There are so many carpet cleaning companies out there. Who's good? Who's bad? Who'll help you in an emergency? Is there much of a difference between hiring a professional or renting a machine or buying an upright steam machine? Of coarse, there's the obvious fact that you might have to do the work yourself.
As I always tell clients, most any kind of cleaning method will improve the look of your carpet, but will it be the best cleaning? Will your carpets look good in several months or will they look dull in a few weeks?
The competitors that I am covering in this article will remain nameless, although you might recognize who they are. They use a similar method to ours, known as steam cleaning or hot water extraction. This is a wet method of carpet cleaning that can take 12-24 hours to dry, unless it's 80-90 degrees in your house (which of course means a much faster drying time).
THE TWO BIGGEST COMPANIES
The national company that has the orange vans and the Bay Area company that has the black vans.
They're truly the biggest competitors since they both can spend a lot of money on advertising through TV, radio, newspapers, etc. You'll generally get an OK to good cleaning, depending on the technician. Their biggest strength is that they are huge and can handle an emergency or a last minute decision to get the carpets cleaned. Not that we and other smaller companies couldn't handle these situations, it's just that the odds are in their favor. Their strength is also their biggest weakness. They are huge and therefore may compromise in the quality of performance. You just never know which technician they'll be sending. Will it be someone with a lot of experience or someone who has been recently trained? Generally, the technician will not be invested in whether he'll be seeing you again. It's just a job and you're part of a list. Different from that, we are very invested in seeing you again and therefore we are very motivated to give you great service.
For the most part, our rates are similar. Sometimes, both these companies have great specials. Are they really special? How do you know if they just hiked up their base fees? Different from that, we give real discounts. (You can find them in our monthly email newsletter.)
THE NEWEST FRANCHISE
This company has been around for several years. They're heavily advertised on radio. At one point they were claiming chemical free cleaning, which wasn't accurate. Now they are claiming no chemical residue. They use a special powered water and claim to leave your carpet soft, clean, and fluffy. We're not saying that they don't do that. We're saying that they aren't that special. It's marketing. Many high quality carpet cleaning companies, including us, will leave your carpets soft, clean, and fluffy without chemical residue, by way of using special additives in hot and steamy rinse water. They use the word technician instead of carpet cleaner. Again, not that special.
On top of that, it appears that they have these great special rates. A couple of months ago their special discounted rate was higher than our normal rate. There are several eco-friendly carpet cleaning companies out there, including us.
Bottom Line: These three companies are not as special as their advertising claims.
THE "SUPER DUPER PRICED"
OR "BAIT AND SWITCH" COMPANIES:
These companies aggressively market their services by teasing you with a fantastic price. Many of them bait you with a deal so that they can get into your home and than switch the pricing which could end up costing you more than a high quality company would charge. If they can't switch you, than they'll do an inferior cleaning and get out of there as fast as possible.
My suggestion is not to get tempted. These companies are set up this way. They are not good for the carpet cleaning industry. Odds are that you will not like the experience that you will have if you hire a company like this and most likely they are not even from Marin County.
THE LOW PRICED COMPANIES:
There are several low priced companies in Marin. Two of them have the word North in their name. Because of the lower price, they have to serve more clients in a day to make their business profitable. That's part of their business model. What does that mean to you as a client of their services? It means that they will be in and out of your house much faster than a high quality carpet cleaner and the cleaning job may reflect the price. They can do an okay to good job depending on the technician you get and depending on how big a list of jobs they have for that day.
By all means this is okay as long as you know these facts. Even though there might be a significant difference in quality, sometimes a McDonald's burger works and other times a Phyllis' hamburger tastes better.
One of these companies is huge (10--12 Vans) and could possibly be more available for emergencies than a smaller company. They are very aggressive with their advertising. I'm sure you have seen their coupons.
That old saying "You get what you pay for" can be true with the above two categories. Like I have said, any kind of cleaning will improve the appearance of your carpets, but is it the best cleaning you could have? Did that company give that clean appearing room a respectful cleaning or did they spend a minimal amount of time on it? How about that filthy carpet? Is it possible that it could have been shades brighter if you had used a quality carpet cleaning company? Did that inexpensive company spend enough time and energy in removing spots and stains? Lastly (depending on how you treat your carpet), if it's not the best cleaning you could get, then how long will that carpet stay clean? Will it look dull in 2-4 weeks?
We will continue with Part 3 in the next newsletter.
THE DRY OR LOW MOISTURE CLEANING COMPANIES:
They use a surface type of cleaning and for the most part the carpets can dry very quickly compared to wet cleaning methods (truck-mounted and portable systems). The operator sprays the cleaning solution on the carpet and basically wipes it dry with a cloth on a rotary machine. This extracts soil and moisture and for the most part, will improve the look of the carpet. The truck-mounted or wet method system sprays the cleaning solution on the carpet and then uses hot steamy water to rinse and extract the soil and moisture. It's a deeper, more intense cleaning, using a great deal more cleaning and rinsing solution. Therefore (and this makes sense) wet cleaning necessitates an increase in drying time, and produces, in my opinion, a brighter carpet and a superior cleaning.
