After the snowfalls of winter, heavy spring rains will cause flooding in homes, schools and businesses. Along the coasts, hurricane season brings the potential for standing water. While these are definitely worst-case scenarios, they are among the reason a facility needs a commercial wet/dry vacuum on hand. Other scenarios aren’t so extreme.

“If facilities have running water, they need a wet/dry vac,” says Randy Bowers, owner of Shreveport, La.-based SMS Distributions. “Any business that has the potential for a sink or toilet overflow, a broken water main, and a leaky water heater needs a wet/dry vac.”

He adds that it’s up to distributors to sell their clients on that fact.

“It’s Selling 101,” says Bowers. “It’s redundant to sell them the need after their building floods. You need to explain why a wet/dry vac is needed and show the ways it might be used. A wet/dry vac is not just for retracting moisture and water, it can also be used as an industrial or commercial vacuum.”

When people think of a commercial wet/dry vacuum they often come up with only basic uses, so Bowers says he likes to highlight some of the more creative applications for these machines.

Not only can wet/dry vacuums suck up water and pick up hard debris, these units also can be used to reach high spaces, remove cobwebs or vacuum window blinds. Some units can be converted into blowers by switching the hose from the suction side to the exhaust side to blow leaves and other debris from sidewalks. The machines can be used to vacuum wet entrance mats or pick up standing water to prevent slips and falls.

They might even be used to restore restroom floors, according to Jim Traudt, vice president of sales at Right Choice Janitorial Supply, Milwaukee.

“It is very hard to mop a floor clean,” he explains. “I cannot extract debris and soil from grout lines without a vacuum. You can use a wet/dry vac to flood the floor with water and chemicals, agitate it, and then vacuum up the water and dirt after you’re done.”

Differentiating Between Commercial and Retail Wet/dry Vacuums

A decent commercial wet/dry vacuum can run anywhere from $500 to $1,000 and that kind of price tag often prompts customers to consider running to the nearest big box store for retail units costing less than $100.

For this reason it’s also important to make comparisons between commercial and retail units part of the sales process, says Traudt.

Retail units are often significantly louder than commercial units; the tools are of less quality, too.  Retail offerings also fall short in durability when compared to commercial units, says Bowers.

“Typically wet/dry vacuums at big box retailers are not meant to stand the test of time. They have a lot of plastic components,” he says. “They are not made to withstand the abuse of a commercial, institutional or industrial environment.”

A distributor’s job doesn’t stop once the unit has been sold, says Traudt, noting it’s just as important to educate customers on proper maintenance.

“You’ve made sure you sold them the right unit but you also need to teach them how to clean and maintain it,” he says. “It’s common for them to leave the units in closets with water in them. They need to be taught that if they take it apart and let it air dry, they’re going to get much more use out of that machine.”

Taking the time to make sure customers purchase the right wet/dry vacuum for them and getting it into place before disaster strikes will keep clients happy and prepared for anything.

Ronnie Garrett is a freelance writer based in Fort Atkinson, Wis.