Product Review: Sanitaire SC785AT Vacuum Cleaner

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by Tom Watson on February 2, 2014

Product Description: The Sanitaire SC785AT vacuum cleaner is a traditional upright style unit designed to provide commercial performance and compact design.

The unit frame is constructed from ABS plastic and weighs in at 14 pounds. It has a cleaning width of 12 inches and comes with a 30 foot cord. It has a two-stage micron filtration system and it collects the dirt via an allergen filtration paper bag that has a 3 quart capacity.

The onboard attachments include a wand with built-in crevice tool, and a dusting brush. A 5 foot stretch hose is also included but is stored separately. The motor is 78 decibel and produces 79 CFM. It also has a protective vinyl bumper around the base. The unit stands 45.5 inches high with the handle fully extended and 27.5 when folded.

Ideal Product Use: The Sanitaire SC 785 AT is a smaller style vacuum that is designed to be able to get into and out of tight spaces while vacuuming. The low profile design allows you to get under many areas that larger vacuums just can’t reach which makes it a great choice for cleaning homes and smaller commercial settings.

Product Pros: The folding handle really comes in handy when you don’t have much room to store it. Having the handle fold also makes for easy transport in your car or truck if you need to move the vacuum from job to job. Having the 30 foot cord eliminates the need for an extension cord on most jobs. On board tools, particularly the crevice tool, allows for effective edging of carpet.

One of the things I like about this unit is that it utilizes a 2 motor approach. What that means is that one motor is dedicated to the suction aspect of the cleaning while the other is used for the brush roll. This 2 motor setup typically produce better performance on the whole, especially when using the attachments.

Product Cons: This model has a rather small cleaning width of only 12 inches. This means you’ll have to make a lot of cleaning passes to clean a large area. So if you clean big commercial properties with a lot of wide open spaces that need to be vacuumed then this unit will not be for you as the small cleaning path will make vacuuming a large area a time-consuming project.

A somewhat smaller issue relates to the power cord itself. In particular where the cord leaves the unit on the back of the frame tends to split over time and expose the wires when wrapped too tightly. This issue is easily managed by training your staff on how to properly wrap the cord.

Product Cost & Availability: The suggested MSRP is $225.00 however odds are high you can get it well below that price point via online merchants such as this one on Amazon. Many janitorial supply houses are also authorized distributors if you wish to see one in person.

My Final Thoughts: I have extensive experience with this exact unit as my company has bought dozens and dozens of them over the years. My opinion is that they are long-lasting units that deliver superior results. The motors hardly ever wear out despite some heavy usage on a day-to-day basis so I can do nothing but give the Sanitaire SC785AT an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Have questions about this product? If you have any questions regarding this product please leave them in the comments below. In most cases I have access to the manufacturer, their sales managers or authorized distributors not to mention my own sources and can get you a prompt answer to your question.

THANKS for reading my review of today’s product. By doing so you are educating yourself on the latest products and services that are available to the cleaning industry. This in turn helps make YOU the “go-to” cleaning contractor in your area who has the ANSWERS and SOLUTIONS for everyday cleaning related issues.

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 RT3 February 2, 2014 at 4:46 pm

We also use a vacuum very similar to the model you mentioned. We use the Sanitaire SC697J. It to is a great vacuum. We are going to purchase theSanitaire SC785AT per your recommendation. Thanks in advance.

2 Tom Watson February 2, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Thanks for your comment RT3!

3 EHK February 2, 2014 at 6:43 pm

Hi Tom
Thank you for the info. I’m cleaning in the UK, do you know if they are sold over here and if so where?

4 Tom Watson February 2, 2014 at 7:46 pm

Hi EHK! I don’t know off hand, but I’ll look into it and get back to you.

5 Raymon February 2, 2014 at 9:00 pm

I live in Charleston, SC. I went on line and could not find one here. The closest one was in Atlanta GA. Can anyone help?

