Is There Steam In Your Future?

Is There Steam In Your Future?

Many cleaners have asked me if owning a portable hot water extractor would be a benefit to their businesses. This article is a result of these conversations, “tests” I have done, and just plain experience in the field by many of us using HWE in our operation. Your input is appreciated, as this is not the final word by any means.

The answer to the question, “Is having HWE (hot water extraction) available in your arsenal of cleaning tools a good investment?” is YES! (Don’t you just hate to wait till the end of the article to find out the Dolt doesn’t know!) In my own operation, I use Hot Dry-Foam Extraction, Bonnet Cleaning, and HWE. There is very much a place in my company for each one. When I sometimes use them in combination, it’s a real knock out!

If you have a water damage job, an extractor is easier to use. It simply has more capacity and suction. You can put the extractor up stairs and run hoses down. A truckmounted unit is also great for water damage.

I remember one particularly “wet” Summer, people were using “Love My Carpet” and such powders by the case. One customer had a mildew problem and dumped boxes of this powder into her carpet. A VLM (very low moisture) system would have made “paste”. This carpet needed to be thoroughly flushed. On another job, a construction crew had walked all over the newly carpeted dressing rooms at the Community Theater. The carpets were not greasy, just packed with dirt and cement dust. They needed a good flushing and got it.

Have you ever tried to clean a real tight, Olefin commercial-grade carpet with a VS-1 dry foam extractor? It can sometimes be difficult to penetrate the fiber with the brush. Have you ever dry-foam extracted a kitchen and felt that it needed something more like a rinse? I find that a “dual-process” is called for in most kitchens. I Dry-Foam Extract them first, then I HWE them using an acid side fiber rinse. Dynamite!!!

The Test Bed:
We are going to compare apples to apples here. Unless you test side by side or under near exact conditions you really cannot make good comparisons. This data is based on my experience cleaning the carpets in the town-house apartments at Greenway of Newton, Oskaloosa and Grinnell, Iowa.

These are subsidized apartments, operated by Heartland Management under HUD guidelines and purse strings. These town-houses have three bedrooms and a bathroom (upper level), a flight of stairs, and a living room, kitchen, and dining room (lower level). The bathroom, kitchen and dining room are tile, the rest is carpet. Normally all the carpet is either a light or dark brown short plush with not much of a pad. Occasionally there will be a sculptured loop in a bedroom or two that is some of the original (20 year old!) carpet. The total area to be cleaned: 480 square feet of carpet plus 13 steps.

These are “turn-overs” so there is no furniture to move. The painting and cleaning are
already finished so all that is left to do is clean the carpet. Additionally, the vacuuming is usually done before I arrive. Nice! The upstairs carpet is normally not too bad unless
there are spills. The living room is usually trashed. They are all so very similar as to be
quite boring, actually.

The Equipment:
The Dry-Foam equipment is a VS-1. Either a black or tan machine using the Braun
brush. The water is always heated to at least 190 degrees or better. I add 1/2 to 1
teaspoon of wash soda. I use carpet detergent designed for the VS-l system at 32-1
dilution (8 ounces per 2-gallon pail). Prespray gets used on spots only, if at all.


The hot water extractor is a basic Ninja Deluxe. It has a 100 PSI pump, 140 inches of
water-lift. No heat on-board, but I do heat the water using three buckets and three
heaters. The water is between 150 and 160 degrees when in the tank. I add 1/2
teaspoon of wash soda to each bucket and the proper amount of detergent to the batch.
There are two lengths of vacuum and solution hoses for the Ninja: the original 16′ and
the 25′. I run the 16′ hoses to the top of the stairs and then the 25′ hoses to the rooms.
The machine stays in the living room.

The Tests:
I must point out that I am not really doing a side by side test here. It is more like
saying, “What if I did the same job with…” I am going to compare the various elements
of the job.

This is the time from when the resident manager opens the door to the time you put the
van into drive.

With the VS-1, total time was 1 hour and 20 minutes consistently. With the Ninja, total
time was normally 1 hour and 50 minutes (sometimes more). Quite a difference,
especially if you have 4 jobs to do in a day.

With the Dry-Foam System:
I fill one bucket with 2 gallons of water and put two heaters in it. Bring in the VS-1 and take it upstairs. Then I bring in my two-brush scrubber and clean the stairs. I scrub and towel them off. By then, I have boiling water and the VS-1 is running 10 minutes from the time the door opens. Edge cleaning is done by towel and each room is groomed as they are done. Machine time is 1 hour and 10 minutes. Other than maybe 5 minutes toting stuff in and out, all the time is spent cleaning.

With the portable Hot Water Extraction System:
Three buckets are filled and a heater is put in each one. The Ninja is then brought in and the hoses are ran up the stairs and everything hooked up. The water is getting close to 180 degrees by now. All three buckets of hot water go into the machine as well as one bucket hot tap water. I refill all three buckets, and place heater in each one again. Then, I go to work. I have now been in the apartment for 25 minutes and I am just starting to work! I need to refill the machine before I clean the stairs.

