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

“Concerned with the daily costs of vacuuming, people like having the ability to do more with the vacuum than just clean walking surfaces,” says Bob Gorsky, market development manager for Windsor, a division of CastleRock Industries.

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 like 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.

Manufacturers offer kits specifically designed for overhead cleaning that include extra-long wands (49-60 feet).

Cleaning managers, especially in retail buildings, look for longer wands or wand extensions for cleaning exposed pipes and vents.

“It’s a risk-avoidance issue,” says Bob Daniels, vice president of marketing, NSS Enterprises. “They want to be able to clean high up, but stay on the ground.”

Curved wands can reach around piping and other obstructions. Pipe-cleaning kits include attachments for vacuuming dust and dirt from various sizes of overhead pipes (1-8 inches). Kits also are available with stair- and wall-cleaning tools.

Hard-floor vacuuming
Cleaning managers also look for vacuum tools that clean hard-floor surfaces because vacuums perform better and are faster than mopping. Vacuums also prevent dust and dirt from being pushed around and thrown into the air.

Daniels says more and more cleaning managers are requesting tools that make vacuums more suitable for vacuuming hard-floor surfaces. Floor tools are available with different types of brushes and blades for various applications.

“They might have a fiber front side and a nylon bristle in the back, which provides agitation for dirtier polished floors or a rougher warehouse floor,” he says.

Brushes consist of nylon, horsehair or tampico (made of organic plant fibers) bristles. Brush tools “sweep” floor surfaces, while felt or fiber blades act more like dust mops.

“Some brushes are stiffer than others,” says Scott Whitley, vice president of sales for United Electric. “If you have a lot of built-up debris, you want a stiffer brush.”

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 (laminated cellulose paper). Felt blades act like a dust mop on marble, hardwood and polished floors. Fiber blades are designed for rough and abrasive surfaces.

Liquid pick-up
When using a wet/dry vacuum, squeegees 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.

“Natural rubber is usually more flexible and non-marking,” Whitley says.

Synthetic materials are better for resisting oils and solvents, and they withstand extreme temperatures. Nitrile is an expensive synthetic rubber that is non-marking and is resistant to solvents, oil and abrasion.

Check before you buy
“A lot of times, people buy just to buy and don’t consider what their needs are,” says Keith Willey, marketing manager for Clarke.

The following checklist provides steps for selecting the correct vacuum attachments for the vacuum and facility:

  • Application. What type of surface will you be cleaning? Will there be liquid or oil cleanup involved? Do you need extensions for extra reach or overhead capability?

  • Compatibility. What type of equipment are you connecting to the tool? How does the attachment attach to the wand? What size does the attachment need to be in order to fit the equipment?

  • Materials. Plastic vacuum cleaner tools and attachments are typically less expensive and lighter weight than metal tools. Plastic also is more durable than metal. Do you want a gentle brush or a more abrasive brush?

Finally, double-check with the vacuum manufacturer to make sure the attachment will work with your machines.

Tools That Protect

One accessory for vacuums is designed to protect facility surfaces and furniture by cushioning the bumps and blows caused by vacuums during use.

Facility protection covers, made of a cordoura fabric cover over high-density foam rubber, are designed to protect surfaces, as well as vacuums, from scuffs and scratches.

“[The covers] keep vacuums looking new,” says Jim Matthews, president of SoftVac.

Property managers of office buildings and tenants appreciate the use of vacuum covers because they prevent vacuum damage to furniture and wall surfaces.

“Our largest customer is the hospitality industry,” Matthews says. “Because of the damage the cover prevents, it reduces operations costs and replacement costs.”