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In spite of the rise of new vacuum innovations and technologies, the pandemic presented many challenges to the cleaning industry. One positive, however, is the focus on cleaning for health. In flooring, that meant some design changes that will ultimately impact vacuuming schedules.  

“Overall, less carpet is being installed,” says Brady. “LVT is being put down instead.”  

The move to Luxury Vinyl Tile, or LVT, could cut down on the need to vacuum. Distributors stress that the floor will still require cleaning, but using a vacuum with a beater bar will eventually damage the surface. In these cases, backpack vacuums that skip the beater bar and focus on suction are the best suggestion for end users. 

Still sometimes only carpet will do. The material creates a warm, homey environment and its acoustic properties help dampen excess noise.  

“Some hotels moved away from carpet,” says Schneringer. “Yes, the floor is easier to clean but guests say it feels too institutional.” 

Carpet tiles also continue to be a popular choice, particularly in areas that receive heavy foot traffic, like entryways and lobbies.  

“If something is spilled on regular carpet, the cleaning staff must stop everything and take care of it. Sometimes you don’t know about a spill right away and then it takes a lot of effort to remove,” says Allen. “With carpet tile, it is not as urgent to clean every last spot because the tiles can be replaced, if needed.” 

Training Importance Remains 

Regardless of the flooring that is used or the cleaning program that’s in place, training is one of the best things a jan/san distributor can offer when it comes to getting the most out of a vacuuming program. Even the best, most efficient, state-of-the-art equipment cannot stand up to custodial resistance.  

One great example of this is the widespread transition from upright vacuums to backpacks.  

“It’s a fight — and yes, the correct word is fight — to get people to give up their upright for a backpack unit,” says Allen. “They think it will immediately lead to back problems.” 

Allen strongly suggests fighting this misconception with training on proper fit and usage, noting that an upright vacuum requires pushing and pulling while bending at a 20-degree angle. Meanwhile, he clarifies that vacuuming correctly with a backpack unit means the user is standing up straight and only moving the wand, which weighs about a half-pound. 

Training can also help ease custodians’ worry about other technology like wide area vacuums. At 28 to 30 inches wide, compared to 12 to 14 inches for a typical unit, people may be intimidated by the size of this equipment. But the machines are designed for easy use.  

“I had a client ask for lighter brooms and dustpans because staff were sweeping large expanses of carpet and their forearms were hurting,” recalls Schneringer. “They had wide area vacuums but were afraid to use them.” 

A good vacuum training program should also address maintenance.  

“I’ve seen clogged hoses, bent handles, dented front ends, and brushes that have so much hair wound around them you could open a toupee shop,” says Allen. “About 15 to 30 minutes of weekly maintenance is all it takes to keep the equipment working well.” 

While vacuums and carpet care may play second fiddle to touchpoint disinfection for the foreseeable future, it’s important that facility managers are aware of the air quality, ergonomic and efficiency benefits of proper carpet care research and equipment. As consultants in addition to providers, distributors can strengthen customer relationships by communicating these points correctly. 

Amy Milshtein is a freelancer based in Portland, Oregon. She is a frequent contributor to Sanitary Maintenance.  

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