There has been a quiet revolution going on in the commercial cleaning industry. Carpet extraction, the most effective method of deep cleaning carpet, has seen a major upgrade to a much more efficient process: Continuous Flow Recycling, or CFR. This innovative process significantly reduces water usage, cuts drying times, and saves on chemicals and labor while accomplishing the same or better results.

To get the details and answer common questions, we have retreived the answers direct from Michael Schaffer, President of Tornado and CFR.


Q: Can you describe the process of traditional carpet extraction?

With traditional carpet extraction you’re spraying heated water, and added chemicals, down into the carpet or fiber under pressure through a floor tool, essentially flushing the soil out, and then immediately or almost in the same motion, sucking it up via that floor tool. Traditional extractors have one tank for the clean water/solution they’re spraying down, and a recovery tank for the solution and dirt that’s being extracted from the carpeting, thanks to a powerful vacuum system.

Q: What are the benefits of this method? Why is it the recommended method for carpet cleaning?

Traditional extraction, which is sometimes also referred to as hot water extractor or steam cleaning, is the most effective way to actually remove dirt, oils, and contaminants from within the carpet without damaging the product. Extraction is also referred to as a “restorative method”, since it is often used to save carpet that cannot be effectively cleaned by other methods.

Q: Are there other ways to clean carpet?

There are other more surface level treatments, or “interim methods”, which may remove some surface level dirt and dust, but often end up spreading much of the soil around. One process, the rotary brush method, can actually tear or damage the fibers of the carpet, and often voids the warranty of a number of carpet mills. So traditional carpet extraction is recommended by most carpet mills because it does the best job of deep cleaning the carpet and helps extend its life cycle.

Q: What are the disadvantages of Traditional Extraction?

While almost all the mills and the Carpet & Rug Institute themselves recommend carpet extraction as the approved method to clean their product, the extended drying times associated with traditional extraction can sometimes be a problem in certain areas, especially when you’re faced with tight turnaround times to get an area back open. In addition, the solution recovery process, leads to one of the issues with the existing technology, which is that you can end up spending a considerable amount of time emptying and refilling the tanks.

In fact, it is one of the reasons the cleaning industry responded with “interim” carpet cleaning methods, which basically surface clean the fiber, but dry much faster. Unfortunately, many of those “interim” methods fly directly in the face of the carpet mills’ recommendations, and often are simply “feathering in” the soil to surrounding areas of the carpet, attempting to achieve a uniform appearance. I have often said interim methods are a way to keep the carpet evenly dirty! Others have described interim carpet cleaning methods as “cleaning for appearance” versus cleaning for health or asset protection.

Q: What is Continuous Flow Recycling (CFR)?

CFR is a method of Hot Water Extraction that uses a moisture-controlled “continuous flow recycling” technology that is unique to the industry. This moisture controlled technology controls over spray (by trapping the spray in the nozzle head so it doesn’t spray beyond the vacuum head) and more importantly, by atomising it.

Basically atomisation is the breakdown of fluid into tiny droplets. Essentially, we’re “fogging” the carpet or fiber with a heavy, consistent mist, but not over-wetting or saturating the fiber. And, because it’s a fine, atomised heavy mist, we’re able to move between and through the fibers much more effectively than larger droplets.

Excessive droplet size can actually have an adverse effect on the cleaning process, including ineffective cleaning and over-wetting. Atomised droplets can have as much as 10 times more surface area than a standard extractor droplet, allowing us to use less water, while cleaning more effectively. A good way to think about it is to consider a block of ice compared to an equal mass of shaved ice spread out on the same surface. Or on a smaller scale, a drop of perfume versus the impact of the mist you get from squeezing a bulb on an expense bottle of perfume.

In addition, with CFR, we’re only using one tank (versus two tanks, one clean and one dirty, of a traditional extractor). Through a multi-level filter process and our chemical technology, we are able to spray and recover into the same tank, and therefore recycle and reuse the water and solution.

Q: How does Continuous Flow Recycling (CFR) improve upon the extraction process?

Typical complaints about traditional carpet extraction are that it requires long dry times, uses a great deal of water, and can be a very labor intensive process with the continuous dump and refill times. CFR provides a dramatic improvement in all of these areas.

