Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

CM/Spotlight: Floor Care — Increasing Productivity Is The Driving Force For Finding The Right Vacuum

September 19, 2010

Green cleaning is undeniably at the top of the list of what is important in today''s JanSan industry.

With data out the roof on the number of airborne allergens we breathe in daily, and the increasing costs associated with asthma and other allergies, finding the most effective ways to combat these very real issues is top priority.

As EPA data shows, indoor air pollutants that cause asthma and allergies are up to five times higher than outdoor levels.

Product Technology Keeps Us Safe

Therefore, maintaining a healthy level of indoor air quality (IAQ) is essential — especially considering that we can spend up to 90 percent of our time inside.

In all, asthma costs the U.S. $10 billion annually in direct health care costs and lost productivity.

To counter this expense, companies are looking to manufacturers of products that incorporate high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters into their machines.

This level of filtration is especially critical when it comes to vacuums, as cleaning with a high quality, well-sealed vacuum that has an effective filtration system, such as HEPA, is one of the most efficient ways to achieve optimum standards of indoor cleanliness and combat airborne diseases.

Tough Choices Call For Smart Selections

However, the need to clean deeper and more efficiently in today''s real world landscape is married to the need to do more with less.

Facilities managers are facing very real obstacles as budgets get cut and expectations for cleaning intensify.

As building occupants, concerned parents, maintenance workers and government agencies increase the standards for greener cleaning practices, managers and contractors must find ways to achieve a high-quality clean while cutting costs.

This dichotomy presents a real challenge to maintenance crews, but one that is being addressed with today''s cleaning equipment manufacturers.

Vacuums that incorporate a quality HEPA filter effectively rid indoor air of 99.97 percent of contaminants on surfaces down to 0.3 micron in size.

This deep level of cleaning goes beyond cleaning for appearance and helps create a certifiably healthy environment for building occupants and cleaning personnel.

But the vacuum should also — when incorporated into an effective cleaning system — save you time and money.

Increasing productivity has become just as important to the health of a company as achieving ideal IAQ.

The challenge here is that so many vacuum manufacturers claim to make products that increase productivity, so it''s hard to know which ones truly do provide significant long-term cost savings — while at the same time providing a certifiable deep clean.

Many factors contribute to cost-savings over time, some less obvious than others.

For instance, extending the life of your carpets and floor surfaces is a cost-savings that comes from using the right vacuum that causes less wear and tear as it cleans.

Make Long-term Decisions

In choosing the right vacuum, getting the most for your money should be more emphasized than the price tag.

To truly assess the long-term savings of your purchase, you almost have to start at the end and work your way back.

There are a multitude of studies out there to help determine which type of vacuum and what manufacturer is right for you.

According to an International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA) study, quality backpack vacuums clean up to 10,000 square feet per hour when using a cleaning system, compared with tank canister vacuums which time in at 2,500 square feet per hour and single-motor upright vacuums which time in at 2,857 square feet per hour.

The ease-of-use and ergonomic design of quality backpacks allow workers to vacuum more than twice the area in half the time.

This enormous increase in productivity takes less than half the energy and effort that it does to clean the same area with an upright.

As part of an effective Team Cleaning program, a quality backpack can increase productivity by up to 70 percent, all without adding staff.

In fact, one 100,000-square-foot facility saved more than $52,000 in one year after switching from single-motor uprights to backpack vacuums.

Other Options

But what if using a backpack vacuum isn''t practical for your cleaning needs?

Quality speed canister vacuums can produce the same deep clean while saving you ample time and money.

Look for speed canister vacuums made with the same durability, quality and performance as leading backpack vacuums.

These models should provide a sophisticated filtration system that keeps pollutants from leaving the machine — delivering equally improved IAQ.

Studies show that using a speed canister vacuum in a 5,000-square-foot facility can save an average of $2,112 a year in labor costs over using a traditional single-motor upright.

Day Cleaning has become a popular workplace practice as companies can save thousands of dollars a year on electricity by making cleaning part of workday hours.

Vacuums that allow the operator to switch to a quiet mode are perfect solutions for conquering dirt, noise and cost pollution in the workplace.

Such innovation makes these types of vacuums ideal tools for Day Cleaning.

Cordless backpacks can help increase productivity in rooms larger than a cord can reach and in places lacking power outlets, such as stairwells and elevators.

Also, having a cord stretched across a busy lobby for Spot Cleaning can not only be distracting, it can be dangerous.

Cords easily get hung up or wrapped around cubicle wall panels, furniture, industrial machinery and retail store display racks.

This can add time and tedium to a worker''s shift.

Quality cordless vacuums are capable of up 50 minutes of continuous runtime of effective cleaning.

Look for companies that meet the requirements of the U.S. Green Building Council''s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System.

The USGBC is a non-profit organization composed of leaders from across the building industry working to advance buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work.

To receive a credit in the LEED Green Cleaning: Sustainable Cleaning Equipment category, a vacuum must: Be certified by the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) "Green Label" Testing Program; be ergonomically designed to minimize vibration, noise and user fatigue; and operate with a sound level of less than 70 dB.

To qualify for CRI approval, manufacturers must meet the requirements for soil removal, dust containment and carpet appearance retention.

Some manufacturers provide other third-party testing results that measure both airflow rates and extraction levels.

Since there are so many choices of vacuums on the market, your vacuum of choice should adapt to the terrain it''s cleaning and should work with whatever cleaning system you have in place.

The cleaning staff should find them comfortable and easy to use.

The vacuum that will increase IAQ and productivity the most has a combination of high-powered suction, an exceptional filtration system, superior ergonomics and an extensive warranty on parts, labor and motor. Happy shopping!

Hollis Welsh is a Boise, Idaho-based freelance writer focused on the cleaning and facilities maintenance industry. Vacuums and innovations mentioned in this article are offered by ProTeam. ProTeam, the original innovator of the lightweight backpack vacuum, currently manufactures 19 different vacuums for all cleaning applications. With a three-year warranty on parts, labor and the motor, and a lifetime warranty on molded body parts, the long-term benefits of ProTeam vacuums are hard to beat. Learn more at