As one of the most rented items in any rental inventory, drain cleaners can be a very profitable item because they are always in demand, no matter the season or economy.
Despite their dependable profit potential, drain cleaners can present some challenges to the rental business that needs to keep them cleaned and maintained while protecting its customers from the hazards that can result from careless or incorrect use. The solution to both the maintenance and safety issues is communication with your customers. If you can effectively convey proper care and operating procedures to your customers, you stand a better chance of reducing maintenance costs while ensuring your customers’ safety.
Considering the environments where drain cleaners work - most notably, sewer pipes - it’s safe to say that these are not the shiniest tools in your shop. In fact, thinking too much about where these machines have been is enough to make even those with a tough constitution reach for an extra pair of rubber gloves.
Aesthetics aside, there are health and safety reasons for making sure your drain cleaners are kept impeccably clean and sanitary, says Marty Silverman, vice president of marketing at General Pipe Cleaners. The cleanup and repair of drain cleaners is important to keeping them working efficiently as well. Cleaning the machines is an important first step to maintaining them for the long run and it begins with an overall inspection of the unit when it’s returned from rent. It’s very important to inspect the whole drain cleaner, especially the cable.
In addition to the ubiquitous dirt and debris, it’s not uncommon for machines to come back from rent with the cable tied in knots. This problem must be remedied before the unit goes back on the floor, as a kink can be dangerous to the operator and cause damage to the pipe, according to Mark Speranza, vice president of sales with Electric Eel.
After inspection, the next step is cleaning the cable. According to Speranza, it’s important to wash the cable as soon as possible upon return in order to get rid of any drain cleaning chemicals, as they will slowly break down the chemical composition of the wire used to make the cable and weaken it.
Because drain cleaners are often rented by homeowners who are unaware of the proper cleanup procedures, instructing customers before they leave your yard can go a long way toward getting a clean machine upon return. Explain to customers that spraying the unit with a hose is not going to adequately clean it. A solution which can be used to clean the cables consists of one part chlorine bleach and 20 parts water.
To get cleaner machines returned from rental, some rental businesses charge a fee to customers if the unit is returned dirty. This encourages customers to do the cleaning work for you. Some manufacturers offer a lubricating oil just for drain cleaning snakes that contains a disinfectant, a rust inhibitor and a deodorizer. Using this regularly can extend the life of your drain cleaners many times.
A thorough inspection can also find safety hazards on your drain cleaners.
Each time a machine is returned to the shop, Silverman says, it should be checked for worn or damaged insulation on the power cord and extension cords, pulled out strain relief grommets, dangling switches and missing ground prongs.
Renting a piece of damaged equipment could lead to electrical shock for the end user. Units should never be rented with a tear or cut in the power cord.
All machines should have a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) which detects as little as five milliamps of leakage and shuts off the machine before the operator can be injured or electrocuted. Silverman notes that the GFCI should be integrated into the power cord so that not only the machine but the cord is protected as well. It’s also possible to purchase extension cords that have an in-line GFCI. OSHA has taken the position that a GFCI is required whenever an extension cord is used.