Vacuum Cleaner: Types, History, and Uses

Vacuum Cleaner

We live in a time where people crave convenience. Different pieces of equipment such as washing machines, dishwashers, and vacuum cleaners have been designed to help people who want to relieve themselves of the stress of most chores.

The vacuum cleaner is an essential household equipment that’s very common.

Rather than sweeping with a broom or brush, people now opt for a device that can do all that and their only task is to move it around. Vacuum cleaners are electrical equipment that generates suction to remove dirt and dust from floors, chairs and even curtains. It can also be referred to as a vacuum or a hoover.

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The dirt and dust sucked by this equipment are collected in a dust bag for disposal. Like most equipment, the vacuum cleaner comes in different models and sizes ranging from battery-powered portable devices to a wheeled canister vacuum(the most commonly used), a domestic central vacuum system and even an industrial vacuum cleaner.

They also come with a capacity for several litres of dust before being emptied.

Table of Contents

A brief history of vacuum cleaner

The vacuum cleaner isn’t a novel invention. It’s a piece of electrical equipment that evolved from the carpet sweeper through manual vacuum cleaners. These manual models made use of bellows, and they were invented in the mid 19th century; the 1860s to be precise.

In the 20th century, the first models of the motor-powered cleaners came on board. These early models used blowing air to push debris instead of generating suction to gather them.

In 1898, John Thurman patented a piece of equipment called the “carpet renovator” which employed the blowing of dust into a bag. It is powered by an internal combustion engine, and it was used commercially from house to house for cleaning services.

The following year and the year after in 1899 and 1900 respectively, a certain Corrine Daffour got two patents for another blown air cleaner which was the first-ever to make use of an electric motor engine.

Suction as a cleaning technique came to life when two inventors, a British named Hubert Booth and an American named David Kenney independently manufactured a powered vacuum cleaner that uses suction to clean surfaces. Hubert’s tech involved the generation of suction by using pumped air through a cloth filter.

Kenney’s applied a 4000-pound stationary steam-powered engine with various pipes and hoses reaching into several parts of the building. The first electric-powered vacuum cleaner was invented in 1907 by Jerry Spangler. It was portable in design, and he got a patent for it a year later.

Jerry’s tech employed the use of suction to suck dirt off and a brush that circulates on dirty surfaces to make the dirt easier to be sucked off the surface. Because of funding issues, Jerry couldn’t produce his design, and he opted to sell his patent in 1908.

The vacuum cleaner quickly became a prized possession of the middle-class citizens after the second world war. Furthermore, the machine became more popular in western countries because the dominant flooring style of their homes was wall to wall carpeting.

As the world approached the 21st century, new breeds of vacuum cleaners came into the picture. Rechargeable portable vacuum cleaners, cyclonic dirt separation without the use of a filter, central vacuum systems, microscopic computer technology and advanced batteries made the development of robotic vacuum cleaners possible.

In 1997, Sweden demonstrated Electrolux Trilobite, the world’s first cordless robotic vacuum cleaner which penetrated the market in 2001. In 2004, a British tech company invented a new breed of vacuum cleaner that use the air recycling system instead of a vacuum to suck the dirt off carpets.

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The machine operates similarly to a hovercraft by floating on air to suck dirt. The machine was designed to be lightweight and more comfortable to move around than the equipment on wheels.

Major types of vacuum cleaner

Canister cleaner

This model of vacuum cleaner is very common in the United Kingdom. They move on wheels, and they are also referred to as “cylinder” cleaner. This flexible equipment is made of the motor engine, the dust collector which could either be bagged or bagless and connected to a hose which connects to the vacuum head.

It is a dominant product in the European market. This cleaner is well-liked for its flexibility. It can use different vacuum heads for various tasks and functions. It is flexible enough to clean different surfaces such as stairs, the space under furniture and walls.

The vacuum head also known as the powerhead of the equipment is made up of mechanical beaters which are powered by a separate turbine that enables it to generate suction to utilise the brush attached to it through a drive belt. The canister cleaner also has a backpack version.

Upright vacuum cleaner

This type of vacuum cleaner is very common in the American market and that of a good number of Commonwealth countries. They made up of a vacuum head, a bag for dust collection and a handle for manoeuvring.

