Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Watch out for your workhorse

September 19, 2010
Vacuum cleaners account for almost 20 percent of all equipment purchases made by facility service providers.

That number is (relatively) so high because vacuum cleaners are usually the professional cleaner’s most important tool.

Because they are important and the backbone of just about every cleaning operation, it is imperative for vacuums to remain in tip-top condition for as long as possible.

Not only will this keep the machines correctly operating — along with cleaning work being performed more productively and efficiently — but also a properly functioning vacuum cleaner is less likely to mar indoor air quality or damage floors and carpets.

Although backpack and canister vacuum models are becoming more common in commercial cleaning, the most frequently used vacuum cleaner is overwhelmingly still the upright.

Accordingly, most of the maintenance tips listed below will apply to an upright machine, while some will apply to all types of vacuum cleaners.

The un-connection
A common and potentially dangerous problem with vacuum cleaners is when the busy cleaning professional, in haste, may unplug the machine by pulling on the cord and not the plug itself.

Pulling on the cord instead of the plug can weaken the connections and possibly cause an electric short.

Most vacuum cleaners have specifically grounded plugs to protect the user, the machine, and the building. It is vital to always unplug the machine by its plug.

Better roller bars
Agitation is a major component of all cleaning work.

A vacuum cleaner’s roller bar — designed with bristles, with the proper denier and bristles per tuft — helps agitate and loosen soil from the carpet fibers.

Over time, these bars can become covered with threads and debris that hamper the effectiveness of the bar’s brushes.

Periodically check this area — with the vacuum cleaner off and turned upside down — by removing the housing that protects the beater bar.

How is the belt holding up?
An older vacuum cleaner’s drive belt may need to be changed every few months.

Follow the steps above to remove the beater bar and check the belt to see if it is worn or cracked. If it is worn, loosen the belt from the motor pulley, slide it off, and replace it.

Make sure the belt turns the beater bar in the correct direction so dust and debris are deposited into the machine.

Newer vacuum cleaners often have belts that are geared or have sprockets, which rarely wear out. These should be maintained according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Fine filters
The vacuum cleaner’s filters are very important.

Filters protect the machine’s motor and inner workings and exhaust filters prevent impurities from escaping the machine and becoming airborne.

On newer vacuum cleaner models, the filter can easily be removed.

To do so, remove the holding or access door and simply lift it out and check for any secondary filters.
The safest way to clean a filter is to vacuum it with another vacuum cleaner.

HEPA filters require special care and operators should follow manufacturer’s directions to avoid compromising the filter’s ability to function.

Vacuums with HEPA filters should be checked frequently to see if the filters are blocked by debris that can be removed manually. But when HEPA filters become clogged or “filled” they should be replaced and not washed or vacuumed unless the manufacturer’s directions specifically say they can be maintained in that fashion.

Bag care
Air-filtration bags must be frequently changed because if they become too full, the machine’s suction power will decrease.

Today’s newer, more advanced machines have indicator lights that inform the user when it is time to change the bag; otherwise, regularly check the bag.

Once the bag is three-quarters full, it is time for a new bag.

Some newer machines also have lever controls making bag changing easy while preventing impurities from being released in the changing process.

Pulling the lever out releases the bag. Then, attach the new bag and push the lever in to secure it.


Richard Sanchez is the owner/operator of AJ Janitorial in Santa Rosa, CA. He is also a maintenance supervisor for Kaiser Permanente Hospital, also in Santa Rosa.