Vacuuming, part of the daily cleaning regimen in many facilities, accounts for a substantial portion of employee time and labor. To make the most of equipment and the time spent vacuuming, manufacturers offer various tools and accessories that expand machines’ abilities beyond floor and carpet surfaces.

Attachments, tools, hoses and extensions give cleaning workers the option to vacuum cubicle walls, return ducts and vents, high areas, upholstery, and crevices, in addition to other areas. Many vacuums come with a core set of attachments. There are dusting brushes for small surface areas such as window sills, moldings and baseboards. Brush tools often are available with either horsehair or synthetic bristles. Horsehair is gentler on surfaces, but nylon tends to last longer.

Crevice tools pull dirt out of narrow and difficult-to-reach areas. Upholstery tools are designed to clean furniture, draperies and fabric surfaces. Extension wands allow for vacuuming with various attachments in overhead or out-of-reach spots.

Attachments are typically available in plastic or metal. Plastic attachments are generally less expensive, more durable and lighter weight than metal ones.

If building service contractors need specialty tools for their vacuums, companies are available that can custom design attachments.

To fully maximize a vacuum’s usefulness, BSCs may want to look beyond the core set of attachments. Floor tools are available with different types of brushes and blades to make vacuums suitable for cleaning hard-floor surfaces as an alternative to using mops and brooms. Using vacuums can help prevent dust and dirt from being pushed around and thrown into the air.

Brush tools “sweep” floor surfaces. Brushes consist of nylon, horsehair or tampico (made of organic plant fibers) bristles. Tampico bristles are stiffer than nylon or horsehair and provide better scrubbing performance. Nylon brushes can be used on most surfaces, but horsehair is best for finished wood.

Brushless floor tools have blades made of felt or fiber. Felt blades act like a dust mop on marble, hardwood and polished floors. Fiber blades are designed for rough and abrasive surfaces.

When using a wet/dry vacuum, squeegee attachments can help contain and move liquid. Squeegee blades come in a variety of materials: natural rubber, fabric, synthetic rubber, plastic and nitrile. Some squeegees have combination blades, front and back, that consist of different materials. For example, a squeegee with rubber-and-fabric combination blades works well on rough floor surfaces. Synthetic materials are better for resisting oils and solvents, and they withstand extreme temperatures. Nitrile is a synthetic rubber that is non-marking and is resistant to solvents, oil and abrasion.

When buying attachments, check with the vacuum manufacturer to make sure they are compatible with your machines.

Excerpted from the June 2005 issue of Housekeeping Solutions.