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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
  • 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.


      July 11, 2013 at 7:26 pm

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