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Guide to Carpet Cleaning Machines

Hello, I’m Martin Ashby from Ashbys Cleaning Equipment.

Martin Ashby from Ashby Cleaning Equipment
Me expertly modelling a Stimvak Toto for my dad back in 1982

I’ve been involved in the carpet cleaning industry for nearly 30 years. I’ve been out professionally cleaning carpet and upholstery and work for Ashbys serving and advising our customers on equipment, detergents and training. I learnt most of what I know from my father, Derek Ashby. He started this company in 1975 when carpet cleaning was in its infancy... and he’s still working here part-time now!


My father Derek wowing the crowds with a Stimvak Mini, circa 1980 at the Dartford Show!

I definitely don’t know it all, but I have a fair amount of industry specific knowledge. So if you’re new to professional carpet cleaning machines, it’s no problem - let my guide well, guide you!

HWE Cleaning Process

HWE stands for Hot Water Extraction. This process is what I and most other seasoned professionals believe to be the most effective way to clean carpets and upholstery. It's a system that thoroughly flushes out dirt, leaving the item clean and most importantly, residue-free. HWE employs the principle of rinsing away soilage - a technique that has been used since men and women started cleaning. That principle is still being used today when we clean our clothes, dishes, vehicles and even ourselves in the shower.


Me jet-washing one of my dads van, circa 1982

It’s an uncomplicated common-sense approach to cleaning, which involves spraying a fine high pressure mist of clean water (at the correct heat level), into carpets and upholstery. These items have been thoroughly dry vacuumed to remove loose soilage and pet hair etc, then pre-treated with detergent to breakdown the remaining stuck on dirt. This rinsing solution is continuously being extracted using a powerful vacuum system. We use a wand to clean carpets, a general purpose hand tool to clean carpet edges, stairs and upholstery; and a dedicated upholstery cleaning tool for upholstery.


Ashbys 400 psi Enforcer with V2 SteamMate doing it's thing. Video courtesy of Prosteam UK

The HWE process rinses away and thoroughly removes loosened soilage, leaving the item clean, residue-free and ready to apply finishing products These include -

Essentially HWE is the process of spraying hot water into an item and sucking it out to remove and rinse away the dirt.

HWE Machines

Ashbys 800 psi Enforcer industrial carpet cleaning machine

Ashbys Enforcer industrial carpet cleaning machine

A professional HWE carpet cleaning machine is fitted with -

  • A powerful water (solution) pump to spray down the high pressure mist of clean water used to rinse away loosened dirt and stains.
  • A powerful vacuum system used to recover the above solution leaving the items as dry as possible.
  • A powerful heating system to heat the clean water, greatly improving the speed and efficiency of the clean.


Water (Solution) Pumps

For professional carpet cleaning -
Use pump pressures ranging from 250-400 psi. In my opinion you don’t require pump pressures in excess of 400 psi or you run the risk of jetting water into the backing of the carpet you’re cleaning - and that’s when problems could happen…

You see the backing of some carpet is packed with woven fibres which might be prone to shrink or expand causing rippling, if over-wetted or overheated. Fortunately a professional carpet cleaning machine should be fitted with a very powerful vacuum system, which simultaneously extracts the rinsing solution, not allowing it to over-wet the carpet backing.

For shrinkage or rippling to happen you have to -

  1. over-wet the carpet allowing water to penetrate the carpet backing
  2. and that backing has to be prone to shrinkage or expansion.

Don’t worry too much - with professional training, cleaning a well-fitted carpet using a good professional HWE machine with water pump pressures between 250-400 psi, a strong vacuum system and correct wand technique; you practically remove all risk of this happening.

Ashbys Enforcer, Ninja and Sensei professional HWE carpet cleaning machines are fitted with a Flow Control Valve to quickly reduce your working pressure (PSI) AND lower the litres per minute volume (L/min). All 400, 600 & 800 psi models come with an additional Pressure Regulator Valve which reduces the pumps working pressure (PSI), whilst maintaining maximum flow-rate. The unique combination of these two valves give you total control over your water output to prevent over-wetting. This is vital when cleaning upholstery and mattress, where the correct water output is essential.

For upholstery and mattresses cleaning -
Use between 120-150 psi with a lower volume of water output and ideally using a professional low-moisture upholstery cleaning tool with internal jet. Internally jetted upholstery tools provide a surface-active clean without allowing water to penetrate into the backing / filling of the upholstery or mattress you’re cleaning. This type of tool is ideal for a fast return to use for the customer with minimal chance of problems occurring. These are my personal favourite upholstery cleaning hand tools -


Cleaning upholstery with Rotovac ShearDry and Ashbys Sensei HWE machine. Video courtesy of Dynamic Cleaning Care

For cleaning carpeted stairs -
Use pump pressures between 250-400 psi. Select a multi purpose hand tool or dedicated stair carpet cleaning tool. In my opinion, an externally mounted spray jet is the best as it provides a good level of water output to thoroughly rinse and flush away loosened dirt, leaving the stair carpet clean and fresh. I prefer hand tools with a jet enclosed with spray guards to minimise over-spray; or a dedicated stair wand, ideally with a swivel head to make it easier to clean the stair riser.


