Ah, the joys of cleaning the house. One of the most polarizing household chores is vacuuming – you either love it or hate it, there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground. Speaking of the ground, can you even imagine trying to get those annoying particles out of your carpet without a vacuum cleaner? We can’t either. You may find yourself wondering, “who invented the vacuum cleaner?” If so, keep reading. We will cover this and everything you need to know about the history of vacuum cleaners.
Who Invented The Vacuum Cleaner?
So, who invented the vacuum cleaner? We believe we should celebrate the genius behind this cleaning miracle. On June 8, 1869, an inventor named Ives McGaffey patented the first sweeping machine. This wasn’t the motorized vacuum we’re used to, but it laid the foundation for other inventors to improve on his wood and canvas rug cleaner.
The very next year, in 1899, John Thurman invented a gas-powered machine designed to sweep rugs, and this is what most people consider the first motorized vacuum cleaner. He later took this show on the road and offered door-to-door service from his horse-drawn vacuum system. And that was the beginning of vacuum cleaners making hard work easier.
A History Of Modern Vacuum Cleaners
We didn’t just go from a horse-drawn sweeper to the vacuums with all the bells and whistles we have today. There were lots of little amazing steps along the way. Read on to discover the details.
There’s a name we recognize. In 1907, a janitor, James Spangler, in a Canton, Ohio department store, realized all the dust he was kicking up by sweeping carpets was contributing to his hacking cough. He fashioned a fan motor on a soap box and attached that to a broom handle. He used a cloth bag as a filter, and he was off to the races.
Well, he was off to his cousin’s house. William Hoover was the husband of Spangler’s cousin and became the president and founder of the Hoover company. William Hoover financed upgrades and changes to the original machine and produced the first commercial vacuum cleaner. It resembled a bagpipe attached to a stick.
Sales grew at a snail’s pace until Hoover announced his pioneering 10-day, free in-home trial. Just 12 years after James Spangler wanted to eliminate dust on the job, in 1919 most households had a Hoover vacuum. So, who invented the vacuum cleaner? Now you know.
James Kirby wanted to eliminate hard work where he didn’t believe it needed to exist. He held over 200 patents when he glimpsed that first horse-drawn gas-powered machine. In 1914 he was refining his upright Vacuette when he turned to a tool and die shop – The Scott and Fetzer Machine Company – to help his vacuum become more precise.
In 1925, the Vacuette Electric hit the home cleaning scene. It was one of the first machines to have removable attachments including a detachable floor nozzle and handle. Kirby was, and still is, sold exclusively through direct sales. They are the notable vacuums sold through in-home demonstrations and bought on the spot.
In 1909, a real estate auctioneer from Detroit, Michigan was buying various patents for emerging vacuum cleaners. What made Eureka notable was how many models were available by 1913 – six. They came in different sizes and with different attachments.
By 1919, Eureka’s headquarters were making 2,000 vacuum cleaners a day. Eureka took off because of their motivated sales force of 3,000 people. Wardell came up with some of the most creative sales tactics around. He would bet $2,000 to a salesman’s $10 that the salesman couldn’t beat their quota. This was an expensive way to get vacuum cleaners to market, but it worked.
Eureka also leased space in retail outlets and, instead of letting the department store’s employees sell their models, they would place their own salesmen in the rented spaces. Because this sales force was so well trained and versed in everything Eureka, the vacuums flew off the shelves.
This was a big decade for the vacuum industry. In 1950, the first upright convertible vacuum was introduced and became the standard for in-home vacuum cleaning. These were easily used and stowed away, making them more appealing than their canister counterparts.
In 1954, Hoover released the Constellation cleaner. This vacuum cleaner didn’t have wheels but used its own exhaust to float across carpeting and floors. They branded it as floating on a pocket of air and it sold like wildfire because it was so different from anything else on the market.
The 1950s also saw television advertising really take off. Consumers could now find ads for vacuum cleaners on television, radio, newspaper and magazines. Add in the door-to-door salesmen and America was officially a vacuum cleaning country.
