Cleaning is one of those thankless tasks that may not get much attention when it’s done well, but everyone notices when something or some place has not been cleaned. Word on the street is that tradesmen and workers of all stripes are more productive, efficient and effective in a relatively clean environment. And reasons for cleaning run even deeper. On construction jobsites, it can promote prevention of injuries from tripping over cords or tools, and one’s professional reputation is on the line for presenting a respectable appearance when supervisors, building owners, inspectors or bankers appear unexpectedly. OSHA and a variety of federal, state and local agencies have regulations on managing jobsites for safety and environmental concerns.
One study cited in “Forbes”, which was directed by OfficeMax, reported that 77% of adults responded that clutter and disorganization affected motivation levels. This may have been conducted for the office worker, but it applies as well to work done outside. It’s been said that mechanics work better on clean engines, and some folks take that to heart by opening the hood at the car wash before taking the vehicle in for service. Masons must be well organized in all their work for its precision in placement for design, function and style, and many embrace a clean-as-you-go philosophy to remove mortar, dust and all kinds of particles that adhere to their brick, stone and concrete masonry unit project and mixer equipment.
From the ol’ bucket ‘n brush to today’s sophisticated, efficient power washers and power cleaning systems, clever industrial designers, engineers and masons themselves have developed cleaning equipment that make clean-up an easy do-it-yourself task. The savings with special cleaning machinery includes time from the standpoint that the mason does not have to halt work to clean. Someone else can manage that as the project moves along. Additionally, contractors can clean as needed and not have to wait for or work around a subcontractor cleaning company’s schedule for manpower and equipment.
Unique Industries, based in the Mile-High City of Denver, prides itself on quick responses to the need for its state-of-the-art Kem-O-Kleen®. “We are fast,” they convey on the website. “You have a business to run, and we work hard to help you succeed by delivering your machine, parts, information or service as close to immediately as possible.” That’s as reassuring as their quality, which is known for high performance, simple operation and maintenance along with durability. “Our flagship masonry cleaning machine is the K-3003,” explains Randy Weil, the company’s president. “It is a very rugged piece of equipment designed to do a terrific job of cleaning masonry and delivers a high level of uptime in a challenging environment. The K-3003 is trailer-mounted with tanks for fuel and chemicals on-board. The 200-foot hose provides a great deal of vertical and horizontal coverage. It has dozens of premium features not found on typical pressure washers but important for masonry cleaning.”
Invented by a mason named Charlie Hewitt 45 years ago, the Kem-O-Kleen® machine incorporates patented technology in both its trailer-mounted K-3003 product as well as the smaller, stainless steel, cart-mounted K-30 version. The K-3003 specifically:
- Reduces cleaning time
- Controls chemicals precisely
- Runs on gasoline or electricity
- Uses less chemicals to achieve superior results
- Comes in hot water unit or cold water (C-3004)
- Carries a 20-gallon chemical tank onboard
- Runs 3.9 gallons per minute at 3000 psi (lower psi available)
- Uses 12v burner; no need for 110v connection
- Keeps pump cool with 7-gallon recirculation tank
- Features 18 HP, 2-cylinder, electric start gasoline engine
- Produces hot water with 100-degree pick-up over ambient
“Not only is this unique cleaner great for buildings and masonry restoration, but also it’s awesome for cleaning forms, mixers, fiberglass structures and etching concrete. “Only Kem-O-Kleen® combines the scrubbing action of the water, the ability to handle strong masonry cleaning chemicals directly in the water stream (or separately, if needed) and the heat in the water which activates the chemical’s performance well above its level at ambient temperature,” Weil contends. “A Kem-O-Kleen® has everything you need in one place – on-board chemical tank, fuel tank, water heater, trailer – and all the controls are conveniently located on the wand.”
Jenny Products, Inc., close to the Flight 93 Memorial in Somerset County, Penn., boasts an intriguing history on its website that sort of credits Prohibition for the invention of its Steam Jenny. The Volsted Act, which took effect on Jan. 16, 1920, prohibited the sale, manufacture and transport of alcoholic beverages in the U.S. Talk about unintended consequences. This spawned a vast network of illegal alcohol, moonshine, homemade bathtub gin, call it what you like. One enterprising man, Frank W. Ofeldt II, noticed the superior cleaning attributes of steam while working on a portable whiskey still in his garage. As the steam poured down on his greasy garage floor, the grease dissolved. Adding to the intrigue of the whole story [at steamjenny.com/history], a man named Eltinge, who had taken an advertising course in prison, is credited with and was paid around $20 for coming up with its first name “High Pressure Jenny” which has morphed into Steam Jenny.
