Food Processing FAQs

Food Safety Hazards and Combustible Dust

Q. What are some of the applications of your vacuums in food plants?

A. Nilfisk's industrial vacuums are used in hundreds of food processing facilities across North America for general maintenance, overhead cleaning, packaging lines, process integration, liquid collection, compliance with OSHA's combustible dust NEP, and the list goes on. For a list of food company references, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Q. What features and benefits of industrial vacuums are beneficial to the maintenance needs of the food industry?

A. Aside from high-quality, reliable motors and superior filtration, industrial vacuums are available in many different models with a wide range of hoses and accessories to meet the diverse cleaning challenges of the food industry.

  • Overhead cleaning kits for reaching pipes, vents and the tops of machinery
  • Heat-resistant wands, nozzles and Nomex® filters that can withstand extreme oven temperatures
  • Corrosion-resistant, stainless steel vacuums that can be quickly decontaminated with little to no trace of food residue
  • Color-coded nozzles to prevent cross-contamination
  • Explosion proof models and anti-static accessories to protect workers from potentially dangerous sparks

Q. Why are industrial vacuum cleaners better than low-cost mops, brooms and compressed air?

A. Most manufacturers that use mops, brooms or compressed air start at the top of their plant and work their way down, sweeping away dust and debris as they go. This process is not only time-consuming, but actually just re-disperses the particles back into the air, especially if using compressed air. Mops and brooms can also promote contamination by spreading bacteria from one piece of machinery to another.

Mops, Brooms & Compressed Air vs. High-Quality Vacuum Cleaner 
The efficiency of an industrial vacuum cleaner can cut cleaning time in half, and literally save thousands of dollars! Whether a plant operates 40 hours a week or 24/7, facilities would get a return on investment on a $2,000 vacuum cleaner in less than 2 months. Check out the chart below.


Q. We are tired of replacing our shop-style vacuums every time they break (which is a lot). How is an industrial vacuum different than a shop-style vac?

A. The most common problem with shop-style vacuums is frequent motor burn-up due to low-cost, unreliable motors that overheat quickly. High-quality industrial vacuums are equipped with superior motors, specifically designed to handle longer run times and industrial applications.   

Aside from motor burn-up, shop-style vacuums also do an inadequate job of retaining collected materials due to poor filtration. Quality industrial vacuums are equipped with oversized filters which allow the vacuum to filter more efficiently. The larger the filter, the more space there is to trap particles that would otherwise clog or "blind" the filter, reducing suction and performance. Industrial vacuums also have graduated or multi-stage filtration systems. These systems require debris to pass through several steps of filtration, such as a paper bag, main cloth filter and/or HEPA, with each level acting as a barrier to the next. By the time the particles reach the last stage, the majority of debris has been trapped by previous filters. Shop-style vacuums are usually only equipped with single-stage filtration systems, allowing particles to pass through the motor and disperse back into the facility through the exhaust stream.  

Unlike most shop-style vacuums, industrial vacuums are also available with many different features that increase run time and help prolong the life of the vacuum. For example, a manual or automatic filter cleaning system frees the filter from caked-on dust and debris before it can clog the filter and reduce vacuum suction. Industrial vacuums can also be customized for specific applications, such as machine integration or multiple users. 

Shop-Style Vacuum vs. Quality Industrial Vacuum 

Upgrading from a shop-style vacuum to an industrial vacuum will save you both money and trips to the dumpster, especially when collecting fine powders on a consistent basis. The table below doesn't even take into account the reduced labor costs associated with an industrial vacuum purchase as a result of time-saving features like self-cleaning filters. 


Q. We collect sugar dust, which is an explosive dust. Do we need an explosion proof vacuum?

A. We know there is a lot of confusion in the food manufacturing sector regarding hazardous materials, particularly combustible dust. In short, just because your facility handles combustible dust does not mean you need an explosion proof vacuum…but you might. OSHA's Combustible Dust NEP calls for electrical vacuums used in dusty areas to be approved for the hazard-classified location, as required under standard 1910.307(b). The standard regulates that facilities follow the Class and Division system as defined by NFPA 70 or the National Electrical Code. At Nilfisk Industrial Vacuums, our representatives conduct a thorough facility analysis, complete a project survey, and make an educated, experienced recommendation based on the needs of your specific application. Nilfisk's explosion proof vacuums are CSA-certified for use in Class I, Group D, and Class II, Groups E*, F & G environments. For more information on explosion proof vacuums, visit  

Q. When faced with an OSHA combustible dust fine, should I consider an explosion proof vacuum or dust ignition proof vacuum – or will mops and brooms do the job?

A. Keeping your facility free of explosive dust is much easier said than done. Traditional plant maintenance methods like sweeping and blowing down with compressed air only make the situation worse by spreading the explosive dust around and making it airborne. This actually increases your chances of a combustible dust explosion.

That's why specialized industrial vacuums are now generally accepted as the best way to combat combustible dust and other explosive materials. However, in many cases these vacuums – with electric motors and metal parts – could produce a dangerous spark. Simply put, when it comes to safe plant sanitation, not just any vacuum will do.

Q. How do I know if a vacuum is certified "explosion proof"?

A. An explosion proof vacuum is explosion proof to the core. This means that everything from the outer shell to the internal mechanics is grounded and constructed of non-sparking materials like stainless steel. Some industrial vacuum companies offer basic models "dressed up" with a few anti-static accessories and tell you that they are suitable for explosive materials. These imposter machines can still create arcs, sparks or heat that can cause explosions. Purchasing an explosion proof / dust ignition proof vacuum approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or Underwriters Laboratories (UL) will protect you from imposters. Your industrial vacuum partner should be able to provide legal certification that the explosion proof vacuum you purchase can be used in a particular NFPA-classified environment. That certification ensures every component in the vacuum – from the ground up – meets strict standards for preventing shock and fire hazards. 

Q. How do I choose between an electric explosion proof industrial vacuum and an air-operated industrial vacuum?

A. There are times when electricity is unavailable or undesirable. For these situations, properly equipped air-operated vacuums are excellent alternatives to explosion proof vacuums. However, just because a vacuum is air-operated doesn't mean it's explosion proof. Safe pneumatic vacuums should be constructed of non-sparking materials such as stainless steel and be outfitted with ignition-proof parts and accessories that meet NFPA requirements and the highest level of operational safety.

About Vacuums for Food Safety is your source for explosive dust and food safety hazard information. Nilfisk Industrial Vacuums is a world leader in explosive dust control, and their industrial vacuums have been helping companies improve their level of safety from explosive dust and food safety hazards for more than 100 years.

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With two complete product lines to choose from, chances are Nilfisk Industrial Vacuums has the ideal industrial vacuum solution for your application.

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Mailing Address

Nilfisk, Inc.
Industrial Vacuum Division

740 Hemlock Road, Suite 100
Morgantown, PA 19543
Phone: 800-NILFISK (645-3475)
Fax: (610) 286-7350


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