How To Choose The Right Tools For Overhead-Cleaning

(also known as High-Dusting)

So, what exactly is overhead cleaning?

Sometimes overhead cleaning is referred to as high dusting.

While we tend to clean the areas that we can reach and see, dust really collects in all areas of a facility.

Examples include high windowsills, overhead vents, HVAC ducts, plumbing pipes, and even walls and ceilings.

Cleaning these surfaces is what we typically refer to as high dusting or overhead cleaning.

What equipment do you need for overhead cleaning?

Before we answer the question of what specific equipment you need for overhead cleaning, there are three things to consider:


Access is important when the area you’re trying to clean is more than 20 feet off the ground because typically it’ll be hard to reach from the floor without a scaffold, or a scissor lift.


High dusting or overhead cleaning is something that requires commitment from both the owner who is responsible for the facility and from the cleaning crew (in-house or third party).

And that commitment means that it becomes part of your regular regimen to clean, because the more frequently you do it, the less headache you’ll have in the future.


In terms of equipment there are three things you’ll need:

The first is a commercial vacuum cleaner (you need something that’s powerful enough).

Second, you’ll need vacuum wands that are going to give you the reach you need to get to the high areas and spaces you need to clean.

Third, you’ll the right cleaning attachments (the tools at the end of those wands that allow you to do the specialized overhead cleaning).

Let’s break each of these three things further:

What type of commercial vacuum should you consider?

When selecting a vacuum cleaner for overhead cleaning, there are two things to consider.

The first is the suction power of the vacuum cleaner which is measured in CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute).

A commercial vacuum cleaner that has a high CFM is recommended when you are cleaning or dusting high spaces, say with a long (extended) wand. The reason why is because it’s easy for the dust to be easily dislodged from the surface when you brush against it and for the dust to fall or become airborne.

When you have a vacuum with high CFM, the dislodged dust will get sucked by the vacuum and it’s less likely that the dust will fall to the ground.

So, a vacuum with a high CFM is going to be one of your most important considerations.

The second important consideration is filtration.

The type of dust that you’re going to find in overhead spaces is typically going to be “fine dust” that collects on overhead surfaces.

So, you want a vacuum cleaner with a filter that’s capable of trapping that fine dust, so it doesn’t escape back into the air you breathe as you are vacuuming.

For this reason, a vacuum with a micron filter or a HEPA of filter would be ideal in this situation.

What Types of wands should you consider?

There are two types of wands that are used for overhead cleaning.

One type is the fixed-length wand, and the other type is the extendable wand.

If the space you are cleaning is 20 feet or less high, you can use additional “extender lengths” to increase the overall length of the wand.

If the space you are cleaning is higher than 20 feet, it’s not advisable to connect extender wands together because the weight of those wands combined can make it difficult for one person to control while cleaning.

Many wands come with a helpful T-grip, to help you control the weight and placement of the wand while cleaning.

Most wands today are made of materials such as aluminum, light steel, and even carbon fiber. The lighter the wand, the easier and more effective it is to control in high to reach spaces.

What types of vacuum tools should you consider?

Over time, there’s been a development of several tools and attachments that can be used for overhead cleaning.

Here are FOUR of the most common types of tools:

#1: The first one is a felt brush made by Sidewinder.

8-sidewinder carpet tool - vacuum cleaners
8-sidewinder carpet tool – vacuum cleaners

The sidewinder felt brush is a great tool to use to clean vertical surfaces such as walls and dusty windows as a result of some construction work.

The brush stays flat on the vertical surface when the wand is moved up and down. This is achieved by the sidewinder’s flexible neck which keeps the felt in contact with the wall at all times.

#2: The second tool is called a dust brush with sidewinder capability.

8-sidewinder brush tool - vacuum cleaners
8-sidewinder brush tool – vacuum cleaners

Much like the felt brush, it has the same flexibility at the neck, but instead of using a 45-degree extender, it has a built-in gooseneck to allow you to clean horizontal surfaces that may be high (i.e. a windowsill,  shelf, or maybe the top of a locker).

#3: The third tool developed for overhead cleaning is a pipe tool.

pipe ventilation tools - vacuum cleaners
pipe ventilation tools – vacuum cleaners

These are valuable for cleaning pipes and come in a variety of sizes, styles, types, and materials to fit your needs.

#4: And lastly, there is the smaller dust brush attachment.

3 inch aluminum brush
3-inch aluminum brush

This tool can be attached to the end of a wand and allows you to clean surfaces that you may not have easy access to – an example would be light bulbs and emergency exit signs.

The aluminum dust brush attachment has a bit of weight to it which gives you more control when you’re dusting and also makes sure that the dust comes off easily.

So, those are four examples of common tools used for high dusting vertical surfaces, horizontal surfaces, and overhead vents and pipes.

What are the Top Mistakes to avoid in overhead cleaning?

When thinking about overhead cleaning, there are a couple of mistakes that people make.

The first is to assume that it requires no special skill and that anyone can do it.

In reality, just like any type of professional cleaning, overhead cleaning requires training, the use of specialized tools, and practice. Once you have some experience doing it, then it becomes easier.

The second mistake people make is to avoid regular cleaning or defer cleaning high surfaces.

The longer you leave a surface dirty, the harder it becomes to clean, especially in the areas that have high moisture or areas that have oil in the air like in a kitchen or restaurant.

In situations like this, as the dust settles, it mixes with the oil, or with the humidity and “cakes-on” to the high surfaces.

When this happens, it makes it much harder to clean and you may not be able to simply vacuum away the dirt. In such situations, you’ll need to use high-pressure washers, and you’ll need to have specialized access to those areas which will end up costing you a lot of time and money.

So, having overhead cleaning as part of your regular cleaning regimen is important and something that should be considered by every cleaning company and building facility.


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