ICS Magazine

The What, How and Why of Vacuums

October 7, 2005

It is quite accepted in the carpet-cleaning world that regular dry soil removal is one of the keys to extended carpet and successful carpet cleaning.

This would appear to indicate that a properly selected and maintained vacuum is necessary to ensure happy clients. Vacuums come in a wide number of sizes, types and styles. Selecting the proper vacuum for your needs can be quite a project. How wide? How many motors? Beater bar, agitation brush, bagless, HEPA filtered? The list of choices goes on.

The three primary types of vacuum are upright, canister, and pile-lifter. The upright style is probably most common. They are available in both one-motor and two-motor versions, with the two-motor getting the nod from most vacuum specialists and carpet manufacturers. Single-motor vacs, in which one motor drives the brush and also creates the vacuum flow, are found most commonly in residential vacuums. This type of machine will generally move recovered soils and debris through an impeller that may be damaged if larger heavier debris is recovered.

Two-motor vacs use two separate motors, one to drive the beater bar or brush/ agitator and the other to generate the suction that makes the vacuum work. A beater-bar style should be used only on carpet which is installed over pad. On carpets that are glued directly to a subfloor with no padding, an agitation brush head should be used to avoid damage to the carpet face fibers. The two-motor type will not usually move the recovered soils and debris through the fan/impeller, but into a filter bag. This is a better choice if the vacuum is being used in conditions where debris is a fact of life. Proper filter bag maintenance is key to this type of vacuum remaining effective. The bag should be emptied before it is half full to ensure that maximum pickup capability is maintained.

A two-motor vacuum may have a head 10-to-14-inches wide, though they are also available in a "wide area" style, with a head up to 28-to-30-inches wide and an agitation brush designed to cover large areas floor relatively quickly. (Note: On either style, the drive belt should be checked for proper adjustment regularly.)

Canister vacuums may be equipped with a lightweight wand or a power head, and will use a system that incorporates a filter bag of some type, but not feature an impeller or fan which can damaged by large debris. They move large volumes of air into a canister/filter housing which may be outfitted with wheels or slides designed to be move about the on the floor, or else be of a backpack design to be worn by the operator. This is a high-production machine suited to many varied tasks including off the floor dusting and edging.

The pile-lifter vacuum is the big boy on the block, with a stiff brush to remove deep soil as well as to "lift" the carpet pile on a regular basis. Many commercial carpet suppliers recommend a regular "pile lifting" be performed on their carpet to maximize carpet life and appearance. This periodic service can also be a new profit center for companies that maintain commercial carpet. Regular pile lifting can also reduce the frequency of extraction cleaning of carpet. Pile lifting should be an integral part of maintaining large areas of carpet.

Two very important considerations when selecting a vacuum should be HEPA properties and Green Label certification from the Carpet and Rug Institute. HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) designates air filtration bags or filter systems that remove 99.97 percent of all recovered particles down to 0.3 microns in diameter. Use of HEPA filtration ensures improved indoor environmental quality for personnel performing the vacuuming as well as regular occupants of the areas being maintained. The CRI Green Label certification means that the vacuum has passed stringent teats for soil removal, dust containment and carpet appearance retention. According to the CRI, "Tests follow procedures that were developed by carpet and vacuum manufacturers and have been peer reviewed by scientists who are respected for their expertise in the study of maintenance and indoor environmental quality."

Regardless of the vacuum system you select, keep in mind that vacuums must be maintained and bags must be emptied. Proper vacuum selection and use will ensure the best results in your cleaning operations. I hope all of this information helps you in your endeavors. Until next month, see ya!