One of the most common complaints with these low moisture systems is that the carpets look dull in two to three weeks. These systems come in handy in commercial buildings where there is heavy traffic everyday and the carpets need to be dried quickly. It can also be handy if the carpets look pretty good or if you are having guests over that evening and you only need a touch up cleaning.
If I wanted to use one of the dry, low moisture companies, I'd use the company with the word "Dry" in it's name. They are a major franchise and they've been doing this for a long time. Their rates are competitive.
There's another company that I know of that has the letters "Oxy" in it. They have low rates and give the appearance of being a good company, although I don't trust them and I don't like their method in cleaning upholstery.
Depending on what you want or need, your choice is either a surface cleaning by a fast drying method (that may not sustain) OR a deep and intensive cleaning buy a slow drying method (this has a better chance of sustaining, depending on the company you use).
"PICK UP YOUR AREA RUG" COMPANIES:
There are several companies in the Bay Area that offer this service. You can either drop your area rug off at their location OR they'll come to your home to pick up your rug. Your rugs usually are returned within 7-10 days. This is a very expensive way to clean your area rugs compared to someone cleaning them in your own home. There are normally three ways a company like this cleans your rug. One way is through big machines. The second way is by hand washing. The third way is by cleaning it exactly the same way your wall to walls are cleaned, except it is done in a warehouse. If you truly want to send your rug out, my suggestion is to make sure it's either cleaned through a machine OR is hand washed. That may be worth the expense. I DO NOT suggest the third way. Many carpet cleaners can do it that very same way in your own home for a more affordable rate. We normally charge $35-$55 for most area rugs. If you sent it out, the cost could range from $150-$500.
Regarding the dry cleaning methods--as I have said, any kind of cleaning will improve the appearance of your carpets. This type of cleaning is convenient, though is it the best cleaning you could have and how long will it look good for? Is it worth the gamble if you only clean your carpets once a year or less often? I only recommend this type of cleaning as maintenance and I DO NOT recommend it for filthy carpets.
Regarding sending your area rugs out---is it really worth the expense and the loss of your rug for 10 days, especially when you could have a satisfying cleaning in your own home at a fraction of the cost AND no loss of the carpet?
THE HIGH QUALITY CLEANING COMPANIES:
There are a handful of carpet cleaning companies in Marin that fall into the high quality category. All of these companies use truck-mounted steam cleaning systems. They may be owner-operated (like us) or have a small manageable number of vans with trained operators. Their pricing is around the same as ours (sometimes higher, sometimes a little lower). The one exception is the company with the word "Master" in their name. Their rates are much higher, although the quality of their work is comparable.
There are a few companies that I would highly recommend, if for some reason I was unavailable.
WHAT SEPARATES US FROM THESE FEW TOP COMPANIES:
We are not going to pretend that we know everything about these companies. Some of what we know is from feedback from their prior customers. We just want you to know what makes us a little different and what gives us an edge.
The number one difference is our tools--our floor tool, our stair tool, and our upholstery tool. We know which tools they use. We've done side by side tests. The difference may not be noticeable when a carpet is in good condition, however, it is noticeable on a very soiled and filthy carpet. This is also true for upholstery. These tools help remove more soil, spots, and stains and are simply superior.
Of course, the other factor in removing soil, spots, and stains, are the cleaning agents. Our basic and safe pre-conditioner is a better performer than what most companies use. When we add a booster to it (needed for highly soiled, spotted, and stained carpets), the performance level just goes up.
Another difference is that when we enter a room we try to change the lighting in the room, if possible. We do this in order to see soil, spots, and stains more easily, so we don't miss cleaning them. I demonstrate this all the time. It's amazing what happens. What at first appears to be a couple of spots in a room changes under different lighting and 10 more noticeable spots might be revealed!
Through this four part article, 'About Our Carpet Cleaning Competitors', we've shared with you our viewpoint on many of the carpet cleaning companies of Marin. These are companies that you could use in the future or might have used in the past. We just wanted to give you a quick education on what's out there. I have tried to keep it neutral. I do have strong opinions because I have researched and thought this all out extensively, while developing my own cleaning service.
We have shared what makes us a little or a lot different (in some cases).
We are not saying we are perfect. There are certainly many glitches that can happen when cleaning carpets and we have had our share. We do our best to deal with these glitches. It's part of being in business.
We have tried to consider certain factors that need to be assessed when choosing a carpet cleaning company. We addressed wet cleanings versus dry and dropping off carpets versus cleaning them at home. We looked at the quality of work and the cost of cleaning. As I stressed, "Most any kind of cleaning method will improve the look of your carpet, but will it be the best cleaning?" We believe in certain circumstances you might need to go with a type of service that we do not offer. If you have a short limited drying time, or need a lot of cleaning for a small amount of money, you might choose another company.
The only type of cleaner we want you to avoid at all cost is the "bait and switch" cleaner. We also want you to watch out for attractive advertising promising special deals and products that are not that special.
If you think these articles were just a sales pitch and that we are trying to convince you to share our view points, please remember this, I sincerely believe in what I say. I believe that our cleaning system, the tools we use, the solutions we clean with are the best that I have encountered up to this point. If I find something better, I will switch what I do or what I use. My objective is to provide the best possible service to the residents of Marin.
Thanks for taking the time to read these articles.