Vacuum Cleaners

Today the commercial and industrial users have got a wider choice of cleaning equipment available in the market. In the recent times fairly large number of companies has ventured in the business of manufacturing & trading international brands of vacuum cleaners.

The 80s witnessed a revolution in the terms of mechanisation of cleaning. Today, it has become a competitive alternative to manual cleaning, and has become the most widely used method. There are several reasons for this, including the change in the economical climate plus there is better technical backing that supports existing methods.

Ideally a vacuum cleaner is the most effective and efficient cleaning equipment, reducing the time and effort required for periodic cleaning. It is dependable; need lesser amount of maintenance. Before making a right choice one must ascertain what a vacuum cleaner includes and how it works.

Despite the fact that vacuum cleaners have been around in the country since the early sixties, the concept took off widely in the last few years only.

A vacuum cleaner has essentially the following parts:

  • A nozzle (an accessory item such as a floor brush, crevice nozzle, etc.)
  • A set of flexible hose and extension wands (rigid pipes) to connect the nozzle with vacuum cleaner and provide a comfortable handle to the operator.
  • The main unit of the vacuum cleaner comprises the container in which the dirt and debris are collected, a separation device or devices - like cyclone pre-filter     and/or main filter (possibly assisted by a paper bag). 
  • A ‘vacuum generation unit’ (VGU) - a single or multistage centrifugal blower or a turbine blower. 
  • Other body parts, wheels, trollies etc.


The VGU of the unit creates suction resulting into Airflow. This airflow is directed through the filters and pipes to be eventually released at the nozzle opening. The energy and force exerted by the moving air on the dirt, force it to move f r o m the source point i.e. floor, carpet or furniture to the container of the unit through the pipes.

As we have seen airflow is the most important of all factors, which determine the working a vacuum cleaner. It is the force exerted by the moving air, which actually picks up the dirt and moves it into the bag or dirt container.

The airflow is given in cubic meters per hour (CMH) or cubic feet per minute (CFM) for a vacuum cleaner. While the airflow rating is not a direct rating of the power of the suction motor, it is affected by its suction. The airflow rating is typically obtained by measuring the airflow through the vacuum cleaner with no hose or attachments connected to it. 

One must keep in mind that the same air moves through the entire vacuum cleaner system so the actual airflow in use is proportional to the amount of suction produced by the motor and inversely proportional to the total resistance to air flow throughout the system.

The air is motivated to move by the reduced air pressure created by the suction motor. The easier it is for the air to flow, the better the cleaning performance will be. Also, the stronger the suction created by the suction motor, the better the airflow will be. 

There are many variables, which affect the actual airflow in a system, which are not reflected in the airflow rating. In addition to the resistance within the actual vacuum cleaner, there is resistance caused by air turbulence in the hose and tubing, restriction where the cleaning nozzle contacts the floor, as well as increased resistance within the filtration system as the unit fills with dirt. Therefore, it is important to compare the sealed suction along with the airflow when comparing different vacuum cleaners.

The Right Choice

To be able to decide on the types of vacuum cleaner needed one has to first assess the nature of the cleaning jobs to be carried out in his premises.

Look around the area to be cleaned, paying close attention to the variety of surfaces, which need to be cleaned. These may include carpeted and non-carpeted floors, upholstered and wooden furniture, stairs, door frames, window sills, Venetian blinds, drapes, picture frames, ceiling fans as well as small nooks and crannies. They require cleaning to maintain a healthy environment. 

While complete periodic cleaning is required for most areas, there are some areas, which need more frequent cleaning such as high traffic areas, shop floors, etc. Also, one may need to do ‘wet-cleaning’ - i.e. removal of water f r o m the floor, oils, and chemical spillages, etc., particularly after scrubbing canteen floors, kitchens, and shampooing of carpets. 

Thus it is important to select vacuum cleaner on the basis of jobs to be undertaken, area and the frequency of jobs.

The types of materials used to construct the external structure and internal parts of a vacuum cleaner play a major role in the length of its span as well as the extent of maintenance expenses. Typically, vacuum cleaners are made of a combination of metals and various synthetic plastics.

With the development of plastic industry, many metal parts are now replaced by much lighter and often-stronger plastic spares. While reducing the production cost considerably, this change over has made vacuum cleaners much lighter and easier to use. The key to durability often relies on the excellence of design besides the types of plastics used.


The quality of the filter can have a significant impact on the airflow through the system. While the filter media must be able to stop the fine dust and allergens, it should present the least amount of resistance to airflow. The total resistance of the paper bag is inversely proportional to the total area of the filter media. In other words, doubling the area of a filter surface will cut the total resistance to airflow in half.

For any given airflow, the speed of the moving air is inversely proportional to the area of the opening through which it is passing. A narrower opening in the nozzle will produce a faster airflow velocity, enacting more force to pick up the dirt. This is why a small attachment is more effective in picking up stubborn dirt.

For best performance, the nozzle should be designed, so that it will produce similar airflow velocity across the complete width, not just near the air passage leading f r o m within.

