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Tips for Choosing the Right Vacuum Cleaner Power Brush

Just about every week we have someone come in the shop that has been referred to us by a local carpet installer because the vacuum they used on their new carpeting caused significant damage.   In almost every case the damage is caused by one thing:  an overly hard bristle in the brush of their upright or canister vacuum cleaner. 

As American tastes shift from synthetic to natural fiber materials, carpet damage or premature wear has become a more common problem. Some carpet manufacturers have even gone so far as to stipulate that the warranty is void if a certain vacuum brand is used.  Most of the time, the damage can be repaired through reweaving or de-pilling the surface, but many times the carpet is never again like new.

Carpet is still one of the biggest household investments for people, and since we’ve had more than one customer come to tears over wrecking ten grand of New Zealand wool, we think it’s a good idea to start spreading the word about of which brushrolls are appropriate for which types of carpeting.

The key to choosing the right brush system for your carpet is knowing the material and the weave.  It’s all about the fiber and how it’s woven.

Usually carpet is made of wool or synthetic yarn (or a blend of both).  But there are many different types of weaves. The most common are loop, cut pile, twist and sisal.
 
First of all, if your home has a standard cut-pile carpet made of nylon or other synthetic material like Olefin, you may be excused from class.  The brushes on standard vacuums from any manufacturer will perform well and not damage your carpet.

But if your carpet is made of wool, cotton, silk, seagrass or any combination of these – or if your carpet is a looped, berber, frieze twist, shag or any other unusual combination -  read on.  It could save you a big hassle and a lot of money.

The natural materials above require a very soft, long bristle.  Think of it like a hair brush. At one end of the spectrum you have hair brushes that are very fine and soft and gentle.  On the other you have hair brushes that are very hard, stiff and tough, the kind you would use on a shaggy dog. 

When vacuuming natural fibers, you need a lot of suction and a very gentle brush action.  Brushes that are longer and softer work best on natural materials. When they sweep across the carpet, the soft bristle flexes and gently brushes up any hair or lint, letting the suction do most of the work to clean without causing any damage. 

Standard vacuums do just the opposite of this.  They actually transfer very little suction down into the carpet.  Instead, they use an extra hard bristle that scrapes across the surface of the carpet and very aggressively pulls up the carpet fiber.  This aggressive scraping and pulling at 2000 rpm can cause pilling or premature wear, and may even start a snag in the thread that pulls though the whole carpet as it wraps around the spinning brush.

For any cut-pile natural fiber or blended carpet, a motorized brush with a medium soft bristle is recommended.  Here are a few recommendations:

For twist, shag or frieze carpet, it’s very important to have a height-adjustable brush that can be raised off the carpet to prevent pulling.   Also, if the yarn on the shag is two inches or more, a suction-only rug tool is recommended.  

The following vacuum cleaners all have height adjustable brushes with moderately stiff bristles:

Category: Vacuum Cleaners
  • Lana G says:

    Hi! We have a new Karastan, Wish Come True, high pile silk strand carpet and cannot find a vacuum that will move through the carpet without getting stuck or without damaging the fibers. I have tried my Dyson, 2 Hoover Windtunnels, a Eureka Air Speed, and the Oreck Magnesium. Do you have a recommendation for me? Please help!

    August 21, 2014 at 3:17 pm
    • Mark Davis says:

      You are not alone! This new carpet is absolutely gorgeous, but a lot of people are having the exact same issue. The good news is that there is a solution.

      Miele makes a special power brush (model SEB228) that is designed with just this type of carpet in mind. It has large-diameter wide wheels that will not get “sink” down into the carpet. It also has a height-adjustable bottom that can be raised very high to accommodate this ultra plush weave. Both these factors combines with the powerful suction of a Miele canister vacuum allow you to push the head with out getting stuck – or wearing out your rotator cuff!

      The SEB228 Power Head comes boxed with some models and is available as an option on any other Miele canister vacuum that is equipped with an electric brush. Take a look at these products:

      Miele S2 Delphi
      Miele S2 Titan
      Miele S6 Topaz
      Miele S8 Kona
      Miele S8 Cat & Dog
      Miele S8 Marin / 228

      For a price and feature comparison, please call one of our product experts at 888-205-3228.

      August 21, 2014 at 8:18 pm
  • Gretchen Williams says:

    We have a hand tied silk carpet from china. We have a Miele vacuum. There is a brush bar on rug attachment. Does Miele make a carpet attachment without the brush??? We are noticing fibers sticking up and think the brush is causing this.
    Gretchen

    July 22, 2014 at 3:20 pm
    • Mark Davis says:

      Gretchen,

      Miele does have a tool that would work perfectly on your delicate rug. You’re most likely seeing those fibers coming loose and standing straight up because the spinning brushroll is being too abrasive on the carpet fibers

      The 285-3 Combination Rug & Floor tool has no rotating brushroll on the bottom and will thoroughly but delicately clean your natural fiber rug. A smooth metal plate on the bottom glides the tool across the top of the rug, while two threadlifter strips around the intake gently work through the carpet fibers and pull debris towards the intake. The tool can also be used on the smooth floors of your home. Retractable synthetic bristles used to sweep smooth floors surround the perimeter of the tool and can be controlled by using a rocker switch on top of the 285-3.

      July 22, 2014 at 4:23 pm
  • sarah says:

    What kind of vacuum should I purchase for a sisal rug?

    May 20, 2014 at 1:54 am
    • Tom Szynwelski says:

      Sisal is a tricky rug to clean, it is made from natural fibers so you don’t want to use a spinning brushroll however the structure of the rug lends to dirt settling deep into the weave. We like to suggest the Miele 235-3 floor tool. It has long fixed synthetic bristles that will collect dirt from the bottom of the weave and bring it up towards the intake. The 235-3 has large rubber wheels that roll smoothly over the surface of the rug. The tool does not have an abrasive spinning brushroll that would damage the fibers of the rug.

      Tom
      Best Vacuum

      May 21, 2014 at 7:09 pm
  • Meryl G says:

    Your article was helpful and confirmed my suspicions, however you did not answer my question, that is, which vacum do you recommend for loomed new Zealand wool carpets? We also have a custom textured silk carpet . I would really appreciate your input. Thanks so much!

    Meryl G

    July 11, 2013 at 1:52 am
    • Mark Davis says:

      Hi Meryl,

      A canister vacuum cleaner equipped with a “suction only” tool is the very best way to care for New Zealand wool carpets. This type of tool does not have a rotating brush which can damage wool fiber. Instead, the carpet tool has a very narrow channel to force the suction deep down into the carpet while a gentle velveteen lint-lifter whisks away hair or lint without doing any damage to the wool.

      There are several manufacturers that make this type of tool including Miele, Electrolux and SEBO. Our top pick would be the Miele Alize. Not only does it have a very efficient rug tool, it also features an automatic suction control that will adjust the suction to exactly the right amount for the rug you are cleaning.

      Hope that answers your question. Please feel free to contact us at 1-888-205-3228 if you have any other questions.

      Mark

      July 11, 2013 at 7:26 pm

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