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The Exclusive Magazine for the Building Service Contracting Industry Since 1981
March 21, 2010

Choosing the Right Vacuum for the Job

Written by  Richard "Bo" Bodo

Of all the things that you can do for your carpet, none is more important for the life and appearance of the carpet than vacuuming. Your carpet is under constant assault from soils that are tracked into your facility, which cause permanent damage to the carpet that cannot be removed through cleaning.

Imagine replacing your carpet with plexi-glass and then cleaning it. Even when clean, it would look dull and dirty. It then stands to reason that the choice of vacuum is one of the most important decisions you can make in the care of your carpet.

So how do you choose the right vacuum for the job? While there are many considerations related to preference of the user, the two that will help you determine the right vacuum to use and in what area to use them are “soil load” and “productivity.”

Soil load refers to the amount of soil deposited in that area of the carpet. Industry studies show that it takes 36 linear feet of matting to remove 99 percent of the soil from shoes. Therefore, the first 40 feet or so of carpeting generally traps and holds the bulk of the soil entering a facility. So consider areas where there is a transition from a hard surface to carpet: entrances, interior areas, areas coming out of restrooms, near break rooms and other areas where soils will be deposited after leaving a hard surface.

Interior areas and offices may not have as high of a soil content and will contain lighter soils and even larger soils like paper clips, hole punches and other debris normally generated inside a facility.

An understanding of these two types of areas and the soils that are found in them will help you determine what type of vacuum to use in each of them. For example, in areas of high soil load, the most important thing to consider is pick-up and removal of the soils. Therefore a vacuum that has strong, efficient pick-up is critical in this area.

The most efficient vacuums for areas like this are dual-motor or single-motor vacuums. Dual-motor vacuums are generally the most efficient and provide the best pick-up. These vacuums have a motor in the base that runs the brush, and a motor in the body that creates the vacuum. While dual-motor vacuums generally provide the best pick-up, they are not the best for every user as the second motor in the handle means that the handle weight, which affects the user during operation, is greater.

The second type of vacuum for this area is a single-motor vacuum. A single-motor vacuum has one motor located in the base of the unit that both turns the brush and creates the vacuum. While these vacuums may not pick up as well as a dual-motor vacuum the user will notice that since the motor is in the base, the handle weight tends to be lighter than a dual-motor.

So while areas of high soil load require a vacuum that will remove soil efficiently, areas beyond those inside the facility are generally best served with vacuums that increase productivity while removing surface soils and larger soils that accumulate on a daily basis. Examples of these types of vacuums would be canister vacuums, backpack vacuums and wide area vacuums.

All of these vacuums are designed to be productive in certain areas of a facility. Canisters and backpacks allow the user to maneuver quickly and efficiently through congested areas like cubicles and offices. Wide area vacuums, whether corded or stand-on, allow the user to efficiently vacuum large, wide-open areas like ballrooms and hallways.

One final note: Perhaps the most important thing about vacuums is that they are adjusted properly. Check any janitorial closet in America and it is a safe bet that the vacuums are either adjusted to the lowest brush setting or the highest brush setting.

While this could be correct, it generally is not. If you are vacuuming with an improperly adjusted vacuum, you might as well not be vacuuming at all. To adjust a standard vacuum correctly, simply set it on the highest setting and adjust down setting by setting until the pitch of the motor changes.

However, the best solution is a vacuum that adjusts automatically to the height of the carpet pile. This allows the vacuum to work efficiently and remove the maximum amount of soil, which helps to extend the life of your carpet investment.


Richard “Bo” Bodo is the director of training at Windsor Industries and an IICRC master textile cleaner. An internationally published writer, Bo has more than 11 years of industry experience with a background in both chemicals and equipment. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Last modified on May 19, 2015

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