How Do Vacuum Cleaners Work?

In the 21st century, it is undoubtedly an era that has been more convenient for its people. Aside from the latest games and other advancements in technology and science, even the most menial tasks have been made to be more conveniently accomplished in just a couple of minutes.

One example of the thing that made our life remarkably easier is a vacuum cleaner. Back in the earlier days, our grandparents have to exert a lot of effort just to make their homes clean. Now, all we have to do is plug the vacuum in and we can enjoy a dust-free home in a matter of minutes or even seconds.

Since many of the households in the United States (and even in the world) has one in our homes, it is normal to wonder how it works. How exactly do vacuums work? And how can they make our areas clean so fast?

The history of a vacuum cleaner

As with the other appliances we now enjoy, modern vacuum cleaners are very different from what they once were. Before we go into the science of how they work, let us learn a bit of the history of their invention first.

First was the manual vacuums

If you need to know who we have to thank for the idea behind this trusty machine, we should start with Daniel Hess. Back in the 1860s, it is apparent that cleaning carpets and living quarters can be too much of a chore. If you ask us, many people back then may attribute their back pains mainly from scrubbing manually. (Don’t quote us on this)

Daniel Hess’ invention is indeed far from what you may imagine it would look like. They called it a carpet sweeper and it used a generated suction to rotate its brush. Unfortunately, the carpet sweeper was not successfully marketed as it was very difficult to use. However, many inventors followed suit and some were inspired by Hess’ idea.

In the late 1860s, Ives W. McGaffey invented Whirlwind, which requires a manually cranked belt-driven fan for the vacuum to work. It was also not a huge success, since it was very bulky and awkward to use.

Next was the powered vacuums

John S. Thurman incorporated the use of gasoline to power the internal combustion engine of his very own vacuum cleaner. This was in the late 1890s, and some people considered his invention to be the first powered vacuum.

All three designs from Hess, McGaffey, and Thurman were similar in one very important point – all of them blew air to clean a particular carpet or place. This is what made Hubert Cecil Booth’s Puffing Billy different. Instead of blowing air like the earlier inventions, the latter used a suction method instead. Although it was much more effective in collecting dust, Booth’s invention was very bulky and requires a horse to pull it around London.

Then comes the domestic vacuums

Since it was very apparent that Booth’s sucking method was more effective in gathering dust than the earlier models, the latter inventions also used this mechanism as well. Walter Griffiths made the first vacuum machine that can be carried around in the 1900s, which was a luxury that only rich people can afford.

The idea of the portable vacuum machine which we now enjoy came from James Spangler, a janitor who successfully invented a cleaner with a rotating brush and a bag to store the dust. He later sold the patent and rights to William Hoover who redesigned the vacuum and added disposable bags for convenience.

Since then, more and more people were able to own Hoover’s vacuum cleaner in their homes after the war. In the late 19th century, it was possible for a lot of extreme advancements with the simple vacuum cleaner. One of the most well-known companies that make vacuums is Dyson, which is still very popular at the present.

From bulky machines to hand-held devices and even automatic or robotic ones, vacuum cleaners have clearly come a long way from what they once were before.

How a vacuum cleaner works

How is it possible for a small machine to clean your carpets in just a few minutes?

The simplest way to explain how it works is by imagining a straw: Just like how we sip water from our glass, the act of sipping generates a pressure that allows the air to push the water upwards. However, when it comes to a vacuum, it has many parts that perform a specific function. This allows the machine to work smoothly and conveniently.

If the mechanism of a vacuum cleaner interests you, we also need to delve more into each of its parts to understand exactly how it works.

Most modern vacuum cleaners have the following basic parts:

  • Brush
  • Intake port
  • Fan
  • Electric motor
  • Filter
  • Exhaust port
  • Dust bag

What happens when you use your vacuum cleaner

Are your carpets too dusty for their own good? If so, it is time to bring out your trusted vacuum cleaner. Let us explain how it works step-by-step:

Step 1: Plugging your vacuum in

When you plug your vacuum into the wall socket, the electricity will power your motor. The electric motor makes it possible for the fan to spin and do its job later on.

Step 2: Cleaning your space

Once you turn on the switch of your vacuum cleaner, it will activate the blades of your fan which creates suction. If you slide your machine on top of the surface you want to clean, doing this engages the brush, which makes it possible to get the dislodged dirt and dust more efficiently. This draws air to the intake port, which also makes dirt and dust go inside your vacuum cleaner.

After the dust gets sucked by the pressure, it will travel from your intake port to your exhaust port until it settles in the dust bag. It will accumulate there until you clean or replace the dust bag.

Step 3: Unplugging and storing your vacuum

After using the vacuum cleaner, turn off the switch and unplug it from the socket. This allows the electricity to stop traveling into your machine for safe storing.

The different types of vacuum cleaners

In a time where we have a lot of options to choose from, this also applies when it comes to vacuum cleaners. Depending on the purpose of the cleaner and where it will be used, some types will work best than others.

The 7 most common vacuum cleaner types we use are the following:

1. Upright Vacuums

Known as the cheaper type of vacuums compared to canisters, they are best in cleaning areas with large, carpeted surfaces. They can come with a “bagless” or “with bag” feature and are wonderful for people that hate bending down to clean. They have a wider cleaning path than a canister vacuum and comes with a longer power cord.

The con that comes with a traditional vacuum cleaner is that it is usually bulky and heavy. It can also be very loud and annoying to hear.

2. Pet Vacuums

Just like we mentioned earlier, vacuum cleaners are offered to the public with specific markets. Pet vacuums are wonderful for pet owners whose animals are extra-furry or sheds hair a lot. Although they are not that different from other vacuum types, pet vacuums tend to do better with anything related to fur.