It removes dirt through vibration and sweeping movements by a beater bar or in some designs, a rotating brush. This kind of vacuum cleaner has two types; the direct fan type also referred to as the dirty-air type and the fan-bypass, also known as the clean-air type. Commercial outlets and cleaning agencies mostly use the former while the latter is commonly used for household purposes.

The direct fan model employs the use of a large fan mounted at the entrance of the suction opening, which is the channel through which dirt swept off surfaces is passed through, before being gathered in a bag. The equipment has another fan that’s for cooling purposes. Its primary function is to cool the motor while it’s being operated.

The direct fan cleaner possesses large blades which enables it to generate an excellent airflow with just a low amount of power. This makes it very effective in getting dirt off surfaces, but it is more effective on horizontal surfaces than vertical surfaces. The suction power considerably lessens on surfaces like wall or draperies.

The second model; the fan-bypass cleaner has a different configuration. Its motor engine is mounted after the filter bag. It works by removing and collecting dirt/dust from the airflow by the bag and then passing it through the filter before it finally goes through the fan.

The motor engine is cooled down by the airflow that passes through it and unlike direct fan cleaners. It is equally effective on both horizontal and vertical surfaces because its mechanism keeps the suction strength steady and it isn’t affected by the distance or length of the hose.

However, it is inferior to the direct-fan cleaner in terms of airflow because it’s airflow needs to be twice as strong as the direct fans to achieve the same effects.

Wet/Dry Vacuum cleaner

This kind of vacuum cleaners can be used to clean up spills or wet surfaces. It is a special type of drum or cylinder cleaners. They can be used both within and outside the house, and they can clean up both dry and wet surfaces.

Some of these cleaners possess an exhaust opening or a removable blower that can reverse the airflow. This serves to clear up a blocked hose or blow dirt/dust into a collectable for easy disposal. It has a pneumatic version that can hook up to compressed air.

Drum vacuum cleaner

This type of cleaner is a special type of cylinder cleaner that is used for heavy-duty tasks.  The canister of this cleaner is a large, vertically-placed drum which can be static or movable on wheels. It has smaller versions which are commonly seen and used in garages and workshops, and they operate with electricity.

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Robotic vacuum cleaner

These cleaners are independently operated once switched on. They move on their own across surfaces and retrieve dust and dirt into a dust bag. They can move around furniture in the home and return on their own to their charging spots to recharge.

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This cleaner possesses motorised brushes and vacuum motor for the dirt collection. Some models of this cleaner have stronger airflows than all other types of vacuum cleaners. They utilise a laser-based mapping technology to navigate surfaces they are cleaning which is usually done through multiple charging cycles.

Cyclonic vacuum cleaner

This cleaner does not possess filter bags like others. It employs high speed to suck off dirt and dust into a detachable cylindrical-shaped collectable or bin. Just like a cyclone, its high speed generates a vortex that spins very fast and creates a centrifugal force in its dirt collection and storage.

When the collectable is nearing its brim, the cleaner’s mechanism restricts its airflow which automatically lowers its suction power. This distinguishes it from cleaners with filter bags, and their suction power is only reduced when the hose is blocked or clogged.

Specifications used in rating vacuum cleaners

  • Airflow
  • Airspeed
  • Suction strength
  • Operational Noise level
  • Weight
  • Power cord length
  • Hose length
  • Input power
  • Output power

Vacuum cleaner like most equipment comes with a host of accessories. Its function is auxiliary, (it clean surfaces that the vacuum cleaner itself cannot reach or clean).

They include tools such as upholstery nozzles, crevice tools, dusting brush, hard floor brush and powered floor nozzle.

