Purchasing a Vacuum Cleaner

There are four main types of vacuum cleaners:

  • Uprights. These are the most common type of carpet vac. Typically, uprights clean a path 12 to 18 inches wide. The upright is fairly compact, so it is able to work in fairly tight areas. The quality of uprights varies widely, from inexpensive -- and almost disposable -- one-motor versions, to the sturdier two-motor models.
  • Wide area vacs. The wide-area vacuum resembles the upright, but it cleans a much broader workpath -- commonly 28 or 30 inches. The wide-area vac is used to clean an open area quickly. The disadvantage is that wide vacs are awkward in close quarters.
  • Two-piece vacs. These high-powered units are flexible in application. Since the operator cleans with a wand, they can be used in tight spaces. And with the right tools and attachments, the two-piece can also be used to clean sills, shelves, vents, and under desks and cubicles. They have the added advantage that, because most do not employ beater-brushes in the wand, they pose less danger to phone and computer cords.
  • Back-packs. These portable units do not have the cleaning power of uprights or two-pieces, but they allow for fast, highly mobile detail and touch-up cleaning between regular carpet vacuuming. They are also ideal for use in specific niche applications, like cleaning between rows of theater chairs.

Average Square Feet per Hour

Questions You Should Ask About Any Vacuum Cleaner

Which type of vacuum is right for you depends on the layout of the area to be cleaned, the hours your people can dedicate to cleaning, and whether the carpeted area is open or obstructed. Also, do you have specialized cleaning needs, such as cubicles, stairways, shelves, vents, windowsills, etc.

The three most important considerations are:

  • Total area. The more square footage you have to be cleaned at a given time, the more vacuums you will need. You may be able to calculate your carpeted area by counting the ceiling tiles above it. Most ceiling tiles are a foot and a half on each side.
  • Space configuration. Obstructed areas -- or areas with lots of specialty applications like stairwells or blinds -- require smaller, more flexible vacuums. But in unobstructed areas, larger vacuums are more economical because they are more productive.
  • Number of cleaning crews. A vacuum cannot operate in two places at once. If you employ two or more cleaning crews that work simultaneously -- for example, on different floors or in different buildings -- consider equipping each with its own machine.

Recommended Cleaning Area

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