Dan Carr

By: Dan Carr on November 12th, 2020

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Vacuum Buying Guide: How to Choose the Best Vacuum For Carpet

Commercial carpeting is popular in many facilities because of its ability to hide dirt and soils. Unfortunately, this same quality makes carpet hard to clean, unless you have the right commercial vacuum cleaner. 

Every commercial vacuum is uniquely equipped to tackle different surface cleaning challenges. The best vacuum for deep cleaning commercial carpeting will require different features than the vacuum that cleans your hard flooring. 

How do you choose the best vacuum cleaner for carpets? 

There are 7 key factors that you should evaluate your vacuum against. 

Below, we’ll review what you should be looking for when searching for the best vacuum for carpet. 

1. Vacuum Type 

The first step in narrowing down the best commercial vacuum is identifying the right type. There are five types of commercial vacuum cleaners:

  1. Handheld Duster Vacuum Cleaners
  2. Canister Vacuum Cleaners
  3. Upright Vacuum Cleaners
  4. Backpack Vacuum Cleaners
  5. Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaners

While canister vacuums are generally accepted for daily vacuuming of carpeted floors, we find backpack and upright vacuums most effective for cleaning carpets. 

Canisters typically have long hoses and bulky bodies that easily get in the way. Unlike with canisters, backpack vacuums allow you to carry the vacuum wherever you go, eliminating the risk of knocking into furniture. Backpack vacuums are the most productive. When compared to upright models, backpack vacuums can boost productivity by as much as 230%. 

Upright vacuums offer the strongest dirt removal on carpets. In many instances, they have a brush roll that can reach deep into the carpet pile to help extract dirt. 

When choosing an upright you will need to choose which has the right cleaning capacity and strength for your facility.

Cleaning capacity refers to the cleaning path and filter bag size, while strength will be determined by the vacuum’s static lift and airflow, all of which we will get into later. 

2. Power Source

Yellow CordLike most industrial cleaning equipment, vacuums can be either battery operated or electric. 

Battery powered or cordless vacuums will provide your janitorial team with the greatest productivity. 

This is because your cleaning staff will not have to worry about managing the cord. Cordless machines give the operator freedom of motion.

They are free to move beyond the length of a typical cord, and they do not have to stay within reach of an outlet at all times.

3. Cleaning Capacity

The most common size cleaning path for a vacuum is 14 inches but for larger areas, there are vacuums with paths as large as 28 inches. 

We recommend choosing a vacuum based on the size of the area you are cleaning. However, you must take into consideration what obstacles are in the area. 

Trying to vacuum an open area that is 10,000 square feet will require a different vacuum than the same size area that is filled with desks or other furniture. Meaning, using a large upright with a 28 inch cleaning path might seem like it will cover more space in a shorter amount of time because of its size, but if you are trying to use this machine in a dense area it will actually be less productive. Your staff will likely struggle to maneuver the machine in the area and spend more time adjusting tables or furniture to avoid damage. 

For areas with a lot of furniture or objects, a vacuum with a smaller cleaning path will actually be more efficient. With this in mind, you may require more than one commercial vacuum for your building. 

Vacuums can be purchased with different filter bag sizes. However, similar to the cleaning path of a vacuum, there are a range of available sizes. 

For example, the ProTeam Super Coach Pro is available for purchase with either a 6 quart or 10 quart paper filter bag. 

The larger the vacuum’s filter bag the more your staff will be able to vacuum before having to stop and empty the bag. Decreasing the number of times your staff have to empty the filter bag allows them to cover more area during a shift. This ultimately boosts cleaning productivity so your staff can complete other higher priority cleaning tasks, helping to lower labor costs. 

4. Brush Type

The best vacuum head or brush type for your carpeted floors will depend on the vacuum type you are interested in. As we mentioned above, we recommend either upright or backpack models for carpet. 

If you are interested in an upright vacuum, look for a machine that has a brush roller. MA30 13B brush removal crop

Brush rollers are sometimes referred to as a beater bar. 

The bristles on brush rollers are stiff and designed to agitate and loosen dirt, making it easier for the vacuum to pick up soils from deep within carpet fibers.

If you have carpet pile of different heights, it will be important to look for a vacuum that has an adjustable beater bar. 

More advanced machines will be equipped with a brush roller that automatically adjusts to the height of the flooring. 