Carpet Cleaning

A standard vacuum cleaner relies primarily on its airflow to pick up dirt and carry it into the dirt container. This works quite well for cleaning non-carpeted floors with a floor brush as well as dusting wooden furniture, cleaning upholstered furniture and catching those small corners with the smaller attachments. The bristles on a floor brush help to gather the dirt and grit, while keeping the airflow very close to the floor surface

Moving air alone is far f r o m adequate when it comes to removing deeply embedded dirt in carpets since it is nearly impossible to have the airflow reach the deep dirt with sufficient velocity to motivate it to move f r o m its place. Most standard carpet nozzles have a stationary brush strip which aids in the removal of dirt, lint, hair, threads, etc., near the carpet surface, but still falling far short of reaching dirt near the base of the carpet nap. Grit, with its sharp edges and corners, is one of the primary causes of carpet wear. The revolving brush roll was developed to make a huge difference in the effectiveness of a vacuum cleaner in removing the deeply embedded dirt. Its high speed brushing action and agitation fluff the carpet nap, giving it a fresher look.

Vacuum cleaners specifically designed to clean carpeted floors have motor or turbine driven revolving brush rolls with rows of bristles and sometimes beater bars as well. These brush rolls revolve at a very high speed, agitating the carpet fibers in the process. The effect of this is to loosen dirt and move it toward the top, aiding in its removal f r o m the carpet fibers. The suction f r o m the motor pulls the carpet under the nozzle up against it, bowing it backward slightly.

This helps to separate the nap, enhancing airflow through besides allowing bristles to sweep the dirt and grit upward. When beater bars or stiffened bristles are included on the brush roll, they tap the carpet back quickly. Due to inertia, the grit and dirt want to stay stationary as the carpet moves downward. The combination of the high speed brushing and beating actions is very effective in moving the dirt and grit upward in the carpet fibers so the air flow can carry them away.

Brush Rolls

Most manufacturers use plastic, acrylic or wooden brush rolls with the bristles embedded into the roll. Some of the higher quality vacuum cleaners use steel brush rolls with replaceable brush strips and ball bearings. Brush rolls come in many shapes and sizes.  Some are round, others are contoured or auger in shape.

Some have few bristles and no beater bars.  Others have many bristles and beater bars or bristle stiffener bars. Even the speed at which they rotate varies f r o m model to model, some as high as 6,500 rpm. Don’t let the speed of the brush roll mislead you though. Some of the fastest revolving brush rolls have very few bristles on them.

To distinguish between the two types of carpet cleaning nozzles with revolving brush rolls, they are often referred to as a motor driven power nozzle and an air driven turbine nozzle. When using a power nozzle, the electric motor actually adds power to the cleaning system. A turbine nozzle should not be confused with a motorized power nozzle. When a turbine is used instead of an electric motor, the power to drive the brush roll is actually removed f r o m the airflow, reducing the velocity of the airflow through the system.

Both types of nozzles incorporate a revolving brush roll similar to that used in the upright type of vacuum cleaner to deep clean the carpets. The better ones use a non-slip cog or gear type of belt for better power transfer f r o m the motor or turbine to the brush roll.

Paper Bags

When it comes to cleaning performance, there is a tendency to look primarily at the power of the suction motor and the amount of bristles on the brush roll. While these are important considerations, the quality and size of the paper bag are very important factors as well. The quality of the bags filter media affects both its ability to retain the fine dust and allergens and its ability to allow air to easily flow through it.  

The size of the bag will determine how easily the air flows through it as well. A good quality filter bag is a very important vacuum cleaner component. Care should be taken to replace that with an equally high quality filter so that good vacuum cleaner performance is maintained.

Therefore, if two different size bags are constructed of the same quality filter media, the larger one will enhance the cleaning performance by making it easier for the air to flow.

Determining the actual filtration efficiency of filter bags can be a frustrating experience. While some manufacturers give complete specifications, many describe that in terms of particle size or efficiency percentages only. Phrases like “retain dust down to 0.1 micron in size” can be quite misleading, since the actual percentage retained at the size may be quite low. 

Some manufacturers even state a percentage on the same package as the above mentioned phrase, but that will not indicate the actual efficiency at the stated particle size. Even the best high filtration paper bags will have an efficiency of about 75 percent at 0.3 µm (micrometers - formerly microns) compared to 95 percent at 0.3 µm for Filtrete filter media bags and 99.97 percent at 0.3 µm for HEPA filter media. To obtain net filtration efficiencies over 99 percent at that particle size requires the use of additional Micron, HEPA or ULPA filters in completely sealed systems.

Warranties and after-sales service

Always select a brand on long reputation to stand by. Purchasing a vacuum cleaner imported by a ‘make-a-quick-buck vendor’ can create problems should warranty repairs become necessary.  So, the availability of after-sales-service and spares must be necessarily taken care of.

Even the most durable vacuum cleaners require some periodic maintenance to keep them performing well. Some vacuum cleaners need disposable paper bags routinely. Various additional filters need to be changed f r o m time to time in order to keep air flowing freely through them.

Some cleaners with motor-driven revolving brushes have rubber belts, which stretch and slip more as time passes. They should be changed at least once a year to assure good power transfer to the brush roll. Bristles on the revolving brush rolls, wear short or become soft with use. They need to be replaced once in five years or so. Changing bags, filters, belts and bristles as needed, will go a long way.    

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