Upright, backpack, canister — these are some the vacuum choices that confront building service contractors every day. Each model has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, so BSCs will need to weigh the pros and cons before making a decision as to which style to buy.

The most common vacuum style is the upright. Upright vacuums are best used if cleaning carpeted surfaces because the machines feature an agitator or a beater bar that can help loosen deeply embedded dirt. This type of vacuum is a good choice for cleaning areas such as offices, conference rooms, lobbies, vestibules and break areas.

However, upright vacuums are heavy machines. Cleaning workers must be able to lift the vacuum off a cleaning cart, over thresholds, and up and down stairs. Plus, they have to push the machine up and down hallways, in large entryways, or around offices. Lifting and pushing a vacuum all day, especially one that isn’t lightweight, can cause injuries.

A different vacuum option growing in popularity is the backpack vacuum. Backpack vacuums are worn on the back (or sometimes the hip) with a harness and feature a body with a hose and wand. They provide the greatest amount of mobility among vacuums and are well-suited for cleaning hard floors, cubicles, classrooms, dining rooms, edging and hard-to-reach areas. One drawback, however, is they only clean with a floor nozzle, which may not be as effective in loosening dirt from carpets as an upright’s revolving brush.

Backpacks are often used in team cleaning programs. In team cleaning, a four-member team is comprised of a light-duty specialist, a vacuum specialist, a restroom specialist and an utilities specialist. The vacuum specialist follows behind the light-duty specialist and vacuums high traffic areas as well as furniture and underneath office waste receptacles. A vacuum that allows the user maneuverability is needed to accomplish these tasks.

Backpack vacuums are also growing in popularity as they become cordless. Many manufacturers are developing battery-powered machines that are useful for cleaning stairwells and other places without outlets.

A third option is a canister vacuum. Canister vacuums feature a wand and long hose, with a power head in some cases, connected to a body on wheels. They have high vacuuming power and carry large-capacity bags. Canister vacuums work well for cleaning hard, non-carpeted surfaces. However, since these vacuums can be heavy and difficult to move around impediments such as furniture, columns, and other large objects, they are better suited for small areas.

BSCs should be able to find all three models at prices and performance levels they desire. Choosing the right style of vacuuming will be based on the types of accounts BSCs service and the staff that cleans them.

Excerpted from the September 2004 issue of Housekeeping Solutions and the April 2005 issue of Sanitary Maintenance.