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How to choose a commercial vacuum cleaner

Continuing the series of articles which will guide the FM industry in how to choose the right solution for the right application, we dive deep into the features and variables that need to be considered before selecting a commercial vacuum cleaner.

Area to be cleaned

Consider the size of the space that needs to be cleaned and the cleaning frequency. For a large, carpeted area that needs daily cleaning, an upright vacuum would be the best choice. To clean tight corners and stairs, a backpack vacuum would be more suitable.

Type of floor

Different types of flooring require different types of vacuuming equipment. Hard flooring may require a vacuum with a hard floor attachment, while carpeted floors require vacuums with motorised brushes that can lift dirt and debris from the pile.

Type of dirt

Most vacuums can cope with any type of dry dirt, but liquid dirt and spillages require the use of a wet and dry vacuum cleaner.


The airflow, or vacuumed air volume, is the result of the average air speed multiplied by the hose diameter. The narrower the suction hose, the less air volume there will be, but the vacuum power will be greater. Airflow is usually measured in litres per minute, and larger machines can move thousands of litres per minute.

Vacuum/suction power

The amount of suction power needed will depend largely on the type of dirt being collected. Lighter, finer dust requires a greater airflow but less suction whereas heavier or tougher deposits need a stronger suction.

Vacuum motor power

Generally speaking, vacuums with higher wattage motors have more sucking power.

Battery vs cable

Battery powered vacuums now have equivalent power levels to standard machines. Perfect for use where trailing cables could be a hazard, or whether there is no available power source. They tend to be very quiet too.

Collection Tank

Most commercial machines collect the dirt in a tank. If fine dust is being vacuumed, it will probably take some time to fill the tank, but larger dirt and debris can fill a tank very quickly.The volume of dirt and the desired frequency of emptying the tank should be considered, because a full tank will result in poor suction. Tanks are typically made from stainless steel, which is resistant to mechanical abrasion. However, where there are aggressive chemicals to be removed, a Polypropylene (PP) vessel should be used.

Bagged vs bagless

Bagged vacuums reduce dirt and dust when the bag is removed to be replaced and they are lower maintenance overall. Bagless vacuums have no cost for bags and they create less waste since bags will not need to be thrown out. Artificial filters will need to be cleaned and replaced from time to time. Canister emptying can cause allergies for employees and might also cause a mess if not done correctly.

Filter system

For ease of use and efficiency, a vacuum cleaner with an efficient filter system should be used, which will minimise clogging and be easy to keep clean. Certified High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters can collect the smallest particles, helping to maintain a high air quality in dust sensitive areas. These are very useful for businesses that need to ensure that every surface in every room is allergen-free.

Noise level

Low noise machines are becoming quite the norm now. For operator comfort and safety, and also for vacuuming in shops, hotels, hospitals and other public areas, low noise machines are a good choice.

Upright vacuums

Commercial upright vacuum cleaners differ in terms of number of motors and type of bags used to collect debris. Single-motor uprights are used largely in classrooms, lobby rooms, office space, hotel rooms and smaller areas that require quick cleaning. These machines are relatively lightweight so users can clean at a faster pace. It’s also easier to transfer single-motor uprights to and from cleaning carts or between rooms.Dual-motor uprights are used in areas that require a more thorough cleaning. Heavier than their single-motor counterparts, these models are frequently used to clean lobbies in hotels, schools and other areas with high amounts of foot traffic.Both types of uprights can be fitted with a high filtration bag for debris collection.

Backpack Vacuums

Cleaning spaces like cubicles, stairways, under furniture and other tight quarters calls for a more versatile machine. Backpack models are vacuums with a hose and wand that sucks debris, dust and dirt into the canister which is designed to fit on the users back, hips and shoulders. In this way, the repetitive back-and-forth motion of vacuuming with an upright is eliminated. Since this type is smaller and more maneuverable, users can navigate highly populated areas without disturbing passersby. For this reason, backpack vacuums are also frequently used to clean office spaces and education facilities.

Canister vacuums

Canister vacuums operate similarly to a backpack vacuum, but the user does not wear the machine on his or her back. Instead, the machine is fitted with wheels, allowing the user to easily pull it from one area to the next. Canister vacuums can clean a variety of surfaces, so they’re quite useful in facilities with multiple floor types. Because canister vacuums have small and maneuverable cleaning heads, they can easily clean under desks and furniture. They can also maneuver around obstacles and fit in tight spaces. An added bonus: canister vacs are usually quieter than upright versions, making them ideal for noise-sensitive environments like hospitals.

Wet and dry vacuums

Cleaning moisture and soiled areas from floors is most effective with a wet and dry vacuum. Capable of vacuuming wet and dry messes simultaneously, these systems also help speed up floor stripping and refinishing. Wet/dry vacuums are perfect for cleaning up construction and renovation sites, removing moisture from floors and carpets in schools, removing debris and particles from industrial settings and cleaning other heavy-duty jobs.

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