Often overlooked, the trusty vacuum cleaner is an essential piece of kit for any pest manager. 


When it comes to pest control equipment, understandably there’s a focus on spray gear. However, there is another piece of kit that is often overlooked – the humble vacuum cleaner. For those in the know, a specialised pest control vacuum cleaner is indispensable. It can be used to reduce pest numbers before treatment as well as in clean-up, and can even be used as a standalone treatment.

But before discussing the potential uses of the vacuum cleaner, it’s probably worth mentioning we’re not talking about your standard household vacuum. The important requirement for any vacuum used in professional pest control is that it should have a HEPA filter (High Efficiency Particulate Air filter). HEPA filters remove particles down to 0.3 micron with an efficiency of 99.97%. 0.3 microns is significantly smaller than flea eggs, dust mites, spores, allergens and pollens – a human hair is 40 microns, as a point of reference. An example of one such vacuum unit would be the Omega Green Supreme Vacuum from Pest IT, which uses a HEPA filter cartridge.

Pest managers tackling fleas, bed bug and German cockroach problems should have such a vacuum cleaner as part of their tool kit. Whilst pest managers will request homeowners “thoroughly vacuum carpets” before they arrive to carry out a flea treatment, this doesn’t always happen. And even if it does, unless they own a premium vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, its impact will be less than optimal.

For those pest managers who aren’t convinced vacuuming makes a difference, scientific studies1 using an upright vacuum cleaner with a bristle head delivered 100% control of adult fleas and 96% control of flea larvae and pupae. Obviously, it’s unlikely you will get these results in the field (it’s pretty easy to miss a spot), but you get the point!

As recommended in the Bed Bug Code of Practice, vacuuming known and potential bed bug hiding places before treatment should be carried out prior to any chemical treatment. Not only does this reduce bed bug numbers including their eggs, it also removes old skins thus reducing potential allergens, and removes dirt, giving any chemical application the best chance to perform.

German cockroaches like to hide in cracks and crevices and it can take several weeks to get on top of a severe infestation. Vacuuming up visible cockroaches and their typical hiding places will make a significant dent in the population, allowing any treatment to work faster and provide an increased chance of success. Certainly in accounts where spraying may not be an option, vacuuming before placing bait will improve the speed of results and reduce the amount of bait required.

Of course, vacuum cleaners should also be good at cleaning! Although it is not advised to clean up rodent mess with a normal vacuum cleaner due to the danger of putting contaminants into the air that can carry disease (such as hantavirus), a vacuum with a HEPA filter will capture all particulate matter. It is still advised to wear gloves and face mask when cleaning.

Vacuum cleaners can also be used for small bird clean-ups. However in many cases, the amount of bird mess will mean it is beyond the capability of a standard hand-held vacuum and it will be necessary to contact an industrial cleaning company.

When it comes to indoor spider treatments, the vacuum can be used as a standalone treatment. It can quickly remove spiders without the need for spraying and for customers that have indoor issues with webbing spiders such as daddy-long-legs, vacuuming up the spiders and their webs is a quick and complete solution and avoids the need to spray indoors and potentially cause water stains on surfaces.

So the next time you’re looking at getting a new piece of kit, while it may not be exciting, consider adding a HEPA vacuum cleaner to your arsenal. A versatile piece of kit that will get regular use…not only for cleaning.


1 Hink, W.F. and Needham, G.R. (2007). Vacuuming is lethal to all postembryonic life stages of the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata (2007) 125, pp. 221-222

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