Ashbys Swivel Headed Stair Tool.

For hard floor, tile and grout cleaning -
There are essentially 3 ways to effectively clean hard flooring -

1) Using an electrically powered rotary scrubber fitted with a hard floor cleaning brush or scrubbing pad

Numatic HMF1515 Hard Floor Scrubber

Electrically powered rotary scrubbers are fitted with a solution tank and trigger, allowing you to release the cleaning solution onto the floor during the scrubbing process. This is highly effective and generates a slurry of dirt which is then spray, rinsed and extracted away using your HWE machine fitted with a hard floor cleaning wand.


Video showing the basics of how to clean hard floor with a rotary scrubber and Ashbys Hard Floor Wand

You can use any pump pressure from 135 psi upwards, but I would recommend using between 250-400 psi with heat for fast and effective rinsing.

2) Using an electrically powered Rotovac 360i fitted with a hard floor brush head

Rotovac 360i Hard Floor Tile & Grout Cleaner

The Rotovac 360i is my preferred fast, effective way to thoroughly and hygienically clean hard floor, tile and grout. It looks similar to a rotary scrubber, except that you connect your vacuum and solution (water) hose from your HWE machine directly to it. You can scrub, spray-rinse and extract simultaneously to remove debris, leaving areas residue-free, ready for reuse or application of floor seal or polish.

Change to one of the Rotovac 360i’s carpet cleaning heads and you also have a really fast way to deep clean large areas of carpet with minimal physical effort - it also looks incredibly impressive to your customer.


Rotovac 360i cleaning carpet. Picture courtesy of Urban Cleaning Company

With the Rotovac 360i I would recommend any pump pressure between 135 and 800 psi with heat. This system works well at lower pressure as it relies on the scrubbing brush head to do the hard work - the water pump is just there to spray the rinsing solution.
 
3) Using a non-electrically powered spinner
These are tools that look similar to an electrically powered rotary scrubber. However, they rely on a spinning jet bar powered only by the machine's water pump to blast away the dirt and grime. A suction area allows the dirty water to be recovered as you work.

In my opinion to make a spinner work as well as options 1 & 2, you need continuous high heat and a pump pressure of at least 1500 psi - and that’s a pump much bigger than you could ever sensibly fit in a professional portable HWE carpet cleaning machine.

For me, options 1 & 2 are the only ones open to anyone with a professional carpet cleaning machine running a pump between 250 psi and 800 psi.

Vacuum Systems

Professional HWE carpet cleaning machines use vacuum motors to create suction to lift away soilage. The more powerful your vacuum system, the more dirty water is extracted - meaning the item you’re working on is cleaner and drier.

Vacuum motors can be different widths and wattages, but they all use fans to generate suction. These fans are known as stages. As a general rule - the more stages, the higher the wattage and the more efficient the vacuum motors design, the stronger the vacuum.

Some carpet cleaning machines are fitted with a single vacuum motor. Professional single vacuumed machines like our Sensei are fitted with a 3 Stage 5.7 inch Heavy Duty PERFORMANCE Vacuum Motor. This provides enough vacuum strength to comfortably run up to 50 ft / 15 m of hose, so you can leave your machine downstairs and work upstairs.


Picture Image courtesy of Dynamic Cleaning Care

Our Enforcer and Ninja machines are both double vacuumed. This means they use 2 vacuum motors to generate their suction. Our most popular vacuum configuration is 1 x 3 Stage 5.7 inch Standard plus 1 x 3 Stage 5.7 inch Heavy Duty PERFORMANCE vacuum motor. This gives our Enforcer machine enough vacuum strength to run up to 200 ft / 61 m of hose - much more than most carpet cleaning professionals would ever use! This vacuum system can run with a 400 psi pump all from just one power lead, leaving the second power lead free to run your chosen heating system.

Here are my two favourite models -

  1. Enforcer 400 psi with standard Tank Heater
  2. Enforcer 400 psi with Built-in V2 SteamMate
  3. Ninja 400 psi with standard Tank Heater
  4. Ninja 400 psi with Built-in V2 SteamMate

Vacuum motors want to suck air - not water! Make sure whatever machine you choose -

  1. Is correctly baffled to deflect water away from your vacuum intake, otherwise you are sucking water directly into your vacuum motors -  and that's not good!
  2. Has a well designed high level safety shut-off that works effectively. This will prevent the vacuum motors sucking in dirty water, when the dirty water level gets too high in the recovery tank.
  3. Is fitted with adequate ventilation and fan cooling to ensure your vacuum motors are kept at a good ambient working temperature.
  4. Has a method of emptying the clean water tank that doesn’t involve sucking the hot and steamy clean water out using the vacuum motors. In my experience, doing this halves the life of your vacuum motors.

When you select a professional carpet cleaning machine from Ashbys, all the above considerations have been taken into account. We have spent years perfecting systems to effectively protect the vacuum motors from water ingress and premature wear and tear.

