Pro's Corner

Is Your Truck Mount the Right Upholstery Cleaning Machine?

The sofa we are asked to clean might be a flocked fabric with an Early American print. Or maybe it is a Jacquard screaming out – “I may bleed!” How about a satin weave with long float yarns waiting to be snagged by our upholstery cleaning tool? Maybe you are worrying over a printed fabric, wondering if the heat of cleaning will harm the printed pattern. Perhaps the client has a golden-colored crushed velvet piece. Will cleaning cause it to become “uncrushed velvet?” White cotton looks elegant in this living room. What happens if it turns brown after cleaning? A once sturdy fabric may have been weakened by sunlight, body oils, and wear.

Can you clean all these pieces successfully? Is your truck mount too powerful for delicate fibers? Would a machine made specifically for upholstery cleaning be a better choice? Is a low moisture method more suitable? Should you consider hand cleaning or is a portable okay?

 What are the strengths and weaknesses of each method?

 Whoa! Three paragraphs of questions. There better be some answers in this article.....


Most Cleaners Prefer to Use their Truckmounts When Cleaning Upholstery

A large majority of professionals who clean upholstery prefer to use their truck mounts. However many cleaners often decide to walk away from a job they consider too challenging or the risk of damaging the fabric too great. Their concern may be over too much heat, too powerful a vacuum, or water pressure that is too high. With almost every truck mount, however, these factors can be controlled. Albeit, some units can be adjusted much easier than others.

 Sofa couch isolated

Why Cleaners Love Their Truckmounts

Most techs are cleaning upholstery while they are also in the home to clean carpet. Using the truckmount makes setting up to clean upholstery as easy as removing the wand and connecting an upholstery tool. Ease of use – especially for one man crews- is the number one reason cleaners choose the truckmount.

 Rather than being afraid of high heat, many cleaners appreciate the heat available to clean upholstery. Body and hair oils melt away. Heat is an important part of the cleaning pie. Cleaners using high heat from a truckmount find most items clean beautifully. High heat also means faster drying. Clients don’t want to wait for the sofa or recliner to dry if it means missing their favorite reality.


Coping with 15” of Hg

Delicate fabrics or fabrics that are weakened due to sunlight, oxidation, and use may not withstand the high vacuum used to clean carpets. If your upholstery tool doesn’t already include a way to reduce vacuum, it is simple to add a vacuum relief collar that can open to the extent required to make it safe for the fabric being cleaned.

An additional safeguard for the weakest fabrics or where there are pre-existing rips and tears is to use a section of window screen between the tool and the fabric to hold each yarn in place.


Is Using High Heat When Cleaning Upholstery Harmful?

Because upholstery cleaning uses much less water than carpet cleaning, it is possible to achieve temperatures well above what is necessary for upholstery cleaning. Turn the temperature gauge down. In addition 200OF+ at the wand can make holding the upholstery tool very uncomfortable.

 Over-wetting and slow drying present a host of potential problems. Hot water dries faster, and additional heat means you can clean with less water. Use heat, but don’t use extreme heat. The tool can transfer much of the heat to your hand. Use a temperature you feel comfortable with.

 Photo of grey sofa in modern living room

Adjusting Water Pressure is a Pain...

Upholstery fabrics don’t have the third dimension that carpet has, so there is no need to blast the cleaning solution deep into the pile. For this reason, water pressure from 100 PSI to 250 PSI is suitable for most fabrics when using standard upholstery tools. Changing the water pressure on your truck mount is not always easy, but make sure to do it so that you don’t damage the upholstery.


Upholstery Cleaning Tools You Can Use When Cleaning Furniture

Whether you use a truckmount, a portable, or have an upholstery cleaning unit, selecting the proper tool has a big impact on avoiding cleaning problems as well as making the job easier. A number of tools are available that leave the fabric relatively dry. A tool may simply use less moisture.

Other tools place the solution jet inside the vacuum chamber, allowing more of the water that is applied to be extracted. “Shear effect” designs angle the jet to move water across the fabric rather than into it. This type of tool requires plenty of water volume and pressure. However, the shearing action leaves the upholstery cleaner and up to 50% drier than a standard tool. Due to the volume of hot water, the “shear effect” tool also delivers lots of heat.

One tool allows the cleaning solution to flow on both the forward and back strokes without over-wetting the surface. This eliminates the need for a valve trigger and can make a vast difference in how your hand feels after cleaning multiple pieces of upholstery.

 A tool that bypasses some of the water coming through the solution line prevents your cleaning solution from cooling off before it reaches the tool. This is important considering the lower volume of water used for cleaning upholstery.


The Downside of Using a Truckmount When Cleaning Upholstery

Your truckmount can get the job done, but that doesn’t mean it is always the best choice. Your investment in a truck mount is likely $15,000 or more. There is a lot of capital tied up in doing what your truckmount was designed for – cleaning carpet.

