It often follows that items used for commercial or professional applications eventually find their way into our homes. Military radar gave us microwave ovens. Astronauts gave us Tang and foam mattresses. On the other hand, some items never do (and never should) make the transition such as industrial cleaners and solvents which are fine in the factory but horrid ideas for homes with 24X7X365 occupancy by people and pets. But then there are those products that really should bridge the gap but don’t. A prime example is the backpack vacuum cleaner.
If you happen to spend late nights at the office (I do all too often) you’ll have enjoyed the disruption of a hyper-efficient cleaning crew making their rounds. In most offices, those doing the vacuuming do so with canisters strapped to their backs. These hardworking blue-collar crews are quick and they do a great job, but they do it with an item I have never once seen used in homes.
Your average US home depends on stand-up or roll-along canister vacuums to get the carpets clean. It seems strange that a professional industry product so readily embraced by cleaning crews around the country is so blatantly shunned by the home crowd. Are there good reasons, or is this bias grounded in misunderstanding?
Those questions set me on a quest for answers. Now I’ll be the first to admit that my research was anything but scientific (I surveyed my family and in-laws) but those questioned represent a fairly indicative demographic of 30-60 year-old homemakers who make the ultimate decision when it comes to what cleaning products they use around the house. The major reason these folks provided for not electing to use a backpack vacuum cleaner is an unwillingness to carry around the weight.
The irony of that answer is that each of those surveyed lives in a multi-level home and must, at some point in their cleaning efforts, lug an upright or canister vacuum up one or two flights of stairs to do a complete cleaning job. When I pointed that out, must shrugged and felt it was a small inconvenience compared to carrying the cleaner on their backs for the entire job.
Of those surveyed, 30% used canister vacuums; wheeled canisters that were pulled behind them as they vacuumed. Though they felt there was some inconvenience with these models over upright designs, the canister styles made vacuuming stairs easier. My own experience with canister vacuums has been mixed. Yes, they are better for stairs, but my own canister vac has slipped from halfway up a flight of stairs and punched a hole in the drywall below. In sharing my story, I learned that those who do use canister vacuums have had similar experiences, requiring extra caution when cleaning stairs.
Additionally, the people I interviewed cited cost as another deterrent to their buying backpack vacuum cleaners. They felt that, given their commercial use, backpack vacuums must be comparatively expensive. I determined that none had actually researched the matter and most were surprised when I quoted prices equal to or less than what they’d paid for their home vacuums.
When you consider that a backpack vacuum cleaner may way anywhere from 8-12 pounds and the weight is very efficiently loaded on a person’s back where it is barely noticeable, there doesn’t seem to be much reason to avoid these things. Perhaps the real incentive against them is the inconvenience of having to strap it on and take it off but I suspect a more rational cleaning approach would nullify that concern. Those who opt to clean small areas at a time are probably right in their purchase of upright or canister vacuums but what about for larger jobs?
If your cleaning habit consists of doing all the scrubbing, wiping and dusting first and then following up with a good vacuuming, backpack vacuum cleaners may be ideally suited to your needs. Simply strap on the vacuum once, hit all floors and stairs and then put it away. Consider the alternative of dragging or hauling a heavy upright or canister vacuum up and down stairs to accomplish the same thing and logic (as well as your bruised shins and strained back) makes this the sensible approach.
I did neglect to mention the final reason those surveyed opted for an alternative over a backpack vacuum cleaner and that’s availability. Walk into any department store and you’ll find an assortment of canister and upright vacuums available. Not so with backpack vacuums. It seems that consumers have spoken and manufacturers have listened. Though there are ready sources available online, the lack of availability in department stores makes it a forgone conclusion that most consumers will end up with a competing (and not necessarily better) design.
Should you find yourself in the market for a replacement vacuum cleaner, don’t be a lemming. Stop and consider your needs before you make that purchase. Large spaces, stairs and a sensible cleaning habit should leave you, at the very least, open to backpack vacuum cleaners as an alternative.