Before vacuum cleaners existed, people had to take their carpets outside and beat the dirt out of them. Some people cleaned their carpets only once a year during the spring. Now vacuuming has become an essential in providing a clean facility and done more frequently because of the innovated people mentioned below.
The first vacuum cleaner, the “Whirlwind,” was invented in Chicago in 1868 by Ives W. McGaffey.. McGaffey took further the technology of the time and created something relatively light and compact. The Whirlwind was difficult to use because the operator had to manually turn a crank while pushing it across the floor. The cost was an eyebrow-raising $25 price tag which would be $456 today. With the help of the American Carpet Cleaning Co. of Boston, McGaffey sold models in Chicago and Boston. It is thought most were lost in the Chicago Fire of 1871 but two McGaffey vacuums remain.
Melville Reuben Bissell invented the first successful mechanical “carpet sweeper” in 1876. Melville R. Bissell and his wife, Anna, were running a small crockery shop in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Sick of constantly cleaning sawdust off the shop’s carpet, Melville invented and patented a one-of-a-kind sweeper. It didn’t take long for friends and customers at the shop to ask about buying the sweeper, and when they did, a new business was born.
In 1901, Hubert Cecil Booth invented a large vacuum cleaner known as the Puffing Billy. The Puffing Billy was first powered by an oil engine and later by an electric motor, but Booth never achieved much success with his large machine, which required a horse-drawn carriage for transport.
Walter Griffiths developed an improved manual vacuum cleaner in Birmingham, England in 1905. The operator pumped a bellows-like contraption to suck up dirt through a flexible pipe; this was the first device that resembled a modern vacuum cleaner.
Between 1903 and 1913, New Jersey inventor David T. Kennedy was granted nine patents for machines similar to the Puffing Billy and established the Suction Cleaner Company and the American vacuum cleaner industry.
In 1906, motivated by the allergy and asthma attacks he experienced after using his sweeper, janitor James Murray Spangler created an electric vacuum using an electric fan motor, a soap box, a broom handle, and a pillowcase. He also added a rotating brush to loosen dirt and debris. Spangler patented his rotating-brush design on June 2,1908. Spangler tried to manufacture his suction sweeper by himself. He found investors but by the time he applied for patent investors gave up, and he was left without resources to mass-produce the machine. At the same time, he showed the device to his cousin Susan Hoover, which was married to William Hoover, a leather-goods manufacturer who made horse collars and harnesses. William Hoover had his problem at the time because automobiles slowly gained popularity and equipment for horses were sold less and less. Hoover saw an opportunity, and he bought Spangler’s patent in 1908. At first, he made six suction sweepers a day and sales were slow, but it occurred to him to give potential buyers 10-day free trial. He also employed door-to-door salesmen that demonstrated new machine to people. All this helped the sales enormously. The Hoover company is still a leading manufacturer of vacuum cleaners; as a matter of fact, in Great Britain, “hoover” is often used interchangeably with the word “vacuum” – even as a verb, as in “I hoovered the living room this morning.”
Vacuums continue to evolve and become more efficient allowing more area to be cleaned in less time. Vacuuming is still an essential part of providing a clean and sanitary facility. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using a vacuum equipped with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. To be called a HEPA filter, it must capture at least 99.97% of all particles down to 0.3 microns in size. HEPA filters trap airborne dust, allergens and pathogens—including viruses—instead of releasing them back into the air. It’s important to change the filter according to the manufacturer’s recommendations to avoid transferring pathogens from one site to another.