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How do Vacuum Cleaners Work? (Process Explained)

Published by: Katherine Frame

How do vacuum cleaners work

Be it a festive occasion that calls for cleaning your house, or just a regular cleaning day, cleaning up the whole house can be a really demanding task. A vacuum cleaner is an efficient device that comes to your rescue when just the thought of sweeping, dusting, and mopping has you teary-eyed. 

A vacuum cleaner or a hoover removes dust from your floors, carpets, curtains, and all other surfaces by causing suction and stores it in a dust bag for you to dispose of later.

Ever wondered how this little device, which has made your life so much easier, functions? If yes, then all you have to do is read this article to satisfy your curiosity. 

How do Vacuum Cleaners Work?

One of the most miraculous inventions of the industrial era is the Vacuum Cleaner. With time this technological wonder has become exponentially smaller and well designed. Modern vacuum cleaners are the most versatile home appliance with their compact size and intelligent modes. 

It took up the menial but time-consuming job of cleaning and turned it into an easy chore that can be done within minutes. It cleans the areas that could not be cleaned by hands and does a better job than manual cleaning using suction technology only. 

Vacuum cleaners are the best option when it comes to getting rid of dirt. While we all can see that it sucks air when turned on, it is a little confusing when trying to figure out its mechanics. How exactly does this super cleaner work? To find this answer, we will dissect the technology of vacuum cleaners.

Air’s Pressure: Negative 

One of the most straightforward rules of physics can explain the phenomenon that occurs in the vacuum cleaner. When we see the vacuum cleaner suck air within, it does exactly what we do with straws. 

Imagine sucking a drink out of a pipe. When you suck the air out of the pipe, you create a vacuum or a negative space. That means no air or water particle is present there. Here, fluid mechanics come to work. 

According to fluid mechanics, uncontained vacuums or negative spaces will always be filled with molecules around the negative space. So when you suck out the air, there remains only one way through which wind can enter the pipe again, which is the end of the straw. So the wind pushes the drink into your straw with its force. 

The same phenomenon occurs in a Vacuum Cleaner, but instead of fluid, the vacuum or the negative space is filled by the air itself. Since only the end of the pipe is available for entry in the vacuum bag, the wind rushes towards the pipe’s opening while carrying the dirt with it. 

Mechanism Of The Motor

The motor used in a vacuum cleaner is run by electricity and is of a very high power capacity. It spins its fan at a very high speed and pushes out the air from the vacuum’s cavity. Thus the negative space is created. The wind that carries the particles rushes into the fan to fill up the vacuum created by it. 

One may start to wonder how vacuum cleaners can hold that much air in the cavity. But the air that rushes into the vacuum does not stay inside the canister or the bag. Vacuum cleaners contain an exhaust port at the other side of the vacuum. 

The air rushes into the vacuum, collides into the canister and gets out through the exhaust port, thus letting the fan create a vacuum continuously and function properly. 

The Filter

At this point, you might have guessed that there is a filter involved in this process. The concentrated air that enters the vacuum is loaded with dust particles and debris. If the exhaust vent lets out all the air sucked in by the vacuum, it will affect the health of the people living in the house. 

The debris and fine particles that this beast sucks in can harm people’s lungs if let out through the exhaust. Even though the vacuum bags can stop the dirt from getting out, many fine particles can still pass through the canisters or the bags. 

That is why vacuum cleaners use fine particle filters and sometimes High-Efficiency Particulate Arresting filters or HEPTAs to filter out the air. These filters keep the air that goes out of the vacuum extremely clean and breathable. 

All Kinds Of Miscellaneous Attachments

For a vacuum cleaner to work most efficiently, the power of the motor is not the one and only variable that helps. The size of the intake port at the end of the pipe also plays a very important role. The narrower the intake port, the faster the wind rushes into the vacuum. This increases the flow of dust and debris into the vacuum. 

For this single reason, most high-end vacuum cleaners provide attachments with narrower intake ports. The super-narrow but wide ports work best on the floor. The narrow and small ports are versatile in reaching the nooks and corners. 

These are the basic factors that run vacuum cleaners. Although there are various types of vacuum cleaners that look different from each other, all of them work on these simple rules. The fan pushes out the air and creates a vacuum, the intake port sucks in air to fill the vacuum, and in the process, dust and debris enter the vacuum bag or canister to get caught in the filter. This is how this 20th-century wonder machine cleans millions of households every day.

History Of Vacuum Cleaners

An inseparable element of most modern homes, this wondrous tool is not as ‘modern’ as you might have assumed it to be. It was invented more than a century ago and was initially a luxury that only the elites could afford.

The first mechanical device which somewhat resembled a vacuum cleaner was a ‘carpet sweeper’ invented in 1860 by Daniel Hess. After this, a series of other inventions followed during the latter half of the nineteenth century, which further developed the idea of the cleaning machine. 

One of the first vacuum cleaners was a huge machine, drawn by horses and run by liveried operators. Unless you were the richest person in town, buying this machine was not an option. However, you could book a visit, following which this distinct vacuum cleaner, with its huge party of horses and operators, would arrive at your doorstep, announcing to the whole neighborhood that you planned to have your house cleaned. 

Prestigious, isn’t it? However, this arrangement was not cheap at all. One such visit would charge you almost as much as the annual wage of a junior cleaning maid. 

In the year 1901, Hubert Cecil Booth developed his version of the vacuum cleaner using the principle that governs the vacuum cleaners of today. While at an exhibition of a new cleaning machine, Booth realized that the machine had a huge technical flaw, as it was not designed to suck but to blow. 

It would blow up the air in an attempt to put the dirt in an adjacent bag. But this machine was heavily criticized, and Booth was told that such a machine that would suck air and filter it out is not possible. Well, Booth took it as a challenge, and what happened next led to the birth of the present-day vacuum cleaner. 

Booth worked day and night and almost choked to death while conducting an experiment. After a series of such near-fatal experiments, injuries, and failures, his hard work finally paid off when he launched the British Vacuum Cleaner Company in the early 20th century. His new device was an immediate success. But still, it was not quite as handy as you needed it to be.

Booth’s new machine got a lot of attention from people as it was not so much of a nuisance as the horse-drawn vacuum cleaners were. His vacuum cleaner was hired by many royal palaces, including Buckingham Palace and Crystal Palace. His vacuum cleaners even got the attention of the Russian Tsar, Nicholas II, who imported the machine all the way from Britain. 

Regardless of all the initial hiccups on the road, Booth’s invention created a remarkable history. To this date, the functionality of the vacuum cleaners remains the same. Later, The British Association of the Vacuum Cleaner manufactured a compact vacuum cleaner named Hoover to use regular households. 

Ever since then, newer models of this magical machine kept being introduced in the market. With each such model, the size of the machine kept getting smaller, making it more and more versatile and portable to suit the needs of the average household. 

Final Words

Vacuum cleaners work wonders while cleaning millions of homes worldwide, every single day. Imagining a modern era household without this little magical device is almost impossible today. 

From sweeping machines, through horse-drawn carriages, to the present day hand-held, torch-sized mini vacuum cleaners, this wondrous idea of using suction and fluid mechanics to clean dirt has come a long way. 

Now that you also know how this little genius that has hacked household chores for you works, we hope it helped in satiating your curiosity. 

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Article by:

Katherine Frame

Katherine Frame is a professional writer and reviewer who worked in higher education for eight years before working on The Hardware Hub. She has written for multiple home magazines and blogs.

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