Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Extracting more success

October 11, 2010

True professional detail shops have an extractor machine — an invaluable piece of equipment.

The same results simply cannot be gotten by performing an interior detail by hand with a bucket, brush, and wet/dry vacuum.

A good quality extraction machine will supply the heat, water pressure, and vacuum lift to do a professional job and satisfy or exceed the customer’s expectations.

Realistic expectations
Using an extractor sets a detailer apart as a professional who is willing to spend the money and make a commitment to his or her customer’s needs.

It is unimaginable that a homeowner would get out their yellow pages, call carpet cleaners for pricing and information, make a choice, set an appointment, and then watch as the cleaners show up with a bucket and brush.

It’s the same in the detailing business. Customers deserve the best job the detailer can perform and a quality extraction machine guarantees that is what they will get.

Making the Investment
The most important factors to consider when buying an extractor are:

  • Buy a good quality machine — The Little Green unit is for someone’s mother, not a detail shop. A detailer and customers deserve more.

    A few extra dollars spent will provide a better performance by the extractor every time it is used. Years of solid performance can be expected from a good machine.

  • Check out local distributors — They will offer better pricing than direct factory pricing in most cases. They will also be there to help with training and support.

    Many times a local distributor will also have parts for immediate repair so the machine won’t need to be shipped to be fixed. This will save downtime.

    Price is important and with Internet shopping, a detail shop owner may be able to save a few dollars. But in the long run, a loyal relationship with a local distributor can prove to be invaluable.

Heated machines will allow maximum performance of the extractor as well as the chemicals used.

The most common temperature is approximately 185 degrees. It is important to realize that too much heat could be a bad thing; destroying carpet fibers and warping rubber backing.

  • Heat choices

    In-line heaters
    This type of heater will produce vibrant heat immediately. No need to warm up or pre-heat the cleaning solution.

    While instant heat is a nice feature on a machine, it also has its drawbacks. It usually dictates using two power cords due to the high amperage draw.

    Many times you will need to plug into two separate shop circuits. This can be cumbersome as one power cord goes in one direction and the other goes across the shop to an independent circuit.

    In-tank heaters
    In tank heaters require turning the machine on to preheat the cleaning solution.

    However, once warm, if the machine has a stainless steel tank it should be fine throughout the day and the detailer would only need to use the preheat setting between details.

    The in-tank heaters also draw considerably less power and require only one cord to operate. It is important to consider which system is best for your application as you can see they both have advantages and disadvantages.

  • Chemical usage
    An extractor will always use fewer chemicals than manual cleaning.

    If trouble spots such as grease or heavy traffic areas need more attention, spot spray them with a solution in a spray bottle. This way you are not putting a more aggressive cleaner through the extractor pump.

    Keep the pump clean by running a solution of white vinegar and water, 3:1, through the machine once a month. This will ensure a longer life and better performance.

Simplicity of use
Cleaning with an extraction machine is actually easier and more efficient than cleaning by hand with a bucket and brush.

You simply vacuum the interior to remove the heavier debris. No need to get the small, lint type dirt, as the extractor will be removing that as well as the deep down buried dirt.

After vacuuming, spray the solution over the area to be cleaned. If heavily soiled, the use of a pre-spotter will help lift the more severe stains. Allow the solution to penetrate.

Occasionally the use of a small, short bristle brush will help dislodge even the toughest stains and ground in dirt. At this point you will use the solution/vac to remove the dirt.

Drying time is also sped up as you are removing more of the solution than you can by hand vacuuming.

There are several styles of tools available to make your job faster and more efficient. They are available in stainless steel and plastic.

The most popular tool is the standard upholstery wand. This tool will do 95 percent of the work for an average car interior.

A crevice tool is a good option as it will get in between seats and into areas that cannot be reached with the standard upholstery tool.

The final tool is a floor wand. This tool is great for vans or even your showroom. Some shops even go on the road and clean carpets in restaurants, offices, and other venues.

Jeffrey Stevens is the owner of Stevens Car Care Products, Inc. For more information contact Jeffrey at