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Commercial Vacuum Cleaner Buying Guide: Vacuum Types & Styles

Whether you run a restaurant, hotel, or janitorial service, there’s one piece of equipment you can’t do without, and that’s a commercial vacuum cleaner.

Getting one for your business will mean obtaining an efficient cleaning system: it’ll keep your floors spick and span, as well as guarantee the safety of customers and employees. In turn, your business will leave a good impression on visitors.

Finding the ideal commercial vacuum cleaner for your business though isn’t as easy at it sounds. There are many high-tech features, styles, and functions to choose from. So, which would be the best fit?

We’ve evened the playing field for you with our reviews below. Let’s dive right in!

What Constitutes a Vacuum Cleaner as Commercial Grade?

Home vacuum cleaners are used infrequently, generally speaking. But, their commercial-grade counterparts are more robust and durable. More importantly, they’re built with heavy use in mind.

Whereas residential units would succumb to wear-and-tear quicker in professional cleaning applications, commercial vacuum cleaners are designed for intense use and last longer. Moreover, they use a commercial power cord that comes in handy for keeping your business within safety regulations.


Types of Vacuum Cleaners

Each vacuum cleaner offers unique advantages that make it ideal for certain types of tasks. Let’s explore each type.


Upright Vacuum

With a canister or bag on the handle, a powered cleaning head, and a long cord, upright vacuums are perfect for all types of cleaning in offices and hotel rooms. These, along with floor sweepers (their manual counterparts), make excellent restaurant vacuums.

Upright Vacuum

The self-contained design is meant for portability and allowing your cleaning crew to be mobile in their tasks. These vacuums only require you to roll it to the next room and simply plug it in.

So, this style eliminates the hassle of wrangling an unwieldy hose or separate canister. You might even fit several upright vacuum cleaners in a housekeeping cart, which makes it easier transport along with other cleaning supplies.

Canister Vacuum

A canister vacuum is a cleaning head that’s linked to its motor and dirt-bag by a long, flexible hose, coupled with a sturdy wand.

Compared to upright counterparts, the head in a canister vacuum has superior maneuverability and is more lightweight. The reason for this is you don’t need to shift the canister with each pass. Moreover, canister vacuums are usually less noisy than other styles.

Canister Vacuum

Given that they have more maneuverable and smaller cleaning heads, canister vacuums are suitable for reaching under furniture.

They’re easier to handle when cleaning stairs. Granted, storing the canister along with the wand and hose takes up more space. But, their easier daily use makes up for storage concerns when you need to clean under tables and chairs in public settings.

Backpack Vacuum

Built to be easily transportable and impressively lightweight, backpack vacuums make it a breeze for employees to continuously clean for extended periods.

These days, many types of backpack vacuums are provided with back supports and ergonomic pads to ensure users’ comfort and safety.

They’re sufficiently light for people of different heights to use. Worn like a backpack, this vacuum keeps users’ hands free to manage other things, like the power cord and wand, or more furniture out of the way.

Backpack Vacuum

There are backpack vacuums that contain a feature that permits you to switch the unit. So, you can alternate between the blower and vacuum cleaner as you deem fit.

Providing versatility, convenience, and maneuverability, and the perk of being lightweight, a backpack vacuum is not only a great fit for industrial cleaning uses but also works with a broad range of janitorial tasks.

Handheld Vacuums

If you require a small vacuum for things like cleaning drapes and upholstery in public settings such as in hotels, restaurants, or offices, then a handheld vacuum is the clear-cut option.

The lightweight and compact nature of these vacuums makes them very mobile and suitable for a wide array of different taks.

Handheld Vacuums

While it’s not a great alternative for cleaning large surface areas, a portable vacuum is perfect for quick cleanups in between regular vacuuming.

So, as opposed to deploying full-sized vacuums for small cleanups, you can easily store these units in convenient areas around your business and access them at a moment’s notice.

Dry/Wet Vacuums

These specialized handy machines have the uncanny ability to clean up all types of messes.

