Many view cleaning as a simple process. We wash, wipe and scrub without giving it too much thought. But when the job is more complex than a simple scrub down, the process requires more thought and even some problem-solving tactics. To help customers choose the right product for their cleaning task, it is up to the rental operator to have the knowledge and expertise to recommend the best solution for each individual problem, likely resulting in happier, repeat customers.

Digging up the facts

First, one needs to know the type of contaminate and what the customer hopes to achieve by cleaning. Common contaminants include dirt and grease, as well as bacteria and germs. This knowledge will dictate if the customer needs something to provide a quick rinse or if the job requires a machine that will also kill germs and sanitize.

The next step is taking these facts and determining which combination of elements will best solve the problem. There are four basic elements of cleaning: flow, chemical, temperature and pressure. Changing one element, even slightly, significantly affects the other three. Plus, any deficiency in one element can be made up for by a stronger presence of another.

Dynamics of the elements

The best way to introduce the four elements is to visualize a basic cleaning task. Think about washing dirt off your hands. Cold water from the faucet (flow) combined with rubbing your hands together (pressure) is sufficient to remove dirt, but won't provide a thorough cleaning. Adding some soap (chemical) and warmer water (temperature) will be effective and also speed up the process.

But what if instead of dirt, your hands are covered in a greasy deposit? In this case, flow, pressure, chemical and cold water will not be enough to provide a thorough cleaning, as cold water does not effectively remove grease. To clean away grease, hot water combined with the other elements is required.

Now let's take this hand-washing example and change it a bit to illustrate that any deficiency in one element can be made up for by more effort from another. Imagine your hands are not covered in light dirt or grease, but they are caked with mud. The presence of all four elements will be necessary to efficiently clean the mud off your hands.

But what if hot water isn't available? Your hands can still be cleaned thoroughly, but not without a little more effort from the other elements, such as stronger soap or scrubbing with more pressure to make up for the low temperature. Conversely, if a weak chemical is used, added pressure and the use of hotter water can make up for the deficiency. The hand-washing example is easily applied to more complex cleaning jobs.

Ready, set, clean!

Let's examine a few possible situations a rental customer may present. While keeping the elements in mind, take a look at which machine would be the best solution to each problem.

The first customer wants to wash away dirt, leaves and debris from his deck and patio furniture. Knowing the contaminants, and the fact that the customer is looking for a quick surface clean, one would first recommend a cold pressure washer.

Relying on high flow and water pressure, the cold washers are not able to heat the water, so they are best suited for quick surface cleaning and tasks such as spraying mud or dirt off vehicles, lawn furniture, wooden decks or sidewalks. Certain chemicals can also be used with a cold pressure washer if desired.

In this scenario the rental person may also want to tell the customer that a hot pressure washer would provide a quicker and more thorough clean — any time temperature is increased in a cleaning situation, the results will always be better.

The next customer is a farmer who needs to clean heavy dirt and grime off some equipment. Because grime clings to and can be imbedded in surfaces, it requires more than high water pressure to remove it. Adding chemical and increasing temperature will effectively loosen the grime and clean it away. For this customer, a hot pressure washer is the best choice. Other uses for hot pressure washers include removing gum from sidewalks, and cleaning engines and automotive parts.

The next customer owns a small restaurant and needs a heavy-duty cleaning machine for greasy kitchen messes that will also kill germs and sanitize. While one may recommend a hot pressure washer, this will end up spattering most contaminants around and often will leave a film behind. For this customer, a steam cleaner would be the best recommendation.

Steam cleaners utilize vapor made up of 85- to 90-percent water and are effective at removing grease, oil, animal, vegetable and mineral contaminants. They also kill germs and sanitize. Chemicals may be incorporated to make the cleaning process faster and more effective. In addition, steam cleaners use less water than other machines, which is important for areas where flooding may be a concern, as in the case of a restaurant kitchen.

A homeowner customer planning her annual spring cleaning projects comes in looking for a solution for a long list of cleaning tasks, which include cleaning out her pool, washing the family vehicles and removing several tough contaminants, such as honey, tar and glue.

In this case, the cold and hot washers would work well for the pool and vehicles, but what about the honey, tar and glue? For that task, a steam cleaner would be the only choice because its high temperature will melt away contaminants. But a steam cleaner isn't the best machine to accomplish the other tasks, so what is the best advice? Rather than suggest all three machines, this is a good opportunity to promote the benefits of a combination cleaner.

Combination cleaners consist of both a cold and hot pressure washer as well as a steam cleaner in one portable package, providing convenience and versatility that will save the user time and spare them the need to rent multiple machines.

Renting a cleaning solution catered to your customer's application helps build stronger, longer-term relationships. Whether prepping surfaces for painting, killing germs and sanitizing, or cleaning for appearance sake, there will always be one combination of the basic cleaning elements that produces the best results. Armed with this knowledge, rental providers can better analyze customers' challenges and provide them with the proper tools and information to make the best cleaning decision.

Dan Leiss is president of Jenny Products, Somerset, Pa.