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Vacuuming can represent between 15-25% of the total cleaning cost of your building. In most facilities, vacuuming is completed daily to remove abrasive soils and keep your facility looking great, but it also takes up a lot of your time and money. According to a study completed by the American Institute of Cleaning Sciences, the average commercial cleaning worker uses a vacuum for approximately 1-3 hours per day.

With such a large amount of time and money spent on one cleaning procedure, it is critical that you are using the most efficient vacuum for each problem area.

Utilizing the best vacuum in your facility can increase worker productivity, lower cleaning times, and reduce overall cleaning costs.

In this blog article, we will go over the 5 major types of commercial vacuum cleaners and some of the available features to help you make the best choice for your business.

5 Common Types of Commercial Vacuum Cleaners:

  1. Handheld Duster Vacuum Cleaner
  2. Canister Vacuum Cleaner
  3. Upright Vacuum Cleaner
  4. Backpack Vacuum Cleaner
  5. Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaner

Everything you need to know about commercial vacuums including types, sizes, specs, & more!

Types of Commercial Vacuum Cleaners

Vacuum cleaners are pieces of janitorial cleaning equipment that come in several different shapes and sizes to tackle different problems like spot cleaning or wet residue pick-up. Determining the best vacuum will depend on the area, soil, and the level of traffic you are dealing with.

1. Handheld Duster Vacuum

Handheld duster vacuums are small portable machines used for spot cleaning.

They are available in cord-electric or battery powered models.

What Type of Area Should a Handheld Duster Vacuum be Used to Clean?

These vacuums can be used to quickly remove small messes from the floor, blinds, chairs, stairs, and upholstery.

Handheld duster vacuums are convenient for spot cleaning in high traffic areas.

Soil Type

Handheld dusters should only be used in small areas requiring light soil pickup.

2. Canister Vacuum

NSS Model M1 Pig Canister VacuumCanister vacuums have wheels at the bottom of the base allowing them to be easily transferred from one floor surface to the next.  

For easy maneuverability choose a canister vacuum with fully-directional front wheels to eliminate drag.     

Canister vacuums are typically cord-electric.

What Type of Area Should a Commercial Canister Vacuum be Used to Clean?

Canister vacuums are great for cleaning hard floors, carpeted floors, fixtures, and drapes.  

They are also useful when dealing with multiple cleaning tasks that require specialized attachments, like extended length hoses and wands.

Canister vacuums are not the best choice for high-traffic areas. They have long cords and hoses which can be a tripping hazard to guests.

Soil Type

Canister vacuums are good option when removing large soils.

3. Upright Vacuum

Upright vacuums are vertical standing machines with wheels and a brush roll on the bottom and a bag for soil collection on top.

They are typically cord-electric, but can be battery powered.  

What Type of Area Should a Commercial Upright Vacuum be Used to Clean?ProForce 1500XP Upright Vacuum

Upright vacuums are the best choice for carpeted floors.

Some upright vacuums have a pick-up head that can be adjusted to allow you to toggle back and forth between carpeted and hard floors.   

Soil Type

Upright vacuums can be used for light to medium soil pickup.

There are two types of upright vacuums: single motor and dual motor.  

Single Motor

Single motor vacuums are great for pickup of light to medium soils.

Dual Motor

Dual motors have a separate motor for the brush roll. They are designed for medium soil pickup.  


4. Backpack Vacuum

ProTeam Super Coach Pro 10 10 qt. Backpack Vacuum with Xover Multi-Surface Two-Piece Wand Tool KitCarried on the back of the operator, backpack vacuums allow for unrestricted movement in confined or congested areas.  

Newer backpack models are lightweight and ergonomic, reducing user fatigue and increasing efficiency and productivity.

Backpack vacuums can be battery operated or cord-electric.

What Type of Area Should a Commercial Backpack Vacuum be Used to Clean?

Backpack vacuums are extremely portable and lightweight, making them the best choice when dealing with stairs or landings.  They can also be a great choice for carpeted or hard floor surfaces.

Backpack vacuums are a great option for high traffic or congested areas. They also allow for easy maneuverability, especially in hard to reach areas.  

Soil Type

Similar to upright vacuums, they can be used for light to medium soil pickup.

5. Wet/Dry Vacuum

Clarke Summit Pro 185Q Wet Dry VacuumWhen dealing with areas that are wet, only use a vacuum which is specifically intended for wet residue pickup.  These vacuums are designed to allow the liquid to bypass the motor, avoiding vacuum damage and potential injury to the user.  

