Writing in favor of high heat
Loren Egland

Wouldn”t it be nice if carpet cleaners were able to clean as well with cold water as we could with high temperatures?

Our truckmounts would be less complicated and less costly. However, as has been proven with chemistry tests and real-world performance, there are many benefits and advantages to cleaning with high temperatures.

The biggest benefit: High temperature makes cleaning chemicals work better. We have been taught in past Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) courses that for every 18 degrees Fahrenheit above 118 degrees, we double chemical activity.

While it may be that when applied to carpet cleaning the 18 degree rule has come under some scrutiny or that there may be some limits, cleaners probably don”t reach that limit at the carpet/wand interface.

But regardless of the exactness of this rule, it”s a proven fact that heat causes the molecules of our cleaning solution to expand and become excited, so that it cleans better, and thus, faster.

Using high temperatures saves us money because we can use less chemical, and this, by extension, will leave less residue in the carpet.

Spots and stains that would otherwise require more time and/or chemical to remove from the fibers, are often removed during the cleaning process.

It has been my experience that super high temperature concentrated on some stains is about the only thing that will remove it short of using a steamer or iron.

High temperature cleaning will reduce drying time, too.

Hot water cleans faster, so less wand strokes and less water is needed to clean.

There is less chance of leaving extra water in the carpet. The higher temperature cleaning solution evaporates faster.

The consumer benefits because they can use their carpet much sooner.

Since drying time is reduced, there is less chance of browning, mold, buckling, wicking, shrinking or seams opening.

Some have argued that there is not that much difference in the drying time when using super hot temperatures compared to more moderate temperatures.

The thought is that in a minute or two after cleaning, the carpet cools to room temperature anyway. Usually those who believe this to be true simply don”t have equipment capable of producing high temperatures, so they have no experience with high heat.

When using very high temperature, you can often see the vapor rising off the heated fibers right after cleaning. Obviously, the evaporation rate is significantly more rapid if the carpet fiber stays warmer for a longer period of time.

A short time ago, I decided to put this theory to a little test. I used a truckmount with a kerosene burner set at 250 degrees Fahrenheit at the truck. I used a power head cleaning tool with high solution flow.

Five minutes after cleaning, the carpet fibers were still quite warm to the touch. After 10 minutes, still some warmth was noticed.

At 15 minutes, the carpet felt neither warm nor cool. However, when I touched some carpet I had cleaned earlier, the carpet actually felt cool.

Apparently, the cool-down of the fibers takes several times longer using high temperature cleaning verses cleaning with lower temperatures.

Much like a hot, wet glass will dry much faster than a cold, wet glass, so will the carpet fibers that have been high temperature cleaned.

High temperature also benefits the carpet fibers.

It refreshes carpet texture, restoring color and style. It literally fluffs the carpet. It helps re-twist the carpet fibers so that they maintain better appearance and longer life.

Many carpet manufacturers now require hot water extraction as a provision of the continuance of their wear and texture warranty.

My guess is that their testing revealed cold or warm water extraction did not produce results as desirable as hot water.

Several years ago, Shaw Industries had some commercial carpet with roll crush problems. The pile lay was in different directions and was especially noticeable at the seams.

In order to correct this problem, we needed to attain and maintain very high dwell temperatures on the carpet followed by a pile lifter brushing to reset the nap in one direction.

For this reason, Shaw required a specific truckmount to be used that could deliver the required heat to the fibers.

Now, let”s talk about health. High temperature cleaning provides a healthier indoor environment.

It has been written that when temperature achieves approximately 130 degrees, give or take a few degrees, it will have an adverse effect on biological contamination in the carpet.

Common sense tells us that the principles of sanitization through high heat will kill bacteria, reducing and controlling the population of living organisms.

A cleaner, more sanitary carpet will also help to eliminate odors.

A couple years ago I purchased some nice, heavy 100 percent cotton-knit work shirts. It was not the wisest choice because they held too much perspiration.

My wife decided to wash them in warm water. Even with all that time, chemical and agitation from the washing machine, body odor under the arms was still quite noticeable.

Only after washing the shirts in hot water did they smell good. This example illustrates the effect hot water has on odor caused by bacteria.

A dwell temperature high enough to kill microorganisms in the carpet may not be as easy to achieve as we may think.

There can be considerable temperature loss from the truck to the carpet fiber, depending upon a number of factors.

Our wand strokes may be compared to passing your finger through the flame of a candle. The candle fire is hotter than our solution temperature, yet we can move our finger back and forth through the flame without being burnt.

In the same manner, the faster the “wand speed,” the hotter the water must be to effectively kill bacteria.

It doesn”t matter what the temperature at the truck is, or what a sometimes optimistic temperature gauge indicates, or what a lie detector reads at the wand, or how hot the water measures coming out of the jet or jets.

What matters is what the dwell temperature is on the carpet fibers.

I doubt that it is possible to achieve more than 175 degrees dwell temperature without the very best performing tools and equipment, and even then, the technician would likely have to fall asleep while cleaning, stopping the keyed wand from moving.