There are no beater bars on backpack vacuums. To achieve a similar level of clean with backpack vacuum, you must choose a model that has high air flow and strong lift to ensure they are removing as much soil as possible. Backpack vacuums require more lift to pull dirt from the carpet because they do not have the agitation a beater bar provides to extract dirt from the carpet pile.

To determine the level of soil which your vacuum removes look for third-party certifications which test the vacuum against soil removal standards. One of the most common third-party certification programs is the Carpet and Rug Institute® (CRI). 

CRI® grades a vacuum's ability to remove soil on three levels: bronze, silver, or gold. Gold is the highest level, ensuring that the greatest amount of soil is removed. 

5. Specialized Attachments 

Many facilities use their vacuum to clean more than just carpets. You may need to tackle other soft surfaces such as drapes, furniture, or high dusting. ProTeam Super Coach Pro 10 10 qt. Backpack Vacuum with Xover Multi-Surface Two-Piece Wand Tool Kit

If this is the case, it might make sense to look for a commercial vacuum that either comes with, or can be paired with specialized attachments for these unique surfaces. 

Otherwise, you may need to purchase an additional vacuum, like a handheld duster or similar cleaning machine. 

With the ability to pair your machine with unique attachments, your cleaning team won't have to switch between multiple machines. Your staff can enjoy improved productivity by allowing them the flexibility to quickly and easily vacuum these hard-to-reach or unique soft surfaces. 

6. Static Lift and Air Flow 

Vacuums use suction, which is a combination of airflow and static lift, to remove soils from carpeting. To effectively remove soils from carpeting, your vacuums will need balanced static lift and air flow. 

What is static lift and air flow? 

Static lift and airflow work together. Static lift removes the soil from the surface and airflow helps the dirt and debris travel down the vacuum hose to the filter bag. Static lift measures the strength, or how much soil the vacuum can pull from the surface. The higher the static lift, the more dirt, and debris the vacuum will be able to remove. Static lift is typically between 60 and 100 inches.

Airflow is the amount of air the vacuum moves through the hose per minute. This feature is what moves the dirt and soils through the vacuum hose to the filter bag. Airflow generally ranges between 95 and 150 CFM.

7. Filtration System

When removing particles from the carpet, you are pulling out dust, dander, and other soils which, if left in the air, can lead to poor indoor air quality (IAQ). VP600_HEPA filter

The right filtration system can help limit the amount of soils left lingering or released back into the air.

We recommend commercial vacuums that are equipped with HEPA filters or equivalent filtration systems. 

HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters are able to trap 99.97% of particles that are 0.3 microns or larger. HEPA filters prevent contaminants and other impurities from being released back into the air flow. 

Lowering the amount of impurities in the air will improve indoor air quality (IAQ).


Final Thoughts 

Keeping your carpets clean is important to maintaining the appearance of your facility, extending the life of your commercial carpet, and preserving the health of your building occupants. 

We recommend the use of either a backpack or upright vacuum on commercial carpeted flooring. 

Uprights typically have brush rollers which can help remove soils from deep in the carpet fibers. If you opt for a backpack vacuum, make sure it has high lift and airflow to make up for the lack of agitation provided by the beater bar. 

It will be important to look for a vacuum with good static lift and air flow as well as HEPA filtration to limit the amount of particles that can escape the vacuum. Limiting pathogens and particles in the air will improve IAQ which is key to providing your building occupants with a safe and healthy environment. 

Both upright and backpack vacuums can be paired with specialized attachments that make them versatile so your staff can get more work done. 

EBP has been the leading provider of commercial cleaning products and janitorial cleaning equipment for over 100 years. 

EBP has an unrivaled selection of commercial cleaning products and janitorial cleaning equipment to help you build the most effective carpet care program. Our team is ready to help you choose the best equipment for your floor care program. 

Our Equipment Specialists are available to help you identify the best vacuum for your needs. Visit our equipment page to learn more about our equipment offering, request pricing info, demo some of our best carpeted floor vacuums, and more.

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About Dan Carr

Dan Carr is the Equipment Program Manager for EBP Supply Solutions and a Trainer for the EBP Training Academy, which offers CMI-certified and other training courses for supervisory and front-line cleaning professionals throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. He holds the ISSA CMI Basic certification and has over 35 years of experience in the janitorial and sanitation industry.