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Prochem Europe: a real star!
I live in what I often describe as a 'falling down house' and there is almost always building work of some sort or another going on and a consequence of that is the inevitable brick dust as well as the dirt and debris walked into the carpets on builders' boots.
Add to that my love of gardening, the fact that I have to drag my lawnmower through the house to be able to tackle the front garden (thanks to 'Bill the Bodger', who owned the place before me) and a cat that never quite seems to make it indoors until sometime after it starts raining but which always wants to 'snuggle' afterwards, you can perhaps imagine the state that my carpets and the 20 year old cream sofas get into!
I attended one of Prochem Europe's intensive two-day training courses back in the 90s so am - effectively, a qualified carpet cleaning technician. However, it's been a long time since I tackled a job of my own and since I write about cleaning every day, I figured it was about time I refreshed my knowledge of what the work actually entails. Plus, with all I'm paying out for builders, I can't afford to replace the worn and very grubby fittings and furniture at home...
Having previously trialled a machine that may have been a predecessor to the Prochem Polaris 800 - again in the 90s - and enjoyed great success with it in terms of ease of use and results achieved, and bearing in mind that the Chessington, Surrey-based company is just a short drive away, I decided to contact the company's Peta Tilley to ask if Prochem would be happy for me to trial and then write about a machine and how I'd got on with it. And after all, if the company's good enough to have been granted the Royal Warrant of Appointment to Her Majesty The Queen for the supply of carpet cleaning products, it's going to be good enough for me...
A subsequent telephone discussion with Phil Jones from the training team convinced me that rather than attempt to clean without chemicals - which I'd planned to do because I like to look after the environment and I figured the machine would do the work for me, I ought to try the company's 'Naturals' range.
Phil told me that the Naturals range of high performance products is based upon new technology formulations that perform as well as the equivalent professional products, and that the products feature environmentally friendly, phosphate-free formulations and are free from dyes, synthetic fragrances, EDTA and NTA and contain only ingredients considered safe for the environment. He also explained that the formulations conform to the USA EPA 'Design for Environment' guidelines and that they are WoolSafe approved for the maintenance of wool carpets and rugs. When he added that the containers are made from recyclable natural polyethylene and that the outer cartons use recycled fibreboard, I was convinced that Prochem had done all it could to produce a range that was as environmentally-friendly as possible!
For this cleaning job I was to be supplied with the more compact Fivestar upright self-contained power brush carpet, floor & upholstery cleaning machine and the company's Roy Pardoe gave me a quick refresher course in how to use it and the Naturals products, before offering to load everything into the boot of my Ford Focus for me. Bearing in mind that I would soon be having to carry the machine unaided up the steep stairs to the top floor of my home, I told Roy I ought to try putting it into my boot myself and I'm happy to report that it was easy. The machine was lightweight enough for me to lift it above the rim of the boot and then manoeuvre it into place where it fitted in nicely alongside the car wheel I was about to drop off at the garage. There was still room for the hoses, pre-spray unit and a couple of 5 litre Naturals containers, so nothing that might have been messy had to go into the passenger area of the car.
The company's website describes the Fivestar as being 'a highly compact and portable machine' and I can now back that up as the unit was easier to unload and take indoors than my mother's shopping tends to be! As I wasn't using it that day I took it upstairs where it would be out of the way and this was simple enough to do too.
I'd set the following day aside to put the machine and Naturals range through their paces.
Having moved all the furniture out of the living room I applied the pre-spray, paying particular attention to a 'snake' of goodness-knows-what that had swirled out of the bin bag a couple of weeks earlier when my daughter removed the bag from the bin inside the house, rather than taking the bin outside first. Normally we'd have dealt with the spillage immediately, but knowing I was about to trial a machine I asked her to leave it, thinking that if anything would show a machine up to be deficient, it would be a stain such as this, which had really been trodden in over the interim as it was just inside the doorway of the room.
I'd already filled the machine as I'm aware that it's important not to let the pre-spray dry into the carpets. This had been so easy - not only because of the clear, illustrated instructions on the machine itself but because everything seemed idiot-proof anyway. It was impossible to put anything in the wrong place or not to have everything correctly connected up before starting the machine.
I got to work on the carpets, slowly pulling the machine back towards me as I edged backwards and taking care to overlap each pass slightly to prevent the tram lines that one sometimes sees when carpets have been cleaned by someone that doesn't know what they're doing.
When I got to the dark snake of ingrained dirt I had to make a couple of passes and also changed direction in case the pile of the carpet - despite the action of the machine's brushes that agitate the carpet fibres and help lift the dirt - was preventing any of the muck from being extracted.
As the spillage had been liquid I was aware that it would have soaked right down to the base of the carpet and I wanted to be sure to get up as much of it as I could. As you can see from the images, the results were excellent and there was no trace of the stain whatsoever.
Next it was the turn of the upholstery and it was easy to prepare the machine for upholstery cleaning with the attaching of the hoses again being idiot-proof and the clear instructions guiding the way.
I got to work on the cream sofas and once again I had what I thought would be a tough stain to tackle, since in lifting a very heavy plant out of the living room prior to the carpet cleaning, I'd managed to drop the pot holder on the way and scrape the pot itself across the back of one of the sofas, which left a damp, muddy smear. I'm pleased to report that the machine performed just as well in upholstery cleaning mode as it had in carpet cleaning mode and that although the sofas would never look as good as new as they're so old, all the stains were removed.
Enjoying using the machine and finding it so easy to operate, I started to look around for other things I could try to clean and I pulled a rug out of the attic which had been there for several years. It had been new when I'd hosted a wake on a day that kept turning from bright, warm sunshine to torrential rain.
Mourners were running inside when the storms began and the rug had been soaked with muddy rainwater and lots of slopped red wine, tea and coffee. I'd been reluctant to throw it away and had relegated it to the attic where it had remained, forgotten about, until this chance came to clean it.
The Prochem machine made a real difference to them and certainly removed all the stains apart from those made by the tea, coffee and wine. When I returned the machine (which had been simple to empty and clean once I'd finished with it) and told Roy how good the results had been - even those that had been languishing on the rug for several years, he said that Prochem supplies a very efficient chemical for tackling tea, coffee and wine stains so I'll be trying that out next in the hope that I'll be able to bring the rug back into use again.
Look out for my report in a future issue of Cleanzine...
1st October 2015