Furniture and other upholstered items in a facility are cleaned from time to time, but many distributors believe cleaning is not being accomplished in a fashion which is effective. In fact, many custodians wipe the dirt off upholstered furniture, sending it airborne and allowing it to settle on other surfaces. Instead, custodial workers should vacuum furniture to remove and capture dust, as it is one of the best tools available to tackle these soft surfaces.

Dave Smetzer, sales manager at Capital Sanitary Supply Co. in Des Moines, Iowa, agrees and adds that cleaning vinyl or leather the wrong way can also leave scratches or wear down the material until it eventually tears. A backpack vacuum cleaner makes furniture cleaning easier and helps keep furniture from wearing out prematurely.

"This equipment is more efficient for vacuuming furniture, and with a utility belt, you can have a crevice tool and upholstery tool right there," says Hanson.

When vacuuming furniture, machine accessories allow workers access to hard-to-reach crevices, improving cleaning efficiencies. The tools are also longer than they once were, allowing cleaning professionals more versatility with the device.

Chris Portera, president of Ocean Janitorial Supply in Islip Terrace, N.Y., believes that regardless of the application, finding the right vacuum and pairing it with appropriate extension tools is important. He adds that the ideal piece of equipment will also have a reliable filtration system. Some commercial vacuums have up to three filters each — capturing more dirt and debris and preventing it from being redistributed into the air.  

Based on the application and what is being vacuumed, cleaners should review the benefits of using equipment with bags. Vacuums that feature a paper bag, versus a bagless design, increase the odds of not contaminating the air while debris is being removed.

When looking for the vacuum suitable for a particular job, experts recommend visiting The Carpet and Rug Institute. This organization rates machines of all types on the basis of soil removal, dust containment and surface appearance change.

"Understanding the capabilities of the equipment is going to tell you a lot," says Smetzer, who adds that the preference really is based on the individual need and what level of services a department is trying to attain.

Vacuum specifiers would also benefit from visiting the CleanLink or ISSA websites, both of which offer online buyer's guides, product recommendations and user reviews. Portera also notes that cleaning professionals can search there for videos and/or instructions regarding maintaining any type of building with fabric surfaces.

A Steamy Solution

In addition to vacuuming furniture and other soft surfaces, departments should investigate deep cleaning options. For that, Smetzer stresses the benefits of steam cleaning used in conjunction with vacuuming. The continuous-flow machines, he explains, leave less moisture by extracting more than 95 percent of the water and solution that is applied to the surface.

"It dries immediately, doesn't leave a residue and eliminates the potential for mold and mildew to grow," Smetzer adds.

Steve Hanson, president of and ISSA Certification Expert (I.C.E.), agrees that steam cleaning after vacuuming is a good application for high-touch and heavy-traffic areas. Steam cleaning is environmentally friendly and requires no chemicals. Similarly, training employees is a fairly easy task.

The initial investment to buy a steam machine, he adds, may run anywhere from $3,000 to $4,000 for a good commercial unit, but is well worth the benefits in the long run.

For information on vacuuming partition and cubical walls, click here.
For information on using vacuums to combat bed bugs, click here.

JENNIFER BRADLEY is a freelance writer based in East Troy, Wis.