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If you are a true professional detail shop, you have an extractor machine.  If you don’t, you need to get one.  This tool of the trade is an invaluable piece of equipment.  You simply cannot get the same results by performing an interior detail by hand with a bucket, brush, and wet/dry vac.  Extraction machines, a good quality one, will supply the heat, water pressure, and vacuum lift to do a professional job and satisfy or exceed your customer’s expectations.

Making the Investment

What features should you look for and who do you purchase a unit from?  First off, buy a good quality machine.  The “Little Green” unit is for your mother, not your shop.  You and your customer deserve more.  A few extra dollars now will provide better performance every time you turn your extractor on.  You can expect years of solid performance from a good machine.

Check out local distributors as they will offer better pricing than direct factory pricing in most cases.  They will also be there should you need them for training or support.  Many times your local distributor will also have parts for immediate repair so you do not need to ship the machine across the country to have it fixed.  This will also save down time.  Price is important and in these days of internet shopping you may be able to save a few dollars but in the long run a loyal relationship with a local distributor can prove to be very valuable.


Heated machines will always out perform cold water machines.  Heat will allow maximum performance of the extractor as well as the chemicals you use.  The most common temperature is approximately 185 degrees.  Too much heat could be a bad thing, destroying carpet fibers and warping rubber backing.

With heat comes choices:

In Line Heaters

This 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

Here you have the need to turn the machine on to “preheat” the cleaning solution.  However, once warm and if the machine has a stainless steel tank you should be fine throughout the day using only 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

You will always use less chemical products than when manually cleaning.  If trouble spots such as grease or heavy “traffic areas” need more attention, spot spray there 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 add longer life and better performance.

Show the Results

A carpet cleaned by extraction will be cleaner and stay cleaner longer.  By deep cleaning, not just surface cleaning, you are removing much more dirt.  You are also removing more of the cleaning solution as well.  Deposits of cleaning material left behind will make the carpet get dirtier much faster.

When you empty your waste solution tank, save a gallon of this waste.  Put it in a clear glass jug such as an orange juice container.  Put this disgusting bottle on your showroom sales counter.  Use it as a tool for interior cleaning sales.  When customers see what is actually removed from the floors and seats they are amazed and see the true value in an interior cleaned by the extraction process.

Simplicity of Use

Cleaning with an extraction machine is actually easier and more efficient than by hand with a bucket and brush.  You simply vac 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 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 go fast and efficient.  They are available in stainless steel and plastic.  The most popular is the standard upholstery wand.  This tool will do 95% 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, etc.

Jeffrey Stevens is the owner and founder of Stevens Auto Glaze and Security, Inc., a two-store retail chain that details, rustproofs, and installs 12-volt products and bolt ons. He is also the owner and founder of Stevens Car Care Products, Inc. which manufactures detailing products and supplies, auto alarms, and electronic rust control systems.


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