David Oreck was the first to see the hotel and hospitality market as a huge opportunity in 1963. He created the Oreck Corp with the sole purpose of selling to hotels. It worked. He developed a lightweight, effective, and durable vacuum cleaner perfect for an industry that cleaned all of its rooms every day, 365 days a year.
Hotels needed something that would stand up to the abuse of being used every day. Housekeepers liked how lightweight the cleaners were and asked for them to become the standard. The industry listened and today over 50,000 hotels use Oreck vacuums exclusively.
Modern Vacuum Cleaners
So, now you know who invented the vacuum cleaner, but it only gets better from there. From 1970 on, vacuum cleaners got better, more inventive, and probably resemble something you have in your home right now.
The First Hand-Held
Black and Decker kicked off our ability to clean stairs and small spaces easily with their DustBuster in 1979. To this day, it is still their most successful product ever selling over 100 million since then. These paved the way for the Dirt Devil and any other detachable hand held. If you were around in the 80s, like us, you can remember exactly how to clean the filter on the DustBuster you had plugged in to a closet somewhere.
James Dyson is serious when you see him on television telling you his vacuum was born out of frustration. He was tired of bagged vacuums losing suction as the bag filled and having to deal with the mess associated with a full bag. He developed over 5,000 prototypes to come up with the bagless Dyson vacuum that uses his patented double cyclone technology.
It was important to Dyson that he be able to move a vacuum in every direction necessary to get his carpets clean. He achieved that by getting rid of the back wheels and using a large cylinder instead.
In 1997, Electrolux unveiled a self-roaming vacuum cleaner on a show called “Tomorrow’s World.” It used sensors to avoid objects and would move itself into its charging bay when it was running low on charge.
In 2002, iRobot, a company started by three employees of MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Lab, revealed their spin on a robotic vacuum called the Roomba. In one year, they sold over one million units. iRobot intentionally allows its users to hack into the vacuum because the creators believe that can only make the product better.
Is There A Right Way To Vacuum?
Yes! The air in your home is filled with tiny particles floating around that you can’t even see. These particles may contribute to breathing issues or make allergies feel worse. Carpets and rugs do some work for you by helping to trap a lot of these particles. Just walking will kick these up if you let them build up for too long.
It’s recommended you vacuum at least twice a week, upstairs and down – and more if you have pets. Vacuuming this often will keep your carpets and rugs in good condition, especially in high-traffic areas. Here are some other vacuuming tips for your consideration:
- Take your time – rushing won’t pick up the bad stuff
- Move directions while you vacuum -80% of particles are picked up when you pull backwards
- Empty the bag or canister at 65% capacity to avoid particles from spilling over
- If possible, use a HEPA filter or bag
- Use the crevice tool on the corners and edges of each room at least once a week.
- Dust before you vacuum – because when you dust, all those particles get on your carpet, so cleaning in the right order is important.
What Will The Future Of Vacuum Cleaners Look Like?
You can’t stop progress. The vacuum company Vax is exploring the viability of mass producing an all cardboard vacuum cleaner. British inventor Jake Taylor presented his cardboard vacuum as his final degree project at Vax headquarters. The invention earned him a full-time job.
Vax is currently trying to understand the cost of production, availability of replacement parts, and how well it can clean in its current state. The future looks a lot like sustainability.
What Are Other Essential Home Cleaning Tools?
The vacuum is the number one tool for making at-home cleaning easier and more convenient, but you can round out your cleaning kit by adding a few more essentials:
- Microfiber cleansing cloths
- Swiffer sweeper and duster
- Natural bristle scrub brush
- Dish scrub brush
- Tile cleaning pen
Conclusion: Who Invented The Vacuum Cleaner?
Well, there you have it. You can stop searching online for, “who invented the vacuum cleaner,” because now you know! Share with friends and family your newfound expertise on the history of vacuums and who invented the vacuum cleaner.
Candis is an enthusiastic writer who has worked on numerous blogs and websites. She has a background writing for top home improvement companies and vacuum stores. Her experience has led her to become the blogger for pickavacuumcleaner.com.