To Vacuum or Not, That is the Question

Roby Harris
Roby Harris III
President, CFI
2020-2021

Did you know that dry soil removal is one of the best forms of pre-cleaning a technician can do? The proper vacuum cleaner will make all the difference. The first requirement of any cleaning method is maximum removal of dry soil. No matter how big and powerful a carpet cleaning truckmount can be, removal of dry soil is a must. Even in a low moisture cleaning, technicians should be pre-vacuuming the carpet. Pre-vacuuming should be done with a good quality commercial vacuum cleaner that meets the standards of the Carpet and Rug Institute, (“CRI”).

When a carpet is properly vacuumed a technician can remove at least 79% of all carpet soil and loose fiber. In some situations pre-grooming with a carpet rake or Counter Rotating Brush (“CRB”), with renovator tool and collection trays added, can provide some of the best results of pre-cleaning. Dry soil removal prior to adding our preconditioner and cleaning solutions makes our job much easier and efficient. Cleaning without dry soil removal creates a problematic situation, turning dry soil into mud.

The vacuum cleaner / vacuum sweepers have been around for over 160 years. In 1860 the manual vacuum was invented by Daniel Hess, called the carpet sweeper. Picking up the dust and extracting dry soil with rotating brushes. Home owners had to hand pump and push at the same time to make the sweeper/ vacuum work.

If you have been cleaning carpets for any amount of time you would have seen the trends come back around for many different carpet styles, colors and texture. One of the newest carpet piles is the Ultra-Soft Carpet. Consumers love the softness of the carpet pile and acutely have removed their shoes in showrooms to walk on samples. Nice to the touch, the “OH YEAH” that feels so good comes with a number of problems, choosing the right vacuum for the right carpet fiber, is a must. The introduction of softer yarns in carpeting has led to the use of an old industry term “denier”. Denier quantify softness and the numeric calculation for yarn. The denier of a fiber is the weight in grams of 9,000 meters of yarn. The larger the denier, the thicker the yarn giving the surface of the carpet the lustrous soft feel. Here is where the challenge comes when cleaning carpet with more surface area. With a larger surface area this creates more drag. More drag makes the vacuum harder to push and pull through the carpet. This creates more vacuum lock-down and even stopping the whole process.

As professional cleaners we must choose the vacuum that protects the homeowners’ carpet warranty and assures a safe and efficient removal of dry soil. The CRI, recommends vacuums with good air flow and brush roll and beater bar. Shaw and Mohawk have basic recommendations for what to look for in a vacuum cleaner. Adjustable vacuum motor speed, brush roll height, switchable on / off brush roll, efficient air-flow, and no sealed suction. Most important, a vacuum cleaner must not have too aggressive bristles. My local vacuum dealer will even match the carpet to the right vacuum, by having the homeowner bring in a sample of the carpet that was just installed in their home. This will insure the right vacuum for the right carpet fiber. As professionals, the last thing we want to do is void the homeowners warranty by using the wrong vacuum cleaner.

Vacuum cleaners are a part of every household. Some vacuum systems are large wall mounted with big containers in the garage, most homes have the basic upright. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area as a young kid, my grandfather being a Longshoremen, would come home with all types of interesting things, let’s just say he was the original “Overstock.com Guy” back in the early 1970’s. One of the things he brought to our house was a Kirby Vacuum cleaner. I remember the boxes were crushed and ripped and damaged during shipping. Nice brown and gold with Kirby on the top and side of the box partially covered with duct tape to hold the box together. He was so proud to give his daughter one of the high end, top of the line vacuums on the market, “The Kirby Vacuum Cleaner”. He showed my mom all the attachments and how you could not just vacuum our 1970’s brown, green and red shag carpet, you can also buff the kitchen floor. He showed my mom how to take the vacuum head off and place the hose on the front of the vacuum for cleaning the drapes and furniture. You would have thought my grandfather worked for the Kirby Company by the way he took the time to help my mom understand her new vacuum cleaner. When we moved to Redding California in 1980 my family still had the old Kirby, not just one but two Kirby vacuums. One for vacuuming the house the other one was used to vacuum around the hearth around the wood stove, until my dad sucked up a hot coal from the stove and almost burned down the house.

In 2015, my dad passed away. Going through his things I came across both, of the old Kirby vacuums. The one that we used for vacuuming the carpets in the house, and the one that almost burned down the house. I couldn’t believe that my dad still had the box that my grandfather delivered to my mom over 45 years earlier. Most of the parts were missing the Kirby head and brush roll was in the box, the body of the vacuum was there, my dad even saved the half burnt up vacuum bag. So many memories in just one household name we all grew up with.

The vacuum cleaner has revolutionized how we as cleaners and homeowners effectively clean our homes and offices. Properly vacuumed carpet is the easiest and most efficient way to keep carpets clean. Simple regular vacuuming can also have the largest impact on the cleanliness of our clients’ home and indoor air they breathe. As professionals we should be giving good advice to clients on proper vacuuming and recommending vacuuming areas often that receive higher volumes of foot traffic, entrances, hallways, in front of sofas and chairs. We should also suggest walk off mats that can easily be thrown into the washing machine to assist in preventive maintenance.

Remember ladies and gentlemen, we are professionals. As cleaners, rug washers and restores we need to always have the top of the line equipment, providing our clients with the peace of mind that their carpets will be taken care of with kid gloves. Meaning we don’t cause a problem and void out the homeowners carpet warranty. Make sure as cleaners that you have the proper vacuum cleaner for the proper application.

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.

Your President Roby Harris,
Roby Harris III
President, CFI
2020-2021
IICRC Senior Carpet Inspector
IICRC Master Textile Cleaner
Certified Master Rug Cleaner