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Hard Floor Care

The Hard Reality Of Wet/Dry Vacuums

March 24, 2011
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No matter the size of the space, a high-performance wet/dry vacuum is a necessity in any maintenance arsenal to save and extend the life of the floor surface.

As in other vacuum technology, wet/drys have experienced substantial innovations in filtration, ergonomics and ease of use over the last few decades — and especially in the past year.

Filtration In A Wet World

A newly released three-layer fine dust cartridge filter designed for wet/dry vacuums can now capture everyday wet or dry debris plus drywall and sawdust particles.

This fine dust filter not only improves filtration, but is washable, reusable and clogs less than standard foam filters.

Because it''s easy to clean and maintain, this filter has a lower cost of ownership and a longer lifespan.

Internal paper filters can also be inserted in some wet/dry machines to collect dry debris and allow for easy disposal.

Water-resistant high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration wet/dry models are also now available and are appropriate for lead paint renovations under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency''s (EPA) Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule.

A multi-stage certified HEPA filtration system is 99.97 percent efficient at containing and filtering particulates as small as 0.3 microns in size.

In standard wet/dry vacuums, an automatic shutoff function stops water levels from reaching the motor.

However, foam often triggers this shutoff well before the actual water reaches a high level, causing constant interruptions.

To tackle this problem head-on, one vacuum company recently released a new innovation that looks like a metal mesh cage filter around the filtration unit.

This filter breaks down foam while protecting the motor from damage, so the shutoff feature only kicks in when actually needed.

Of course, filtration can only be as powerful as the suction allows, and suction comes down to the power of the motor.

Wet/dry vacuums require a bypass motor; commercial wet/dry vacuums should also feature a two-stage motor for advanced suction and lift.

Wet Comfort

Wet/dry vacuums have a reputation for being unwieldy and hard to use.

Lately, that assumption is being challenged by wet/dry design advancements made for mobility and ergonomic comfort.

For optimal mobility, first look for on-the-move portability.

To find the perfect portable wet/dry fit for hard floor care, begin by evaluating the needs and size of the space to be cleaned.

For small tasks or spaces, a 3-gallon or 4-gallon lithium-ion battery-powered wet/dry makes a great emergency cleanup tool.

For medium-sized tasks and spaces, a 10-gallon capacity is often ideal — versatile enough for big spills, yet compact for easy maneuvering.

For large-sized spaces and situations, a powerful, functional and more robust wet/dry is a must.

A 15-gallon or 20-gallon wet/dry is often ideal, allowing for advanced maneuverability and productivity.

Ergonomic handles and design features that eliminate the strain of bending down or repeated exertion also make a sizeable difference in worker comfort and speed.

For example, a foot pedal that releases and retracts the floor-mounted squeegee can save an employee from repetitive stress issues down the line.

Wet Productivity

Wheels make the wet/dry vacuum ride smoothly, especially on hard floor surfaces.

Soft-ride, swivel caster wheels make traversing with and turning a wet/dry much easier.

One company offers 15-gallon and 20-gallon wet/drys with two built-in variable swivel caster wheel patterns that allow for better maneuverability.

A maintenance worker can switch out one variation for the other with just a few simple tools and a few minutes.

One wheel configuration allows the swivel caster wheels to easily rotate the vacuum 360 degrees, while the other is more traditional and allows for ease of transportation and mobility over stairs and curbs.

With wet/dry vacuums, emptying out water and sludge is a key concern.

Sometimes, a worker will have a floor drain to empty into; at other times, only a slop sink or toilet will be available.

In larger units without adequate draining features, the hassle and weight of dirty water can cause a literal pain in the neck.

Look for wet/dry vacuums with draining versatility that allow for dumping the unit through either a bottom drain spout or an easy-to-attach drain hose.

In commercial spaces, hard floor surfaces are built to last; a wet/dry vacuum should help sustain and extend their lifespan.

So, look first for a wet/dry that''s built to perform — with indoor air quality, ergonomics and ease of use in mind.

Then, make sure to get a wet/dry that''s built to last with high-grade motors, commercial hoses and closures and an extended warranty.


Jessica Holmes is a freelance writer based in Boise, Idaho, and a public relations (PR) consultant for ProTeam Inc., the vacuum company.

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