Recently published articles written by Taf Baig.
When you need to talk to someone who knows, there is no better person to have on the other end of the phone than Taf Baig. Taf built a successful business out of the back of his Chevy Cavalier into a multi-truck operation. Taf holds IICRC Certification in:
Upholstery & Fabric Cleaning
Stone, Masonry & Ceramic Tile
Carpet Repair & Reinstallation
Commercial Carpet Maintenance
Water Damage Restoration
Fire & Smoke Restoration
He is also an IICRC Master Textile Cleaner and an Approved IICRC Instructor.
Humble Beginnings in 1991
With the growing clutter of people trying to sell carpet cleaning supplies without knowing anything about the business itself. Magic Wand Company stands alone. We are the only distributor who's original carpet cleaning company is still in operations and extremely successful - Clean USA
Scroll down to see articles published recently by Taf Baig.
The pressures of tile cleaning
Not sure how much water pressure your floors can handle? Here’s an easy guide.
By Taf Baig
From the April 2006 edition of Cleanfax magazine.
Unlike carpet cleaning, where heat plays an important role in cleaning efficiency and quality, hard-surface cleaning requires the use of high water pressure to achieve above-average results.
However, hard-surface cleaning does require you to limit your pressure to within a safe operating range, depending on the type of surface you are cleaning. (See “Pressure range”)
Typically, the harder the tile is, the higher the pressure you can use to clean it.
The Mohs scale, devised in the early 1800s by German mineralogist Friedrich Mohs, is an easy way by which hardness of substances can be measured in relation to one another. (See “Mohs Scale of Hardness”)
Let’s look at some hard surfaces and the types of pressures at which they can safely — and effectively — be cleaned.
Man made and fire-hardened
Ceramic, porcelain and quarry tiles are man made and fire-hardened. These usually don’t pose problems as they are often the hardest and can be cleaned at pressures up to 1,450 psi.
You can clean these at higher pressures, but you risk the possibility of damaging the grout. Also, the increase in pressure after 1,450 psi does not dramatically improve your cleaning results.
Natural stones and man-made clay stones are a different story.
They can be of varying hardness, and thus require proper identification for best cleaning efficiency and quality.
Granite is the hardest of the natural stones. It is an igneous stone that comes from volcanic material, such as magma.
Liquid magma cools and solidifies underneath the Earth’s surface, and then mineral gases and liquids penetrate the stone and create new crystalline formations and various colors.
This means that granite is much like the man made ceramic and porcelain tiles that are fire-hardened.
Therefore, the cleaning pressure can be up to 1,450 psi.
Marble is the most common of all natural stones.
It is a metamorphic stone that comes from natural change — one type of stone to another — through the mixture of heat, pressure and minerals.
The change can be a development of crystalline formation, a texture change or even a color change.
It is a much softer stone and should be cleaned at lower water pressure, around 800 psi.
Slate is also a metamorphic stone. It is formed from clay-rich mud through tectonic stress and is believed to have started forming 570 million years ago.
It was created when sediments of organisms on the seabed formed mud deposits. Pressure and temperature in the Earth’s crust squeezed the mud into layers of shale that eventually caused it to move upward.
It is these natural layers that pose a challenge in cleaning slate. Pressure greater than 800 psi can break off a piece of the layer and permanently change the appearance.
Limestone, sandstone and travertine are all sedimentary stones that come from such organic elements as glaciers, rivers, wind, oceans and plants.
Tiny sedimentary pieces break off from these elements and accumulate to form rock beds.
They are bonded through millions of years of heat and pressure.
Travertine is the softest in this group and it also has holes that have been filled with epoxy to give it a smooth surface.
When cleaning travertine, keep your pressure around 800 psi. There is more leeway with sandstone and limestone.
Man made tiles
Saltillo and terracotta are two common man made tiles.
They are made from clay and then mostly sun-dried. In the case of terracotta, it is somewhat fire-hardened, which makes it a little harder than saltillo.
Saltillo is very common in the United States because it is made in Mexico and the short transportation across the border keeps the price low.
When dealing with saltillo, keep your pressure around 800 psi. With terracotta, there is more leeway.
Chemicals and cleaning
Just like carpet cleaning, where the temperature of the water plays an important role, the chemicals used are also extremely important for efficiency and quality.
The softer the stone, the more porous it tends to be.
If you have spills that may have penetrated the surface of the tile, then you will need to give your prespray time to absorb into the tile to help remove stains.
Products that contain oxygen work great in these situations.
The oxygen gets absorbed into the tile, producing a safe bleaching action to help remove organic stains.
