How Did Chem-Dry Get Started?
Innovative thinking led to a new breed of carpet cleaning franchises
The Chem-Dry story started in the early 1970s with Robert Harris, a young man from California who worked for a small carpet cleaning company while he attended law school at Brigham Young University in Utah.
Harris wasn’t impressed with the cleaning products the company and its competitors were using. They took a long time to dry and left chemical residue that attracted more dirt. Harris began looking for a better way to clean carpets and found his inspiration in an unexpected place: the air.
While on a flight home during a break in classes, he dripped some salad dressing on his silk tie. A flight attendant removed the stain with a surprising “cleaner”, club soda. The flight attendant knew that carbonation in the soda would help break down the stain and allow her to remove the stain without damaging the silk, and Harris knew then that this small trick on an airplane had big potential.
So often, great things come from small moments. This one transformed Robert Harris’s life. Over 40 years, countless homes and offices have been made drier, cleaner and healthier because of what happened on that plane that day in the 1970s. It all started with a simple “What if…?” in Harris’ mind.
If carbonated water could work on a tie, he thought, why not on carpet?
The concept was simple enough. At the molecular level, carbonation has powerful properties that seperate dirt and other particles from carpet fibers. Our carbonating method is powerful enough to work with only a small amount of water, resulting in a deeper, faster drying and healthier clean than the most common method of steam cleaning.
When Harris made his discovery, steam cleaning was the industry standard, even though it presents several real problems. Typical steam cleaners force large amounts of soapy water into the backing of a carpet, then rely on high-pressure extraction to lift the water and dirt out. The more water you put into carpet, the longer it takes to dry and the more likely the carpet is to become a breeding ground for mold and mildew.
Harris’ discovery was a breakthrough: Now cleaners could clean carpets more effectively while using a fraction of the water used in traditional steam cleaning, practically eliminating the risk of mold and mildew. Harris realized he could start a revolution in the carpet cleaning industry. The revolution continues almost 40 years later. Chem-Dry is the largest carpet cleaning brand, with nearly 3,500 franchises worldwide and a market share of more than 7 percent, the largest for any single brand.
We still operate with a strong entrepreneurial spirit and a deep commitment to maximizing our franchisees’ investment in our brand through research and development, innovation, product development and marketing. We protect our intellectual property through patents and trademarks, and target our innovation for revenue-generating opportunities for our franchisees. The innovation that gave birth to the Chem-Dry brand continues to create value for our customers and franchisees through the services Harris’ discovery made possible: the industry standard for carpet or upholstery cleaning; an additional service like our proprietary Pet Urine Removal Treatments; an area rug service; water-damage restoration; protecting and sanitizing floor coverings; and cleaning the tile, granite and other stone surfaces of a home.