Factors to consider before purchasing a vacuum cleaner

Vacuum Cleaner
  • Your floor-cleaning frequency: Do you vacuum your floors daily? If you have floors that tend to get dirty easily, you can opt for a robotic vacuum cleaner which can be programmed to take care of your floors even while you are absent.
  • Your type of floor: If you use carpeting floor style in your home, a good pick will be the upright vacuum cleaner or certain models of canister cleaners, but if you use hard floors, the canister cleaner is certainly recommended.
    For those with a combination of both floors, ensure to consider specs such as height adjustability and suction control. Also, check if the brush roll of the machine you want to purchase is either powered by air or electricity.
  • Presence of allergens: If you or a member of your household has asthma or certain allergies, getting a vacuum cleaner that uses HEPA filtration is ideal as it helps to get rid of certain allergens as well as its odors.
  • Is your home on a single floor level or does it have stairs?: If your home has stairs, then you need to consider getting a cordless vacuum cleaner that’s lightweight and easy to maneuver. Also, consider the type of floors on each level and purchase a cleaner best suited for such surfaces.
  • Cleaning extra surfaces?: If you were cleaning curtains and furniture, you should buy a cleaner that comes with accessories. They have been mentioned earlier in this article, and they can be used to clean other surfaces in the home.
  • Level of operational noise: You might want to opt for a noiseless cleaner since it is for domestic use. The less heavy-duty a cleaner is, the less the noise it generates while at work. Vacuum manufacturers should also be considered too.
  • Level of maintenance required: This is an essential factor to be considered when buying a vacuum cleaner. You might decide to opt for bagless vacuums since they don’t require frequent disposal and replacement. Also, you might want to choose a cleaner that uses washable filters instead of replaceable ones.

A quick vacuum cleaner’s user guide

Safety Tips

  • Ensure the output voltage of your mains is equivalent to that of the appliance. Its voltage is visible on the data plate located at the bottom of the cleaner. This prevents damage to your cleaner
  • Do not leave your cleaner plugged in and unattended. Before you leave, ensure you switch the cleaner off and unplug it from the socket
  • It is not advisable to use your cleaner horizontally. Keep it upright when in use
  • Ensure you don’t use your cleaner outside the house or on wet floors
  • After use, store it out of the reach of children in the house
  • Avoid using a cleaner when its cord or plug has been damaged or if it has been dropped, vandalized, spilt, or left outside. Also, ensure you take it to for checking and servicing before you use it again
  • Handle the cleaner’s cord with care. Please do not use it to move the cleaner
  • Do not run the vacuum cleaner over the cord
  • Avoid bringing the cord close to hot surfaces
  • Avoid using the cord as a handle for the cleaner
  • Avoid closing the door on the cord
  • Do not move the cord around sharp objects
  • Avoid pulling the plug by the cord. Grab the plug instead and unplug
  • Avoid handling the plug with wet hands
  • Ensure all moving parts and openings of the cleaner is free of foreign objects such as hair, pieces of clothes, lint, or even hair
  • Avoid blocking any part or opening of the cleaner with any part of your body
  • Never sweep up burning objects such as smoldering ashes or glowering cigarettes
  • Avoid operating the cleaner without a dust bag or filter in place
  • Ensure all controls on the cleaner are switched off before unplugging the machine from its power source
  • If you want to attach or detach any accessory tools or a hose, switch off the appliance first
  • The plug should be held in place while rewinding into the cord reel, do not leave it dangling while rewinding.
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How to unclog the hose of your vacuum cleaner

  • You can unclog your hose free of dirt and dust by pulling it off and placing its handle into the suction opening
  • Once the hose is placed there, switch on your cleaner, and the machine will suck out every dust and dirt clogging the hose
  • While unclogging your hose, ensure you do not place it into the suction area without its handle. Doing so will make the suction pressure bend the hose excessively leading to damage

How to empty and clean your dust compartment

  • If your vacuum cleaner’s suction power is diminishing, it is an indication that the dust compartment of your equipment is full and it needs to be emptied and cleaned immediately
  • Before you empty the compartment, you must switch off the cleaner and pull out the hose from the suction area
  • Take off the filter system (could be water filter or cloth filter system)
  • Clean off the dirt in the compartment
  • Replace the filter and reattach the hose to the dust compartment.

How to clean your vacuum cleaner

  • Pull out the fixing clamp on both sides of your cleaner. This will enable you to remove the main body and give you access to the motor inlet filter
  • To clean the motor inlet filter, remove the cover, grid, and dust filter and wash them
  • Dispose of the dirty water. Ensure the dust filter and its parts are washed and dried thoroughly
  • After that, remove the outlet plate and wash the outlet filters
  • Wash every part of the cleaner including the brush, hose, and the tube
  • Leave the washed parts to dry
  • When dried, accurately reassemble the parts as you dismembered them

The vacuum cleaner works with consistent optimum efficiency if all safety instructions and maintenance tips are strictly adhered to. Ensure you periodically clean and service your equipment to prevent subsequent damage and major breakdowns.

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