- THE MAGAZINE
What’s the best vacuum cleaner?” I get that question all the time, from homeowners mostly.
Typically, I refer them to the Carpet and Rug Institute’s (CRI) website (www.carpet-rug.org) where they can find a variety of CRI Seal of Approval (SOA) vacuum cleaners. Under the SOA program, vacuum units are tested in laboratories on standard test carpet that has been soiled with a five-component recipe that mirrors actual consumer soil samples from across the U.S.
Then, I got a question from a participant on the weekly “Rug Lovers Forum” about what type of vacuum I recommend for professional rug cleaners. I realized that, if I mentioned a trade name, I very likely would offend quite a few vacuum equipment manufacturers. Besides, I might miss one or two good units.
But when I got to thinking about it, I realized that a vacuum’s trade name wasn’t as important as its features. So I decided to answer the question – particularly for rug cleaners – this way . . . in my judgment, a good vacuum unit for professional cleaners should have:
1. Carpet and Rug Institute Seal of Approval (CRI SOA): Under the SOA program, vacuums are tested not only for soil removal using x-ray fluorescence, but also for their ability to change carpet texture. Several popular units on the market (non-SOA) have brush bristles that are too stiff and therefore they can literally ruin a carpet or rug’s pile over time. Go for the silver or gold SOA rating here.
2. Next, I want a vacuum that has high-efficiency filtration. That means a double-lined polypropylene fiber bag that achieves something near 99% efficiency at 1.0 micron rather than a paper bag that filters only 80-90% of particles at 7.0 microns. Any vac manufacturer who claims HEPA filtration – that’s 99.97% of particles at 0.3 microns - probably is guilty of marketing hype, at least long-term. Cyclonic filtration? Still the exit filter should achieve high efficiency. It’s not only pointless, but it’s also downright unhealthy to suck soil out of a carpet or rug, where it’s doing little harm, and efficiently fling it into the respirable air that occupants (or you!) are breathing.
3. I also am looking for a floating head on my vacuum, so that I don’t have to adjust its fixed setting every time I go from one carpet or rug pile height to another. This is particularly important for rug cleaners who are processing multiple rug types and pile designs on the same day. With fixed head settings, I’ve noticed a tendency on the part of consumers to use the lowest setting with the mistaken impression that lower means more suction. Too often, however, it means pile distortion or destruction.
4. Fourth, give me a three-position switch - off (of course), suction only and suction with brush agitation. This enables me to vacuum a rug’s pile with the brush agitation necessary to remove hair, lint and other fibrous soil (both front and back), and then switch to “suction only” to vacuum fringe without destroying the rug – usually a guaranteed customer complaint!
5. I need a 50-foot electrical cord on the vacuum. When vacuuming wall-to-wall carpet in a home, I lose efficiency and productivity (read: profit!) when I have to stop and locate another electrical outlet to re-plug the unit for that last 100 ft2 I need to vacuum.
6. I’m also looking for a vacuum’s durability and ease of maintenance. I’m well aware of how vacuum units get tossed around by technicians.
7. Since no vacuum creates efficient suction all the way to a wall, I need a vacuum that has an auxiliary hose attached so I can get to room edges when I need to vacuum accumulated dust in those areas.
8. With hard housings (bag containers), give me an indicator light to tell me when the collection bag is full. It’s really hard to get more soil into a bag that’s already 110% filled!
9. Finally, ease of maintenance. I don’t need a vacuum that requires me to remove 12 screws with an Allen wrench to get to a broken belt or to clear accumulated hair.
Nice-to-have vacuum features might include an indicator light that tells me when the brush isn’t rotating or when the unit is clogged between the intake nozzle and the soil collection bag or chamber. In a perfect world, I’d ask for a soil sensing mechanism as well, but that’s probably not practical for the manufacturer, and besides, I usually don’t have the time it takes to get out all the accumulated particle soil in a maintenance-neglected carpet or rug anyway.
Several reputable equipment manufacturers or distributors have quality units that fit these nine criteria. When shopping, just take this list with you and demand quality. I did - you can too.
P.S. Don’t buy the cheapest or even the most expensive - buy the best!