Ranging from liquids from accidental spills or floods, to debris and dust at construction sites, industrial dry/wet vacuums can handle it all.

They’re the ideal tools for cleaning up after natural disasters or renovations. After a burst water pipe or storm, these vacuum cleaners save you the hassle of bucket and mop work, thus making cleanup a breeze.

Dry/Wet Vacuums

Nonetheless, dry/wet vacuums tend to be somewhat noisier than other types. So it’s essential to factor in the decibel level of units you’re purchasing. And your employees may need ear protection.

When shopping for these types of vacuums make sure to note how they’re emptied. We recommend a dry/wet vacuum with a drain hose or valve for easy and fast emptying for cleaning up wet messes.

Steam/Carpet Cleaners

These come in a broad range of styles ranging from portable sport cleaners and uprights to compact handheld carpet cleaners.

They can all effectively clean and disinfect rugs, furniture, and drapes. Keep in mind that with regular vacuums, pet dander, dust mites, dirt, and bacteria tend to remain deep in the fibers.

Steam/Carpet Cleaners

So, to rectify this problem, carpet/steam cleaners use a combination of heat and moisture to loosen the stains and dirt that a regular vacuum cannot suction.

And, they disinfect carpets by killing germs. If you’re on a quest for a deep cleaner of the floors of your restaurant, theater, or office, then commercial steam/carpet cleaners are your best bet.

Steam/carpet cleaners are soaring in popularity in recent years because they’re regarded as green and healthy cleaning options.

Some models bear a striking resemblance to upright vacuums. They contain a large tank that dispenses hot water using a cleaning solution, as another tank retains dirty water.

If you or your employees are susceptible to chemical sensitivities and allergies, a steam/carpet cleaner is a healthy alternative to keeping various surfaces spick and span without exasperating allergy symptoms.

You and your staff can breathe better and live healthier by frequently using a steam/carpet cleaner.

Central Vacuum Systems

When it comes to durability, central vacuum systems are well known. They’re pricier than other models upfront, but the longer lifespan and lack of maintenance can make up for the steep cost.

Contrary to conventional vacuum cleaners, the collector and motor of central vacuum systems are installed in a restaurant, bank, office, and any other public setting, usually somewhere underground.

The piping then runs through crawl spaces, walls, or other out-of-the-way areas to inlet valves mounted on the wall in different locations around the premises.

By linking a hose to these inlets such as those found in canister vacuums, you can clean all areas of the vicinity. And, you don’t need to lug around a heavy canister or upright vacuum cleaner. The hose is usually 30 feet long, thus allowing you to vacuum several rooms from one inlet.

Central Vacuum Systems

Furthermore, central vacuum systems provide the same types of attachments, such as pet brushes and crevice tools, typically found in conventional counterparts. Installing these systems offers certain advantages over traditional options.

For instance, along with a longer lifespan, a central vacuum system also delivers a notably superior suction capability compared to other types of vacuums. 

Secondly, more powerful motors translate to enhanced cleaning potential. In turn, this allows you to pull out more dirt, debris, hair, or dust particles from upholstery or thick carpets.

Thirdly, they’re less noisy compared to portable vacuum cleaners. The absence of a roaring motor as you clean means the only sound you hear is that of swift-moving air.

A central vacuum system promotes cleaner air quality through the extraction of contaminants such as allergens and dust particles. On the contrary, other types of commercial vacuum cleaners usually release their smaller particles back into the atmosphere during the emptying process.

What Is HEPA?

HEPA stands for “high efficiency particulate air” filters that have undergone rigorous testing and are certified to eliminate a high quantity of microscopic particulates and meet other criteria.

These filters come in handy in a vast assortment of applications, for instance, HVAC systems and the automotive sector.

The use of HEPA filtration in a domestic and commercial vacuum cleaner helps to contain common allergens such as dust and pollen, which trigger symptoms of asthma. These don’t get kicked up into the air per the usual process of vacuuming.

Now, all vacuum cleaners have some type of filter. But they’re not all HEPA filtration systems. If allergens in the air are a concern for you or your employees, then consider purchasing a commercial vacuum cleaner with this type of filtration.

