One piece of equipment that seems to divide opinion in the world of detailing is the water extractor. Some detailers swear by them, while others find they don’t need it at all. If you’re wondering whether or not you need a water extractor, check out our other blog piece on that. In this blog, we want to focus on important advice for those who have decided, for good reason, that they do need a water extractor of some kind.
When Does a Detailer Need a Water Extractor?
An extractor is an extremely useful tool for a detailer, but when there’s a real need for one. The main function of a water extractor is, as the name suggests, to remove excess water from carpets, upholstery and other areas. Therefore, detailers who regularly deal with cars that have either been in floods or otherwise taken on water damage will find water extractors very useful. Others might have no need for them.
Those who are detailing in wet, rainy climates where excess water on the roads can become a problem may therefore be more likely to get themselves a water extractor. Those who use large amounts of water to clean carpets and upholstery will also find a use for them, but in reality it will always vary from detailer to detailer.
What Water Extractors Do Detailers Like?
There are different brands, of course, but it seems one of the most popular is the Mytee water extractor. Detailers generally claim that this one is the most powerful and effective, as well as the most reliable.
In our experience here at Wings, while we acknowledge that the Mytee extractor is a great unit, we haven’t had much luck finding real applications for it.
Our main objection to the Mytee unit is that the suction power leaves something to be desired. We also experienced some breakdowns and other faults with the unit, such as dirty water spitting back out onto the carpets.
However, we do acknowledge that these problems could well have been caused by our own mistakes using shampoos that generate suds, something that one is not supposed to do when using extractors. Suds can damage the machinery, so detailers are instructed to use sud-free cleaning agents.
In our opinion, this presents another problem too, which is that suds-free cleaning agents often lack the strength to get the most stubborn stains and dirt out of carpets and upholstery. For us, this is just another reason that water extractors are not always a required piece of kit.
What Are the Downsides to Using Water Extractors? Is There an Alternative?
Whether you need one or not, you should consider the purchase of one carefully as there can be a serious downside that some detailers overlook. First of all, while extractors do have their uses, they can be messy, what with all the dirty water one has to dispose of after each job. That also means more work added to each job with all the extra rinsing and cleaning one has to do, not to mention the extra space taken in your van to transport the unit, and the extra weight it adds.
Alternative: Wet Vac
Here at Wings, we have found a decent alternative to a water extractor, namely the Ridgid 5-horsepower vacuum cleaner. You might at first wonder how a humble vacuum cleaner such as this could possibly replace a professional-level water extractor. It’s actually quite simple. All one has to do is first replace the main inner filter of the vacuum to one that allows it to take on water. In doing so, you transform it into a “wet vac”.
With the new filter in place, you can apply water for cleaning using a hose, and then extract it using the wet vac. The main advantage of the Ridgid unit in particular is that its 5 horsepower make it a surprisingly powerful and effective vacuum, with more suction power even than the Mytee extractor unit. It also breaks down less often, and yet isn’t expensive to replace in a worst-case scenario either --- around $150 from Home Depot.
Another good alternative to a water extractor is a steamer unit. Steamers used in conjunction with shampoo invariably get even the toughest cleaning jobs done well, and are also mechanically more reliable. Furthermore, because steamers work at high temperatures, they will also satisfy your needs to kill bacteria and make the car not just clean-looking, but genuinely clean and safe throughout.
What’s the Verdict?
In the end, you’ll have to make your own decision on getting a steamer. If you’ve got a good reason to purchase one, and that’s what you know you need to do, then we here at Wings say go for it. If, on the other hand, you’re eternally on the fence about getting one, then our advice is to perhaps first try one of our alternatives to see if that meets your needs. If the alternatives aren’t working for you, then you could take that as a sign that you need an alternative.
Keep up with the latest developments from Wings Mobile Detailing on our YouTube channel, and also look out for new episodes of our podcast.