By Steve Marsh

In the average consumer’s home each day, rooms full of upholstered furniture are crying out to be cleaned. So why do cleaners frequently walk right past these great profit opportunities?

I hear two common excuses for passing on the prospect of extra dollars in these cases. Usually, either the cleaning tech does not feel confident cleaning delicate furniture, and/or the customer doesn’t think the furniture needs cleaning.

There is an easy and low-risk process you can add to your list of services, one that can increase your revenue and dissolve your excuses: Power vacuuming.

Originally, I offered standard wet upholstery cleaning only. I realized the potential of offering this simpler service after experiencing numerous comments stating how great the furniture I was cleaning looked. What stood out was that I had only performed the preparatory dry vacuuming portion of the cleaning process when these comments were made.

They were right. Consumers rarely vacuum their furniture, and by using the powerful vacuum systems we have for steam cleaning carpet, we can often remove a spectacular amount of soil with dry vacuuming alone. The massive bulk of soil on upholstery comes from household dust. When this is removed, fabric colors tend to brighten and the piece smells fresher.

When steam cleaning delicate upholstery fabric, I generally spend one third of my time doing a thorough dry vacuuming. I realized that I could offer this dry vacuuming as a standalone service. I charged one third of my standard wet cleaning price for doing this.

By not using moisture, the risk of shrinkage, color bleeding, and cellulose browning virtually disappears. When I lowered the cleaning price, this service became affordable for many more of my customers.

Simple process

This isn’t a hard or complicated service to perform. It simply requires a thorough vacuuming of the furniture using the vacuum system of your steam cleaning equipment. Your customer will be looking for you to do a far better and more detail-focused job than they would have done with their home vacuum.

A few points to remember:

  • Be sure to carefully clean all sides of loose cushions.
  • Treat the cushions with care, and avoid causally tossing them about.
  • Be aware of any delicate or damaged areas so as not to snag them with the upholstery cleaning tool.
  • Spend significantly more time on horizontal surfaces and areas where physical contact is made when people use the piece.

Dust filter

Most wet cleaning equipment is not designed to be used for extended periods of dry vacuuming. There generally is no filter system to prevent the dust from getting into the blowers. Therefore, it is important to use an inline filter or dampening filter to prevent dry dust from causing problems with your equipment.

Spot cleaning

Using moisture and cleaning solutions should not be attempted unless you are skilled with spot cleaning. Many risks come into play when moisture is used. Proper spot cleaning is more complicated than overall wet cleaning and should be avoided until you develop the needed skills to perform it safely.

If you are confident in your spot cleaning abilities, this can become an additional service you may offer. Speed drying is critical to eliminate the chance of leaving water marks.

Sales presentation

Presenting this service to consumers is simple. All you need to do is ask, “Were you aware that we offer a power vacuuming service to keep your upholstered furniture looking new and fresh?”

If the client shows some interest, ask the follow-up question, “If you didn’t dust one of your tables for a year, how much dust do you think would accumulate?”

You could respond with: “Well, that would be how much collects on your upholstery also. When people touch or sit on the furniture, that dust gets worked into the fabric and, over time, dulls the colors.”

If there is still interest, it would be appropriate to offer a demonstration by asking, “Would you be interested in seeing a quick demonstration of how effective this cleaning is?”

Power vacuuming demo

A great way to demonstrate the effects of this cleaning process is to place a black cotton fabric (about 10-inch square) between the end of your upholstery cleaning tool and the vacuum hose to act as a filter. Then proceed to thoroughly vacuum a four-inch, square section of an exposed seat cushion.

Carefully remove the fabric filter from the hose without allowing the vacuum to suck it up the hose (very embarrassing). If all goes well, and the sample seat cushion hasn’t been cleaned within the last couple of years, there should be a dramatic, round mound of dust on the black fabric along with a cleaner-looking spot on the seat cushion.

If for some reason this demo does not convince the consumer to use this service, be sure to continue cleaning that side of the cushion and any remaining areas needed to hide the effects of the demo. Don’t leave the customer with a dramatically clean spot on the cushion.

Other fabrics in the home

This same dry cleaning process can be used on other fabrics in the house including pillows, stuffed animals, cornice boxes, drapery, and other soft surfaces. When cleaning drapery fabrics, it is important to use a drapery cleaning tool or low-moisture upholstery tool that does not have a large vacuum opening that could suck the delicate drapery fabric into the vacuum opening.

If you plan to clean drapery, I suggest you read a drapery cleaning manual to learn the techniques for safely handling large drapery fabric. A step ladder and rubber tipped clamps will be required to clean drapery.

Natural add-on service

Power vacuuming is a simple, natural, and low-risk service you can easily add to your menu of services. I have found that once customers realize this option is available, they often ask for it as part of regular visits from your company. Benefits include its affordability and the minimal downtime for the consumer.

Providing power vacuuming service can significantly increase your potential revenue and profits. I can’t think of another add-on service that is this easy, low risk, and inexpensive to implement.

Steve Marsh is a 40-year veteran of the carpet cleaning industry, an instructor and a Senior Carpet Inspector. He helps home-service companies quickly establish profitable clienteles and then progress to serving higher-quality customers. To help companies achieve these goals, he created the step-by-step programs Single Truck Success and Be Competition Free. For more information, visit