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Home > FAQ > General Terminology

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Amperage is a measurement of electrical current. The theory is if the amperage of a motor is increased, it will create more cubic feet of air per minute (CFM) provided the vacuum is designed to handle the increased air flow. Higher amperage machines generally have higher performance, providing faster and more effective deep cleaning. Household standards may not exceed 12 amps due to circuit limitations.

Automatic Cord Rewind

This feature is generally found on Canister vacuums. It allows the user to rewind the cord with the push of a button. The reel is spring-loaded and automatically retracts the cord inside the vacuum cleaner. This saves the user time when the vacuuming is complete and they are ready to store the unit.

Automatic Tool Activation

Allows for the automatic activation of the tools without plugging in hoses or flipping switches. Simply pull out the hose from its caddie and the suction is on. Some uprights may have permanently attached hoses that require a switch to activate the suction, whereas others may require stopping to plug the hose into a port.

Bagged System

A system designed to use bags for depositing dirt. Bagged systems may be direct-air or clean-air systems.

Bagless System

A system designed to not use bags by depositing dirt into a dust cup. Unlike cyclonic systems, bagless systems utilize a filter to separate the dirt particles from the air path. This reduces the performance of the unit as the filter's pores become clogged. Bagless systems may be direct-air or clean-air systems.

Ball Float Design

Found on commercial cleaners, the ball float design prevents dangerous spills by automatically shutting down suction when the recovery tank becomes full.

Blower Port

With the blower port feature the hose may be attached to the rear of the unit and used as a blower. The vacuum can then be used to blow leaves, debris from out behind appliances, or clear saw dust off of a workbench.

Built In Safety Shut Off

Found on commercial polishers, the built in safety shut off prevents the polisher from accidental start up or running while unattended.

Canister Vacuums

The Canister vacuum is the most popular cleaner sold worldwide, and is gaining popularity in the U.S. due to the increased use of hard surfaces and ceramic tile flooring in new homes. Canister vacuums work like clean-air uprights. The dirt is picked up with a nozzle, pulled through a hose, and deposited into a bag. After depositing the dirt into the bag, the air then passes through the motor fan as it moves out of the canister.

Carbon Filter

A secondary filter that is used in conjunction with a primary filter, like Electrostatic, that removes odors from smoke or cooking.

Clean Air Delivery Rate

Found on air cleaners, determines how much air the cleaner cleans per hour. The higher the decibel rating the better the cleaning capability.

Clean-Air Upright

In this Upright design, dirt is sucked up into the air stream by the motor from behind the bag. After depositing the dirt in the bag, the air then passes through the motor as it moves out of the upright. This design protects the motor fan from damage in the event larger objects are accidentally sucked up into the cleaner. This design is better suited for above the floor cleaning than traditional uprights, due to its canister motor configuration. This system may also be referred to as a By-Pass System.

Cleaning Path

The wider the path, the less passes it will take to cover the same amount of carpeting. For example, a 15" cleaning path cleans up to 25% faster than standard width vacuums.

Common Allergens & Size in Microns

Bacteria 0.35-70
Lung Irritants 0.50-9
Mold 2-20
Pollen 20-50
Plant Spores 20-40

Particles smaller than 10 microns are not visible to the human eye.

Cord Length

Longer cords eliminate the problem of running out of cord and having to switch outlets to finish a room or floor.

Corded Lightweights

These units may also be referred to as stick vacs or stick brooms. They usually have larger motors and nozzles than cordless models. Some models may include motorized brush rolls to improve cleaning on carpeting.

Cordless Lightweights

Cordless versions of Lightweights are often used in the same capacity as the corded versions. Cordless units offer the freedom to move from room to room without the hassles associated with a power cord. Individuals who regularly use their lightweight cleaners for pick-ups prefer these units.

Cubic Feet of Air Per Minute

Cubic Feet of Air Per Minute (CFM) is the most representative measurement in relation to cleaning ability. CFM = Air Flow. The greater the CFM, the greater the airflow and the better the cleaning performance. General measurement is 1.25", as this represents the orifice of a vacuum cleaner under most cleaning conditions.

Cyclonic Upright

This system is designed for use without bags by depositing dirt in a dust cup. These systems use a spinning action to cause dirt particles to fall out of the airflow into the cup. By separating most of the dirt from the air without the use of filters, this system maintains a higher performance level than most filtered or bagged units. In order to insure proper air quality, these systems should include at least one more additional filters. This system will always be a clean-air design and should not be confused with a bagless system.

