The History and Invention of Vacuum Cleaners

Vacuums may be ordinary household appliances today for a lot of people, but you cannot deny their speed and convenience in cleaning even the most stubborn dirt. Not all vacuums or vacuum cleaners are made the same, as you can find a wide range of them from the most basic ones to the best vacuum brands on the market.

For the benefit of those who don’t have a vacuum cleaner or who haven’t used or even seen one, a vacuum or a vacuum cleaner is a device which cleans away dust and dirt by suction. It uses an air pump to form a partial vacuum which helps in sucking up dust and dirt not just from floors and rugs but from other surfaces as well. It is also a called a hoover or a vacuum sweeper.

For centuries, vacuums have proven to be extremely useful for many households. But how did vacuums come to be? Since this is an appliance that’s in almost every household it worth taking a look at the history behind the modern vacuum cleaner:

Before the Invention of Vacuum Cleaners

Before the 19th century, floors had to be swept and rugs had to be hung over a line and pounded repeatedly to shake out the dust and dirt it had accumulated between cleanings. Needless to say, this was a painstaking and cumbersome task, which not everyone can do. Those who could not afford domestic help and had physical weaknesses were probably not able to get rid of the dust and dirt as often as they liked.

What’s more, this method of cleaning rugs and carpets meant that the dirt and other debris remained inside homes for quite some time. This would have caused breathing problems to the household members. Plus, beating the dust out would mean that the person doing the work would be exposed to several allergens. It was evident that a better solution had to come along at some point.

Sweeping Vacuum Cleaners

In 1868 (or 1869), a sweeping machine was patented by a Chicago inventor named Ives McGaffey. It is considered as one of the earliest-known sweeping machines. Gaffey called his invention the “Whirlwind”. it worked by cranking the machine by hand to activate the fan which then did the cleaning action. Needless to say, the Whirlwind was quite unwieldy to operate, although it became fairly successful commercially.

Gasoline-Powered Vacuum

In 1898, an inventor from Missouri named John S. Thurman patented a gasoline-powered vacuum cleaner which was definitely a big step up from McGaffey’s Whirlwind. In his patent, Thurman referred to his invention as a “pneumatic carpet renovator.” It is believed to be the first motorized carpet cleaner.

The Motorized Vacuum Cleaner

But the granddaddy of today’s vacuums came out in 1901 — the motorized vacuum cleaner, patented by British engineer and inventor Hubert Cecil Booth. It was inspired by a horse-drawn, gas-powered cleaning unit, which usually stood outside the building to be cleaned. It had a long hose which was brought through the windows to reach the rooms inside. The hose acted as the cleaner which sucked up dirt and dust.

The Early Electric Vacuum Cleaner

In 1907, a store janitor by the name of James Spangler invented a vacuum cleaner out of necessity, as cleaning with a carpet sweeper gave him chronic coughing fits. His new vacuum was now made portable and run by electricity. It also featured a pillowcase that served as a receptacle for dust and dirt. Spangler’s new invention was a prototype for future modern vacuum cleaner models. He received a patent for his invention the following year.

Spangler soon founded his own company, the Electric Suction Sweeper Company. His female cousin was one of his first customers. Her husband, William Hoover, founded the Hoover Company whose developments on the vacuum cleaner became inestimable and profoundly influential. Hoover soon rose to become president of the company.

Hoover sought to provide financial backing to Spangler’s vacuum cleaner. Hoover’s version of Spangler’s vacuum cleaner looked like a bagpipe attached to a cake box, but it proved to be effective. It became the world’s upright vacuum cleaner with the bag attached to the stick. Sales were slow at first, but Hoover’s groundbreaking promotional campaign eventually helped the Hoover to become a household name. Soon, almost every home in the target market owned a Hoover vacuum.

Filters for Vacuum Cleaners

In 1920, the Ohio-based Air-way Sanitizer Company introduced the first sealable “filter fiber” disposable bag for vacuum cleaners. The company also claimed to be the first to introduce a dual motor as well as a HEPA filter on the vacuum.

In 1983, British industrial designer and inventor James Dyson unveiled the G-force vacuum cleaner, the world’s first bagless, filter-less, cyclonic vacuum. At first, critics expected that people would not buy it because of its rather steep price, but the Dyson design became one of the fastest-selling home products in the UK. The success of Dyson’s cyclonic upright vacuum cleaners paved the way for other companies (Hoover included) to launch their own models using the filter-less, cyclonic separation system. The proliferation of other brands also helped Dyson vacuum cleaners to become much more affordable than ever.

Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaners

Because of the advanced technology in recent years, manufacturers have been able to develop different models and configurations such as the “futuristic” robotic vacuums and even the hovering vacuum. There are wet/dry vacuums as well.

These are designed to tackle liquid spills as well as dry debris like dust and dirt. Wet/dry vacuums are meant for both outdoor and indoor cleaning. Many owners of such vacuums praise them for their versatility and heavy-duty cleaning capabilities. These are only some of the top-rated vacuums that surprisingly aren’t too expensive.


Tools and things we do daily have a tendency to advance and improve over time such as how modern day bingo came into existence with its digital options, the electric scooter versus the manual pedal bike and so much more.  And today, people enjoy a wide range of choices regarding vacuums, carpet cleaners, and hard floor cleaners that are advanced over earlier options. Don’t forget to check out vacuum cleaner reviews online, which would to help you buy the one that is best suited to your specific needs.

The reviews above will help you get a sense of what’s in the market, but the right choice will depend on what you need it for. You may look up the different types of vacuum cleaners in order to determine the requirements at hand.