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The Development of the Vacuum Cleaner

Updated on December 1, 2016
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Dust by Suction

Electrically powered cleaning appliances, vacuum cleaners are used for the dry removal of dust and loose dirt from carpets, fabrics and surfaces.

A vacuum cleaner works on the principle that a fan operating at one end of a tube to force out air creates lower pressure, or a partial vacuum within the tube; this causes outside air to be sucked in through the other end of the tube, bringing loose dust and dirt with it.

The arrangement includes a bag into which the dirt-laden air passes and so constructed that pure air passes through while dust and dirt are retained in it. A critical feature is the filter action of the bag, which may be made of cloth or paper. The design of these machines provides for convenience of handling and the availability of a flexible air hose and attachments for cleaning special surfaces and crevices.

History of the Vacuum Cleaner

Vacuum Cleaners work on an extremely simple principle, which was demonstrated by one of the inventors of these mechanisms, the Englishman H. C. Booth, when he placed a handkerchief on the back of an upholstered seat in a London restaurant and sucked at it through his mouth. He showed a friend the dirt trapped on the linen surface; and then designed and constructed a machine to perform the same process, patenting in 1901 a cumbersome, piston-operated vacuum pump.

Booth was not the first to think of suction-cleaning, but he was early in the field, and he was ignorant of unsuccessful devices patented before bis own. Mounted in horse-drawn vans his vacuum-cleaners, operated by a gasoline engine, were drawn up at the kerbside outside the premises to be cleaned, and hose-pipes from the vacuum chamber were run across the pavement and in by the doors and windows. A cleaning squad then got to work. The revolutionary development ahead was still to mechanize the broom and the carpet-sweeper-to substituteadailyroutineof vacuum-cleaning, or more properly suction cleaning, for the cumbersome procedure launched by Booth and others. Household vacuum cleaners originated in America, on the basis of David Kenny's stationary 'apparatus for removing dust' patented in 1903.

James M. Spangler patented an electrically-driven suction carpet-sweeper in 1908, the Hoover Company was marketing such machines soon after, using the rotary suction fan and the bag for trapping the dust, which are still basic.

High-speed fans draw the air through as rapidly as possible and discharge it, dust and all, into the bag, which is slightly porous. The air escapes through the innumerable tiny interstices between the threads of the fabric, which are yet so small that the dust is trapped.

Thus the story of household cleansing goes from the broom made from the pliable twigs of the broom plant or heather or the birch tree; from birds' wings and feather mops and other mops, from brushes and from dusters, to the revolving brushes of the carpet-sweeper invented in mid-nineteenth century; and from the creaking carpet-sweeper to the new whirring efficiency of the vacuum-cleaner - a name which the Oxford Dictionary records first for 1903.


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