Trinity Renewal Systems

Renewing the life of your floors.

Hot Water Extraction vs. Oscillating Pad

The debate of Hot Water Extraction (HWE) over Oscillating Pad (OP) cleaning has been an ongoing issue for years. Below, two experts in their fields sound off on the topic.

Dear Fellow Carpet Cleaner,

My name is John Geurkink.  I was a carpet cleaner just like you for over 38 years. The difference between us is that I designed, and now market, a line of revolutionary  OP Carpet Cleaning Machines called The Trinity Series: the Sport, Freedom MX, Grumpy, and ERacer.

I believe that OP cleaning does a better job cleaning carpet and other surfaces, as well as makes you more money in the process. Many people in our industry are happy with their HWE equipment, but even if you're convinced that HWE is the best, there are times and places where owning OP equipment will save you time and money.

OP cleaning also allows you to take on jobs you couldn’t otherwise do. Some of the challenges of Hot Water Extraction include:

  • Environmental friendliness: High-decibel Truck Mount equipment is objectionable to some customers and communities.
  • Equipment limitations: There are places you can’t leave a door open for a hose because of pet control or security reasons. You might also be limited by the range your equipment can reach due to vehicle restrictions.
  • Floor issues: Commercial glue-down carpet is one floor you can't clean with HWE.

OP Carpet Cleaning Machines don't face these challenges.

The reality is that there isn't one perfect tool for every job. Many carpet cleaners use a variety of equipment to get the job done right..

You might have read the “The Great Debate” in the July issue of Cleanfax (if you didn’t read it, I have reprinted it below).

If you have any questions or want more information about our equipment, call the office at  859-744-5332 or our Sales Department at 859-771-5716.

Trinity Renewal Systems Staff

The Great Debate by John Geurkink

In the hands of an experienced, knowledgeable cleaner, both methods – HWE (hot water extraction) and OP/VLM (oscillating pad or very low moisture) do a great job of cleaning the majority of carpets. However, each method has advantages and disadvantages. Determining which method is “best” really depends how one values “best” and what your business goals are.

Some of the factors that cleaners consider when judging what is best for them are:

  • Quality of cleaning
  • Speed of cleaning
  • Initial investment
  • Convenience and environmental factors

Quality of cleaning

Both methods clean and rinse, but there is a substantial difference in the amount of water use, with OP using far less liquid. While HWE uses strong suction to remove dirt and liquid, OP uses agitation and absorption to remove it. Because there is far less water used in OP cleaning, it would be a rare occurrence if a carpet didn’t dry in an hour or less, making this method much more customer friendly.

HWE is much better at removing large bulk soils and contaminates quickly. Aside from “bulk solids”, OP is superior in most other situations, because the agitation raises the fibers in the carpet. When the carpet is vacuumed after cleaning, a substantial amount of additional dirt is released because it has been loosened by the agitation. Additionally, because OP uses far less water, there are fewer “wick-back” problems.

Carpets cleaned by OP tend to stay cleaner for a longer periods of time and look “brighter.” When we owned our carpet cleaning business, Kentucky’s Finest Carpet Cleaning, we cleaned many state government buildings for years. They were so impressed with our methods that the state now requires the use of OP equipment on most of their bid forms.

On commercial carpets OP has the clear advantage:

Speed of cleaning

Set-up and tear-down is much faster using OP, making small jobs affordable for the homeowner and profitable for the OP cleaner. Depending on the machine used, residential carpets can be cleaned at the rate of 500 to 1,000+ square feet per hour, while one can clean commercial carpet from 1,000 to 5,000 square feet per hour. This means larger jobs can be much more profitable.

OP’s speed on “maintenance cleaning” of commercial carpets gives the OP cleaner a clear competitive advantage in attracting jobs by allowing a lower bid price that can still be profitable and provide superior cleaning results — you don’t have to do a bad, rush job to make a profit!

Initial investment

Hands down, OP has a far less expensive start up cost, plus you can use your own vehicle to haul it. This eliminates the need to buy an expensive van if you are keeping costs low to start.  This saves you a lot of money!  OP equipment also requires much less maintenance and has far fewer parts to repair and maintain. This makes OP more efficient on a time-invested basis and less costly to operate.

Convenience and environmental factors

While OP has far fewer convenience and environmental negative issues, HWE brings a whole list of potential problems or difficulties to the professional cleaner:

  • In cold climates care must be taken to keep HWE equipment from freezing.
  • The area to be cleaned must be within reach of the length of hose available.
  • Doors must remain partially open for hose access. This can be a problem with pets running outside or rodents running inside. It also can be a security issue, particularly in commercial cleaning when the work is done after hours.
  • There is a noise issue with some HWE equipment in quiet neighborhoods.
  • Environmental Issues: OP cleaning products are environmentally safe and bio-degradable which aids in acquiring government contracts and attracts a growing number of environmentally aware consumers.
  • Increased fuel prices: Fuel prices are on the rise and may go much higher. Using OP, a cleaner can use a more fuel-efficient vehicle and save even more fuel by not having to run the truckmount or the heater. This also allows the OP cleaner to be more price competitive (or more profitable) when bidding on a job.