Bag-less vs. Bagged Vacuum Cleaners

Before considering whether or not your business should use bag-less vacuum cleaners, there are a few aspects to consider.

First, while it’s true that getting rid of disposable vacuum bags can significantly cut down on costs, bag-less units have extra filters that require frequent cleaning and replacement.

Second, emptying a bag-less vacuum cleaner is a dusty task. Therefore, employees need to be aware this may trigger severe allergies or asthmatic symptoms.

On the contrary, the bagged vacuums ensure that most debris, dust, and other allergens remain safely in the bag until disposal.



  • Lower frequency of filter maintenance
  • Dirt and dust remain in the bag until it’s removed and the contents are disposed
  • Possible downtime upon running out of bags
  • Not as eco-friendly as the bag-less models
  • Incur the extra cost of bags


  • More eco-friendly because there’s no bag to throw away
  • No additional cost of bags
  • Extra filters that require periodic and frequent cleaning
  • Emptying canisters is a health hazard to those susceptible to asthma and allergies


CRI Certifications

The CRI, otherwise known as the Carpet and Rug Institute, is among the leading sources for information on carpets and their maintenance.

They also lead various initiatives that aid in the protection of air quality and the extension of a carpet’s lifespan. The institute’s Seal of Approval program means rigorous tests on cleaning supplies have been conducted to evaluate their effectiveness at soil removal without damaging carpets.

So, when shopping for a commercial vacuum cleaner, keep your eyes open for the CRI logo. It indicates the unit meets the institute’s performance standards for ideal dust containment, carpet texture protection, and soil removal.

By using a CRI-approved vacuum cleaner in your business, you’ll gain longer carpet life and enhanced air quality.


Useful Features

Before settling on a commercial vacuum cleaner, consider the following features to ensure it best fits your needs in the long run:

  • Hard Flooring: If you have hard floors, ensure that your vacuum handles them perfectly or that you’re armed with the right accessories. While canister vacuums require a unique attachment, the upright models are a great option.

  • Edge Cleaning: Found in some upright vacuums, additional brushes coupled with a power head facilitate enhanced cleaning on walls and baseboards.

  • Height Adjustment: This flexibility allows for vacuuming carpets with thicker as opposed to shorter piles. While some commercial vacuum cleaners adjust automatically, others require manual adjustments.

  • Off/On: This is a feature that should be user-friendly and easily accessible as your employees will be frequently using the vacuum cleaner.

  • Hose Diameter: Most commercial vacuums contain the diameter that ranges from 1.25” to 2”. While narrower hoses are easier to store and use, they handle less debris. For light cleaning, a narrower hose will suffice. However, when it comes to renovations and deep cleaning, a larger hose is a requirement.

  • Weight: Generally you can’t go wrong with lightweight vacuum cleaners, which is particularly important if you intend to use it as an accessory on a housekeeping cart to clean stairs or multi-story buildings. Lightweight models are not only easier to store, maneuver, and lift, but also a lower back strain on your employees.


Tools and Attachments

Depending on your needs, here’s a breakdown of the most common vacuum cleaner attachments and tools.

  • Crevice Tools: Built to delve into difficult-to-reach areas such as under furniture or along baseboards.

  • Extra Wands: These aid in reaching higher spots and below furniture.

  • Specialty Floor Tools: They’re built for more effective cleaning of hard floors, carpets, and collecting large debris.

  • Upholstery Tools: These are designed to get rid of allergens and dust from plush furniture.

  • Dust Brushes: They’re perfect for delicate, high, or detailed cleaning.

When buying tools and attachments, ensure they’re a snug fit for your vacuum cleaner. For instance, if the hose is 1.25,” you’ll need to ensure the attachments and tools are designed with the exact measurements of the hose.


Closing Remarks

Selecting the best commercial vacuum cleaner for your business can be time consuming, so we hope this guide has saved you time and energy. We’ve listed the features, styles, and tools and attachments of these units, so you can narrow down your search and and make your choice easier.