Heating Systems

Put simply - heat cleans! You know this from washing your dishes (or indeed anything at home) - the hotter the water, the easier and quicker it is to clean. These days practically all the carpet cleaning machines we manufacture are fitted with a heating system. When you clean carpets with hot water, you clean faster and more effectively. There are two ways to heat the water in your Ashbys carpet cleaning machines -

1) Built-in Solution Tank Immersion Heater

Built-in Solution Tank Heater System for Ashbys Enforcer & Ninja

This is a heating element mounted in the clean water tank, which heats the water the same way a kettle does. These should always be protected via a low level safety cut-off. This will prevent the heater coming on if no water is in the tank and switch it off, when the water level drops below the level of the heater.

Plastic headed pumps (like our 250 psi models) can run reliably with water temperatures up to 70 deg C flowing through them. Metal headed pumps (like 400, 600 and 800 psi models) can easily handle temperature up to 60 deg C without issue.

2) Inline Heat Exchanger

An inline heating system works in much the same way as a power-shower, heating water as it flows through a heat exchanger - so instant heat! These are positioned after the water pump and therefore can achieve temperatures in excess of what the pump could normally handle. This means hotter cleaning solution for a faster, easier clean.


Adam for A&K Cleaning Services carpet cleaning with his V2 SteamMate

Our V2 SteamMate inline heating system is a quality copper-wound design to improve heat transfer. It incorporates a one-way valve to protect against back-pressure pushing back on to the pump head; and safety pressure relief valves to safely vent the build up of water pressure due to expansion during the heating process.

The V2 SteamMate produces instant heat up to 110 deg C, to blast away dirt and dissolve greasy soilage often found on restaurant, pub and club carpets (and sometimes even in customers' houses!). You can adjust the working temperature via an adjustable thermostat control (0-110 deg C), allowing you to reduce the temperature when working on upholstery or rugs for example.

An inline heater is a more expensive option, but produces instant high heat cleaning solution, so you can work faster and more thoroughly with less effort. We can fit this heating system into your Ashbys Enforcer or Ninja carpet cleaning machine at a later date. Alternatively select our Portable V2 SteamMate, which is a stand-alone item meaning your machine doesn’t require modification and can be shared between several machines, if you have more than one.

Ashbys V2 SteamMate inline heat exchanger for carpet cleaning
Ashbys Portable V2 SteamMate inline heat exchanger for high heat carpet cleaning

Hose Sets

A hose set joins your HWE carpet cleaning machine to your cleaning tool. In the carpet cleaning industry hose sets usually come in one of 2 lengths - 25 ft / 7.6 m or 50 ft / 15.2 and  consist of two hoses per set -

The solution hose

Supplies the cleaning solution to the tool head. If you are planning to use an inline heater producing high heat, ensure you use a fully heat insulated solution hose. These will have a hard wearing material sleeve running the full length of the solution hose.

v2 fully sleeved hose set for carpet cleaning
1-1/2 inch V2 Fully Sleeved Hose Set recommended for safe use with an inline heat exchanger

The purpose of this sleeving is two fold. Firstly, to protect the carpet that the hose is laying on from heat damage. Secondly, to prevent the heat from escaping on the way to the tool head. There’s very little point in paying for an inline heat exchanger to produce high heat, only to lose it on your hose run. Imagine running hot water through uninsulated piping in your house, versus fully lagged piping. Fully sleeved solution hoses are vital if you want to achieve top temperature at the tool head and do so safely without the risk of damage to customers property or the machine operator.

If you are planning to use a standard immersion heater built into your clean water tank, the standard high pressure non-heat insulated solution hose set is the right choice.

7.5 m 1-1/2 inch standard hose set for carpet cleaning
1-1/2 inch Standard Hose Set for carpet cleaning

The vacuum hose connects the suction from the machine's vacuum motor system to the tool head. This recovers the dirty water during the HWE cleaning process. Professional HWE carpet cleaning machines will run between 50 to 200 ft of hose. It is important your carpet cleaning machine has the power to run at least 50 ft of hose, otherwise it is unlikely to have enough power to clean the carpet quickly or thoroughly, or even extend upstairs. Basically you will be outgunned by all your professional competitors.

In my experience you will need at least 50 ft of total length to be able to leave your machine downstairs and extend your hoses upstairs. Our Sensei machine is the perfect lightweight compact carpet cleaning machine for use with this length of hose.

75 ft of hose is a good choice, as it covers the larger 5 bedroom properties. Sometimes operators use up to 150 ft of hose, but it is rare that anyone would require a longer hose length. Our Enforcer and Ninja carpet cleaning machines fitted with a 400 psi pump are perfect for running hose lengths up to 200 ft, which is way in excess of what you would ever normally use or require.


Ashbys Enforcer carpet cleaning machine running multiple hose lengths. Video courtesy of Moravia Cleaning, Czech Republic

You probably have questions!...

And that’s no problem. Please feel free to call me on 01795 436999 and I’ll be happy to answer any questions and offer advice. I look forward to hearing from you. Here's more information on how to start a carpet cleaning business.

All the best.

Martin from Ashbys

Martin Ashby
Ashbys Cleaning Equipment

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