Although I know that a HWE cleaner isn’t going to sell his expensive truckmount equipment that he is making payments on and buy OP equipment, there are many jobs where having an OP machine will make life easier, the work more efficient, and the customer happier.

OP will augment the HWE cleaners’ capabilities by:

  • Increasing ability to do jobs at a distance from the truck.
  • Take jobs where security of pets or property is an issue.
  • Take small jobs that, because of set-up/tear-down time, would otherwise be unprofitable.

When OP equipment is added to a HWE cleaner “tool bag”, one can achieve the very highest level of carpet cleaning services.

Pre-scrubbing your cleaning products into the carpet not only releases and suspends soils but also makes rinsing with HWE so much easier and quicker. This “dual-method” cleaning requires much less water while post-padding with cotton pads speeds drying and removes a remarkable amount of additional soil.

People would ask me over my many years in the carpet cleaning business: “John, why don’t you use HWE more than you do?”  The answer really was simple. I always saw my mission as ensuring that OP was not only capable of doing stand-alone work but capable of doing it very well.

It is incumbent on us to provide our customers with the tools to help make their businesses successful. The addition of new, specialized cleaning products has made real advances in the last few years, and will continue.  We have created many OP cleaning products and accessories to enable our customers to clean residential and commercial carpet, wood, grout and tile, VCT, vinyl, brick, and concrete.

With carpet installs growing smaller and smaller each year, it is imperative that a business look into the future and prepare themselves to clean all types of flooring materials, and OP is doing just that.

John Geurkink ran Kentucky’s Finest Carpet Care in Winchester, KY  for over 38 years and is now co-owner of Trinity Renewal Systems, an equipment manufacturing company for low moisture cleaning. He has been using the OP system since 1974. He can be reached through his website:

Rebuttal for HWE by David Nalley

Well said, John. This was fun!

Is there really a better mouse trap? One may use the proper mouse trap for the proper application: A cat in the barn versus a conventional trap in a restaurant — or, in a pinch, the heel of your shoe will do!

I have been using hot water extraction for 28 years. I favor hot water extraction (HWE) over any other method for most of my cleaning needs. Why? Maybe a little history of HWE would help.

How did HWE come about, anyway? Let’s travel 2,000 years back in history. One of our most treasured possessions is our carpet. They have high value, due to the high labor content that is involved to make them. So how do I care for this prized possession?

My first conclusion may be to hang it over a tree branch and beat it with a stick. However, my methods of beating my favorite carpet with a stick came up short on the removal of the goat milk spot in the middle. Pouring water on the goat milk spot made it bigger and had other side effects, as did pouring white wine, red wine, club soda, baking soda, salt, chlorine bleach, window cleaner (maybe there was no glass back then), drain clog opener (oops, no sinks back then), and toilet bowl cleaner (no toilets either, I’ll bet).

Water seems to be cheaper, so let’s stick with water. Besides, the river is full of it. I wonder what would happen if I put the carpet in the river? The weather’s hot and I need a bath anyway. Well, that worked nicely, and it only took one week to dry on the rocks in the sun. But I do believe the goat milk is gone, and smells better, too. The colors seem to be lighter and run together. It could be from the sun and overwetting. And my shelter has either “grown” or the rug has shrunk. But the goat milk is gone.

This was the cleaning answer for a few thousand years. Then came the industrial revolution, and we have pumps, vacuums and all kinds of toys. One of our favorites is the floor polisher. I bet if we pour water and soap on the carpet, we could make it look better by taking our floor polisher and sudsing up that rug the same way I shampoo my hair. Wow! It worked. It does look better. Almost new. It still takes a day or two to dry, and the colors are not lighter because I dried the carpet indoors, but the colors are still running and my house is still “growing”. This type of cleaning lasted fifty years. Then, one day from the oil fields we get a vacuum system that can handle water and keep working, as well as great water pumps.

In 1965, a gentleman passed through Jackson Hole, WY with a carpet cleaning machine made out of glass. I learned about hot water extraction. The machine had a pump with a gauge. It had a vacuum blower, and that had a gauge, too. It had two tanks: A clean one and a dirty one. The clean tank had a heater. The machine came with two buckets: A white one and a gray one, and the machine made a lot of noise.

