By Jeff Cross

I’m going to assume that, by now, you have read the July 2018 issue of Cleanfax and noticed a new feature in it, called “Stuff I HATE!”

Kelly Doles, a good friend of mine and the owner-operator of a successful cleaning company in southern Ohio, wrote the debut version. It all came about because of a day on the golf course. I don’t remember exactly how we golfed that day, and I could make up some lies, but let’s just say the real winner here is you, the reader, because he started sharing with me stories of what he sees and “hates” on the job and how some frustrating situations can be both humorous to share and also opportunities to learn a lesson or two. You know, learn from each other.

And that day on the golf course took me down memory lane. It made me recall something I hated… and when I talked about it on social media, dozens and dozens of comments came my way. See the sidebar “Sucked-Up Stuff” for a few of those.

A saga of sucked-up stuff

For me, it was a pretty nice day out doing my route of cleaning jobs. It was a day that makes me kind of miss the day-to-day adventure in the cleaning world. Then it rains or snows, and I’m glad to be running Cleanfax.

But this particular day had a special chore for me. In addition to cleaning the carpet and furniture in the home, I was asked to clean the fabric in the family mini-van. You know what that is like. My day got a little more hectic, and then I was in hurry mode because I still had a couple of jobs to do.

But revenue is revenue, so I took it on. Since they had a mini-van, you probably have assumed correctly they had a tribe of kids, the small-but-feisty variety, and the evidence was there that they preferred to eat their meals on the go. So out came my vacuum hose and I went to work. There was no cold, hardened french fry or half-eaten Chicken McNugget that my truckmount couldn’t handle.

Somewhere between almost thinking up some unique cuss words and wondering why I didn’t work in a friendlier industry — like pot-hole filling — I heard the unique “shloooooooop” sound, indicating I vacuumed up something more substantial than a Cheerio. “Oh, well,” I thought. “It can’t be that important because it was under a seat.”

But… as the customer inspected my stellar work, she couldn’t find her car keys. So, she started looking in her now-clean car. Things got worse when I heard her muttering, “I’m sure I had them right here under the seat!”

I confessed to her that they must have been transferred to another dimension, commonly called a “waste tank.” Now, remember, this was years ago, before in-line or in-tank filters were all the rage that they are now.

I then predicted my impending exit as a respectable player in the local cleaning arena with the words that came softly, hopefully from her lips, “Do you think the fob will still work?” Very good question.

So, I went fishing. I had to illegally dump the water — don’t tell anyone — to bring the level down to where I could dig through the muck to find her keys, and, of course, the fob that I was confident shorted out somewhere halfway down the 100-foot vacuum hose. What a ride it took. All told, it took me maybe 15 minutes of fishing in stuff you can’t imagine — and out they came. A quick wiping off and sincere prayer the fob would work came right after.

I handed them over, wondering if I would not only become the brunt of jokes with her friends, but also if I was going to get paid at all for all this work.

She pushed the button. Beep! Beep! went the fob. I nonchalantly act like that was going to happen, the reliability of the fob was never in doubt, but I’m not a good liar, and my hand over my heart and look up to heaven probably gave me away.

All good, just a normal day on the job.

The lesson I learned was painful, but a good one. Don’t stick your vacuum hose where you can’t see what you are going to suck up. You never know what you might grab and how valuable it might be.

Vacuum hoses aren’t picky, after all.

sucked-up stuff sidebar graphic

The following includes a selection of comments from social media channels about items carpet cleaners have unwittingly “sucked up” with their vacuum hoses.

Glenn Mageno: While vacuuming all the filtration soil along the walls and edging. Let’s just say I found the pet lizard… just a few seconds too late.

Isaiah Ruhling: I’ve sucked up a few panties in my career. One lady actually watched me accidentally suck up her panties. I said to her, “I hope you don’t want those back.” She said, “No, you keep them.”

Erick Judson: After doing a bank, an employee called a few hours later. She asked if it was possible her dental implant could have been sucked up into my machine. I thought, “no way.” But it was in the waste tank basket filter. She had lost it a couple of days earlier. Somehow it got pulled through the wand. Still not sure how it happened. I returned it; she was so happy. Got a lot of referrals from her.

Gary Spray: A diamond wedding ring… when I told the customer I found it, she was an elderly widowed lady and thought I was trying to sell her something. When I showed her the ring, she started crying. She had lost it years back and every year she had her carpet cleaned by others, and they never found it. I did her carpet every year after that until she passed on.

Dan Burg: I almost sucked my eyeball out one time. You have to watch out for those vac hoses when they are swinging around. I could feel the pressure on my eye after I pulled the hose away. My body was telling me, “You are lucky you still have that.”

Bryan Phillips: I caught a helper once, sucking up a pill bottle of narcotics out of a customer’s bathroom. Apparently, he was going to scoop it out of the filter box without me knowing about it.

Grant DuBridge:  A four-year-old kids arm. I had to hold him down with my foot to pull it off. I told that kid to stay away from the hose. The mom was laughing like mad, so I knew I wasn’t in trouble.

Michael Powers: I laid down too much solvent on an oil stain I was cleaning. The customer comes running inside, screaming “Your truck is on fire!” I almost couldn’t move, the fear struck me so hard. It was just blowing smoke from the solvent.

John Mickel: One of my techs was talking to a bird in a cage while holding the vacuum hose. When I turned the machine on, it sucked the bird across the cage. The bird was a little shaken up.


Stuff I HATE!” is a new feature in Cleanfax. It’s a public venue that allows you to get some therapy through venting, laugh a little, and at the same time, share and learn something. Send in what bothers you the most about cleaning and restoration jobs, along with what you feel is a solution to the issue. Photographs about the issue(s) are always appreciated. Send your submissions to Jeff Cross, executive editor of Cleanfax, at JeffCross@ISSA.com.