Life Before a Vacuum Cleaner

Life Before a Vacuum Cleaner
Articles on Vacuums

Imagine having to mop all the floors, dusting every surface and clean rugs and carpets with the use of a broom. Sounds impossible? This was the way of life before a vacuum cleaner, in a time when they had not been invented. Yes, if you can believe it, there really was a time when most people had to do all their cleaning manually!

Life Before a Vacuum Cleaner

To give an insight into the history of vacuum cleaners, it was more difficult and tiring to clean all the rugs and carpets during this time. This is because there weren’t any motorized devices that could suck out all the dirt and dust from the furnishings. Hence the reason why life before a vacuum cleaner was difficult.

Manual Cleaning

To put things into perspective, initially people did not used to have any kinds of flooring, like rugs or carpets. They would use jute mats or other material for weaved mats of sorts to place on the floor. This was both protection from the cold and a place where people would sleep or rest. Once rugs and carpets came into existence, there arose the need to clean them up as well.

This meant that for people who could afford it, life before a vacuum cleaner involved the use of slaves or maids. These people would take the flooring to the clothes line, hang them up and then beat them with heavy wooden sticks or bat-like equipment. They did this in order to get all the dust and debris out of them.

Once the rugs had been beaten and dusted, these rugs would either be laid back on their proper place, or taken to the cleaning area to be washed with hands.

Since the rugs were too heavy they could not have been washed with hands alone. Two or three maid girls would create a large bowl or bucket of bubbles and soap suds and the rug would be placed in it to soak for a while.

Afterwards it would again be beaten with a bat so that it could be cleaned properly. It would then be rinsed with clean water and hung up to dry. Some people even used dry tea leaves as well as feather dusters to clean lightweight rugs or carpets.

Additional Ways of Maintaining Floors

Some people who were financially well off would use canvas cloth to cover their rugs or carpets. This would happen when they had any social gathering inside or when they were off on vacations and locked up their house.

But all of these ways to keep the carpets and rugs cleaned and protected were not only difficult to manage, but also hard to continue using. As you can imagine, even though the floors were covered for a certain period of time, they still needed to be cleaned eventually!

The Invention of the Vacuum Cleaner

With an insight into how difficult it was to make cleaning easier in the past, it is clear why there arose a need to create something that would clean the heavy carpets and rugs with more convenience.

The time finally came for this in 1860 that Fredrick Walton came up with linoleum, a method to keep the floor covering clean. In 1893 Thomas Stewart invented a mop that could be used to clean all kinds of surfaces including carpets and rugs. This mop had a replaceable head that was attached to a handle. It made life a lot easier.

But ultimately, it was the invention of the first vacuum cleaner that got the carpet cleaning job done right.

Evolution of the Modern Day Device

To give you some more perspective on life before a vacuum cleaner, and how this device evolved, here is a brief history.

The very first vacuum came about when Chicago inventor Ives McGaffey releases a “carpet sweeping machine” in 1869. Even though it was not motorized, it still cleaned rugs. This machine offered great insights and ideas into more vacuum inventions, and was a turning point in the history of vacuum cleaners.

In 1876, Melvill R. Bissel of Michigan came up with a similar carpet sweeping device for his company in Grand Rapids. After that, improvements were again made when John S. Thurman of Missouri invented the pneumatic carpet renovator.

In 1901, a motorized vacuum cleaner took the stage. This device was invented by Hubert Cecil Booth of England, and became very successful.


As you can see from the information shared in this article, life before a vacuum cleaner was challenging. In fact, it was so challenging, that after a while, people started to come with new ways to clean.

It is interesting to look back at how this machine evolved, and was linked to other developments that were going on at the same time. If anything, reviewing this kind of history definitely gives us a greater appreciation for the modern day machines we use today.

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