A Visit to the Museum of Clean with Shawn Bisaillon

photo 3bPocatello, Idaho? Really? A museum dedicated to cleaning? It must be just an old building with dirty dusty old vacuums…right? WRONG!! (Well actually they do photo 2bhave a lot of vacuums…) The Museum of Clean in Pocatello, ID is an incredible tribute to the importance of cleaning. When you enter this beautiful building you are greeted by the Knight, and Mrs. Knight of Clean. Two “suits” made from cleaning equipment and supplies!

You walk into an awesome 75,000 square. Foot complex of excitement, education and inspiration for the whole family. While most museums have a single subject focus this one is far, far from that —clean dominates the value of everything that effects life. The museum goal is to touch as many dimensions as they can—in display, art items, slate, and participation. So they want you to come prepared to do and get more than just see… remembering this is not a cleaning museum, it is a museum of clean. There are also what seems to be an endless number of fun activities for children. All of these activities are designed to teach and emphasize an important principle or lesson in cleaning.

photo 3aOn my personal visit to the Museum of clean, I had the incredible opportunity to spend time with a legend in the cleaning industry – Don Aslett.  On my visit I was photo 1aable to join on one of the many personal tours that Don Aslett does around the facility explaining both the history of how people have cleaned, but also the extreme importance of being clean at all levels. Clean home, business, clean world, clean body, mind and spirit.

The Museum of Clean is the brainchild of an obsession with clean that is Don Aslett.  He is the founder and primary supporter. If you have been around the carpet cleaning industry long enough, you may have had the opportunity to meet or hear Don speak in person. Yup, he was the guy who was using a toilet as his briefcase. Don was teaching us all as cleaning professionals early on just how important what we do is every day, and helping us understand better ways photo 4to get compensated for that service. Mr. Aslett has written over 35 books on cleaning topics, including Clutter’s Last Stand and Do I Dust or Vacuum First?: Answers to the 100 Toughest, Most Frequently Asked Questions About Housecleaning. With his eldest daughter Laura Aslett Simons, an interior designer,photo 5 he co-authored a volume titled Make Your House Do the Housework. He also wrote Is There Life After Housework. Aslett has appeared on QVC, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and several other nationally-televised programs. Aslett has also served as a motivational speaker for several business and government-related entities. He also owns one the nation’s premier building service/cleaning contractors – Varsity Contractors.

photo 2“Our society has lost its understanding of clean” Don Aslett said to me after his tour of his Museum was over during his and my private talk.”

  • He shows the collection of toilets(from castles to jails)
  • He shows the collections of wash basins, toilet cleaners, dusting tools, brooms, mops and vacuums.
  • There are several wonderfully built sculptures and art throughout the facility, most of which is made and or from the tools, supplies and equipment commonly found in the cleaning service.
  • Don has collected and created items that exemplify his incredible wit and a real message to attach to society at their heart strings through items like an iron with a saw handle on it…( designed to get “men” to help with housework… Fun old gun stocks modified to be fit with a paint roller…
  • You may even notice in some of the pictures a black spot on the end of Don’s nose. It is part of the fun as he teaches children about and adults alike about clean!

Mr. Aslett is no stranger to carpet cleaning and truckmounts either. His Building Service Contractor company, Varsity Contractors, owns and operates many HydraMaster CDS truckmounts throughout the Northwest. So it did not take much prodding to show him my brand new HydraMaster CDS rig, completely outfitted with every cleaning tool imaginable, as well as the HydraCradle waste tank.

photo 2aThe museum does an incredible job of transforming the attendees’ mindset and displaying that cleaning is not only important for health and well-Don Aslett Museum of Clean buildingbeing but can also be FUN! If you are reading this article it is likely because you are part of the cleaning and restoration industry. We have a connection to clean that goes beyond fire breathing truckmounts and moisture sucking dehumidifiers. It is an alliance that really does understand that a cleaner environment is a safer, more productive, greener environment. You owe it to yourself to take a bit out of the way trip to Pocatello, Idaho and see the Museum of Clean. Hopefully, you will be as fortunate as I was to get a tour with Mr. Aslett himself. “The tribute to the “cleaning world” belongs to YOU” is what I was told when getting additional private moments spent with Don. “Tell people about this place, enjoy the collections and art and share about it” Glad to do it, Don, and thanks for your many contributions to the cleaning industry in so many wonderful ways.