Taf Baig, an Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC)-certified Master Textile Cleaner, started a successful carpet cleaning company in 1991 and sold it in 2003. He is president of The Magic Wand Company, a manufacturer and distributor of all types of cleaning products. Taf’s marketing seminar information is available online at www.magicwandco.com, or call (877)926-3748.
Clean Tile and Grout easily with Oxy-Blaster!
Beyond typical marketing
Marketing is what carpet cleaners want to talk about. You will be surprised to see what makes the sale.
By Taf Baig
From the March 2006 edition of Cleanfax magazine.
Marketing and how it applies to carpet cleaning is one of the most interesting topics to carpet cleaners.
Gather cleaners in a room and they often talk about how to get more work, not how to clean a carpet.
Good marketing is what carpet cleaning is all about; it’s what gets customers and helps keep them.
But the usual marketing terminologies, such as “price, product, place and promotion” (known as the four Ps of marketing), mean very little when not deciphered to apply to carpet cleaning,
They are also somewhat outdated.
They might still be the original pillars of marketing, but they seem to be evolving.
In the 1990s, Professor Dick Berry of the University of Wisconsin conducted an intensive study of basic marketing principles.
What he found was interesting.
New marketing strategies
Besides the original four Ps of marketing, he added a few more and then ranked them in order of importance.
The new mix ranked customer sensitivity as the first and most important part of the new marketing mix, followed by product, customer convenience, service, price, place and — in last place — promotion.
Let’s examine each and see how they apply to carpet cleaning.
Employee attitude, customer treatment and response to customers fall under this category.
How does this apply to carpet cleaning companies? A friendly smile the first time and every time you see your customer is the most important marketing principle.
It doesn’t cost you a thing. (See “Common courtesy” to the left.)
This is the equipment that you use. You have to use the best available and it has to be reliable and have other unique features that your competition will not have.
Your cleaning chemicals also fall under this category. What do your chemicals smell like? Will your protector work six months from now?
Availability to your customer, customer convenience and sales are part of this category.
What is the question the customers ask most? “How long will it take to dry?”
Drying is probably the biggest part of customer convenience.
We need to leave the carpet as dry as we possibly can.
Answering your phone when a customer calls is also part of customer convenience. Having a sufficient opening relatively soon on your schedule is another aspect of customer convenience.
Pre-sale service, service during cleaning and post-sale service are part of this marketing strategy.
Your pre-sale service is where it all starts, and is best with an “out-of-this-world” portfolio to show your customers. That usually makes the sale.
Your portfolio should consist of your accreditations, testimonials for your customers, guarantees and before-and-after pictures of your work.
Price charges, pricing terms, pricing offers and methods of payment come under this category.
Honest and reasonable pricing is what the customer expects.
Place is the area you service, your facility (your van), and your availability to customers.
Advertising, publicity and selling fall into this category. Contrary to what most people believe, promotion is marketing.
Berry’s study ranked promotion last.
If you can’t smile when you greet customers, then don’t even bother with the promotion part.
Taf Baig, an Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC)-certified Master Textile Cleaner, started a successful carpet cleaning company in 1991 and sold it in 2003. He is president of The Magic Wand Company, a manufacturer and distributor of all types of cleaning products. Baig’s marketing seminar information is available online at www.magicwandco.com, or call (877) 926-3748.
and learn more about how to Market your business!
Safe, effective slate care
Know the characteristics of slate floors and act accordingly.
By Taf Baig
From the November 2005 edition of Cleanfax magazine.
Cleaning hard surfaces with high pressure by using a truckmount or portable can be profitable, but not knowing the type of floor and how to clean it correctly can result in costly claims. It’s hard to fathom that in the past 10 years hard stone products have experienced an incredible 2,000 percent growth in sales.
Even if you as a carpet cleaner do not want to get heavily involved in hard floor cleaning, it’s smart to know how to clean some of the surfaces for your current clients.
Slate is one such surface you may encounter, in areas such as commercial building entryways and even in many homes.
Why is understanding formation important?
In order to fully understand the cleaning principles involved with this type of stone, the cleaner first needs to know a little about how slate is formed.
Slate is formed from clay-rich mud through tectonic stress and is believed to have started forming 570 million years ago.
It was created when sediments of organisms on the seabed formed mud deposits.
Pressure and temperature in the Earth’s crust squeezed the mud into layers of shale that eventually caused it to move upward.
Slate can be found in construction of walls, floors, roofs, and even high quality pool tables.
But what is it that — as floor care technicians — we need to do differently when cleaning slate?
Slate gives us three challenges that make it a little more complex to deal with than most other stone.
First is its formation.
The thin layers of rocks stuck together come out from very high pressure cleaning.