Decibel Rating

A measurement of sound. The higher the decibel (db) rating, the louder the noise.

Deluxe Clear Stretch Hose

Provides an even longer reach than the standard stretch hose. Includes added strength with wire enforcement, and provides visibility to obstructions in the hose.

Detachable Handle

Generally found on Lightweights, this feature allows the user to remove the handle from the unit with the push of a button to convert the unit to a hand vacuum. This makes the unit ideal for cleaning carpeted stairs and performing other tasks more suited for a hand vacuum.

Direct-Air System

In the traditional, direct-air system, dirt is sucked up from the surface and blown by the motor fan back into an expandable bag. In this system, the motor is a few inches from the cleaning surface, providing superior air movement on the carpet.


Electrostatic Filtration

A measurement of filtration found on air cleaners, HEPA is one and this is another. Interestingly, HEPA with air cleaners is not the best overall filtration.

Ergonomic Handle

The molded handle allows the user to clean under tables and chairs without bending, reducing the strain on the users back.

Easy Empty Dust Cup

Generally found on Lightweights and Handheld vacuums, this feature allow the user to detach the cup and dump dirt and debris without removing the filter.


Home units designed to replicate the deep cleaning of traditional rental cleaners. Self-contained units hold larger quantities of cleaning solution that has been recovered from the carpet.

EZ Kleen Dust Cup

The E-Z Kleen Dust Cup allows the user to see when it's time to empty the dust cup while reducing unwanted weight and service issues due to over filling of the unit.


The higher the filtration, the better the air quality exhausted from the vacuum. This is very important for individuals with allergies or upper-respiratory problems. There are several levels of filtration, which may be referred to differently depending upon the manufacturer.

Standard The most basic filtration system available, usually consisting of a paper dust bag and an outer cloth bag.
Good Micron filters (or HEPA-Type Filters) usually consist of a multiple layer fiber filter that retains pollens, dust mites, and other larger allergens. The key is they may indicate up to 100% filtration of these larger particles, but do not specify a percentage along with the specific particle size.
Better Some units include a HEPA filter. These filters are capable of trapping 99.97% of particles as small as .3 microns that pass through the filter.
Best TRUE HEPA Filtration combined with a sealed vacuum filtration system insures that all air must pass through the HEPA filter before it is exhausted. This system filters not only the air passing through the dust bag, but also the air from the motor exhaust. This provides an overall performance rating for the entire vacuum equal to that of the HEPA filter.

Handheld Vacuum

Handheld vacuums are available in corded and cordless types. The corded hand vacuum typically offers a motorized brush roll, which effectively cleans upholstery, stairs, and autos. Units contain easy empty dust cups, and the corded version generally includes a charging stand with detachable power packs.


Shines lights on objects that could potentially be pulled into the vacuum by brightening areas beneath beds or in poorly lit areas.

HEPA Filtration

HEPA Filtration is an acronym for High Efficiency Particulate Air filtration. HEPA filters are a pleated or "extended surface" filter made of glass microfibers. A HEPA filter captures 99.97% of all particles as small as 0.3 microns. For optimal filtration, HEPA filters should be changed every six (6) months.

Home Cleaning Systems

A Home Cleaning System has tremendous cleaning versatility. Not only does it provide Canister suction cleaning, but the power nozzle has a rotating beater brush that offers all the carpet cleaning of a traditional Upright. The power nozzle canister contains two motors; one to create suction and the other to drive the rotating brush on the power nozzle. The power nozzle is attached to the main canister body by a cleaning hose. Extension wands and an electrical power cord drive the motor in the nozzle.


Also referred to as stick vacs or stick brooms, these units are used for quick pickups as a secondary vacuum or as the primary vacuum in apartments, dorm rooms, or other small living areas. These units are easily stored and used. Unlike an Upright, they often contain a dirt cup as opposed to a disposable inner bag. Available in both corded and rechargeable versions, Lightweights can be either the direct-air or clean-air variety providing the same benefits as in the Upright category.


A measurement of size. For example; a human hair has a diameter of 75 to 100 microns. Particles 10 microns or smaller are not visible to the human eye.

Micron Filtration

Micron filtration traps 99% of all particles as small as 1 micron in size. Micron filtration is not as efficient as a True HEPA or HEPA filtration systems, but this filter will trap a large portion of lung irritants.