In 1975, the portable was turned into a truckmount. There was no more water to carry (the garden hose had been discovered by then). The truckmount had a big heater, a big vacuum, soap injectors, and it emptied its waste tank. All I had to do was drag this tool that liked to eat dirt.

Hot water extraction is a combination of heat, detergent, water pressure and vacuum. When used in balance for a particular application, it can be a great success. For a restaurant carpet cleaning application, 240 degrees Fahrenheit, proper detergents for restaurant grease, proper dwell time, and a lot of vacuum is a great combination. Example: A typical Pizza Hut requires one hour from drive up to drive away, one gallon of detergent, 45 gallons of water, and dries in four hours — for $202. I’m not only calling this HWE, but also low moisture cleaning.

I am requested each year to participate in Career Days at our local public school. This is sometimes known as 50-Truck Day where firefighters, police, plumbers and even carpet cleaners get to show off their trucks and expertise. I use a bucket of clear water and two towels on a walk-off mat. The kids provide the labor. The child puts index finger into the corner of a towel and dips into the clear water, rubs the spot — I know: “blot, not rub”, but they are only beginners — and we show the soiled towel to our audience. Next the student applies the dry towel. The dry towel becomes much more soiled than the wet towel. This shows two things: There must be a carrier of the soil (water) and the vacuum (hydraulic wicking in this case) does the cleaning.

The towel technique has a couple of downsides:

  1. It just won’t work in restaurants or any other high-volume, soiled carpets
  2. The carpet owner would like to put the carpet back into service before the moon becomes a popular lunch stop.

High heat, low pressure and high volume of water and vacuum equals high speed, efficient cleaning with low drying times (it is customary to use the new total room air movers, right?) and the carpet is dry in two to five hours versus low moisture cleaning which is dry in fifteen minutes to two hours. The HWE cleaning process is finished in a few minutes, and the low moisture cleaning process takes a little longer. Shall I spend a longer time cleaning, or endure a longer time drying?

Is there really a better mouse trap? Or is the correct mousetrap being used for the proper application?

From 1965 until now, we have come up with many wonderful ideas on how to modify the flushing of carpet, which is not accomplished with my towel method. Human nature, as it is, comes up with a great idea and puts the blinders on and we consume ourselves with the idea. Fortunately, there are wonderfully smart people out there who can objectively look at several ideas and come up with methods to gain the most productivity from one idea used with another idea. In short, HWE has been a great idea. In my opinion, the best idea so far, except when misused. Over-wetting seems to be the biggest complaint. Why do we over-wet?

The list is long… it includes the technician is not balancing water pressure and vacuum, the use of too much water pressure caused by wrong settings, large or worn out jets, too little vacuum caused by plugged filters, kinked vacuum hoses, collapsed vacuum hoses, worn blowers, wrong type of vacuum hose (turbulence within the hose), too low of blower RPM, too long of vacuum hose, running two or three wands from a single small vacuum source, not enough heat resulting in multi-passes of the wand and stronger detergents, misuse of detergents, technicians who are mis-trained, untrained, unmotivated, not properly motivated, overbooked, overworked, underpaid, equipped with broken/wrong/under powered tools, etc. etc.

In my opinion, HWE is the best method of cleaning when properly used on the appropriate job. When I say “properly used” I want a machine that is flexible, has high heat when I want it, has no heat if I want, has high pressure or low pressure when I want it, and the same for the vacuum.

David Nalley is president of Nalley Steamway, LLC, in Jackson Hole, WY, and has been involved in the carpet cleaning industry since age 11, purchasing the family business in 1980. His volume doubled the next year, and has seen growth each year since then.

Final Response by John Geurkink

History lesson aside, at this time we’re not cleaning rugs with stones at the side of the river, nor are we extracting goat milk. The miracles of technology have thankfully made life easier for the professional carpet cleaner.  The march of history and the advancement of human species are based on extracting more productivity from less effort, and in today’s high-cost fuel environment to extract more productivity from less fuel usage. OP uses far less fuel because there is no need to haul all that expensive and heavy supplies around town, no need to heat water, no need to haul the clean and dirty water tanks, and no need for air-movers.

The simplicity advantage of OP cleaning extends to technician training because we don’t have to balance water pressure and vacuum or worry about plugged filters, kinked or collapsed hoses, blowers, rpm or vacuum sources. OP is easier, faster, less complex, fuel efficient, with a higher return on investment.

So I say to the professional carpet cleaning community: Simplify and profit by learning how to enjoy the benefits of OP cleaning.

John Geurkink, past owner of Kentucky’s Finest Carpet Care in Winchester, KY for over 38 years and currently the co-owner of Trinity Renewal Systems, an equipment manufacturing company for low moisture cleaning.   He has been using the OP system since 1974.