The con of using a pet vacuum lies more on its manufacturer. Before buying one, make sure that it has a nice review, or you may as well stick to your old vacuum.

3. Stick Vacuums

Also known as sweeper vacuums, they are also great and effective when it comes to everyday chores. Stick vacuums can be corded or cordless, with the latter one being slightly higher in price point. The reason why many people still use stick vacuums is that they are significantly cheaper than the other types of cleaners. Also, sweepers are often lightweight and back-friendly.

The cons of using a stick vacuum cleaner are the following: compared to the canister and upright vacuum, they do not have a high capacity for dust and will not clean as deep as the other two.

4. Handheld Vacuums

Considered as the most popular type of vacuum cleaner when it comes to smaller places, handheld vacuums are obviously selling like pancakes. Consumers love them as they are very easy to use and store. Some handheld vacuums come cordless or with a cord and are great for a quick cleaning session.

The cons that come with using a handheld vacuum cleaner is that they do not have enough power to clean extremely dirty surfaces.

5. Canister Vacuums

Canister vacuum cleaners make better companions for those who need to do versatile cleaning. If you want a machine that can help you clean surfaces, furniture, and other areas in your house easily, they are easy to handle and are often quieter than the other types of vacuums.

Unfortunately, canister vacuums can be a hassle to assemble when you first use them and can be heavy and bulky compared to some cleaners.

6. Deep Cleaner Vacuums

Also known as carpet cleaner vacuums, you would know that they are best in cleaning large carpets and surfaces. This type makes use of warm water to remove the unwanted spots and grime and can even “shampoo” your carpet with its specialized mechanism.

Unfortunately, this type of vacuum cleaner can be very expensive and is only meant for cleaning carpets.

7. Robotic Vacuums

Technology has advanced too much to the point that you no longer have to move to clean. All you have to do is tap an app and a robot vacuum can do the cleaning for you. Depending on the model you have, some are best for cluttered areas while some can only do their magic on areas with wide spaces.

The cons of using a robotic vacuum are the following: they can be expensive, buggy, and difficult to program. Also, they are not powerful enough to remove deep dirt and grime.

Tips in using your vacuum properly

When you are effectively using your vacuum cleaner well, you can minimize the pollutants in your home and even lessens your allergy triggers.

Make sure to take your time when vacuuming. Rushing the chore will not only leave most of the dust in your home but may also damage your vacuum cleaner.

The best thing you can do is to vacuum often so that it will not be too difficult for your machine to clean heavily dirty rooms.

How to extend the life expectancy of your vacuum cleaner

Vacuum cleaners are not exactly cheap. Hence, it is normal for us to want to make them last for a long time.

Here are the things you can do to make your vacuum cleaner last longer.

1.     Read the manual

If you really want to make your cleaner last, start by thoroughly reading its manual. After all, they are there for a reason. Doing this not only gives you instructions on how to use your cleaner properly but also lets you know the things you should avoid doing.

2.     Clean the filter regularly

Depending on the type and model of your vacuum cleaner, some may have a cleanable or replaceable filter. Make sure to follow the instructions meant for your cleaner well and to use the recommended techniques to replace the filter when necessary.

3.     Do not overfill your vacuum with dirt

Does your cleaner come with a bagless feature? Or do you use a bagged model? Never let your cleaner’s bin have too much dirt. If possible, clean or replace the bag after every use.

4.     Do not overwork your machine

Although you would want to use your vacuum daily, make sure to give it a break. If you are using it for a long period of time, turn it off every now and then to let the machine cool off. Before you use your cleaner, remove debris and other things that may get sucked into your vacuum accidentally.

5.     Clean the brush often

One of the main parts of your cleaner that gets overused is its brush. If uncleaned, there will come a time when it gets overloaded with fibers and hair. Make sure to untangle your brush gently using a wide-toothed comb.

6.     Remove the clogs in the hose

It is normal for your hose to get clogged, but this does not mean that you just let it be. You can use a stick or broom to dislodge the clogs from your hose properly.

7.     Store it properly

Of course, the method by which you store your machine will also affect its life span. If you really want it to last long, you should not just dump them anywhere. Some types of vacuum cleaners recommend storing each attachment separately as your pets may chew in them without your knowledge.

8.     Repair it as soon as possible

Once you see that there are some faulty parts in your cleaner, it will be helpful to have them serviced as soon as possible. Make sure to only call licensed and authorized technicians as you may void your warranty.

Signs that you need to say goodbye to your vacuum cleaner

All good things must come to an end – your vacuum cleaner included. Most vacuums last around 8 years, however, this will always depend on several factors such as the type of cleaner you have and your usage.

Here are the indicators that you may need to replace your vacuum soon:

It has been with you for many years.

If you no longer remember the time when you bought your vacuum or if it came from your great-great-grandmother, you can absolutely retire your old cleaner now.

It no longer cleans well.

Do you notice that your vacuum is not doing its job properly? Once its efficiency decreases, it is possible that your cleaner is no longer in its best condition. Of course, do not buy a new one unless you are sure that it is not just a minor problem. Chances are, you may just need to replace a few filters or clean some parts to solve the issue.

You already had a technician look into it.

Before buying a new one, let an authorized technician inspect your vacuum. They may be able to return it to its mint condition. However, if there is nothing your technician can do about it, this is a clear sign that you will need a replacement.

You want to decrease your electricity bill.

Most older vacuum cleaners can use more electricity than modern ones. If you notice that they are causing your bill to spike, do not hesitate in replacing your current cleaner as soon as you can.

You want an upgrade.

If you want to replace your cleaner with another type or if you just want to upgrade, why not? Vacuum cleaners can save you a lot of time in making your home and office safe and tidy. If you have the extra funds, you should never feel guilty about buying something that you will use often.