The most common commercial wet vacuums have a 16-20 gallon capacity.  

Wet/dry vacuums can be battery operated or cord-electric.

Types of Wet/Dry Vacuums

There are two types of wet/dry vacuums: standard wet with hose and wand or the front-mounted squeegee.

Standard Wet Vacuum

The standard wet vacuum has a hose and wand that sucks up the liquid. They perform best in tight areas.  

Front Mounted Squeegee

The front mounted squeegee is the best choice when removing the solution from cleaning procedures like mopping or hard floor stripping.

What Type of Area Should a Commercial Wet/Dry Vacuum be Used to Clean?

Wet/dry vacuums can be used for soil removal on carpeted or hard floors.

If you are dealing with wet soil pick-up, block off the area to tenants and guests to avoid slips and falls.

Soil Type

Wet/dry vacuums are excellent for removing leftover water or cleaning solution from cleaning procedures such as scrubbing or wet mopping.

You can also use a wet/dry vacuum when dealing with larger, dry soils.  

Pro Tip: To use a wet/dry vacuum for dry soil pickup make sure you insert the dust filter.


Vacuum Features:

When choosing a vacuum of any type, check to see which additional features are available for your model. Below we list some additional features that can improve the quality of the machine, increase worker productivity, and provide a better cleaning outcome.

CRI Seal of Approval

When selecting a vacuum for your commercial facility you should look for The Carpet and Rug Institute’s (CRI) Seal of Approval®.  

CRI certified machines have been independently tested and proven to ensure the effectiveness and environmental safety of the machine. CRI evaluates the performance of vacuums based on soil removal, dust containment, and surface appearance change.

Selecting a machine that is high performing and safe for the environment will ultimately benefit occupant health and your business’ bottom line.

HEPA Filter  

HEPA FilterHigh-Efficiency Particulate Air or HEPA filters trap 99.97% of all airborne particles larger than 3 microns. HEPA filters contain and do not recirculate small particles such as dust and dander that can cause health issues to your occupants.

Sound Level

The sound level of a vacuum is important if your facility requires maintenance during regular business hours.  

A decibel output between 57-62 dBA is considered low and can be operated during the day without disturbing building occupants.


Depending on the model type and brand, various attachments are available.  Attachment tools make it easier to complete cleaning tasks with the same commercial vacuum.

Some attachments include hose extensions, crevice tools, and upholstery tools.

Power Source

Vacuums are either battery operated or cord-electric. Determining whether you should choose a cord-electric or battery-operated vacuum is ultimately your choice, but each can be effective if used properly.

Battery Operated (Cordless)

Cordless vacuums offer exceptional maneuverability and efficiency as a result of not having to plug and unplug the machine.  Cordless backpack vacuums can increase efficiencies by saving approximately 1-1.5 hours per 4 hour vacuum shift.

Cordless vacuums can also reduce the risk of workplace trips and falls.

At the time of this writing, the average battery-life for a commercial cordless vacuum is about 1 hour.Yellow Cord

Cordless vacuums are typically more expensive than corded vacuums but will provide increased time and labor savings.


Corded vacuums can offer longer cleaning times and increased power when compared to a battery operated machine.

Pro Tip: To increase productivity with a corded vacuum, determine the best vacuuming path for the area before beginning.  A clear path will reduce cleaning time and promote efficiency. The best route will minimize the number of times you have to move the power cord to a new outlet.

Reducing the number of times you have to plug and unplug a power cord lowers the risk of equipment, furniture or fixture damage. Failing to properly move cords may also cause the operator to run over the cord, causing damage to cords.

Final Thoughts

Whether you are spot cleaning or removing slurry from a wet-mopping procedure, selecting the best vacuum will make your job easier and help you produce better results.

Understanding which vacuum (or vacuums) is the best option for the area and soil you are dealing with can be challenging. 

Imperial Dade offers a variety of commercial cleaning supplies, including commercial vacuum. If you’re located in the United States, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, or Canada, we would love to help you find the perfect vacuum to increase your janitorial staff’s productivity and save your business money on labor costs.

If you have specific questions about a vacuum or are still not sure about which vacuum will work best for your situation, let an Imperial Dade Equipment Specialist help.

Everything you need to know about commercial vacuums including types, sizes, specs, & more!

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