For more information about the Museum of Clean, visit their website at www.museumofclean.com.





The introduction of Truckmounted Carpet Cleaning Equipment

Who invented the truck mount? First off, the industry can’t even agree whether it should be truckmount (one word) or truck mount (two words). So reaching a consensus on just exactly who invented the truckmount well…just likely is not going to happen. So I will make an attempt to bring to light virtually all of the original inventors and entrepreneurs who built truckmounts, and perhaps more importantly for our recognition here – actually brought them into the marketplace and sold them to a number of cleaning and restoration companies. Plus, as you have read about in this blog, there were trailer – mounted carpet dusting machines that dated back to the early 1900’s. The invention of the truckmounted hot water extraction machine specifically designed for the on-location professional carpet cleaner to use to clean carpet dates back to the latter part of the 1960’s and early parts of the 1970’s.

Though introduced in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the truckmount became the dominant piece of equipment for the carpet cleaning professional in the 1980’s. Like any new revolutionary change, there were those who were resistant to change and slow to adapt. It might be hard for many cleaners to understand now, but there was a long time when the hardest part of selling a truckmount was convincing the carpet cleaner the increased productivity of the truckmount was worth the extra investment required.

I believe the single greatest contribution of the truckmount to the professional carpet cleaning industry was it gave the professional cleaner the ability to double his income in the same amount of time of work performed. It raised the average income level of the professional cleaner, which in turn, led to the advanced development of technical educational opportunities. A significant portion of the industry began to look at education and training as in integral part of their business plan. This inevitably raised the professionalism of the industry and no doubt is what began to bring outside interest in the cleaning industry in the early 1990’s.

Old #1 – Bane-Clene

Bill Bane of Bane-Clene was certainly one of the first to introduce an extractor mounted in a truck. Here is what he said in his 50th Anniversary reflections.

“I started thinking about the possibility of truck-mounted carpet cleaning equipment in the mid ‘60s. Pumps were available that could move the cleaning solution from the truck to the cleaning head, but recovering the dirty water with fan-vacs remained a problem. That little sewage pump introduced by Bill Wisdom was the missing piece of the puzzle. A larger model of that pump would make it possible to create enough vacuum for water recovery beyond 100 feet. An electrical engineer worked out a design that would let a 1½ horsepower electric motor with dual capacitors, drive the large vacuum and solution pumps that we needed on only 12 amps. With an idea inspired by tanker trucks and using available technology, we built our first two truck-mounted carpet cleaning systems in January of 1969. They were designed on the Wisdom concept but our pumps, tanks and motors were larger and bolted to the floor of the truck.

Here is a picture of the unit that Bane-Clene operators affectionately refer to as “Old #1” the very first Bane Clene van with that machine mounted in it. The design of the Bane-Clene unit has certainly stood the test of time.

For more information on Bane-Clene, visit www.baneclene.com


Judson truckmounts

Next are two drawings provided by Judson and Les Jones detailing the idea that Judson had for the production of what was certainly one of the very first truckmounts.


Here is the machine in production, and the unit in operation. It was a direct drive “Big Truck” and had a four foot wide wand that was pulled with a garden tractor. It was designed for Monsanto to clean Astro-Turf fields.


Judson built their first slide in truckmount in 1974. It had an APO (automatic pump out) and an LP heat system.

For more information on Judson truckmounts and their history, visit www.judsontruckmounts.com/about-us/judson-history


Mike Palmer – HydraMaster

In 1969 Michael C. Palmer was a carpet cleaner. After seeing a crude homemade truckmount put together by a cleaner, Mike told himself that he could do it better. Starting in his garage, he set out to do just that. His training as a jet engine mechanic in the military and natural born talent were his only assets to begin with. His first machine was so good, a friend asked him to build one for him. After a while, Mike had so many people wanting machines that he started hiring his neighbors to help and thus HydraMaster began in 1971. While Mike Palmer cannot directly be credited with the invention of the truckmount, but he is generally acknowledged as one of the first to make a business of manufacturing and selling truckmounts all over the U.S.  – thus, his reputation as the “father” of truckmounts is certainly well founded. His revolutionary new mobile cleaning system changed carpet cleaning forever.