When cleaning slate, turn your pressure down.
To compensate for low pressure, you need to add a little more agitation, but no more then 800 pounds per square inch (PSI).
Second, its absorbent nature causes it to absorb staining material, thus creating stains.
Most cleaners find that products made to clean hard surfaces that contain oxygen get absorbed in the stone and cause safe “bleaching action” to remove the absorbed stains.
Lastly, to prevent staining and layers of slate from chipping off, manufacturers and installers often put a coating of wax on the slate to make it more durable.
This poses another problem for cleaners.
Sometimes the wax may have been removed in certain areas or it could be removed from high-pressure cleaning.
Inform your customer that this may not be a cleaning issue but, instead, a restoration issue.
Proper stripper and wax made for use on natural stones should be used.
But, remember: Test in an inconspicuous spot in case of an adverse reaction.
Understanding a bit more about the floor you are cleaning can help you better answer when asked what procedures and products will work best on that floor.
Taf Baig, an Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC)-certified Master Textile Cleaner, started a successful carpet cleaning company in 1991 and sold it in 2003. He is president of The Magic Wand Company, a manufacturer and distributor of all types of cleaning products. He can be reached through his website at www.magicwandco.com.
and learn more about how to Start Cleaning Tile & Grout in your Business!
Tackling tile cleaning, one line at a time
By Taf Baig
From the August 2005 edition of Cleanfax magazine.
Cleaning grout often proves the foremost challenge in maintaining tile surfaces since dirty water gets pushed into the grout lines with each mopping.
There are basically two types of grouts: Cementious and epoxy.
Cementious grout is cement-like, while epoxy grout is plastic-like.
You will rarely encounter epoxy grout, also called stainless, due to its high price tag.
It's most commonly found in commercial buildings and used instead of unsanded grout when the joint between tiles are very small, such as between marble tiles.
Epoxy grout cleans well, but can't be sealed.
Most chemicals fail to work in cleaning the cementious grout because the stains are absorbed by the grout.
Chemicals with oxygen bleach work well, since they give it some bleaching action, so long as adequate dwell time is allowed.
Also remember to use proper tools and water pressure: 800-1200 PSI.
To treat extremely "blotchy" grout that doesn't respond to repeated cleaning, apply a solution of 10 parts water and one part muriatic acid, rinse within two minutes, and increase strength as necessary.
Finally, resolve permanent discoloration of cementious grout, such as found in front of urinals, by coloring.
Taf Baig is founder of the Reno, NV-based Magic Wand Company, a manufacturer and distributor of carpet cleaning tools, equipment, and supplies.
Clean Tile and Grout easily with Oxy-Blaster!
Looking to lease or finance?
By Taf Baig
From the February 2005 edition of Cleanfax magazine.
The last two years have been excellent for businesses investing in new equipment, thanks to recent tax cuts.
Three years ago, estimates showed that only one in five business owners were familiar with Section 179 of the Internal Revenue Service tax code — a $100,000 "write-off" for equipment expenses.
Today, almost all involved in the carpet and furniture cleaning industry are familiar with this beneficial tax break.
Taking advantage of savings
Unfortunately, some business owners weren’t prepared to take advantage of section 179 because of credit blemishes, which prevented them from obtaining financing.
There are far fewer equipment lenders in the business today than there were four years ago, and most of them tightened their credit criteria so much that few qualify.
There were a few lenders, though, that took advantage of the scant finance competition and increased their lending many times over by easing credit requirements.
Unfortunately, there were many cleaners, manufacturers, and distributors of equipment who were not able to find these lenders.
Get professional help…
The next few years will bring new challenges to the cleaning industry, as carpet care pros determine the best way to finance equipment investments, while considering ever-changing tax laws.
Cleaners should rely on expert advice from tax professionals.
Before investigating every finance company on the Internet, ask your equipment manufacturer or distributor whom they recommend — they deal with these companies every day.
They can direct you to financial institutions that specialize in the cleaning and restoration industry; companies that can answer your questions about financing and help you obtain the best possible financial instrument.
Taf Baig, an Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC)-certified Master Textile Cleaner, started a successful carpet cleaning company — the Magic Wand Company — in 1991 and sold it in 2003. He can be reached through his website at www.magicwandco.com.
A missing element
By Taf Baig From the January 2005 edition of Cleanfax magazine.
A recent CM/Cleanfax Online Survey shows that 70 percent of carpet cleaners earn less than 35 percent of their income from cleaning furniture.
They love cleaning carpet!
Another industry statistic states that only 30 percent of all carpet cleaners apply fabric protector when cleaning furniture. That means there is a lot of money left on the table when fabric protectors are not offered — especially in furniture care.
