For nearly a year, the pandemic has forced an emphasis on disinfection, while tasks such as carpet care slid to the periphery. In reality, disinfection will only help so much if overlooked carpets in facilities play host to allergens, bacteria and pests.

As more facilities re-open — or at least begin the process — now is the ideal time to assess vacuum programs. Doing the legwork on the front end to select the ideal filters, attachments, training and protocols can prove pivotal to the health of employees and occupants.

To help facility managers determine their own optimal setup, Facility Cleaning Decisions contacted representatives from various industry manufacturers to get their perspective and advice. The following is a condensed version of our question and answer roundtable responses. To read the full responses, visit

Roundtable Respondents


Nikki Tollefson
Product Management Specialist — Commercial Vacuums
Tennant Company


Rich Steinberg
Vice President of Sales
St. Louis


Rachel Lego
Director of Marketing — Commercial
Hoover Commercial
Charlotte, North Carolina

What vacuum features are a must when focusing on improved indoor air quality?

Tollefson — Find a machine that offers High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filtration, which can more effectively trap fine particles that can trigger allergic reactions and asthma. Another thing to consider is the cord — or lack thereof. A cordless, battery-powered vacuum can help prevent trip-and-fall hazards and allow the operator to maneuver throughout the space. Vacuums powered by lithium-ion batteries offer maximum runtime and can reduce noise levels. 

Make sure the machine has a secure vacuum bag so what you vacuum up doesn’t escape. Also, think about the tools and attachments needed for the application. Wands can be helpful to get hard-to-reach areas. Lastly, think about your operators and consider lightweight and ergonomically designed equipment that can improve comfort and provide greater ease of use, increasing productivity.


Machines with Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) Seal of Approval indicate that the unit has passed stringent testing, measuring soil removal, water removal and retention of texture, providing a reliable overall performance. Ensure you’re using sustainable and environmentally friendly products by selecting a unit that qualifies through the U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED). 


Steinberg — Advanced, multi-level filters are a must when focusing on improving indoor air quality (IAQ) while vacuuming. Each filter level sifts out smaller and smaller particles. The first line of defense is usually a paper bag filter to help capture and contain the largest debris. For a vacuum to provide optimal cleaning power, all filters must be maintained properly and replaced regularly. High quality vacuum filtration systems can capture and contain many allergens, asthma triggers, and other harmful particles to occupants such as bacteria, pests, pollen and pet dander. 

What are the warning signs that a vacuum filter needs to be cleaned or replaced?

Lego — Keeping a maintenance schedule, changing bags, cleaning filters and following the manufacturer’s instructions are key to the overall performance of a vacuum. If there is a drop in performance on a machine, it is likely time to change the bag and/or filter. It’s simple to do a visual check on the fill level of the bag or cleanliness of the filter. We recommend having an extra set of filters on hand so there is no downtime after rinsing a cleanable filter and letting it dry. 

Steinberg — Check filters before and after each use to determine whether they need to be emptied, cleaned or replaced. Clogged or dirty filters will reduce airflow and result in poor suction and/or overheating. A reduced suction or an audible difference in power, it’s a good indicator to check the filter. 

Tollefson — It is important to replace the HEPA filters approximately every six months, as cleaning performance (particle pick-up) will degrade when a bag is full.

How important is training on the correct use and maintenance of vacuums?

Steinberg — As the environment determines frequency of filter maintenance, keeping a maintenance log can help track filter replacements. Some vacuum filters are open-collared, making them easy to empty and reuse several times; though, they should be replaced once pores become clogged. Many manufacturers have training materials on their website and tutorial videos to help maintain the vacuum’s performance.

Lego — Proper maintenance is critical for top performance, and that is where strong training comes into play. For example, if staff are using a HEPA filtration bag, but not changing the bag appropriately, the vacuum will not perform to spec, which will eventually damage the machine.

In what environments are HEPA filters the best option, compared to other conventional options such as cartridge, cloth, or disk filters?