For more information on HydraMaster truckmounts, visit http://www.hydramaster.com.

The Baron

The first HydraMaster truckmount was called the Baron.


The Baron 2

The Baron 2 started the company into full scale production and nationwide sales


HM Plant

Here is a picture from the first full scale manufacturing plant



The next model was the BobCat unit



And then the HydraCat


Ralph Bloss/Clark Seabloom – Steam Way International

As previously discussed. Steam Way was one of the first companies to manufacture and sell a portable hot water extraction machine in 1968. While their portable Steam Way 400 was the “bread and butter” of the company well into the mid-1970’s it had become obvious that the truckmounts already in the marketplace from Bane-Clene and HydraMaster, and those soon to be introduced by Prochem were gaining a significant marketshare. Together, Mr Bloss and Mr. Seabloom, along with their right hand “MacGyver” machinist – Larry Hawkins, and a long time customer of Steam Way’s, Ralph Greco designed and introduced into the marketplace in 1974 the very first Steam Way truckmount – the TurboMatic1200.

Turbo What?

Here is a great picture from 1974 at a training seminar offered by Ohio Steamway Distributors. Like those leisure suits? Steam Way was introducing their very first truckmount  – the TurboMatic. This was probably the first time this collection of professional cleaners had ever seen a truckmount



The Steam Way Turbomatic was first introduced in 1974. It was equipped with an auto pump out system so there was no waste tank.


Prototype PowerMatic

The second Steam Way truck mount was called the PowerMatic. Here is a prototype beta unit for this machine, put out for field testing in 1976.


Steam Way Inventory

Here is a picture from the late 1970’s showing all of the Steam Way machines in production

For more information on Steam Way truckmounts, visit www.steamway.com.

Prochem (Professional Chemicals)

With his extensive background in chemicals, Jim Roden opened the doors to Professional Chemicals in 1968 after working with ServiceMaster to formulate products. “We started with shampoo, spotters, furniture cleaning chemicals, deodorizers, etc., and a line of disaster clean-up products, and in 1973, we got involved with dry cleaning furniture. We found we needed to develop equipment to meet the need.”

Shortly after, between 1973 and 1974, Prochem became aware of portable steam cleaning equipment. “We weren’t manufacturing at the time, but were reselling equipment. We always attempted to innovate and find the best solution for our customers, so developed an oil burner rather than a propane burner, as there were previous problems with propane safety issues and lack of maintenance on the equipment.”

Jim’s brother Mike came on board shortly after 1974 and reworked a design of what became the first Prochem truck mounts – the Model 400 series.

For more information about Prochem truckmounts, visit http://www.prochem.com


Slide15Other early truckmount developers

Arnie Ballweber and Judge Sales first introduced power take off truckmounts to the industry in the late 1960’s. Gene Bates started Steam Genie and later developed Big Red Truckmounts. Jerry Holman continued to build the Steam Genie truckmount brand. John Sales at Steamaction also was an early developer and innovator of truckmounts.


Electric truckmounts were also developed early on by Herb Harpham and David Bergin at Certified Equipment, and by Ed York and Steve Brandt at Steam Services.

Workmaster truckmount

If you have a picture of an early truckmount, or your truckmount from the 1970’s, I would love for you to post it and provide a little history. Add your knowledge to our collection of historical documentation of the beginning of truckmounts.

The Advent of Hot Water Extraction Carpet Cleaning for Professionals

Who invented the Portable Hot Water Extraction Machine?

So just who invented the concept of hot water extraction carpet cleaning? No one can say with absolute certainty. This patent filed with the US Patent office in 1964 is certainly describing what essentially a hot water extraction machine was. The patent holder is named Fred Hays. Interestingly enough, in  the memoirs and discussions I had the opportunity to have with early industry pioneers like my father, Ralph Bloss, Clark Seabloom, and Bill Bane, none recalled or brought up Mr. Hays. It may have been a partner of Mr. Hays who eventually brought the product to market, because if you look at the machine drawing carefully, it certainly looks like the machine described by Bill Bane that Bill Wisdom built, or the machine I actually have a picture of – the Deep Steam Extractor.

