Be smarter than your vacuum cleaner

I owe my vacuum cleaner an apology.

Seriously, it’s just embarrassing. That poor Dyson. It just kept trying to do its best, sucking up all the hair and crumbs until it barely worked anymore.

The vacuum cleaner didn’t suck. I did.

Apparently, you’re supposed to do a few things with vacuum cleaners you expect to work forever and actually last. The first thing would have been to actually read the owner’s manual. Who does that? Not me, evidently.

When I took it down to Russ Vacuum, The Vacuum Doctor, I was surprised to discover where the cover for the filter is, and that you can remove the filter and clean it. Imagine that!

I’m sure that Rodney Adams, the nice vacuum cleaner doctor guy, could clearly tell that it had been a whopping eight years since that filter was cleaned. Meaning, I’ve owned the vacuum for eight years and I have never, ever cleaned the filter.

But Adams is used to helping abused vacuums, after owning the shop for more than 19 years. He admitted as much, saying that people expect their vacuums to be “magic” and “just work forever!” He advised me to clean the aforementioned filters and make sure to rip all the hair out of the roller brush (that’s non-negotiable, he said) from now on.

Another tip I learned from the vacuum cleaner doctor is that you should NOT wait until the gunk reaches the “maximum fill line” to empty your vacuum cleaner canister (this is an ongoing argument with Hubby). Adams advises emptying it before you reach the line, and definitely dumping out the canister after every time you vacuum.

I admit, I usually roll the vacuum back into the closet and throw in the cord without emptying the canister. But apparently that makes your vacuum cleaner smell gross (which totally makes sense) and, come to think of it, I’m not sure if I want that junk hanging out in the closet if I didn’t want it on the floor.

One more thing —I was advised to get my vacuum cleaner serviced once a year (which should keep me honest in the filter-cleaning department). It’s not expensive – I spent $29.95 for some great advice and my Dyson is purring like new. And with some actual maintenance and care, this well-designed vacuum could last me another 20 years, according to Adams.

So, why the neglect? It’s not that I don’t love my vacuum or vacuum cleaners in general. They save us a LOT of work. I don’t have to spend my days dragging rugs out of the house, hanging them on the clothesline and beating the ick out of them. I suppose it’s just human nature to take something for granted until it doesn’t work anymore.

Honestly, I’ve always found vacuum cleaners fascinating. Yes, I confess, I once dragged my husband to a vacuum cleaner museum in Portland, Ore., when we were on vacation.

The first vacuum I ever remember was a little compact Electra, a green canister vacuum that probably weighed 30 pounds and it had a little metal hatch for emptying the bag. I’m sure it dated back to the Cold War.

Then we had a Kirby, which was SO modern because it was upright had a little headlight on the front and us kids were a little scared of it, so we ran around the house, screeching at the top of our lungs while mom vacuumed and pretended that the couch was “safe” from the Kirby monster.

I also remember being fascinated with my grandparents’ Rainbow vacuum and all the disgusting water swirling around the canister.

In the end, vacuums are one of the unsung heroes of the modern household. They’re one of the few appliances that are cheaper to repair than replace, if you get a good one to start.

We shouldn’t take them for granted until they break down. I know I will be paying more attention to mine from now on. Maybe I’ll even roll up the cord when I put it in the closet.

Erin McIntyre is an advanced master gardener, writer and Grand Valley native. Please email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with story ideas or feedback.


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