Steinberg — As facility cleaning managers become increasingly interested in IAQ, many look to HEPA filters as a solution. HEPA filters are still used for sensitive clean-up projects or to maintain “clean room” environments in the technological, pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. For everyday use, however, the difference between high-efficiency micro filters and HEPA filters can be very slight, while the cost difference can be dramatic. High-efficiency micro filters, especially when used in a multi-stage filtration system, can filter up to 99.9 percent of particles one micron or larger, which covers dust mites, industrial dust, pollen, pet dander, mold and even a majority of yeast and bacteria. HEPA filters remove a minimum of 99.97 percent of particles 0.3 microns or larger, which can include smoke and carbon. However, if the HEPA filtration media isn’t properly sealed (true HEPA-sealed) or disposed of, it won’t offer the added benefits people expect.

Lego — In today’s environment, using HEPA filtration across any setting is a good investment for better air quality. When needed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) specifically recommends the use of a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter for cleaning facilities after COVID exposure. Whether the HEPA is intrinsic to the bag, or the machine has separate filtration systems, that extra level of clean is now more appreciated than ever.

Many facilities are ramping up day cleaning programs. What should facility managers consider in vacuums intended for use around building occupants?

Tollefson — High quality machines with strong performance clean on the first pass and reduce rework for the staff, saving time and money. Deploying machines with ergonomic designs can also improve operator comfort and provide greater ease of use. Machines that operate at low decibels are good for your customers, your team, your business and the environment. 

Finally, look for a manufacturer that can help you deliver consistency to all your locations and have equipment specialists who are knowledgeable about your business. The right specialist can help make these decisions by performing a site survey and leveraging their expertise, offering time-saving innovations, environmentally-friendly products and budget-friendly solutions.


Lego — There are a few things to consider with the introduction of day cleaning programs. First, managers must consider whether or not they are introducing a slip, trip and fall hazard to workers and occupants by dragging cords across a cleaning site. This hazard can be avoided by using cordless cleaning equipment, a feature that can also improve productivity. The second consideration is noise level, so make sure to choose a machine rated at 70 decibels or fewer.

Steinberg — Day cleaning helps put a face on cleaning and gives occupants peace of mind that the facility is being cleaned. We've heard that many people are less annoyed with day cleaning than ever before because they want to make sure their building is as clean as possible during the pandemic. Using a cordless backpack vacuum can prevent tripping hazards associated with a power cord.

How does quality carpet care contribute to improving health in a facility?

Tollefson — Vacuuming can help carpets not only look neat and clean, but also help promote a healthy and safe environment. In addition to using HEPA filters, reducing the amount of chemicals helps limit the chemical smell and creates a more pleasant environment. Advancements in microfiber technology used in carpet cleaning results in rapid drying that leaves carpets clean, dry and ready to use in fewer than 30 minutes; using less water and reducing the potential for mold and odors — creating a cleaner, healthier space for building occupants. 

How does vacuuming frequency contribute to overall infection control programs?

Steinberg — There has been an ongoing debate over vacuuming associated with “cleaning for health” and “cleaning for appearance.” With the new environment that the cleaning workers must work in, cleaning for health associated with vacuuming takes on an entirely elevated focus. Skip-cleaning and only vacuuming high traffic areas will not meet the new cleaning demands of today. 

When cleaning for health, the building needs to be vacuumed with a mindset to control dust and debris. This means vacuuming all areas with high-efficiency vacuums that feature a high level of filtration, which will ensure the building is ready for sanitizing and disinfecting. Infection control programs are less effective if the building is not clean and the dust and debris is not removed from the facility.


Do you have any other recommendations for facility managers as it pertains to vacuums, general carpet care or maintaining healthy indoor air quality?

Tollefson — The maintenance of soft floor coverings like carpet requires a reasonable and methodical schedule of a variety of cleaning techniques. Vacuuming can help carpets look neat and clean. However, over-vacuuming an area can create wear and tear on the carpet fibers. By keeping a reasonable schedule of vacuuming tailored to the needs — for example low traffic areas once a week and high traffic areas every day — departments can create the ideal balance between the life of the carpet and the cleanliness and attractiveness of the building. 

Vacuuming alone isn’t enough, though. A rapid-dry carpet cleaning is a great way to keep your carpets looking well cared-for between the deep-clean of a restorative carpet cleaning. How often interim cleaning is needed will depend on the wear the carpet sees on a day-to-day basis, but it will generally be from three to six weeks.


Steinberg — In this industry, many clean for appearance alone, ignoring microscopic particles that can harm health. When buildings are cleaned for health, occupant physical and mental well-being improve. Make sure to choose a vacuum with high filtration, is ergonomically designed and provides the best productivity the facility requires.