Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

How Did We Live Without It?

August 17, 2012

There is a piece of equipment that many cleaning professionals do not own.

But, once they have one, they wonder how they ever made it without one.

We''re talking about professional wet/dry vacuum cleaners.

For some reason, many cleaning professionals believe wet/dry vacuums are mainly used in restoration or disaster relief cleaning, possibly after a flood or fire.

However, they can help perform a variety of tasks, making the job of cleaning and maintenance easier, quicker and more thorough.

As the name implies, wet/dry vacuums are designed to vacuum up both dry soil and liquids from all types of surfaces including carpets, upholstery and hard surface flooring.

Cleaning professionals who do have a wet/dry vacuum typically made the initial purchase to perform floor cleaning tasks.

Used to vacuum up stripper solution and soils as well as rinse water, wet/dry vacuums can considerably speed up floor refinishing.

Usually, these professional machines are tubular and have an upright or dolly design.

Unlike retail store-style wet/dry vacuums, which tend to be smaller and less powerful, professional wet/dry vacuums are generally available in five-gallon, 15-gallon and 20-gallon sizes; some feature dual vacuum motors to help boost performance and minimize the possibility of debris getting clogged in the machine''s hose.

Further, some professional vacuums come with a variety of wand attachments.

Many of these attachments are similar to those used with a canister-type vacuum cleaner, while others are specifically made for wet/dry vacuums.

However, all have a purpose and are designed to tackle a number of cleaning jobs.

These attachments should include:

  • Squeegee tool or a front-mount squeegee kit for fast recovery of water
  • Hard floor tool
  • Crevice tool
  • Rug cleaning tool
  • Dust brush.
The hoses on a professional wet/dry vacuum are typically seven to 10 feet long.

More advanced machines will have a swivel connector on top, allowing the hose to be turned a full 360 degrees, which gives the user greater flexibility, improving worker productivity.

Water And Electricity

Safety is a concern that often arises for those considering a wet/dry vacuum because an electric motor is being used to recover water.

Users worry that the motor or electrical components will somehow come in contact with the water, causing a serious safety hazard.

No liquids come in contact with the vacuum''s electrical components during its operation.

Instead, the vacuum motor creates a powerful airstream that recovers water and debris through the hose and into the machine.

Once in the machine, the air enters a chamber where the airstream slows down.

This reduction in speed loosens the air''s grip on the moisture and soil, allowing it to fall into the recovery tank below.

These systems perform by moving large amounts of air quickly, so wet/dry vacuums with multi-stage vacuum filtration are recommended.

Multi-stage vacuum systems can help filter the air so that contaminants are less likely to be released from the exhaust, becoming airborne and potentially harming indoor air quality.

Safely Using A Wet/Dry Vacuum

Earlier, I mentioned that some of the attachments on a wet/dry vacuum are similar to those on a typical canister vacuum cleaner.

Because of this, many users new to wet/dry vacuums use the system as if it were a canister, pulling the machine along with its hose.

This should be avoided.

Commercial wet dry/vacuums are larger and heavier than canister vacuums; pulling a machine with its hose can damage the hose and possibly tip over the machine, causing a spill.

Do not use a wet/dry vacuum cleaner to pick up flammable or combustible items such as gasoline.

A wet/dry vacuum should also not be used to vacuum up lead paint debris, unless using a specialty wet/vacuum system designed to recover lead paint debris.

Within the manual, the manufacturer will likely list a number of safety rules and precautions that should be read and heeded.

When the dry vacuuming is completed, the machine''s dry paper filter should be cleaned or replaced.

Usually, all that is necessary is to shake the bag — preferably outside — to loosen and remove soils and particulates.

The machine should also be emptied and rinsed out if used for wet vacuuming.

Solution and soils should never be left in the machine while it is in storage.

Emptying a wet/dry vacuum has not always been an easy task because some older machines are bulky and can become heavy with use.

However, newer systems have "tip-and-pour" dolly designs, allowing the machine to be safely tipped on its frame so that both wet and dry soils can be removed relatively easily.

A final step that is often forgotten, but will help keep the vacuum in tip-top running order, is to let it run for a few minutes after use before putting it away.

This helps remove any remaining moisture from the tank or hose and ensures the machine is dry and ready to go whenever and wherever it is called next.


Mike Englund has more than 30 years of experience in the professional cleaning industry. He is a trainer and product manager for Powr-Flite, a leading manufacturer of professional cleaning equipment, including wet/dry vacuums.