In addition to its novel Steam Jenny, the company manufactures a variety of hot and cold pressure washers, combination units and a line of cleaning chemicals. “There are many options, but pressure washers are the most universal tool because they are appropriate for anything from light cleaning jobs to heavy-duty grime removal,” explains Dan Leiss, president. “Within the pressure washer category, cold pressure washers are most popular. They are compact, economical and will cover a large number of cleaning jobs. Cold pressure washers, however, can’t really remove grease or grime. In those situations, you would be better off with a hot pressure washer, which can cut through grease and loosen it from the surface before washing it away.”
Both of the Jenny Products’ hot and cold pressure washers are available with electric motors or gas-powered engines. If operated outdoors without an adequate electrical source, a gas-powered pressure washer is preferred. Electric motor units should be used indoors. Many people also choose electric for its cost efficiency, low maintenance and quiet operation. “Keep in mind that many of these machines require a 230-volt, three-phase power source,” Leiss adds.
When asked what masons and mason contractors should know about this kind of equipment, Leiss responds that three things are often misunderstood:
“Pressure helps break the bond between the contaminant and surface being cleaned,” he continues. “Too low of pressure won’t break the bond without extra help from hot water or detergents. Too high of pressure might only blow the dirt around more, and the spray might even damage the surface. Volume equally affects cleaning performance. The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) recommends higher volume pumps for masonry cleaning to allow more flexibility in adjusting water pressure as necessary, while providing a strong enough flow to thoroughly rinse dirt and clean residue. Horsepower determines how much pressure and volume a pressure washer can produce. Basic formulas – different for electric and gas-powered units – can be used to calculate the minimum horsepower requirements of a machine.”
Leiss affirms that pressure washers are a very established product category. “There isn’t a ton of innovation occurring outside of incremental design and component upgrades,” he states. “But there is a pretty dramatic difference in the quality of high-end and low-end pressure washers on the market, even among those with similar specifications. The best machines feature a heavy-gauge steel frame, high-quality unloader valve, durable pump and properly-sized engine or electric motor.”
Sometimes, the question of applying chemical under pressure arises. “The fact is that 3000 psi at the pump becomes 2750 psi at the nozzle (250 psi friction loss),” Weil explains. “The nozzle is the restriction through which 4 gpm is being forced, building pressure all the way back to the pump. Once it passes the nozzle/restriction, pressure drops precipitously. More specifically, 12” from the nozzle with a 15° fan, the impact pressure on the wall is 3.3 psi. That’s a long way of saying that pressures at 12 to 18 inches are not great.” Leiss concurs and goes on to explain, “the size and type of spray nozzle for any pressure washer wand should be considered. For masonry work, a fan-type nozzle with a 15- to 40-degree fan is preferred. Laser tips, 0-tips or any fan spray narrower than 15 degrees should not be used, as they can generate a concentrated stream of water that can damage concrete, brick and similar stone surfaces.”
“We have our ears and eyes open to our customers’ experiences,” Weil says of Unique Industries. “Over the past 11 years, we have made 70 changes to the K-3003. Better materials and components, additional features, more convenience. It was a great machine 11 years ago, and it is an even better machine now. Our bigger news is the release of the F-30, a smaller, less expensive machine for customers who have a lighter cleaning work load. We have had F-30s in the field for more than two years, and the feedback is they are doing a great job.”
Jenny’s line of super concentrated cleaning compounds use the highest quality raw materials for superior cleaning and come in liquid, powder or drum kit. All are biodegradable. About a dozen different cleaners are profiled on their website, and many can be ordered in a 55-gallon kit to be mixed by customers, saving multiple shipping and product costs.
“Cleaning is very important,” Weis emphasizes. “It is not just a chore for a rookie to be stuck with. A great cleaning job is the finishing touch to laying up a great wall. We have customers who say: ‘Every wall we lay up must be cleaned so it is pristine and nothing less.’ They tell us that their customers tell them: ‘I don’t know what you do differently, but your work always looks better…not just when the building is new, but years later.” That word “pristine” has translated into won bids for Unique Industries, sometimes at even better prices than the competition. “A Kem-O-Kleen® will deliver ‘pristine’,” he adds, “and in less time so that masons can be off the job faster, man-lifts and scaffolds freed up sooner and other trade workers and customers are happier.”
Joanne M. Anderson is a freelance writer and magazine editor with more than 1,000 articles and blogs in print. She especially enjoys home improvement and building topics. www.jmawriter.com