Further verifying this fact, DuPont eventually realized that heat from high temperature cleaning is not a problem to stain resistant carpet and so they removed the 150 degree Fahrenheit cleaning temperature restriction.

High temperature also improves cleaning performance.

However, much like love is tied to marriage, high temperature is tied to ”solution flow”.

In order to clean significantly faster by taking full advantage of high temperatures, a higher solution flow is necessary.

For example, if you take three identical wands, one each moving solution at 1 gallon per minute (GPM), 1.5 GPM and 2 GPM respectively, and each is maintaining 230 degrees Fahrenheit at the wand, which wand will clean faster?

If you are using a higher rate of flow while maintaining high temperatures, you will be able to either use less wand strokes or move your wand faster in order to do the same amount of cleaning.

There is no such thing as ”free heat” if the solution flow is reduced to maintain that heat, because lower flow will slow productivity.

Flow rate effects temperature at the carpet fibers. Higher flow carries heat more efficiently since there is less atomization cooling with the heavier water stream.

There is less heat loss through the pressure hose because solution flows through the hose faster, allowing less time to cool.

This is especially important on those long winter hose runs. Higher flow flushes more contaminants from the carpet and increases impact agitation, even more so than using higher pressure.

A wand with a protection shield also reduces heat loss, and releases less humidity into the room.

High temperature also boosts the cleaning pie. IICRC courses emphasize the cleaning pie, or TACT (temperature, agitation, chemical, time).

Some will argue that you can make up for lower temperature by increasing other parts of the cleaning pie.

But why would you want to spend more time cleaning, spend more money on more chemical, or be more abrasive with agitation if you don”t have to?

But even if you did max out the chemical, agitation, and time, wouldn”t you get better results by maxing out temperature also? Yes, I know. You don”t need an elephant gun to kill a fly.

Not all carpet needs the max to be cleaned effectively. But, when that nasty situation arises, the company that delivers maximum cleaning performance, all other things being equal, will earn a reputation as the absolute best cleaner.

What is that worth? Money.

So the bottom line is that the use of high temperature cleaning solution will allow for not only faster, but better cleaning. It will make it possible to clean more carpet per hour or per day, and that will be more profitable.

The customer will have added value due to your better cleaning, because the carpet will stay clean longer and last longer.

The carpet”s better appearance is a good reflection on the home owner. By doing a better job, not only will you be able to charge higher prices, your repeat and referral business will also be better, thus lowering marketing costs.

Are there any disadvantages to high temperature?

Everything has a positive and a negative side, but most real negatives are usually avoided by simply turning down the temperature when cleaning the few carpets that can”t take the heat.

Perhaps my debating opponent is aware of these occasions and will discuss them.

Richard Baldwin

I must first say that I am very impressed with your many years of training and carpet cleaning experience, and I am honored to be debating this topic of the importance of high heat with you.

Your biography states that you have been in the carpet cleaning business since 1970. Almost 36 years.

I need to ask you a question, do you still clean carpets and upholstery personally? Or do your technicians now do this work for you?

The reason I ask is because my experience and observations are based not only on schooled training regarding chemical interaction, but also hands-on experience that is recent.

The chemicals have improved dramatically throughout the years and now are much more effective than they ever were.

I have used high-heat truckmounts, both van-powered and slide-in models personally for several years, full time (and then some) before starting my own business.

It is easy to want to justify the heat power of these machines simply from their expense alone.

I used to use it as a selling point to my customers and brag about how much better a truckmount is from other cleaners that use portables.

Now today, some years later, I am one of “those guys” that cleans with a portable, simply because my business is still new and I can”t afford such a machine yet.

Because of this I have had to learn and adapt even more to the lack of heat and vacuum power and learn how to make carpets beautiful, clean, fast-drying, and residue-free with the tools I have on hand.

Even though I was already certified in carpet cleaning and water damage restoration, I returned and took the IICRC course over again to get a second look at what really makes fibers clean.

I was amazed to see how much difference in the knowledge and technology they were teaching today, as opposed to only four years ago.

After much research and experimentation, I began to realize that super-high heat is not the answer to fast and efficient fiber cleaning.

We see pictures of lightly soiled carpets in our textbooks, but out there in the real world, we know this is not the case.

We are constantly being challenged with the dirtiest, greasiest, most animal contaminated, heavily stained carpets that we personally would be more likely to throw out than clean.

But our customers are willing to pay us well if we can make them clean again. The ability comes from at least 75 percent skill and knowledge of the technician, maybe more; only a small percentage of your results is based on how powerful your equipment is.

This goes with any profession.

For example, a highly-skilled musician can pick up an old beat-up guitar that hardly stays in tune and still wow the crowd with his music, where the lesser experienced musician that has money to buy the top-of-the-line super 10,000 watt system with the $2,000 dollar guitar can bore the crowd with his mediocre performance.

Super-high heat truckmounts are like that.