Security concerns on commercial jobs may mean that equipment can be brought inside if more appropriate. On larger commercial jobs, the distance between available parking and the farthest furniture to be cleaned can result in long set-up times and long hose runs with a resulting loss of vacuum pressure.

Jogging back to the truck to make adjustments in pressure and temperature puts a dent in production rates. Gauges are out of sight. Operation problems may not be immediately apparent. The noise of a truckmount may pose a problem in some locations or at some hours of the day.


Alternative Machines for Cleaning Upholstery

Machines (especially for upholstery cleaning) provide everything you’ll need to clean upholstery for around $3000. Built with upholstery cleaning in mind, these units can safely clean almost any upholstery you’ll encounter. A few of these machines supply water temperatures of 200OF and above, allowing the same fast drying as with a truckmount.

Locating the machine close to your work allows considerably shorter hose runs. With less loss of vacuum and heat, these machines are equal to and sometimes better than a truckmount. Some models can also safely handle solvents for dry cleaning upholstery and drapes. This feature is not available in any truck \mount. Fabric that could bleed or shrink when wet cleaned can be safely cleaned using dry solvents.


Unique tools Used for Upholstery Cleaning

The companion tools of an upholstery cleaning machine are likewise designed for cleaning upholstery. The tools are not simply smaller versions of a carpet cleaning wand. Some models feature interchangeable heads. Choose the one that is appropriate for each cleaning job.

 With the proper tool, portable extractors can also be used for cleaning upholstery. The cost may be lower than an upholstery-specific unit. All the controls are right at hand for easy adjustment, and the set-up is quick and easy. No hoses to pull across the lawn and through the front door.

 Sofa isolated on white

How to Clean Upholstery

  • Select a unit with heat. If your portable doesn’t have heat, get an in-line heater or a bucket heater.
  • A number of hand methods can also be used. For synthetics, the cleaning solution might be sprayed on and worked into the fibers with a brush or a cotton towel. When less moisture is desired, such as cleaning natural fabrics, the cleaning solution can be whipped into foam rather than being applied as a liquid.
  • One of the newest procedures begins with a thorough vacuuming followed by a spray application of an encapsulation cleaner. This is worked into the fabric with a horse hair brush. A variation is to use a pad attached to a heavy-duty drill to work in the cleaning agent. After drying, the tech can vacuum, or this step can be left to the homeowner. The few who have tried this system have reported they are very pleased with the results.
  • All of these alternatives operate without a drop of gasoline. This is a fact that gains significance as gas prices continue to increase.


If you are a one-person owner /operator and most of your upholstery cleaning is done along with carpet cleaning, a truckount may make good sense for you. However, with a two-person crew, one tech can easily offer the upholstery cleaning, bring out the equipment when the sale is made, and get the upholstery cleaned while the other tech continues to clean the carpet. Such an arrangement would be difficult when a truckmount is the only machine available.


Are You Zealously Seeking Clients that Need their Upholstery Cleaned?

 While researching this article, I noticed a trend that disturbed me. Most cleaners focus narrowly on carpet. Perhaps they also promote other floor cleaning such as wood, or tile and grout. Typically they clean upholstery when asked, but they do not actively promote and seek out upholstery cleaning opportunities. Open your local phone book and notice the number of listings under “Carpet Cleaning.” Then check “Upholstery Cleaning” or “furniture cleaning.” Upholstery cleaning is a much less competitive market.

 This is an opportunity that should not be overlooked. The lady of the house likely chose the upholstery she did because she liked the pattern; it goes with her decorating scheme and reflects her personal taste. She may have a closer attachment to the furniture than to her carpet. If she trusts you enough to invite you into the home to clean her carpets, it will be an easy sale to add on her favorite sofa or the recliner where other people relax.

Don’t forget to sell protector. Consuming food and drink while sitting on living room furniture is common in most homes. Eating and drinking when using furniture lead to inevitable spills. To keep that fabric looking its best and make the next cleaning easier, protect it!



All those delicate fabrics can be safely cleaned using a number of methods. The more difficult the perceived challenge, the more likely your competitor has decided to pass on the job, creating a window of opportunity. If you please, Mrs. Piffleton when she wants her upholstery cleaned, you are sure to get the carpet cleaning work for her and her friends.


Enjoyed reading this post? Read the following articles:


Truckmounts blog post cover

Steve Johnson Interview Blog Post Cover


Encapsulating Upholstery


upholstery cleaning, Truckmount


Where the professionals go to learn about:

  • lead and asbestos abatement
  • professional cleaning
  • mold, fire, and water restoration
  • concrete surface preparation
  • business management

Subscribe to Blog

Recent Posts