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Names to Honor and Remember

My father, Ralph Bloss, did not join the professional carpet industry until 1971, and even by then, there was already much confusion about who exactly did what when. Looking through company archives certainly brought out some of the original inventors of hot water extraction equipment, many of which my dad knew personally. Names such as Clark Seabloom, Bill Bane, Gene Bates, Paul Brondyk, David Bergin, Judson Jones and someone named Mr. Steam all come to mind. Jack Bates, the founder of Stanley Steemer also should be mentioned here

In his 50 year anniversary retrospective, Bill Bane gives credit to a gentlemen named Bill Wisdom. “An ugly little carpet cleaning machine that was innovated by Bill Wisdom made its appearance. He used prevailing technology and material to build a machine that had two stainless steel, restaurant style coffee pots sitting on a base that rolled on four tiny casters. I believe the coffee pots were ten gallons each. One held the cleaning solution and the other was for recovered water. The base unit contained two small electric motors, a tiny solution pump and a small positive displacement sewage pump for vacuum. That little sewage pump would eventually revolutionize water recovery in the cleaning business. Wisdom’s concept was duplicated and improved by Steamatic® of Texas and Deep Steam Extraction of Michigan, both of which are still in business.”

One can certainly conclude that there were several variations of what later pioneers referred to as the “coffee” pot extractors – one had two canisters, and the other had one.

Judson DeepClean DC3

These next pictures were provided to me by Les Jones, son of the founder of Judson – Judson Jones. It shows their collection of early extraction equipment, including the DeepClean DC3, that they began manufacturing in 1959, and its related patent.


Deep Steam extractor

This drawing and picture represent one of the very first production units for Deep Steam Extractors. The similarity to the two “coffee pots” idea is obvious. Though the company no longer produced equipment, it is still around. You would know them as DSC chemicals. There is also a picture of their first upholstery tool that went along with the Deep Steam Machine.


Sani-Clean/Steam Way

In 1968, a gentleman named Clark Seabloom bought a company and the rights to produce the machine it has produced from a company called Sani-Clean. The machine was known as a Steam Way machine, and in this letter dated from 1968, the company had already established a network of dealers and distributors. Like many of the innovators of this period, the company could not decide for a while whether it was going to be a franchise or just sell its proprietary equipment. Eventually, Mr. Seabloom made the decision to sell the Steam Way machine to existing professional carpet cleaners and help people get into the business as independent operators. In 1971, Mr. Seabloom convinced my father – Ralph Bloss – to join the company, a career move that turned into an industry love affair for my father.


Home show exhibition

In case you think exhibiting at the local home improvement trade show is a new concept, here was one of the original Steam Way equipment owners demonstrating at a home show in 1969.


Steam Way 100

The Steam Way 100 was the company’s first production hot water extraction machines. You will notice from this picture that these original machines all came with what we would refer today as a drag wand, a heavy weighted tool. This was the way that many of us learned how to clean carpets. The scrub wand came along much later.

The Steam Way 100 was equipped with a Hypro pump set to 100psi, an in-line heating element to heat the water, and vacuum recovery was created by a Sutorbilt #2 positive displacement blower. The machine weighed over 150# and as you can imagine was no fun moving up and down the stairs.


Early Competitors to the Steam Way Machine

Here is a lineup of some of the early competitors to the Steam Way machine from the original Steam Way archives, identified from left to right.

The Steam Genie portable made by Gene Bates. Steam Genie went on to produce truckmounts later, and Mr. Bates later started a truckmount company called Big Red.

The second unit in the picture was identified as being produced by Deep Steam, but as you can clearly see, it was one of the single canister “coffee pot” extractors – perhaps a Judson DeepClean DC3

The final two to the right were Mr. Steam Machines. Mr. Steam later became Windsor Industries.


Polyester shag

Those early 1970 polyester shags sure made us look good, didn’t they?


Bucket brigade

How many of you watching are card carrying members of the bucket brigade? This picture was taken aboard the Cruise Ship the Queen Elizabeth 2 that was being cleaned by a Steam Way 400 portable extractor. The second picture is provided by Loren Egland of Delta Steamway.


Steam Way 400

Perhaps the machine that Steam Way was most known for throughout the 1970’s (even continuing to be made for many years after Steam Way introduced their first truckmounts) was the Steam Way 400. These pictures were provided by Loren Egland of Delta Steamway.


Steam Way showroom

Here is a picture from the Steam Way showroom in the late 1970’s. By this time, the “scrub wand” had been introduced, but the drag wand remained the cleaning head of choice for most portable extractor owners.

