A Message from CFI President, Roby Harris

A mentor of mine once told a group of cleaners a story about the call back that changed his life. The story involved his number one goal, to give his clients the best customer service he could provide. He cleaned for some of the top high-end clientele in the Silicon Valley and had the reputation of being one of the highest charging cleaners in the South Bay Area. So, a call back was a big deal, even bigger when you’re charging close to a dollar or more per square foot for cleaning wall to wall carpet in the late 1990’s.

One evening he received a call about a faint urine odor coming from around the staircase. He knew of this area because three months earlier, he treated and cleaned this area where the family cat had taken the liberty to show their love to the family.

Roby Harris
Roby Harris III President, CFI 2020-2022

He found himself back at his client’s house searching this area again with black light in hand. Both clients, husband and wife, were there to help look and see if six eyes would be better than two and nothing was found, not a hint of odor was in the air.

Just before he was about to give up the search, his black light hit a small spot under one of the staircase steps. The staircase was the type with no riser, so you can look through the stairs. One small spot shone under the second step, far enough under the staircase that during cleaning this could easily be missed. He said, “there it is” and went over and put his nose right on the spot and gave a big sniff to an old stale pet stain that could have been present for years. Yep, that’s it. He treated the problem and left everyone happy, not knowing that what he just did would change his life forever.

Months later, he started experiencing shortness of breath, had a tough time finishing his jobs, and just walking from place to place without losing his breath. He told us that while in Las Vegas at Connections, during the long walks from his room to the trade show, he would lean against the staircase and along the walls for 10 minutes at a time to catch his breath.

He eventually found himself in the hospital thinking he had some type of lung disease or worst, cancer. After tests, X-rays, and days in the hospital, the doctors determined he had mold in his lungs. How could that have happened? His mind was racing, where did this come from? Light bulbs and stars went flashing in his head. Ah, the cat pee. When he put his nose on the spot a mold spore dislodged and went into one of his lungs and attached itself to one of his lung walls.

What does mold need to grow? A little moister and a little warmth and now you have mold growth even in the human body. There are plenty of cases of people eating and inhaling food into their lungs and months later experiencing respiratory issues from a green bean or a spinach leaf growing in their lungs, all very serious problems. Who would have thought that smelling an old dried-up pet stain would have such repercussions?

Remember, ladies and gentlemen, using our natural senses when walking into a cleaning situation is always the best beat – what we see, what we smell, the location of stains on the carpet, the earth smells from mold that may be coming from an area in the home you can’t see with your eyes. That’s why we let our man-made equipment do the work for us – black light for pet stains and odors, moisture probe to identify pet stains and severity of the contamination, and thermal imaging cameras for water damage in the structure of residential homes and commercial buildings.

Having tools in your truck for pet stains that can also crossover for water damage is a huge advantage for cleaners. Being ready for any situation gives your clients peace of mind. My mentor has never returned to cleaning again, he was never the same. However, he moved on to other areas of the industry helping cleaners in other ways. He became an instructor and marketing guru for the industry and currently helps with the CFI in great ways.

So, before you stick your nose on a spot or a stain, think about what happened to a former cleaner who almost lost his life for doing something as simple as taking an innocent whiff of a small inconspicuous pet stain.

I have an open-door policy. My email is President@cficonnects.org and my Cell number is 530-941-7390. If you have a question or if you just want to talk please feel free to email or call.

The Carpet and FabriCare Institute