How Vacuum Cleaners Work

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Vacuum cleaners use an air pump to create a vacuum that sucks up dust, dirt and other debris from wherever you want it to be sucked from. They come in many shapes and sizes and fulfill many purposes as well. Their main purpose is to clean. What the vacuum cleans is up to you, and they come in a variety of different designs, makes and sizes to suit a lot of different cleaning purposes from carpets to ceilings to cars.


The vacuum cleaner was first invented in 1901 by Hubert Cecil Boothe. This early model used oil instead of electricity, and it was not until 1908, in America, that Henry Hoover invented the first upright vacuum cleaner similar to models we know and use today. Yet there was an earlier model which could have been considered as a vacuum cleaner, but it did not quite tick all the boxes. The earlier version dates back to 1860 in America again.

It was a machine that gathered dust with a rotating brush and hand pumped bellows to blow the dust into a container or bag. The earlier vacuum cleaners had a bag to collect the dirt and dust, a motor to power the vacuum and a brush and suction piece at the front of the machine. Their main purpose was to suck dirt, and of course, they were nowhere near as capable or powerful as the machines we have today.

Types of Vacuum

There are, though you may not have considered it, actually quite a few types of vacuums in circulation. There are, of course, bagged vacuums and bagless vacuums, and each sub-category will contain models of each of these varieties. There are advantages to both, but generally speaking, bagless vacuums are the most popular and least maintenance of the two. Aside from bagged vs. bagless, there are a number of different styles of vacuum as well. These include but are not exclusive to:


A vacuum that is upright and pushed around. They tend to have a hose attachment for the harder to reach parts. They are a good option for large surface areas but can be quite heavy and tiring to push around.


These are lower to the ground and more compact. They pull along behind you and are more lightweight than upright vacuums.


Stick vacuums are thin, lightweight and tend to be cordless.


These are small vacuums that are, as the name suggests, handheld. They also tend to be cordless and are not recommended for bigger cleans as they have a smaller capacity.


These vacuums are made to clean both wet and dry dirt patches.


Programmable, automated vacuums that are small, normally disc-shaped and roam freely around the house as per their program.


Worn on your back like a backpack, they are normally quite powerful and have a good range of accessories. They are lightweight and effective.

The Science Behind the Vacuum

Though the name suggests that a vacuum is created, in fact, this is not quite the truth. The main science is that of suction. Air is forced through the vacuum cleaner, creating a suction passage. This suction then forces the dirt and dust up through it and keeps it inside the bag or the canister container. That is the basic principle of the vacuum cleaner. In more modern vacuums, the process has become somewhat more sophisticated than this.

  • Air in the room enters the vacuum through the attachments and pieces fitted at the bottom of the machine.
  • This air then spins around inside the vacuum where it turns so fast the heavier particles, i.e., the dust fall to the bottom while the air goes up.
  • This air is then cleaned again by a filter. The filter removes the dust and smaller dirt particles.
  • After the air passes through a final filter (normally HEPA which is anti-allergen and anti-asthma), it is blown back into the room.

And there you have it. The science is not overly complicated, and the process is quite simple. Yet these machines and all of their creators over the last 100 years have more than definitely revolutionized the way that we are able to clean. Vacuums today are so powerful that you can achieve spotless environments with the right equipment, which is very useful for dust allergy sufferers for example.

Fun Vacuum Facts

  • ‘Hoovering’ or ‘vacuuming’ were verbs created after the invention of the vacuum. They were even added to the dictionary as they became that popularly used.
  • There is actually a museum of vacuum cleaners that opened in Missouri, USA. Just in case you wanted to learn some more facts about vacuums.


A vacuum works in a number of different ways. Air is pushed up through the vacuum into a bag or a canister. It leaves the large dirt and dust behind and is then pushed up again through to a second filter. Here it leaves behind the finer dust and dirt and is then pushed up again through a final filter and back out into the environment. This science has provided us with many different types of vacuums that cover many different types of purposes.

There are even vacuums that are specifically for pet owners which are designed to tackle the removal of excessive pet hair. As with any technology, the vacuum has changed dramatically since its original story. We now have a sophisticated technology that is capable of a deep clean and is constantly updated with research and experience.

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