Notice the blue metal airmover. It was made by a guy in South Dakota named Lloyd Weaver, who today is often recognized as the “father” of the water damage restoration industry. In a future blog, we will pay tribute to Mr. Weaver, and another incredible pioneer in our industry when it comes to water damage restoration – Claude Blackburn.



Certified Equipment patented and produced the Certi-Jet portable extractor, pictured here.



The Beginning of On-Location Professional Carpet Cleaning Methods – Part 2

Host/Racine Industries

From the Host website: “Racine Industries, Inc., manufacturer of the HOST Dry Carpet Cleaning System , began as the Harry RenchRench Manufacturing Company and was founded by Harry Rench in 1936. From the beginning, Racine Industries, Inc. manufactured carpet cleaning equipment and a dry cleaner. The company was the first in the United States to produce non-resoiling detergents for carpet cleaning, rightfully recognizing that animal based soaps left a residue that contributed to rapid resoiling of the carpet.

In the late 1930s, Rench got involved with the Bigelow Sanford company in a patent pool that resulted in the first dry carpet cleaning powder. This dry ‘powder’ was developed in order to solve a problem that arose when water was used on wool carpet. The solvent-based powder was brushed into the carpet with a broom and vacuumed. The ‘powder’ absorbed the soil and held it until vacuumed out.

In 1956, a new dry cleaner for carpets was introduced at the National Institute of Rug Cleaners in New York. This new product worked better than the original ‘powder’ and could be used with a machine. It was a combination of water, detergents, a safe solvent mixed with ‘sponges’ that dissolved and absorbed the soil under control, and allowed for a thorough extraction at the time of cleaning. It was called HOST Dry Extraction Carpet Cleaner. Over the next 50 years, many innovations were added to the original concept.”

For more information: http://www.hostdry.com/about-host-dry-carpet-cleaning/the-history-of-host

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Von Schrader

Although most professional cleaners today know Von Schrader as the leading manufacturer of dry foam carpet cleaning Francis Von Schraderequipment, many may not realize the Von Schrader was certainly one of the first companies to sell running an on-location carpet cleaning business as a way to build a business and a career. According to their web site, “in 1935, in the midst of the Great Depression, an enterprising young man named Francis Von Schrader dreamed of helping people find ways to help themselves.  What Fran wanted to sell was not merely carpet cleaning equipment but an opportunity. He believed that if given a chance, industrious individuals could develop and build prosperous, independent businesses.”  The company says that since their introduction on the 1930’s, more than 50,000 people have become Von Schrader “Associates.”(Associates are people running their own companies using Von Schrader equipment and programs.)

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Von Schrader Upholstery cleaning

Von Schrader introduced what was likely the first professional upholstery only cleaning machine. Using compressed air, it applied a non-resoiling foam to the upholstery fabric that was agitated in with a small rotary brush mechanism.


For more information about Von Schrader, visit their website at ttp://www.vonschrader.com/about-us/our-history

Von Schrader is not the only company that made dry foam shampoo equipment. Advance Machines, now part of Nilfisk manufactured dry foam shampoo application equipment for many years. The first Advance CarpeTron™ dry foam shampooers went into production in 1965.The dry foam method is an effective low moisture, rapid drying carpet cleaning method that has been used in carpet cleaning for decades. The dry foam method is similar to the rotary shampoo method in that brushes are used to agitate the carpet pile. In the dry foam method, an aerator is used to whip the solution in a foam. The foam is dispensed into the horizontally rotating brushes. As with all carpet cleaning methods, the more chemical that is applied, the longer the drying time. Some machines have their own extraction capability. These machines have the capability to remove shampoo and attached soil particles. Other machines do not have extraction capability. A wet/dry vacuum must be used to remove the shampoo and soil.


Bonnet cleaning

Bonnet cleaning has long been one of the most popular carpet cleaning methods, particularly in a commercial carpet setting, and has remained relatively the same since its inception. Bonnet cleaning is a minimum moisture carpet cleaning method. Bonnet cleaning essentially consists of an absorbent cotton, rayon and/or polypropylene pad and an agitation machine. The carpet is generally presprayed with the bonnet cleaning solution, and the cotton, rayon, or polypropylene pad is also moistened with the solution. The pad is attached to the agitation machine. The pad is used to agitate the carpet and to assist in the suspension and absorbance of the soil. Once the pad becomes saturated with soil, it is either rotated to the other side or exchanged for a clean pad. Generally procedures call for post vacuuming once the carpet has dried.


Most bonnet cleaning is done with a rotary floor machine set at a speed of 175rpm. However over the years there have been a wide variety of oscillating and/or orbital agitation machines used with absorbent pads in what could be characterized as bonnet or absorbent cleaning. These pictures were sent to me by John Guerkink of Trinity Carpet Renewal  Systems showing a residential cleaning job from 1974 that his father cleaned. Trinity Carpet Renewal Systems utilizes an oscillating agitation rather than rotary.


Other long time bonnet systems have included Argosheen and Ultra-Dry.


Cleaning franchises such as Chem-Dry have, in the past, used variations of the bonnet method with proprietary cleaning solutions over the years. This system today is referred to as the Chem-Dry Legacy System. Many ChemDry Frachises today use a proprietary truckmount hot carbonated solution system.

Many bonnet systems have switched to encapsulation cleaning chemistry utilizing the same agitation machines in the past few years, but with encapsulation chemicals being used instead of traditional bonnet cleaning systems. We will talk more about encapsulation cleaning later.

Rotary shampooing

What do coconuts have to do with professional on-location carpet cleaning?Coconuts

As on-location professional carpet cleaners began to make their appearance, they began to use a new approach to cleaning carpet. They agitated a bucket of soap and water to form suds and then brushing the suds into the carpet. Coconut oil was the basic ingredient of most detergents at this time that were used to form the suds and toweling with clear water and a touch of ammonia brightened the pile. Later, coconut oil served as the basis for the detergents that were formulated for carpet shampooing utilizing rotary floor machines. The problem with these coconut oil based detergents is that they were sticky and had a tendency to stay in the carpet and act as tacky residue, which could cause the carpet to resoil rapidly after cleaning. This led to the birth of the conception that if you clean you carpets, they will only get dirtier faster. Though coconut oils were replaced by less tacky synthetic detergents in the early 1960’s, the professional cleaning industry to this day has to deal with the misconception usually stated something like this – “Wait as long as you possibly can before you get your carpet cleaned, because once you clean it, it will get dirtier faster.” It does not help that “carpet shampooing” still serves as a generic description for carpet cleaning, even though carpet shampooing has not been the dominant professional on-location carpet cleaning method since the early 1970’s.

In the 1940’s there was not much development in carpet cleaning equipment, chemicals, nor procedures. Much of the world was involved in World War II. Most able bodied men were in the military, and most manufacturing was adapted to meet the needs of military production.

After the war ended, there was an influx of new “talent” into the cleaning business as returning GI’s tried to find a profession. The late 1940’s and early 1950’s were the birthdates of many commercial janitorial companies. “On-Location Professional carpet cleaning in the residential market was still greatly limited to the very wealthy. Through this period, most professional carpet cleaning was done by the rotary shampoo method.

Wet shampoo cleaning with rotary floor machines (175 rpm), involved the application of a foaming detergent into the carpet that was agitated in with a broken in shampoo brush. In most cases, this was followed by thorough wet vacuuming with a wet-dry vacuum. As previously mentioned, these wet shampoos were originally formulated from coconut oil soaps, which meant that the wet shampoo residues would be sticky. Since no rinse or extraction was performed, the powerful residue can continue to collect dirt after cleaning, When wet-shampoo chemistry standards converted from coconut oil soaps to synthetic detergents (usually sodium laurel sulfate) as a base, the shampoos dried to a powder, and loosened dirt would attach to the powder components, requiring vacuuming by the consumer the day after cleaning. The rotary shampoo method remained the most popular way to professionally clean carpet on location until the advent of hot water extraction machines in the 1960’s.


Pile lifter

In the 1950’s Certified Equipment introduced the first professional carpet pile lifter. This first pile lifter, pictured here, was made from a converted floor sanding machine. These pictures were provided to Cleanfax Magazine by the founder of Certified, David Burgin. Nilodor, which purchased Certified continues to manufacture an updated version of this Pile Lifter to this day.

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These drawings represent an idea for a rotary shampoo machine that had extraction capabilities as it applied the shampoo. Bob Hughes - Dan SavanuckAlthough the machine represented in this drawing was never produced, the idea certainly was. Robert “Bob” Hughes was one of the founders of the Chemicals Specialty Company, along with Dan Savanuck. Today, you know the company as Chemspec. Although Chemspec is mainly known for its innovative carpet cleaning chemistry, one important contribution of Mr. Hughes is often overlooked. He developed the Chemstractor, the first rotary floor shampoo machine that also had extraction capabilities. The Chemstractor increased the speed and efficiency of shampooing. The Chemstractor evolved over the years. Perhaps the greatest industry contribution of the Chemstractor and Mr. Hughes was the commercial appearance maintenance management programs and training that was developed. This first brought the concept of interim and restorative carpet cleaning procedures being used in conjunction to develop an on-going maintenance program.

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The Beginning of On-Location Carpet Cleaning Methods

Howard’s Steam Works

William F “Bill”  Bane, the founder of Bane Clene, a long time industry manufacturer of portable and truck mounted carpet Howard's Steam Workscleaning equipment, chemicals, and training identified what is believed to be the first carpet “steam cleaner” in a story that is included in his historical look back at the carpet cleaning industry celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Bane-Clene organization in 2012.

Mr. Bane tells the story: Howard’s “Steam” Carpet Cleaning Works opened in Indianapolis, Indiana in1876 on the banks of a canal that was abandoned when the railroads came to town. Rugs were cleaned essentially the way hot water extraction cleaners do it today except it was not a mobile plant. Carpets were collected and delivered in a horse-drawn wagon from an area of foursquare miles which encompassed all of Indianapolis and its suburbs in those days. Water was taken from the canal on the north side of the plant, heated in a wood fired boiler to about 130 degrees, mixed with a detergent and sprayed on the carpet. When the canal was muddy they used supplemental water supplies from a cistern and a shallow well. The cleaning solution was extracted by a large positive displacement pump and dumped back into the canal on the south end of the building. The power to generate the necessary RPM’s for the vacuum pump was transferred from a huge water wheel via gear-reduction.

To read more of Mr. Bane’s historical look back at the carpet cleaning industry, follow this link: http://www.baneclene.com/cleaning-digest/2009-Spring/history-of-carpet-cleaning.pdf

Rug scouring in the 1920’s

These pictures were provided to me by early industry pioneer, David Burgin of Certified Chemicals and Equipment International. Mr. Burgin, who passed away in 2012, was a kind and generous man and a true pioneer in our industry. His company also invented the Pile Lifter, which we will discuss in a future blog. Until Bill Bane wrote his remembrance of the history of carpet cleaning for the BaneClene in 2012, Mr. Burgin had written the most complete history of carpet cleaning in an article he did for one of the early issues of Cleanfax magazine back in the 1990’s. This early ad for starting a “rug scouring” business clearly shows an on-location operator rather than an in-plant cleaner. However the very next mention is for cleaning rugs in what seems to be an in-plant set up. According to Mr Burgin, these ads were from the 1920’s. Either way, they are basically describing what would now be called carpet shampooing, utilizing a rotary floor machine in conjunction with a wet-dry vacuum.

The great depression of the 1930’s certainly hurt the popularity of carpet and stymied the development of what we would consider to be on-location carpet cleaning. Through this period, in-plant rug cleaning was still the accepted professional way to clean a carpet. On-location professional carpet cleaners really began to emerge in the mid to late 1930’s.

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The Home Service Company

The Home Service Company located in Racine, Wisconsin began as a mothproofing company in 1930 and was started by Mr. Irl Marshall.

Duraclean Master Cleaners BaltimoreMr. Marshall developed a safe and very effective cleaning solution for fine rugs and upholstery with a “foam absorption“ process for cleaning rugs without scrubbing with the Foamavator.

“The Home Cleaning Company” continued to grow in recognition and customer satisfaction. Mr. Marshall moved the company from Racine to Deerfield, Illinois in 1938 and expanded both office and warehouse square footage. In the mid-1940s, Irl Marshall changed the name of “The Home Service Company” to “Duraclean International” and began franchising his patented process for cleaning fine fabrics under the Duraclean name.

This Duraclean ad from the 1950’s is selling the homeowner on the benefits of a freshly cleaned carpet, even stating “You can eat off of it.” Duraclean continues as a successful carpet cleaning franchise today

For more information about The Home Service Company and Duraclean, visit their website: http://www.duraclean.com/about-us.html

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The Hamilton Beach Carpet Washer was introduced in the 1920’s.

According to these vintage ads for the machine, the “Hamilton Beach Carpet Washer does not beat or sweep or surface clean; like a vacuum sweeper, but actually washes out all of the grease and grime that a vacuum sweeper cannot touch, washes out all the mud, smirch and street taint that shoes tramp in, washes out all the dirt that smudges colors. See how the Hamilton beach rug washer brings back the original richness and freshness of the dingy floorcovering. Rugs are now washed, cleaned, and dried right on the floor.”

Further ads for the Hamilton Beach Rug Washer are designed to sell the entrepreneur of starting his/her own carpet cleaning company. “Would you be the man to earn $36-60 per day?”

This machine served as the foundation for the development of the Von Schrader dry foam machine that is to this day the leading selling manufacturer of dry foam equipment for carpet cleaning.

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Finally, we can progress to the history of on-location professional carpet cleaning. Horse drawn rug dusters – the first on-location carpet cleaners

John ThurmanOn November 14, 1898, John S. Thurman of St. Louis, Missouri, submitted a patent (US No. 634,042) for a “pneumatic carpet renovator”. It was issued on October 3, 1899. Thurman created a gasoline-powered carpet cleaner for the General Compressed Air Company. In a newspaper advertisement from the St. Louis Dispatch, Thurman offered his invention of the horse-drawn (which went door to door) motorized cleaning system in St. Louis. He offered cleaning services at $4 per visit. Thurman’s machine is sometimes considered the first vacuum cleaner. However, the dust was blown into a receptacle rather than being sucked in, as in the machine now used.


What Thurman really invented was an on-location rug dusting procedure using compressed air – a mechanical rug beater. We can find many examples of these horse drawn carpet cleaning machines being used to go to the customers home and clean the carpet on location.

We found the wording from an ad that advertised the cleaning services of one of these horse drawn carpet dusters. Here is what it said:

“Our portable engine and air compressor mounted on a strong truck arrives at your residence or other building to be cleaned in the morning. A small hose is run into the house, the tools are coupled up, which compresses some 75 feet of free pure outdoor air per minute at a high pressure which is conveyed through our patented tools to the articles to be cleaned. Nothing is taken from the premises. Carpets are cleaned right on the floor where they belong.”

Change a few words and you could almost use the same text in an ad for your truckmounted carpet cleaning machine.

Here are two drawings of the very first “on-location” dual wand cleaning operation using compressed air.

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And you know professional carpet cleaners, they soon wanted more power. Many went from a one horsepower version to a “two horsepower version”. More power you know.


Van Deusen Carpet Cleaners

There is not much information, available for these horse drawn on location rug dusters. No one is quite sure what “killed off” the on-location rug dusting businesses. An educated guess would tell you that when combustion engine vehicles were invented, it was easier to transport the rugs and the in-plant cleaning operations most likely did a superior cleaning job as compared to these rug-dusters.

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Slide1 Slide2Also, keep in mind during this same period, the growth of in-plant rug cleaning operations continued. In fact, some of the pictures of horse drawn carpet cleaning companies where you can’t see the steam or gasoline engine apparatus in the back, were probably in plant operations picking up and delivering rugs to and from their customer’s homes and businesses.

The birth of professional rug cleaning – in plant operations

Only in the late 1800’s did we see the development of what we would refer to now as “in-plant” rug cleaning operations. While the focus of this blog is on-location professional carpet cleaning, we would be remiss if we did not pause a moment to look at these first in-plant rug cleaners. There is even a drawing of an in-plant rug cleaning operation dating back to 1894. Many of the companies that were started in the early 1900’s continue to operate today with third and fourth generations of the same family. Many of these early in-plant rug cleaning companies also now operate successful on-location carpet cleaning and restoration divisions. These early cleaning professionals were certainly pioneers in the subsequent development of our industry.

One association whose membership includes a lot of companies who have been around for an extended period of time, and who can serve as an excellent resource on the history of in plant rug cleaning companies is the Association of Rug Care Specialists. You can access their website here: http://www.rugcarespecialists.org/

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