When buying a vacuum you face a variety of choices: wet/dry, wide-area, uprights (dual and single motor), canisters and backpacks. Obviously, some may prove more effective in certain situations and on certain types of flooring than others. Which one is right for you?
Professional upright vacuum cleaners are available in two key categories: single- and dual-motor. A single-motor machine can do double, if not triple, duty: the motor generates suction, drives the roller brush and impels dust and debris into the machine’s filter bag.
A dual-motor machine, on the other hand, has one motor that drives the roller brush and another that generates suction and deposits debris into the filter bag. At one time, dual-motor machines were rated as considerably more powerful than single-motor systems, and they still tend to have more power and better performance, making them the best choice in more challenging cleaning environments. However, new technologies and engineering have improved the cleaning performance of single-motor systems significantly in recent years. These machines also tend to be less expensive, an important consideration if budget concerns are paramount.
The latest generation of canister vacuum cleaners seems to be the housekeeper’s little secret. Cleaning professionals often prefer such models over any other type of vacuum cleaner. That’s because the new generation of canisters are quieter, smaller, lighter, easier to use and much more powerful than systems introduced just a few years ago. These vacuums can be used to clean both hard and soft floor surfaces as well as upholstery and draperies. They are also useful for cleaning under furniture, in hard-to-reach areas and for high and low dusting. Their flexibility means they can improve worker flexibility and productivity considerably. Because some of these systems are so quiet (less than 70 decibels), they also work well in situations in which building users and staff are present.
Backpack vacuum cleaner models take the prize as far as improving worker productivity. They are often used in “specialty cleaning” situations in which people work together on cleaning teams. They have also become very popular with contract cleaners. Like canisters, they can be used to vacuum many different kinds of hard and soft surfaces. These systems are designed to be worn on a cleaning worker’s back using a harness--and in the past, this was their key drawback. Early backpack vacuums were heavy and noisy and they tended to vibrate and heat up, all of which caused discomfort for the worker. Some newer systems, however, have eliminated virtually all of these problems, and many models also offer redesigned harnesses that are much more comfortable.
Wet/dry and wide area
The two other types of vacuum cleaners--wet/dry and wide area--are designed for specialized cleaning situations. Wet/dry vacuums are used to vacuum up wet debris. They are often called in to vacuum up slurry and rinse water when floors are stripped and refinished or to remove water sitting on hard surface floors or carpets as a result of a plumbing leak, for instance. While these machines are rarely used for daily cleaning, a wet/dry vacuum cleaner is a good idea for any restaurant to have on hand.
Wide-area vacuums are designed to clean large carpeted areas, such as those often found in hotels. They can also significantly speed up the vacuuming of long and large carpeted hallways.
In addition to the information above, Daniel Frimml, technical services coordinator for Tornado Industries (a manufacturer of professional-grade vacuum cleaners), offers the following recommendations for determining the type of vacuum that will works best in your setting:
•Single-motor upright models are best for use in medium to light duty situations. They may also be appropriate for use in smaller rooms and on light-to-moderately soiled carpets in offices, patient rooms, and narrower walkways.
•Dual-motor vacuums tend to be more powerful and more durable and require less maintenance than single-motor uprights. This makes them a better option for heavier duty, more frequent, and more demanding vacuuming situations and for cleaning heavily soiled carpets…such as those found in restaurants.
•Because some of the newer canister systems are so quiet, they are becoming increasingly popular in medical facilities. Also, because some come equipped with a variety of tools and attachments for dusting and to vacuum hard and soft floors and upholstery, housekeeping departments in hotels and restaurants often prefer them over other kinds of machines.
•Backpack vacuum cleaner models can also be used for cleaning a variety of surfaces. When worker productivity is the key concern--that is, cleaning as much floor space as possible in the shortest amount of time--backpacks are typically the machine of choice.
In addition to these suggestions, Frimml has one important recommendation that applies to all vacuum cleaners: be sure to select HEPA-filtered machines.
“Especially in restaurants, I would not even consider a vacuum cleaner that is not HEPA-filtered,” says Frimml. “These machines make sure dust and debris is not spread from one surface to another.”
Terms you should know
Here are some terms you may hear when selecting a new vacuum cleaner…and what they are referring to:
Lift, also known as static lift or water lift, refers to the ability of the vacuum cleaner to lift floor particulates and soil. It is typically measured in "inches of lift" determined by how many inches the vacuum cleaners airflow can pull water up a tube in a lab test.
Airflow is the amount or volume of air moving through the vacuum, usually measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). The amount of air moving through a vacuum affects the amount of soil that can be carried along by the airflow and contained in the vacuum’s filtration.
The Green Label program is operated by the Carpet and Rug Institute. When a vacuum cleaner is awarded a Green Label, it indicates it meets specific criteria as to carpet cleaning performance and indoor air quality standards.
ULPA ULPA (Ultra Low Penetration Air)
This is a filtering efficiency specification for filters used in environments like pharmaceutical labs wherein the highest degree of clean air must be maintained. In most cases, this level of filtration is not necessary for a restaurants location.
Suction In general, this refers to the machines ability to pick up dust and dirt. It is the “pull power” of the machine.
Some filters and filter bags will be labeled “HEPA-type.” While these may meet the stringent requirements of a HEPA filter, in most cases it is wise to select a true HEPA filter to ensure proper protection of indoor air quality.
Robert Kravitz is a former building service contractor who now writes about the professional cleaning industry. Reach him through his website, www.alturasolutions.com.