Buyer’s Guide: Professional Carpet Cleaning Machines
The machines used by most professional carpet cleaners are called ‘portable extractors’. These machines are very versatile and can be used to clean both carpets and upholstery to a professional standard. Portable extractors are equally at home in domestic and commercial environments.
How to spec professional carpet cleaning machines:
What size water pump do you need?
The pump sprays cleaning solution into the carpet. On professional machines, the pump pressure is normally rated in psi (pounds per square inch). For professional results, look for a machine with minimum 130psi pump pressure.
With a mid range pump 220-400psi, you can clean faster, with fewer wand passes and less effort.
With the larger 600-800psi pumps, you can power-clean hard floors as well as cleaning carpets. The 600 and 800psi pumps are also the most durable pumps and handle longer hose runs better.
If you are looking at a machine and the pump pressure is rated in ‘Bar’ instead of ‘psi’, you can convert Bar to psi to get a direct comparison here
Which vacuum system?
The vacuum system pulls the cleaning solution and dirt out the carpet. The more powerful the vacuum system, the more efficiently you can clean and the faster the carpet will dry. More vacuum also means you can run longer hoses from the machine.
The standard vacuum system used on many professional carpet cleaning machines is 2 x 3-stage vacuum motors. 2 x 3-stage vacuum motors is the minimum we recommend for professional use. This vacuum system will run around 75ft to 100ft of hoses (but you will notice quite a drop in suction when running longer hoses).
With only 1 x 3-stage vac motor, you won’t be able to run extension hoses and will need to take the machine upstairs. We definitely recommend that you invest in a machine with dual vacs if you want to clean carpets professionally.
The Airflex Storm and Miniflex HX machines have larger 6.6 vac motors, which give you approximately double the vacuum power. You can clean much faster, with much faster drying times. You can also run very long hoses direct from the van.
What size water tanks do you need?
The solution tank is where the cleaning solution goes. The waste tank is where the dirty waste water is collected.
A solution tank around 50 litres is a good size for many operators. This will allow you to clean large areas without having to stop and empty and re-fill very often.
Do carpet cleaning machines need a water heater?
A water heater isn’t essential, but will help you clean more efficiently – especially when cleaning greasy or heavily soiled carpets. There are two types of heater found in professional carpet cleaning machines:
1. Immersion heaters
An immersion heater heats the water in the machine’s water tank. This takes quite a long time – as long as an hour on some machines! So, with an immersion heater, you have to fill the solution tank up and then wait for the water to heat up before you can start cleaning with hot water.
2. In-line heaters
An inline heater heats the water as you clean, a bit like a combi boiler. So you don’t have to wait for the water to heat up before you can start. Just turn the heater on and you get hot water almost straight away. An inline heater is also better for the pump, because the water goes through the pump cold and then passes through the heater afterwards.
Don’t forget, if you don’t have a water heater, you can still put hot water in the machine from the customer’s tap. You can always add a heater later. For more info on heaters click here
Are carpet cleaning machines upgradeable?
If you are looking at an entry level machine, it’s worth checking if it can be upgraded later. For example, the 220psi pump in the Airflex Pro can easily be swapped out for a larger pump later. The Airflex Pro vacuum system can also be easily upgraded later by adding a Vac Booster POD.
What length of hose do you need?
If you are going to be cleaning carpets in domestic properties, we’d recommend a minimum of 50ft of hoses. This will allow you to clean most houses without needing to take the machine upstairs. 75ft of hoses (normally 1 x 25ft plus 1 x 50ft hose set) will cover you for nearly all domestic properties.
If you are looking at running a top-of-the-range machine direct-from-the-van, we recommend 1 x 25ft 1.5″ hose set, plus 2 x 50ft 2″ hose sets (so 125ft in total). Using 2″ vac extension hoses on longer hose runs will give you noticeably better performance.
What wand and hand tool do you need?
As a minimum, you will need a carpet wand and a basic hand tool. The 2-jet s-bend wand is by far the most popular type of carpet wand and the wand we recommend.
The 4″ Westpak hand tool is a good quality stainless steel tool that can be used for stairs, edges, and any fiddly bits the wand can’t reach. It can also be used for upholstery cleaning.
If your budget allows, take a look at the top-of-the-range Sapphire Pro and Rotovac Sheardry upholstery tools. These are expensive tools; but give you very fast drying times, faster cleaning and also prevent over-wetting.
Can you handle the machine on your own?
Make sure you check the weight of the machine. Some carpet cleaning machines weigh over 70kg – you don’t want to be stuck with a machine you can’t get up the stairs leading to Mrs. Smith’s front door!
Also check how easily you can get the machine in and out the van. Does the machine have loading wheels? If not, is it light enough to lift into the van or will you need to install a fold-down ramp?
Another option might be to run the machine from the van, so you run hoses from the van into the property you are cleaning.
Look for large rear wheels also, which make stair climbing a lot easier.
Servicing and repairs
At some point the machine is going to need servicing. Vac motors and pumps and pumps don’t last forever.
For servicing, will the machine need to be returned to the supplier, or does the supplier work with 3rd party engineers that are more local to you?
Are all parts readily available from stock or might parts need ordering from another country? How easy is the machine to work on? If the machine has been designed with easy servicing in mind, this can reduce your servicing costs significantly.
Do you need training?
Whatever professional carpet cleaning machine you go for, if you are new to carpet cleaning you are going to need training. Professional machines will give you professional results, but only if you know how to use them properly.
You need to be able to identify what you are cleaning and know how to clean it. In fact, often it’s often more important to know how not to clean it. It’s very easy to damage a carpet with a professional machine if you don’t know what you are doing!
Does the machine come with training? Can the supplier offer on-going specialist support in carpet cleaning? Does the supplier have staff on-hand who have actually worked as professional carpet cleaners and can offer you the right advice when you need it?
Recommended professional carpet cleaning machines
Entry level professional carpet cleaning machines:
For professional results, the minimum spec we recommend is at least 130psi water pump pressure and 2 x 3-stage vacuum motors. Expect to pay around £1500 to £2000 + VAT for entry level professional carpet cleaning machines. Check out the Airflex Pro, Airflex Mini or Airflex Miniflex and select the 130 or 220psi pump options with dual vac motors. Also check out the Prochem Steempro Powermax or Prochem Steempro Powerplus
Mid-range carpet cleaning machines:
Mid range professional carpet cleaning machines (2 x 3-stage vac motors, 300-800psi pump) clean carpets faster and with less effort. The 600 to 800psi machines can also be used to power-clean hard floors. Expect to pay around £2000 – £2500 + VAT for mid-range professional carpet cleaning machines. Check out the Airflex Mini 300psi, Airflex Miniflex LX 400psi or an Airflex Pro with 400psi to 800psi pump option, or the Prochem Endeavour
Top-of-the-range carpet cleaning machines:
Top-of-the-range professional carpet cleaning machines (e.g. Airflex Storm or Miniflex HX), clean much faster, with faster drying and can also run long hoses direct from the van, with auto-fill, remote control and auto-empty available. Expect to pay around £2750 to £4500 + VAT for top-of-the-range portable carpet cleaning machines.
Free 1 day training course
There’s a free one day training course included with all our professional carpet cleaning machines over £1000.
Browse our range and you will find lots of info on our range of machines. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions. We also supply complete starter packages, which will give you a good idea of some of the other things you may need as well as the professional carpet cleaning machine itself.