A vacuum cleaner is a cleaning appliance that uses an air pump to create a vacuum to suck up dust and dirt from floors. Although widely used today, it is not a modern-day machine; it dates back to the 19th century.
The first mechanical device to help with floor cleaning was a carpet sweeper invented in 1860 by Daniel Hess. The carpet sweeper was non-motorized. Instead, it featured a system of bellows to create suction and a spinning brush to pick up dirt and dust.
Before that, carpets were cleaned by hanging them over a wall or cloths line and hitting it repeatedly to remove dust and dirt.
In 1869, Ives W. McGaffey created a better version of carpet cleaner called a Whirlwind, a belt-driven fan operated by one hand. This made it very difficult to work with because the user had to turn the crank and push the machine simultaneously.
Although it was not motorized, Ives McGaffey patented this device. Today, some people refer to it as the first hand-pumped vacuum cleaner.
Motorized vacuum cleaners
In 1899, the first gasoline-powered vacuum cleaner was invented by John Thurman. According to some historians, this is the first patented motorized vacuum cleaner. An internal combustion engine powered this machine, and it was so big that it had to be drawn by a cart.
However, this machine did not create suction but blew the air from the floor.
Hubert Cecil Booth created the first vacuum cleaner that used the same principle as today’s vacuums in the year 1901. Thurman’s machine inspired the idea behind this machine after a demonstration at the Empire Music Hall in London.
Hubert tried the idea he got immediately after the demonstration. He placed a piece of cloth on a chair and sucked air in through the handkerchief. The amount of dust and dirt gathered from that suction assured him that his idea was valid.
His machine was a large petrol-driven unit pulled by a horse. The internal engine in this unit powered a piston pump that sucked up air through a cloth filter.
Since the unit could not enter buildings, it was parked outside, and its long tubes were inserted through the windows. The next machine from Booth was electricity-powered, but still, it was too big for home use. It was either used as a cleaning service or installed in the building.
The early vacuum cleaners were not suitable for homeowners because of bulky designs, noise, and strong odor.
Portable vacuum cleaners
In 1905, Walter Griffiths created the first portable vacuum cleaner, which used a system of bellows and pipes to suck up dust.
Later on, in 1907, James Spangler created the first portable vacuum cleaner with a motor. This machine had a rotating brush, fan, and dust bag. He began to sell his vacuum cleaner to local homemakers.
After some time, he sold his patent to William Hoover, who continued to redesign the product and the company that still exists. Hoover later introduced disposal dust bags and made the first upright vacuum cleaner in 1926.
It’s no wonder that most people still refer to vacuum cleaners as hoovers. So, if you’re wondering when the first hoover was made, you’re reading the right article. Check out our reviews of the best Hoover vacuums for more info.
At the invention stage, vacuum cleaners were luxury appliances and for the rich. However, after World War II, the middle class could also afford vacuum cleaners. They were also quite bulky and noisy, therefore they had to be stationed outside the house.
There are different vacuum cleaner brands and models today, including bagged, bagless, electricity-powered, battery-powered, handheld, and even robotic vacuum cleaners.
Even though this cleaning mode started in the 19th century, we can see when the technology started resembling what we have on the market currently. So, the short answer is: vacuum cleaners were invented by engineer Hubert Cecil Booth in 1901.
Today I Found Out made this awesome YouTube video about when vacuum cleaners were invented. You may want to check it out for a step-by-step journey of what we now call a vacuum cleaner: