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:

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:

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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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