6 Tom Watson February 2, 2014 at 9:08 pm

Hi Raymon! Check this link from Jon-Don (which is a HIGHLY recommended vendor)…

7 Pernell Haley February 2, 2014 at 11:24 pm

an excellent vacuum cleaner I purchased two of them on the price was $123.00 each. Sanitaire Sc785AT.

8 Tom Watson February 3, 2014 at 6:40 am

Thanks Pernell! That was a good deal!

9 Grime stopper February 3, 2014 at 6:27 pm

I need a vacuum that is as light weight as possible for cleaning apartment complex hallways. There are 3 sets of stairs in each hallway an there are 69 halls. So 14 lbs still gets very heavy, what about an oreck?

10 Tom Watson February 3, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Hi Grime stopper! I don’t think Oreck is “commercial grade”. For apartment complexes I would go with a backpack style unit, they are easier on the back and have a wider cleaning path which will save you TONS of time.

11 carla February 5, 2014 at 10:36 am

Hi Tom,

I need to buy a vaccum for residential cleaning (considering redidential carpets and hardwoodfloors) is thi Sc78sat good for it?
Thank you

12 Tom Watson February 5, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Hi Carla! I would go with the Sanitaire SC785AT. They are perfect for residential customers because of their size (you can easily vacuum under different items etc…). Plus we use them on hardwoods too. I’ve purchased all different types of upright style vacuums and this model is my favorite (which is why I speak so highly of it).

13 Tom Watson February 6, 2014 at 11:46 am

Hi again EHK! Sorry for the delay… but for some reason no one got back to me and I had to go another route to find out for sure. The answer: It does not look like Sanitaire products are sold in the UK.

14 Joanna Price March 16, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Hi Tom! I currently use Oreck vacuums which really pull up the carpet pile, but doesn’t have any tools and are expensive to repair. How well does the Sanitaire do on the pile? Not sure if this is due to cfm number or roller. Thanks for any information.

15 Tom Watson March 16, 2014 at 2:51 pm

Hi Joanna! I picked up 3 Orecks (lightly used) from a vendor once and liked them (except for the lack of attachments). Not sure the Sanitaire has quite the same “pull” on the pile, but I find them more than acceptable. I even bought two for my house, because we were so pleased. My advice would be to buy one and give it a try. They are affordable, last long and have those attachments (which are needed).

16 Terry August 17, 2014 at 5:24 pm

From reading product descriptions/features for the SC785AT and customer comments/reviews the roller bar motor does not have an on/off switch, which seems odd to me. A rolling brush on hardwood/vinyl floors is not necessary and over time could dull the floor surface. My question is, based on someone’s comment about the brush motor, does the brush stop rolling when you use the hose attachment?

17 Tom Watson August 17, 2014 at 10:12 pm

Hi Terry! You can turn the roller off. That’s what I like about it! It has two motors, one for suction and one for the brush. The switch has 3 positions, all the way down turns them both on, but it you click it back one slot it turns off the roller.

18 Carrie N Lane October 8, 2017 at 5:14 pm

Hi Tom. So I noticed that this particular vaccum is no longer being made will that effect buying any parts in future.

19 Lydia Fisher October 10, 2017 at 8:46 pm

Hi Tom,
I’m wondering if this vacuum kicks dirt out the back. Although there is lots I like about the one I have, it seems to kick stuff.



20 Tom Watson October 12, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Hi Lydia! Only once they got real old and “tired” did the vacuums start to do that, in my experience anyway. And that was after years of constant use. Probably because the suction motor started to fail. The nice part about this unit is that is has TWO MOTORS. One for the beater bar, and one dedicated to suction. that’s why it was such a favorite of mine.

21 Tom Watson October 12, 2017 at 12:39 pm

It might. But I never bought many replacement parts and swapped them out. I just retired the old units and KEPT THEM for parts. And besides, in my opinion, these units are so well made, and so under priced, that they are a good buy no matter what. If i was still in business, I would scoop up a bunch and just stock up on replacement bags. That’s it.

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