Get your share
Not only is cleaning fabrics a great add-on business, but protecting fabrics is even better.
Here’s a typical scenario you can relate to, but remember that only you know your costs and profit margins:
* It takes an hour — on average — to clean a three-cushion sofa with no extra loose pillows.
* Most cleaners charge approxmately $100 per hour for their services— which means cleaning a sofa should cost your customer $100.
* Running a two-man crew, you pay close to $40 per hour in wage costs.
* Your potential income after wage costs is $60.
* It takes only five minutes to apply a quality fabric protector.
* You charge $50 to apply protector, increasing your potential income to $110 for each sofa cleaned — instead of $60.
* You then deduct the cost of protector, which for this scenario is $9.
* Total income after wages and protector cost = $101.
Your profit not only increases, but it more than doubles.
Selling protector is easy but, just like everything else in life, you have to make the effort.
A silent salesman never sells
Many cleaners don’t even suggest furniture cleaning or fabric protection.
Perhaps it’s fear of rejection or because they themselves don’t believe it is necessary.
To deal with the dreaded “no”, don’t suggest fabric protection until the customer is jumping up and down with joy after seeing how great their freshly cleaned sofa or other furniture looks.
You could say: “Mrs. Jones, now that the couch looks great, I would recommend that we protect it from future stains.”
This works most of the time, and feelings of rejection are minimal.
However, if you don’t believe yourself that protector works, get a few different protectors and test them for yourself. (See “If you don’t believe…” on page 56)
When you find one that works, it will be much easier to sell it to your customers.
After the sale, apply correctly
Applying protector correctly is also very important.
Many cleaners recommend “80-01” applicator jets on their sprayers.
The “80”means that the angle is 80 degrees, which helps keep the spray confined to the area to be covered.
The “01”is the opening of the jet, and ensures that only a small amount of protector is released.
A mistake made by some is over-application of product.
Electric or cordless electric sprayers work the best, because they provide a finer mist more consistently for uniform coverage.
Taf Baig, an Institution of Inspection, cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC)-certified Master Textile Cleaner, started a successful carpet cleaning company in 1991 and sold it in 2003. Now he concentrates his efforts on teaching and helping others succeed in the industry. He is the founder of the Magic Wand Company, a leading carpet cleaning equipment and chemical manufacturer. He can be reached through his website at www.magicwandco.com.
How to choose the right vacuum
by Taf Baig Everyone says they use one... its use is listed in almost every carpet cleaning guide and standard.
Vacuuming a customer’s carpet before cleaning is important.
But don’t just purchase a vacuum cleaner because you found a great deal. You are a professional and you want a professional-grade vacuum cleaner.
How does the vacuum "look"?
You must consider the appearance of your new vacuum cleaner.
As a professional carpet cleaner, it’s very important that you have an industrial-looking, heavy-duty vacuum that will show your customers the value of service you are going to provide.
Remember the marketing saying, "Sell the sizzle, not the steak"? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a pile lifter, but definitely something your customer will likely not already have.
Don’t pick on "watts" alone
Watts has very little to do with the power of the vacuum. It is only an indication of the amount of electricity the vacuum uses.
Some vacuum manufacturers will use the wattage listing as a selling point. Don’t be fooled by how much electricity a vacuum will pull – or not pull.
HEPA or not to HEPA
High efficiency particulate air filtration (HEPA) has become a buzz word these days, but in reality HEPA has nothing to do with the power of the vacuum or its pickup ability.
Instead, it is the ability of the filter to filter 99.97 percent of particles that are .3 microns (micrometer) or larger.
When prepping a carpet to be cleaned, pickup ability and removing insoluble soils are important. HEPA filtering is good, but not as vital. Your carpet cleaning process will remove smaller, soluble matter.
Green Label or not to Green Label
Green Label is a voluntary testing program for vacuum cleaners that is conducted by the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI).
The tests are performed on the vacuum’s ability to efficiently remove soil, keep the dust in the machine instead of blowing it back out of the bag (cup) and keeping the carpet looking good.
This test is performed on uprights, canisters, backpacks and even central vacuum cleaners.
If a vacuum has been tested and approved by the Carpet and Rug Institute, then it will have an IAQ (indoor air quality) green label either on the packaging or the vacuum.
This is not the only indication of a good vacuum cleaner, but it is a good gauge in selecting one that has been tested and approved.
Do it yourself test
Take some coins, hair, rice, paper clips, and whatever else you would normally run across when vacuuming to your commercial vacuum supplier.
