
  3. Features.
  4. Performance.

Carpet cleaning equipment prices

Price is a huge concern for most when choosing a carpet cleaning machine. Units can range anywhere from the $500.00 range to $2,500.00 depending upon the features they possess. Naturally, as you spend more money you’ll get more “bells and whistles” with your purchase. However this doesn’t mean a lower priced unit will not perform well.

It’s just that the higher priced carpet machines will generally have features that make life a little easier. For instance this may include a larger solution tank, which means less time dumping the dirty water you remove from the carpet. Less time dumping water means you get done faster, which allows you to get to the next job quicker.

Size of the portable carpet machine

The size of the carpet cleaning machine comes into play as well. This is a two-fold issue in a sense. The actual size of the unit can be important, as moving it from point A to point B can be an issue for many. Some units may be too big for your vehicle to transport. You’ll also have to remember that navigating through a two or three-story home with a large unit could prove difficult, especially up a staircase.

The size issue also comes into play in regards to the tank size. Normally you’ll have a tank that keeps the clean water with the solution mixed in PLUS you will have a tank that stores the dirty water you suck back out of the carpet. The larger each tank is the longer you can go before having to either put more clean water in or empty the dirty water you sucked out of the carpet.

In my opinion you could get away with a smaller unit more easily if you planned on cleaning houses as opposed to businesses. This is because a smaller lighter unit may come in handy in an environment when you have less room to maneuver. Plus a smaller tank size would not hurt you as much because an average home carpet cleaning job is much smaller than a commercial account would be.

Over on the commercial side you may want to go with a larger unit. The added size of the unit wouldn’t matter so much as commercial jobs tend to have a lot of wide open space to clean. As a result they tend to have much more square footage, meaning the larger solution tank size would be a nice benefit too, as you wouldn’t have to dump and refresh the water supply so often.

Features of the carpet cleaning unit

Features vary from one manufacturer to another. They all try their best to give you the best bang for your buck, hoping you’ll choose them as your vendor. I already mentioned the tank size issue and why it’s important, but that’s not all. For instance some units have hoses that are longer than normal.

The longer hoses allow you to stray farther from the unit, making it much easier to clean a large area without constantly moving the machine itself across the room. Some units also have a built-in spot cleaning upholstery tool, eliminating the need for a separate unit in many cases.

Longer than normal extension cords are also a nice plus on a unit. Struggling to find nearby outlets only wastes valuable time that could be spent cleaning carpet. Safety shut off valves and large wheels for easy maneuvering are other factors that may make one unit more attractive than another.

Carpet cleaning performance

The performance of various components will vary according to the price you pay. As I mentioned earlier, the more expensive units generally have more robust performance. This will come into play in three main ways, with each of them being important. First is HEAT, the second is SUCTION (CPM) and the third is PRESSURE (PSI).

At the end of the day the higher the unit heats the water that you will use to clean the better the end result will be. So you’ll want to pay attention to that detail if you decide to go with a higher end carpet machine. Next up is the suction, which is measured as CPM on most units.

Again, the higher the CPM number is the more powerful it is. In a nutshell the more suction a unit has the drier it leaves the carpet when you are done cleaning, which makes for a happy customer. Last up is PSI, which is just a measurement of how much pressure the solution is under when exiting the wand during cleaning. Again, the higher the PSI the better.

Carpet cleaning machines to compare

I did a little homework on several portable machines and came up with the following group for you to consider. Any of these would make for a good choice. Just remember to focus on what’s important to you then make a decision!

The Rug Doctor Mighty Pro is a nice entry-level unit for those on a very tight budget. Their entry-level machine comes in at under $600.00 currently, so the price is hard to beat. This is a decent unit for those on a real tight budget.

A more expensive unit along the same line is the Sanitaire Commercial Carpet Extractor. This machine comes in around the $1,700.00 range and is a solid unit to consider. I’m a big fan of all Sanitaire products, as I have purchased many over the years.

The Mercury Carpet Extractor is somewhat similar to the Rug Doctor unit just with a lot more capacity. This unit has a 12 gallon tank versus the 3 gallon in the Rug Doctor. This unit also has a wand that’s used to clean the carpet, which allows you to get into tighter spaces.

Well I hope I shed a little light on purchasing your first portable carpet cleaning machine. Getting into a new field is always exciting and full of money-making possibilities. I wish you the best and be sure to post a comment should you have any questions or thoughts to add!

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DISCLOSURE: I may be an affiliate for products that I recommend. If you purchase any items through my links odds are I’ll earn a commission of some kind. I only recommend products and services that I have used or think may be useful to those starting or operating a cleaning business.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Carmen March 10, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Do you have your material in spanish??

2 Tom Watson March 10, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Hi Carmen! Not yet… but it is on the radar.

3 Francisco March 10, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Carmen I have also been asking for material in spanish, so Tom that makes two of us! Tom what do you think about the RotoVac?

http://www.carpet-cleaning-equipment.net/cc_startup_kits.shtml

4 Tom Watson March 10, 2013 at 10:16 pm

YES… Spanish will be coming down the road! More work to do before it hits the website though. As to the Rotovac… seems like a nice machine, but much more expensive than an entry level unit (and that’s why I left it out). The video demo sure looks good however.

When all is said and done, I see that as a nice tool in the toolbox once you get going. Much like a regular toolbox, no one piece of equipment is a one size fits all. That unit is probably great for very dirty carpet, but may be over-kill for most jobs.

I would work my way up to the more expensive carpet machines once you have nice cash flow established. This way you don’t go out on a limb for a high priced machine that you may not have much work for in the beginning.

5 Francisco March 10, 2013 at 10:31 pm

Thanks for the advice Tom! Once you have spanish material I will spread the word about it. 🙂 As i think you and Sue are the best in the field!

6 Tom Watson March 10, 2013 at 10:43 pm

Thanks Francisco! I really appreciate that.

7 thabo March 15, 2013 at 4:59 am

i really apreciate all the help you gave me.all that is lefy is for me to get myself a contract maybe you can help me as to how to get one

8 Tom Watson March 15, 2013 at 7:04 am

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