As with any vacuum cleaner, regular maintenance and the right accessories are essential to getting the most out of canister vacuums.

“People may not be aware that if the canister is a bag-type vacuum that uses paper micro filters, it’s important to change them regularly,” says Rathey. “As filters load, they obstruct performance and actually make the vacuum heavier. Emptying the vacuum frequently is a good idea, and changing those filters will help your motors last longer and save departments money in the long term.”

Even a bagless or cyclonic canister has a final physical filter that needs to be cleaned and replaced, adds Rathey. Managers are encouraged to choose a canister that has undergone chamber-based filter testing. This kind of testing measures dust in a chamber while the vacuum is operating and detects all sources of escaping dust, such as dust kicked up by the beater brush, dust escaping the exhaust, and dust coming from gaps in the vacuum body.

And if the canister vacuum is going to be used on carpets, Rathey advises cleaning departments to use a beater brush.

“Some people buy a canister to clean carpets, but they don’t get the power head with the beater brush,” he says. “If you’re going to clean carpet with a canister, you need the rotating beater brush.”

Extension cords are another consideration that is often overlooked.

“Make sure you have an extension cord that plugs into the vacuum, rather than having it hardwired into the vacuum itself,” advises Griffin. “If the cord gets damaged, it’s an easy swap — otherwise you have to send it back to the repair shop.”

For safety, Rathey recommends picking an extension cord that’s easy to see.
“Make sure it’s properly rated, and get one that’s brightly colored because they can create a trip hazard — particularly with canisters because you may be a bit removed from the actual cord.”

Those who support the use of canister vacuums believe that with the right type of unit and proper training, custodians can become adept at maneuvering around obstacles and clean more efficiently than they could with other equipment options.

“If you use one every day, you can get good at it,” says Rathey. “Some of the negatives can be overcome by the positives. Canisters need a more thoughtful approach — things like mapping out your route, knowing how long your hoses are, and so forth.”

Although custodians can be resistant to change, Rathey believes that, in time, the canister will follow in the footsteps of the backpack.

“In the 1990s, getting people to use backpacks was like pulling teeth,” he notes. “We fought that, and then backpacks became popular. I think canisters are in the same league.” 

KASSANDRA KANIA is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Extending The Vacuum’s Reach