The atomisation process puts much less moisture into the carpet, allowing for much quicker drying times than a traditional extractor and greater recovery of dirty water/solution. The recycling process dramatically decreases the number of times required to dump and refill the tanks, and this also translates to less water usage.

CRF extractors will do everything a traditional extractor will do. In fact, they do the exact same job, but we believe better.

Q: Why is CFR referred to as an “environmentally preferred” alternative?

Mainly because it uses significantly less water than existing methods of carpet extraction. Traditional extraction goes through a lot of water because we are spraying it down at a high gallon per minute output from one tank in large droplets and then sucking it up into a recovery tank, while leaving a percentage of it behind in the carpeting. As a result, the cleaning process involves using quite a bit of water to clean even your average sized spaces. With CFR, depending on the fiber, we can recover as much as 90% of the water used. The recovered solution goes into that same tank, which is then put through a multi-level filter process; both mechanical and chemical. This recycling process allows us to reuse the water / solution and we are able to clean up to 7 times more carpet than you would with the exact same size traditional extractor. That element provides us with both the “environmentally preferred” and the productively benefits we talk about.

Q: Why is the issue of conservation an important one?

Well, of course it’s important to do what we can to preserve the environment that we live in, and that future generations will live in. But even if you aren’t concerned about that, using your resources efficiently just makes sense. In addition, since you’re not wasting time filling, emptying, and refilling tanks as often, you’re making tremendous gains in productivity, which translates into saving money.

When discussing CFR I occasionally hear someone say something along the lines of “I am not a tree-hugger” or “I am not interested in green”. If I overhear it, I’ll usually ask them what they mean and when they start referencing anti-eco issues, I’ll quickly change it to, “Oh I don’t think he was making reference to that, he was talking about the other type green [dollars]…you don’t like those?” It’s pretty easy to turn it into a conversation about dollars, due to the money saved with the dramatic increase in productivity achieved with CFR.

This is a case where doing the right thing for the environment (using less water, less energy, and safer chemicals) is also doing the right thing for your bottom line.

Q: Are there disadvantages to using CFR’s method of extraction?

There isn’t, although sometimes a buyer might question cleaning with “recycled water” versus one use – virgin water that a traditional extractor features. Honestly, however, we get very little objection to that. When we do, a simple conversation along the lines of, “so when you mop your hard surface floor you throw out the water every time you dip the mop in…or you stand over your washing machine and the second the water turns grey you pull your shirt out, drain the tank and reload it with new water?”

Which is typically met with, “Of course not” to which we respond, “So, you then put that shirt on your back as soon as it dries, but you object to basically doing the same thing with your carpet which is going to be walked on with dirty shoes the moment it dries?” It’s as if a lightbulb goes on but again, we honestly don’t get many people today that even raise that objection to begin with.

In addition, all CFR machines have been tested by the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) under their Seal of Approval Program, which certifies superior carpet cleaning products and equipment. CRI’s program is the carpet industry’s only scientific program to test and measure the effectiveness of products, and exists to help consumers make informed decisions, while ensuring carpets are cleaner, healthier, and last longer.

Q: What does the training curve look like for someone new to CFR?

The training process is essentially the same as a standard extractor, other than a bit more up dialog about maintaining the water filtering – recycling system on CFR. That little bit of extra time training someone on the filter system is quickly earned back, however, and pales in comparison to the amount of time (which occurs over and over on an ongoing basis) spent hauling water, draining and refilling a traditional extractor. Again, CFR can clean up to 7 times the amount of carpet the same size tank traditional extractor will clean on a single tank of water.

Q: Can you describe the typical CFR customer?

We have customers using CFR across many types of spaces including offices, education, retail stores, and businesses in the hospitality industry, like hotels. We also have it in use throughout the country in public facilities like museums and even in sports venues where it is used to maintain high appearance, private suites. CFR is attractive to customers with high-traffic areas where using traditional carpet extraction is difficult because you don’t want to close the area down for half a day while you wait for the carpet to dry. CFR cuts dry-times down to the point where it makes extraction possible even in high-traffic areas.

Q: What would you say to someone who is shopping for a carpet extractor and considering CFR?

CFR really has everything going for it. It’s the most “eco” sensitive method in the industry. It offers tremendous productivity gains, and it provides major cost savings from the reduction in water use, chemicals, and labour.

Check out the range of CFR Recycling Carpet Cleaning Machines here.