Motorized Revolving Brushes

Found on Extractors, motorized revolving brushes use a dedicated motor to drive a revolving brush, much in the same way as an Upright vacuum cleaner. As with the rotating brushes, this works the solution into the carpet more evenly and helps to loosen the dirt more easily than units without brushes. The separate motor for the brushes does not decrease the ability of the cleaner to pull dirty solution from the carpet.

Motor Driven Brush Roll

The brush roll picks up lint and pet hair off carpeting better than a straight suction unit will. This allows the user to clean carpeted areas faster with less effort.

Noise Reduction System

Noise reduction systems reduce the overall noise level of the vacuum cleaner. This makes vacuuming less annoying to those doing other activities around the home.

On-Board Tools

On an Upright or Canister, on-board tools may include a dusting brush, crevice tool, upholstery brush and extension wands, as well as an above-the-floor cleaning hose.

Peak Horsepower

This is a spike measurement of motor power from the moment the unit is initially switched on. Peak horsepower (PHP), while used to rate Canister motors, is a means to compare units within a single manufacturer's product line.

Power Pump

Found on Extractors, the power pump delivers the cleaning solution to the carpet under pressure through spray nozzles much like on industrial grade units. This provides an even distribution of the carpet cleaning solution over the carpeting and increases the units cleaning ability.

Quick Kleen Fan Chamber

Allows the user to clean and service the fan chamber on site, which reduces down time for the unit.

Quick Release Cord

Cord wraps on unit for storage in the home, yet is released quickly with a turn of a lever for use.

Replaceable Brush Strips

Available on most commercial models, replaceable brush strips minimize replacement costs. As brushes wear, just replace the brush, not the entire brush roll.

Rotating Brushes

Found on Extractors, rotating brushes use an air turbine to drive the brushes to scrub solution into the carpet as the unit dispenses solution. This works the solution more evenly into the carpeting to loosen dirt for deep cleaning needs.


This system uses a transmission to propel the Upright in both forward and reverse. These systems are preferred by individuals with back problems, degenerative disorders such as arthritis, or a physical disability that would be aided by this type of system. Some contain two motors, one for the power drive and one for suction. This allows the second motor to be utilized strictly for cleaning.

Standard Filtration

This system utilizes a paper bag and an outer bag to trap small dirt particles.

Straight-Air Canisters

Generally used to clean hard-surface floors and above-the-floor cleaning. Most models will include attachments for upholstery, dusting and a crevice tool. Straight-air canisters are not well suited for cleaning carpet because they lack the agitation of a brush roll to deep clean carpeting.

Stretch Hose

Provides a greater reach with the tools for cleaning high ceilings and other hard to reach areas. Units without a stretch hose may require lifting the unit to reach upper window valances and curtains.

Swivel Hose

Usually located on the Canister end of the hose, this feature increases maneuverability of the unit preventing the hose from becoming tangled.

True HEPA Sealed System

True HEPA system vacuums filter to HEPA standards not only for the air passing through the dust bag, but also the air from the motor exhaust. The overall performance rating for the ENTIRE cleaner is 99.97% to 0.3 microns in size. For optimal filtration, HEPA filters should be changed every six (6) months.

Variable Motor Speed Control

This feature allows the user to reduce the suction for cleaning throw rugs or at times when full power is not required. This feature is usually found on Uprights or high amperage Lightweights to prevent the rug from sealing to the nozzle.

Vibra Groomer I & II Brush Rolls

Generally found on commercial models, the brush rolls are constructed of chrome plated steel or solid aluminum with replaceable brush strips. The Vibra Groomer's patented design loosens deeply embedded dirt for deep cleaning and prolonged carpet life.

Wall Mounted Charging Stand

Generally used with Lightweights and Handheld units, the wall mounted charging stand allows the unit to recharge while mounted on the stand so it is ready for each use. This way the customer merely takes the unit off the stand and is ready to clean an entire room or perform quick spot cleaning tasks.


This is a measurement of electrical power and current. As a general rule of thumb, amps x volts = watts. Cleaners in Europe are generally rated by watts.


The Upright vacuum is the most popular style of vacuum sold in the U.S. and is designed for thorough rug and carpet cleaning. These models contain a motor-driven brush roll to agitate carpeting and dislodge dirt. There are two basic upright designs: the traditional direct-air (fan first) system and a clean-air (bag first) system.

General Terminology

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