Pro's Corner

Winter Woes

As winter approaches I expect to get reminders about how to prevent your truckmount or portable equipment from freezing, the damage that can be done by freezing and so forth. By the way, Aramsco service centers are ready to assist should the unthinkable happen. This is also the time of year that I become envious of folks who live in Florida, Arizona, Southern California and other places where it seldom if ever freezes. But that is a different story.

What I don’t recall reading each winter are stories about those technicians and business owners who brave the cold temperatures, icy roads, blowing snow and generally miserable winter conditions on a regular basis to clean carpets, give people in their service area cleaner living conditions, improved air quality and make life more pleasant. There are also many who respond to calls for help at any hour following a flood, fire, trauma situation or other disaster even when they would much rather stay seated close to the heater or fireplace or stay snuggled in their warm bed. Ladies and gentlemen, you deserve a pat on the back and a big round of applause. Thanks for your efforts.

Here are my thoughts on what can be done to make the next few months a little easier for you. The best thing about carpet cleaning jobs during the winter is that you have work at a time of year that is often slow. Be glad for any business at this time of year, especially residential.

Truckmount operators, you will be spending time outside setting up your van then walking into a home with the thermostat turned up high and possibly making several trips back and forth. Wear clothing in layers you can take on or off as needed; maybe a light sweater and a warm outer jacket over your usual summer uniform. A number of companies make nice cold-weather gear that you can have embroidered or silk screened with your ID and company information. Replace that worn old jacket with a tax deductible expense. Keep a clean fresh shirt in the van just in case running the wand in that warm home produces a lot of sweat.

Water resistant gloves should be used while outside and when connecting hoses. You’ll be glad you kept your hands dry.     

If any of your equipment might have frozen, even slightly, be sure it has warmed and completely thawed before you crank up the engine or flip the switch on your portable. Even a few crystals of ice can damage a pump.

Many of your carpet and upholstery cleaning solutions will go well below 32 OF before they  freeze. Thirty two is the freezing point for pure water, but add other materials and the freezing point drops. Various raw materials in the cleaning bottles may freeze at different temperatures. This tends to separate ingredients. Some ingredients will still be frozen when most of the product has thawed. So, be sure the product is completely thawed and then shaken or mixed together before use; otherwise it won’t be the formula the manufacturer intended.

Not all products can survive freezing. Fabric protectors and sealers for stone, tile & grout are often negatively affected by freezing temps. The label or the manufacturer should alert indicate which products are not freeze / thaw stable or which products are OK for a few freeze / thaw cycles. Be careful to protect your investment in product and labor. Testing any suspect products in a small area can save you from re-doing an entire job.

Winter weather often includes cold wind. Wind can lower hose temperatures quickly. Try to park where the building you are cleaning shields your van and hoses. Park close for shorter hose runs, but don’t forget the dangers of carbon monoxide. Van and truck engines are still churning out CO and other harmful pollutants even in January. Don’t park inside an enclosed garage or even close to the door. Air currents can carry carbon monoxide into a building. Being relatively light, the CO molecules will rise and reach upstairs rooms as well.

On the topic of where to park, think before you head down a sloping driveway to park your vehicle. Icy roads may allow you to go down, but make it very hard to leave, a lesson I learned from personal experience.

The most vulnerable part of the truckmount operation is likely the incoming fresh water hose from the client’s water spigot. Although that may be your first hook-up during the summer, leave it to the last step in cold weather. Lawn Pics that keep hoses from lying on the lawn and burning the grass during summer are a great way to keep water hose and solution line off the cold ground.    

 If you own an on-board fresh water tank, you have a big advantage. This on board water supply can be getting warm as you drive to the job site.

When starting the truckmount, it may take several minutes for the solution to heat to the desired temperature. A short section of solution hose with an open-ended quick connect can be used to recirculate your water for a few minutes (or for some systems dump water into your waste tank) while it heats.

When you make your way to the home, place a track-off mat near the front door. This prevents you from tracking ice and dirty slush into the home and makes a great first impression with your customer. The mats tell them you care. You can even have mats custom made with your business name and logo.

Once you are setup and inside the home, don’t forget to install the Door Jamb or Seal-A-Door over the opening where your hoses come in. Include a door stop so the door doesn’t swing open any further than they must. This keeps the warm air in and the cold air out. Your customers will love your thoughtfulness and the fact that you are saving them energy and dollars. These door shields also help keep pets from running in or out of the door opening.                                                                        

If your cleaning tools include a portable or a low-moisture cleaning machine such as a counter-rotating brush machine, you should be feeling very smart right now. Less or no worries about freezing and you can go from the van into the house, close the door behind you and not get back into the cold weather until the job is done. The performance of portable carpet cleaning units keeps improving. The Nautilus Extreme with dual 8.4” vacuums has to be tried to be believed! With the much shorter hose runs necessary for a portable inside the home compared to a truckmount in the driveway, the cleaning results can compare favorably with a truckmount.

There is one more option for winter cleaning that worked well for a friend of mine. He hit the road in his carpet cleaning van and headed for Florida stopping at a route hotels / motels along the way. He would clean rooms at each stop. The money was not great but, he got a place to stay and meals in the hotel restaurant for him and his family at until the job was done. So as not to disturb sleeping guests, the cleaning began about 10 AM and continued only until about 4 PM, leaving much of the day open for relaxation or sight-seeing. A 3 month long family vacation paid for by his carpet cleaning service.

That plan won’t work for most carpet cleaning companies, but maybe something here will make your life just as bit easier when the cold winds start to blow.

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