Would I like to have a $40,000 dollar truckmount? Sure!

Can I make customers so impressed that they tell all their friends about me with my portable? Yes.

Why? Because I know how to use the tools I have, from many years of experience, hands-on, in the field.

I would like to give a rebuttal to your statements in your opening discussion, point by point, if I may.

The eighteen degree rule: This is true, to a point. Even DuPont had a restriction on how high the heat should be before you destroy the chemicals you are using.

And I”m sure chemists that design our cleaning products would agree that there is a limit to how hot you should go.

At 225 degrees or more, you are not really helping your chemicals.

Higher heat therefore less chemical use: You really think so? Do you or your techs mix half as much concentrated product into their sprayers?

If they are, they are not mixing the chemical properly, and again, are not helping the chemicals do their job as they were designed.

You still have to prespray every square foot of carpet.

And if you use the products to their fullest potential with a hot prespray, you don”t have to spray them twice.

High temp removes stains better? What is really removing the stain? The temperature of your extraction water, or the chemical process from the product you used?

Rust comes out with rust remover, tannin comes out with acidic chemicals, and grease with degreasers.

With the exception of acid dye reducers, there is no place on the bottle that says high heat is needed.

Faster drying time with high heat? If you use 225 degree extraction water, yes the carpet will be warm to the touch for a few minutes. Evaporation will be slightly increased for a few minutes only.

If the carpet feels warm to the touch more than five minutes later, you are probably using so much heat that you are damaging the fibers.

When it comes to carpets, drying time is determined by air temperature, air humidity, and ventilation.

A hot pane of glass will dry faster than cold, but you have spread out the layer so perfectly that more molecules are able to escape into the air, and the air temperature over the hot glass is higher than with cold.

In a carpet, there are places for water to hide, and the air can”t get to it as easily.

This is why raking a cut pile helps; you have separated the fibers and are allowing more air flow around them.

Perhaps if the carpet fibers were hot for a period of time, you would increase evaporation rate by raising the air temperature around the fibers.

Drying time also comes down to the experience of the tech, and proper use of chemicals due to not over-wetting, while getting all the soil out, the first time.

High heat to adjust nap direction: I would say high heat would help this problem, since with the high heat you are basically ironing the nap and using heat to train the fiber to stay in a particular position.

I don”t know how long the effect would last under normal wear and tear conditions.

A lady uses a curling iron on her hair and trains it to stay curly, but it only lasts for a day or so.

Biological contamination of carpet: Super-high heat will definitely kill germs, and so will your cleaning products without super high heat.

Are we being paid to kill germs or remove soil? If my customer is paying me to kill germs rather than remove soil, I”ll use a chemical.

If they want soil removed and insurance on disinfection, I”ll clean it, then prespray, and rake in the chemical.

Faster wand speed with high temp: Perhaps, but do you really think your tech is going to push a wand faster if you turn up the heat?

It also comes down to how stained or soiled the area is, and how many strokes or how fast the wand passes over the carpet — heat or no heat.

It ties in with articles I”ve read about how many square feet per hour you can get your techs to clean.

There are so many variables with square feet per hour that this whole theory is laughable.

An experienced tech has learned to pace himself so he doesn”t drop from exhaustion by the end of the workday, since he knows he has to be up at the crack of dawn to start all over.

Dwell temperature on the carpet fibers. Now you are on to something!

Of course dwell temperature has to do with temperature of the prespray, not how hot your extraction water is.

Need higher flow with higher heat: More flow rate means more water to the carpet at one time.

This kind of contradicts your theory that higher heat means less water in the carpet.

Boosting your piece of the cleaning pie: The whole principle of the cleaning pie is if you have less of one piece, use more of the other(s).

I have demonstrated that with less heat, you can still achieve excellent results by using more of the other three pieces.

Negative impacts of super-high heat: You got this started for me, thanks!

Damage on sensitive fibers is a definite possibility, particularly with wool, silk, imitation silk, and some others.

Now let me add to this list:

Faster wear of hoses and connectors, burn lines on rugs, lawns and your body, faster wear on the machine, steam lines that won”t rake out (unless you”re using an inferior one or two jet wand), inactivated chemicals, higher water use by coolant bypassing — these are all factors that cost an enormous amount of money for the company.

I haven”t replaced my connectors or hoses in two years and I clean every day.

And I have never, in seven years of cleaning, been called back for a redo. Now, that saves money!

Loren Egland, an IICRC Master Textile Cleaner, was the owner-operator of Rochester Steam Way, Rochester, MN, from 1970 to 1984, and has owned and operated Delta Steam Way, Antioch, CA, since 1984. His website is: www.deltasteamway.com

Richard Baldwin, an IICRC Certified Carpet Cleaner and Water Damage Restoration Technician, has owned and operated Expert Carpet Care since April 2004. Before starting his own company, he spent five years with two major carpet cleaning companies utilizing various types of equipment. Visit his website at: www.expertcarpet-care.com