The third part of this three-part article details vacuum upkeep and maintenance training.

Although not the most expensive piece of equipment in the janitorial closet, vacuums are said to be the tool cleaners most abuse. Cleaners may bump them into walls, run over the cords, fail to change the filters and more, all of which can contribute to problems later.

“The No. 1 piece of equipment that is sold is vacuum cleaners,” says Tishko, noting they are often replaced more often than necessary.

The most overlooked piece of maintenance on a vacuum is actually the easiest: changing the filters.
“The rule of thumb on two-motor uprights is to change the filter every 10 bags, but most of the time they’re being changed every 75 bags,” says Tishko. “Dirty filters make the machine bog down.”

When a vacuum filter isn’t changed regularly, it can cause damage to the circuit board and motor.

Cleaners should also pay attention to the beater bar, the spinning brush underneath the vacuum that brushes dirt out of carpets. Cleaners can use scissors or their hands to remove anything wrapped around or caught in the brush. They should pay special attention to the ends near the bearings and the area where the belt engages. Failing to do so regularly can lead to strain on the belt drive or damage to the belt itself.

It’s also important to pay attention to the vacuum cords. Tishko recommends checking them daily. Replacing a cord might cost $85 in labor and up to $130 for the new part.
“If you have a $400 two-motor upright, you’re looking at almost 50 percent of the product cost just to replace the cord,” he says.

Improper storage most often contributes to fraying, kinks and other damage to the cord. Workers often wind up the cords haphazardly instead of taking the time to wind the cord properly, says Tishko. This puts kinks in the wires, and over time the cord needs to be replaced. Employees also tend to aggressively pull the cord out of the socket. They should be taught that this causes damage over time.

“You have employees, who when finished with the equipment, won’t go to the wall to unplug it. They will put on the cord. Or they will just drape the cord around the equipment instead of properly winding it up,” says Okoro. “Initially there is no wear and tear, but over time there will be.”

The easiest and most efficient way to maintain a vacuum is to check it over at the end of every shift. Check the beater bar and cord, empty bags, change filters if needed, check the hoses for blockages, and wipe the machine down. Doing so ensures that the vacuum will be ready for the next day.

Proper machine operation and preventative maintenance training can extend the life of floor and carpet care machines, says Okoro.

“If someone is properly trained, they know how to maintain the equipment,” he says. “The workers know that X, Y and Z must be performed at the end of their shifts, and your supervisors should be the second eye that makes sure these tasks are done.”

Many manufacturers and distributors offer equipment training, often at no charge. BSCs should also read equipment manuals and make sure all employees read them as well.

Ultimately, however, proper machine maintenance starts at the top, says Okoro. He recommends supervisors regularly check the equipment after workers finish with it. If preventative maintenance hasn’t been performed, it’s important to remind workers. Tell them, “You forgot to remove the water,” or, “You didn’t wind the vacuum cord properly.”

“Regardless of the training workers receive, at the end of the day it comes down to the management of the company,” says Okoro. “If the top is functioning properly, so are the employees.”

And so is the equipment.

Ronnie Garrett is a freelance writer based in Fort Atkinson, Wis. She is a frequent contributor to Contracting Profits.

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Autoscrubber, Buffer and Battery Maintenance Tips