Test the vacuum cleaner on those items. In the residential carpet cleaning market, you will have coins, hair, rice, paper clips and similar items that your vacuum will have to remove.
Many distributors have a 30-day trial as well.
This is a great way to take one vacuum on some real jobs and see how it performs. Your own test will give you practical information on how the vacuum will work for you.
Taf Baig, an IICRC-certified Master Textile Cleaner, started a successful carpet cleaning company in 1991 and sold it in 2003. He is the founder of the Magic Wand Company, a carpet cleaning equipment and chemical manufacturer. He can be reached through his website at www.magicwandco.com.
Is carpet all you are cleaning?
Believe it or not, some carpet cleaners avoid furniture cleaning… see how adding this specialized service – and others – can help your company grow.
By Taf Baig
From the November 2003 edition of Cleanfax magazine.
Furniture cleaning is a profitable service.
"I’m a carpet cleaner,” you proudly declare.
What about the furniture in your customers’ homes? If you don’t clean it, who will?
Many entering the carpet cleaning industry purchase truckmounts or high-performance portables to clean carpets. Some use other methods – but regardless of your method of choice, there are some carpet cleaners avoiding furniture cleaning.
Use your equipment to do more.
The advantage when expanding into other services is you can use your existing equipment and keep your financial resources where you want them to be – in your wallet or bank account.
A service the customer thinks you already offer…
Upholstery cleaning is one specialized service the customer expects carpet cleaning companies to perform.
All carpet cleaners clean furniture, right?
Most of you already perform this service, but you would be surprised to know many carpet cleaners don’t offer upholstery cleaning. Many of them are afraid of getting into upholstery cleaning because they’ve heard other’s “horror stories.”
I have cleaned at least 1,000 sofas in my life and probably 10 times that have been cleaned by my employees, and there have never been major problems.
With a small investment ($75 to $375) in a good upholstery tool, you can clean almost 99 percent of the upholstery in your market – safely. (See “The gentle nature of fabric” in the sidebar.)
Usually the more expensive tools are the ones that help you control the level of moisture and reduce your risk of a claim.
Take advantage of your existing equipment.
The most important thing to remember is there are more than 300 different kinds of fabrics in upholstery, while only six fabrics are common in carpeting. Here are some things I’ve learned from the field that will help anyone safely clean upholstery.
- When cleaning any fabric you have not cleaned before, test for colorfastness. Take your pre-spray and apply it on a towel, then go to an inconspicuous area on the furniture and blot with the towel. Darker colors work best. If there is any color transfer at all, then you can’t wet clean the fabric safely. The colors will bleed.
- Another test you need to perform is the shrinking test. Before you start cleaning, test clean a one square foot area and let it dry. If any shrinking occurs, you will not be able to wet clean this fabric.
With a bachelor’s degree in business management and marketing and very little cash, Taf Baig started a carpet cleaning company in 1991. He built it into a successful turnkey operation. In 2003 he sold his carpet cleaning company to concentrate on teaching others to succeed in this business. He is also the founder of Magic Wand Company, an industry respected supplier of carpet cleaning products. He can be reached at his website www.MagicWandCo.com.
Open the “window” of opportunity
Here’s how to get started in the fast-growing business of window cleaning on a shoestring budget.
By Taf Baig
From the August 2003 edition of Cleanfax magazine.
Window cleaning has become one of the hottest service businesses to get into. Entrepreneur magazine named window washing one of “101 Service Businesses to Start Today.”
Carpet cleaners can easily tap into window cleaning with very little investment –– because you already have a customer base you can target.
Unlike carpet cleaning and water restoration, window cleaning requires very little equipment.
You can purchase most of the tools and equipment you need for less than $100 and easily fit them in a corner of your cleaning van.
Even grocery and hardware stores sell these tools, including:
Dish soap for detergent (use as little as possible to prevent spotting)
A sturdy ladder
“Fan” and “swirl”
Window washing is more labor intensive than carpet cleaning and restoration, so it’s important to use proper cleaning techniques.
The most popular and professional window cleaning methods are “fanning” and “swirling”.
Fanning, also known as “snaking,” gets its name from the movement of the squeegee across the window. Experienced cleaners, who move the squeegee side to side in what appears to be one single, graceful movement and rarely lift the squeegee off the window, use this method more often.
Swirling is much faster and leaves fewer rubber marks than simple straight down or straight across squeegeeing. Once cleaners know the swirl, they can just slide the squeegee back and forth across the glass in one motion without taking the squeegee off the glass.
Watch a professional window washer and you’ll easily pick up these movements. Learn how to do these movements and you’ll cut down on labor drastically.
Many cleaning services have begun to offer window cleaning.