The lowdown on canister vacuums

Old habits die hard. Most of us in the United States were raised in homes with upright vacuum cleaners; chances are your mother used an upright at home, and your grandmother before her. Now you use an upright not just at home, but also on the job. A recent survey by Sanitary Maintenance magazine found that 80 percent of cleaning equipment distributors named upright vacuums as their company’s best-selling item, while canister vacuums accounted for just 2 percent of sales.
The situation is much different in the rest of the world, where canister vacuums dominate just as thoroughly as uprights do in the U.S. The design of canister vacuums offers numerous benefits, from reduced clogging and excellent filtration to quiet sound and cleaning performance, resulting in a low cost of ownership.

canister vacuum
There are three reasons a canister vacuum’s design results in a lower cost of ownership: less clogging, fewer moving parts that require replacement and, typically, a larger dust bag requiring fewer changes.
Less clogging. Canister vacuums clog less frequently because they use a straight metal tube and a non-convoluted hose that provide an unrestricted path into the dust bag. Canister vacs also typically have a more powerful motor, more suction power and greater airflow to carry dirt and debris through the hose and into the dust bag.
Fewer moving parts requiring replacement. Canister vacuums have just three moving parts that cannot be repaired by a typical end-user: the cord, the switch and the motor. This in comparison to uprights, which typically include belts; brushes; a gear mechanism to allow the upper housing to pivot on the lower housing; and a locking mechanism to hold it in an upright position.


Canister vacuums are multi-surface, multi-purpose cleaning machines. They can vacuum any hard-floor surface in addition to carpet in both commercial and residential settings, and their design allows them to operate as the primary tool for detail dusting; project work on both horizontal and vertical surfaces; and overhead cleaning (think ceiling tiles, light fixtures, etc.).

canister vacuum 1

Cleaning Performance

Indoor air quality is a growing concern, with increased levels of pollution and incidences of sick-building syndrome. A recent report released by the Environmental Health Center states that SBS in office buildings reduces worker productivity and may lead to increased absenteeism. This same negative impact on performance, as well as health concerns, also plays a significant role in schools.
A truly sealed vacuum–meaning there are no air leaks where unfiltered air can be exhausted into the environment–many canisters have two, three, and perhaps up to five levels of filtration that protect both the vacuum’s motor and the occupants of the facility. Vacuum cleaners are designed with flow-through motors; the airflow that picks up dirt travels through both the suction fan and the motor itself to cool. The job of the filters is to clean the air before it passes through the motor and is expelled into the environment.
There is a common misperception that canister vacuums do not pick up as well as uprights on today’s commercial carpet. In reality, canister units pick up as well if not better than uprights. Commercial carpet has a low, dense pile that does not allow any dust or dirt to lie far from the carpet’s surface. The canister vacuum’s combination of powerful motor, suction power and airflow makes it clear that if any dirt is lying close to the surface, it will be removed from that surface without agitation.

canister vacuum 2

Ergonomically Friendly

Operator comfort is an important part of the canister vacuum package. One of the biggest complaints about upright vacuums is the heavy handle weight; when vacuuming with an upright, momentum is required to both push the vacuum forward and pull it back, resulting in the entire unit being moved with each stroke. Repetitive vacuuming with an upright with a heavy handle may very well contribute to fatigue and repetitive stress injury.
It is true that old habits die hard. However, when you consider the benefits of using a canister vacuum on the job, you may decide to kick the habit. And who knows: perhaps your mother and grandmother will thank you for introducing them to a new way of cleaning. If you liked this article, circle 143 on the Reader Inquiry Card.

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