Maintaining vacuum cleaners takes more than just an occasional glance at the machines that, for most building service contractors, are used daily in their operations. While not the most expensive piece of equipment a BSC uses, vacuums are one of the basic building blocks of a janitorial business, and investing in them means more than just money spent on the initial purchase. It means taking the time and effort to inspect vacuums on a regular basis. Proper maintenance can ensure a long life for these machines.

A number of parts and areas of a vacuum should be checked. Bags require constant maintenance and should be changed every day. Even if a bag is not full, daily emptying should be part of a streamlined maintenance procedure. Not only will vacuuming with a full bag make vacuuming itself ineffective and counterproductive, it can affect motor function. Daily changing of bags prevents clogs and keeps the machine running smoothly and more effectively. Filters should be changed or washed on a regular basis, perhaps weekly, depending on use.

Other parts need regular inspection, and a working knowledge of basic vacuum components helps. If there is a recovery tank, it should be emptied as often as possible. Failure to do so may result in detergent embedding in the tank walls, eventually growing mold. Brushes should not be worn down to more than half their length. At that point, they should be replaced. They should also be periodically cleaned with disinfectant, and checked for debris such as string or hair. The beater deserves attention, with debris being removed regularly. Belts should be inspected once a week; a telltale sign that belts are problematic is a burning smell, often triggered by a slipping belt. Attention should be paid to plugs and cords. It’s unsafe and an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violation to tape cords that have been damaged.

Damage can be further prevented with proper use of vacuums, as most damage is a result of workers trying to suck up things that should not be picked up. Large objects, metals and moisture can all limit a vacuum’s ability to function properly. The machines have their limits; for example, they should not be used on wet mats or to vacuum objects such as straws or cigar butts. Train employees so they know what debris the machine can and can’t handle.

Practicing proper vacuum maintenance provides a cleaner facility, protects the health of the operator and maintains the life of the vacuum.

Exerpted from the May 2007 issue of Contracting Profits and the April 2006 issue of Housekeeping Solutions.