How to pick the best portable carpet cleaning machine for your business

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by Tom Watson on January 24, 2016

The key to getting the best carpet cleaning machine for your business boils down to knowledge. The more of it you have the more successful you will be.

The ultimate goal is to get you informed enough to know what is the best choice for you. The truth is, the “best choice” is highly subjective.

In other words, what may be the best for ME may not be the best choice for YOU. A lot of factors come into play when determining what is best for your given situation. The price certainly plays a large role, as does size of unit, performance, portability and what type jobs you clean.

As someone who owned a commercial cleaning company and a carpet cleaning operation I can share my perspective on how to approach this process. Once complete, I’ll share some recommendations on some portable carpet cleaning units that can be purchased over on Amazon. Lets get started…

What to consider when buying a carpet cleaning machine

The price of carpet cleaning machine: Prices range from around $1,000 to $3,500 or more in some cases. If you are on a budget, then the lessor priced ones will be your best bet. You’ll sacrifice performance to a degree, but at least it gets you in the business and allows you to gain some experience.

If you went the cheap route, you can always upgrade down the road and let your cheaper unit act as the backup in case something went wrong with your primary machine. In this scenario it would  also come in handy if you had two jobs at the same time or if one big job needed both units working on it simultaneously to get the job completed in a timely manner.

If I had to make a recommendation concerning what approach to take, it would be to save up a little more and start off with a better unit. On the whole the more expensive machines will perform at a higher level which will translate to a happier customer when all is said and done.

Does the carpet cleaning machine heat the water?: One of the biggest factors that determines performance when cleaning carpet is HEAT. As a general rule, the hotter the water the better the cleaning. This is because heat increases “reaction rates”. Without getting too technical, the cleaning solutions you’ll use on the carpet work best at higher temperatures.

So when you use a heated carpet cleaning machine it helps the solutions loosen the dirt that is bonded to the carpet fiber much better than a unit that is not heated. When comparing heated units, the “wattage” of the heater determines how powerful it is. Generally lessor units are not heated, and that is why I recommend the higher priced units if you can afford them.

What is the PSI of the carpet cleaning machine?: This deals with the “pressure” of the water coming out of the wand. Once again, the rule of thumb is the higher the better. This is because the greater PSI is able to “flush” the dirt from the carpet fiber much more effectively. Some units come standard with 100 PSI, 200 PSI while others offer 500 PSI.

Some units also have the ability to be adjustable, which is nice because if you have a 500 PSI unit and you come across carpet that is more delicate, like old worn carpeting, you can adjust the pressure downward so you don’t do any harm to it. This is a key feature so make sure you compare what one unit offers versus what another offers.

What is the CFM and LIFT of the carpet cleaning machine?: These two elements get mentioned a lot by manufacturers. They are different but important to understand. CFM stands for cubic feet per minute of airflow. Basically it’s a measurement of airflow. LIFT on the other hand is a measurement of vacuum “pull.” Commonly measured in “water lift”.

These two elements are interconnected in a sense. When one goes up, the other goes down. Striking the right balance is key to getting carpet clean. On the whole, for a portable unit, the most important factor of the two is LIFT. Think of it this way, another word for LIFT is SUCTION. How much suction a unit has is hidden in the LIFT numbers the vendors publish.

The more suction power you have the more dirty water you will remove from the carpet. Without good suction, the best chemicals in the world won’t clean the carpet. Good suction also helps the carpet dry faster. So if you want to compare “apples to apples” make sure to find the LIFT of a particular unit.

What is the tank size of the carpet cleaning machine?: The units will have two tanks, the solution tank is where you keep clean solution water and the recovery tank is the one where all the dirty water goes. Generally speaking the larger the capacity the better off you’ll be since you do not have to empty or fill your tank as often.

Other factors when buying a carpet cleaning machine

The features of the carpet cleaning machine I just spoke of are the major ones, but you do have other smaller details to consider. For instance I once bought a machine that had all the control buttons located at the very bottom of the unit instead of a centrally located control panel that was in easy reach. That meant lots of stooping just to operate the unit.

That placement of the switches was a small detail, but an annoying one to say the least. Another thing to pay attention to is the length of the hoses. The longer the better as they allow you to clean more carpet without moving the unit again and again. Same thing goes for the power plug. There is nothing worse than struggling to find an outlet within reach.

Portable carpet cleaning machines on Amazon

I mentioned that I would share some units that are currently on sale at Amazon. I included a broad range from very inexpensive to a top of line unit. I like Amazon because it really allows you to comparison shop easily. Anyway, take what you learn in this post and apply it to what you find over there. Odds are you’ll be able to find a unit that fits your needs pretty easily.

Please note: 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.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 HP January 24, 2016 at 6:30 pm

Excited to see you recommended something I had been looking at and some I hadn’t. Thanks for this post.

2 Nann January 24, 2016 at 6:47 pm

I’m wondering about your experience with the rotary style carpet cleaning machines-such as ones produced by Rotovac.

3 Raymon Samuel January 25, 2016 at 12:57 am

What about the empowered water machines, you know the ones that use plain water. The ones that electrified the hot water that all.

4 Tom Watson January 25, 2016 at 8:52 am

Hi HP! Happy it came at the right time.

5 Tom Watson January 25, 2016 at 8:55 am

Hi Nann! Rotary units are very good at cleaning carpet in bad shape. On the whole though I do prefer traditional units that use a wand as my primary unit.

6 Tom Watson January 25, 2016 at 9:02 am

Hi Raymon! When you go to school to learn carpet cleaning (IICRC classes), that don’t make any mention of that type cleaning method. It’s best to just go with what the teachers say is best.

7 Sally July 28, 2016 at 6:17 am

Thanks for the really informative post. Lots of helpful information.

8 Tom Watson July 31, 2016 at 8:59 am

Thanks for commenting Sally!

9 Raymon August 16, 2016 at 2:22 pm

Thanks, that is what I did in class, I followed what you suggested and the machine thanks for the heads up.

10 Tom Watson August 20, 2016 at 10:11 am

Happy to help Raymon!

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