Backpack Vacuums: Front and Center

Categories: Cleaning Applications, Distribution, Innovations, Trends & Technology

By Doug Berjer | March 27, 2015 << Back to Articles

The professional cleaning industry is now witnessing the beginnings of an entirely new generation of backpack vacuum cleaners. The huge amount of time, effort, and resources being put into manufacturing and machines is a pretty solid indication that manufacturers expect the selection of backpack vacuum cleaners to increase in the years to come.

Backpacks have several benefits, and at the top of the list is improved worker productivity. Some machines are capable of cleaning as much as 7,000 square feet per hour. Depending on the size of the machines used, that is 2,000-plus square feet more per hour than when using an upright vacuum. Other benefits include the ability to clean both hard and soft surfaces with the same machine, to reach high and low surfaces easily, to get to hard-to-reach areas, and more.

To realize these benefits, cleaning professionals need to know how to use a backpack vacuum cleaner, and that’s where distributors marketing these machines come in. Because backpacks have been around for nearly 20 years, many distributors may assume that, at this point, most workers are well-versed on using these machines. These assumptions can be mistakes and lead to lost sales.

In order to educate both jansan distributors and their customers, here are some basics about wearing and operating a backpack vacuum cleaner. While the machines vary, with some more comfortable to use and wear than others, what we will cover here applies to the more advanced professional backpacks marketed in North America.

Putting on a Backpack Vacuum
While injuries are rare using a backpack machine, if they do occur, it is often when the user is either putting on or taking off the backpack.

There is a safe and ergonomic way to put on a backpack vacuum cleaner. First, the operator should begin by making sure the wand is attached to the machine and all the necessary tools are in the waist belt holder, if the belt provides this convenience.

Next, the worker should put on the machine in an open area. Be sure the space is clear of obstructions; I hate to count how many times a new user has knocked something over on a desk or ledge behind him or her while putting on the machine.

Other instructions for wearing a backpack vacuum cleaner include:

  • Loosen the harness and, if right-handed, grab the harness of the machine with your right hand and pull it over your right shoulder. (If you are left-handed, grab the harness with your left hand and pull it over your left shoulder.)
  • If right-handed, put your free arm through the left shoulder strap. (Again, if left-handed, put your free arm through the right shoulder strap.)
  • Fasten and tighten the waist belt. The belt should be snug but not tight.
  • Adjust the shoulder straps so that the machine fits comfortably; the weight of the machine should rest on the base of your spine, just above the hips, not on your shoulders.
  • Fasten and secure the sternum strap.
  • To ensure a comfortable fit, some machines will have a space between the shoulder strap and the shoulders.
  • Pull one end of the power cord under your waist belt and then plug it into the machine; this will help indicate when the cord is running out, without disconnecting the machine.
  • Plug the power cord into the wall outlet.

This procedure will work with most backpacks. To help ensure comfort, some harnesses offer a variety of ways to adjust the machine to the torso, including using a stabilizer strap. These adjustments may be necessary because not one size will fit all. Some harnesses now have an air mesh lining that rests against the user’s back. This allows airflow between the machine and the worker’s back, which helps minimize heat issues that can negatively affect operations.

Using the Machine
Once the machine is comfortably placed on the back and the cleaning professional is ready to vacuum, what invariably happens is the operator starts pushing and pulling the wand as if it were an upright vacuum cleaner. This is not the proper way to use a backpack, and if one of the goals is to enhance worker productivity, it will not be accomplished by using the wand in this manner.

Instead, the user should place one hand where the hose connects to the wand and the other beyond the bend of the wand, which is found on most systems. Keeping the back straight, twist at the waist—not the shoulders or upper body—using a side-to-side motion. Twisting at the waist is much easier on the body and will result in faster cleaning. When using a floor tool for vacuuming hard-surface floors, it is best to keep the tool at a slight angle to allow airflow, which makes the wand easier to use.

Some backpacks now come with virtually all the tools that a cleaning professional needs to perform his or her job. With the tools needed placed on the waist belt, it is easy to access the right tool for the necessary application. Having the correct tools readily available also helps improve worker productivity.

In most cases, first-time backpack users are able to comfortably use the machine for all their vacuuming needs from the start. However, sometimes the machine can take some getting used to; after all, the operator is wearing a vacuum cleaner on his or her back. In this case, try transferring the worker to backpack use in segments, wearing the machine an hour or so the first and second times, two hours the next, and so on. Usually within a few days the user will adjust and start wearing and using the backpack as if he or she has been using it for years.

About the Author.

Doug Berjer is product manager for CFR Corp., a manufacturer of recycling carpet extractors. For more information about CFR, visit