Although no set schedule has ever been formally established, it is well acknowledged that the hallway carpets at 720 W Gordon Terrace, a 23-story condominium in Chicago, are cleaned twice per year. The 45-year-old building has always used professional carpet cleaning extractors, but the current machine, which has certainly served them well, is now 15 years old, approaching the end of its lifespan.
Ongoing repair costs have forced the managers and the condo association to consider if it is worth keeping (and repairing) the machine or purchasing a new one. But, a new extractor can cost several thousand dollars. And after taking bids, they found that hiring a professional cleaning service to clean the hallway carpets would cost about $100 per floor-at twice per year, that approaches $5,000 annually.
The managers discovered another option: renting the equipment on an as-needed basis. Renting a professional carpet extractor costs only a fraction of purchasing a new one, proving to be a significant cost savings. Additionally, there are no repair bills.
Cost Cutting by Renting
Although this is just one example of why managers, building operators and contract cleaners decide to rent, instead of purchase, professional cleaning equipment, there are scores more. In fact, due to the recent recession, which negatively impacted the professional cleaning industry and caused budget cuts in virtually every industry, many building managers and cleaning contractors are viewing renting cleaning equipment, especially on an occasional or "special project" basis, as a wise, viable, and cost effective option.
"Housekeeping budgets have been curtailed," says Norman Schmidt, president of Hopkins Sales Co. Inc. in Easton, MD. "And what's the easiest thing to trim? The part nobody thinks about - [cleaning] the floors, ceilings, and walls. People let these areas go."
Schmidt and other janitorial distributors report that the sales of carpet extractors, floor machines, and other cleaning tools are still down. "When a housekeeping manager must justify every expense to a board or building owner or manager, pricey equipment is a tough sell," he says.
However, as one door closes, it appears another has opened. Dan Ott, co-owner of Facility Supply Systems Inc. in Chicago, agrees with Schmidt that sales of some cleaning equipment are down, or at least not at pre-recession levels. But, Ott adds, his company has benefited from a significantly "increased demand for rental [cleaning] equipment" from a variety of industry sectors, including cleaning contractors, that was less prominent before the economy's downturn.
A Bit about the Cleaning Industry
As mentioned, when times get tough and budgets are cut, one of the easiest things to trim is the cleaning budget. The reason given for this is because it's often the part of a business operation that "nobody knows about."
Many rental companies may be unaware, but others have taken advantage of the opportunities this huge industry offers. "In the professional cleaning industry, cleaning is typically performed at night or on weekends, when few building occupants are around," says Gary Pelphrey, general manager for Powr-Flite Direct, a leading manufacturer of professional cleaning equipment. "It's kind of easy not to know about this industry, or the people that perform cleaning tasks, if nobody [ever] sees them."
But, according to Pelphrey, the professional cleaning industry is a $50-billion to possibly $100-billion industry, depending on how its annual sales are calculated. "Although there are now several major companies and corporations in the professional cleaning industry in the United States, from its earliest days until today, the bulk of the industry has been made up of smaller-sized firms that make cleaning products, distribute them, or use them to perform cleaning tasks," adds Pelphrey.