I drop off the 25-foot hoses, hook up the stair-tool, and clean the stairs. Then, I swap wands and clean the living room carpet. Finally, I pack up everything and head down the road. The actual “machine time” for cleaning is 1hour and 20 minutes. A lot of time is spent in extra trips to the van for hose and wand, and handling three buckets and heaters.

Water and Chemicals:
With the Ninja, I used 14 gallons of water, 6 ounces of detergent, and 5 teaspoons of wash soda. Consistently, 10 gallons are recovered. A 71% recovery rate. This seems to be normal for this machine. The poop-sheet that came with the machine recommends 2 dry passes with the floor-wand; I used only one dry pass.

The Dry-Foam System uses 4 gallons of water total, 16 ounces of detergent and 1-2 teaspoons of wash soda. It recovers one gallon in the tank and puts a bunch in the air. Hot foam steams up the windows more then the HWE System did. Probably due to the fact that the water in the recovery tank is hotter.

Drying Time:
I simply did not hang around to watch the carpet dry. My experience in other jobs has shown that the carpet, which was hot water extracted, always takes longer to dry, but not that much. Taking your time with the wand and taking a second drying.pass with it (even though, I didn’t) is important. These “soaking” stories must be from carpet cleaners who do not know what they are doing or do not care. Other Dry-Foamers with decent portable HWE equipment tell the same story.

Finished product:
Which is better? This one is hard to tell as we are not testing in a side by side manner. I would have to say the carpet cleaned with the “steaming hot” Dry-Foam is cleaner because the aggressive brush agitation of the VS-1 will get more of the grease spots and tracking out easier. Just normal cleaning with the VS-1 will take care of traffic paths, while you need to stroke a little harder with the portable HWE. The Ninja gets its share of dirt out and that is obvious when dumping the Ninja’s waste-water tank. Yuck! There is less grooming required using the portable extractor to clean these carpets. I have not had a complaint on any of the work I have yet done with either machine.

So What!
Having both systems available at all times; I prefer using the Dry-Foam system in these apartments. Other than dragging the machine upstairs, it is simpler, easier and quicker. I also feel the brush agitation makes traffic lanes and spots much easier to clean. I would like to hear from others VLMers using HWE. I know there are some differing opinions out there.

Why the Ninja?
I could have picked at least a dozen other portable extractors, with identical specs to the Ninja. Its appeal to me was in line with my “work simplification program”. The machine weights 62 pounds. Most other machines weigh at least 80 pounds. Screw “your” back
up, not mine! It has to be lifted to get it in and out of the van, up and down stairs, and into most homes.

The Ninja Deluxe has 8″ wheels on the rear and a dolly type handle. It can be rolled across a parking lot like a two-wheeled mule and with water in it. A four caster machine must be carried. Those plastic rollers will not take concrete very long. The same applies to the VS-1. At least the VS-1 is balanced so it can be carried like a big suitcase.

There are a few things I would like to see changed on the Ninja now that I am a little more familiar with it. There should be a handle at the front-bottom of the machine. It would facilitate handling at the van and in hooking up the solution hose. Wheel locks would provide peace of mind when running your hoses to a lower level. A drain ***** for the solution tank would allow the solution to be put into a container for use on the next job or to service the machine.

Emptying the machine can get a little sloppy. The dolly handle could be a bit higher. I am 6′ tall and most stuff is built for guys around 5′ 7″ tall. Stair height needs to be considered also. I have no problem with the wand, but one guy likes an aluminum scrub wand over a stainless steel drag wand.

I wish I had bought the heat option, it would be a real time saver. I wish all equipment maufacturers would look over their product lines and make their equipment usable by someone other then a retarded ape or a weight lifter! :o)

Furthermore, there is no reason in this day and age why a carpet cleaner should be required to use even one single tool to open the machine for inspection of the “guts”. This is professional equipment, not consumer junk! Field repairs should be easy. Who wants to have to quit for the day because it takes a total tear-down to simply tighten a hose clamp? With the Ninja, you just pop two snaps and it opens like a clamshell. Everything is looking at you. However, I have not tried it with the tanks full yet.

There are many of us who are simply tired of fighting our equipment on a daily basis. The company that produces equipment that can traverse stairs well and is easy to use and maintain, will survive. We are just like our customers; we vote with our checkbooks. If a company is told for years that its products have problems and denies them, it is doomed. Luckily, there are companies like Century 400 that are trying different things. (Editor’s note: also see Cross American Corp.) Reducing weight, improving performance, holding prices in line, and using real wheels and handles. The list goes on forever.

The long and short is, we are tired of hype and marketing jargon. We are starting to see innovation and it is refreshing. Keep it coming!

A fool and his money are invited places. :o)

George Hagele

1) I purchased a MyTee Hot in-line heater for the Ninja. It cut the cleaning time of those apartments down to 45-50 minutes. I used the Ninja exclusivly in the two story apartments.

2) Adding on-board heat to the VS-1 cut the time down to 55-60 minutes. (Now, HWE is somewhat faster!) 3) I have had people reject Dry Foam because of a bad experience with a factory spec. foamer and request HWE instead. One job I lost before I bought the Ninja was an $800 gig. Ouch!

Conversely, a carpet factory rep. told one of my commercial accounts to use HWE only. That job brought me $300 to $500 every two weeks. Love my Ninja!