Saturday, September 17, 2005

My Love-Hate Affair with Vacuums

Actually, there is no love-hate affair. It's all hate. I have yet to meet a vacuum cleaner that loves me, let alone that I could love.

My mother had an Electrolux for years. She loved the thing because she had purchased it from her brother, after his retirement from the Navy. (Shortly after he sold it to her, he re-enlisted.) Not being, as they say, au fait with cleaning generally, let alone the ins and outs of Advanced Vacuumetromy or whatever it's called, I paid no heed. I didn't even own a vacuum cleaner when we began our married life, seeing that we were living in a foreign country with foreign (i.e., direct) current.

Shortly after our arrival home, however, we set up house, and my mother talked me into getting a vacuum cleaner. It was a Sears canister model, and it was all right. It did the job. For about five years. One day it simply quit, and I believe was no longer repairable; at least, I think that's why d.h. took the thing apart and left it sitting in the hall closet, complete with all its working parts in a shoebox.

Since then we've owned two others, one another Sears canister and my current model, a Shark Euro-Pro. The Shark has the advantage -- the sole advantage, I might add -- of being somewhat quieter than any other vacuum cleaner I've ever owned. Changing the bags is a nuisance (and I refuse to go bagless. How on earth do people put up with the dust and other yuck that accumulates in a vacuum?! Do they go out and buy another one?!). There's no storage tray for all the little attachments, so you either have to stop every time you turn around to get the correct "tool," or forego the things altogether.

Really, what do you need a vacuum cleaner for?! What does it do that a dustmop, a broom, or a carpet sweeper can't do?! It's even easier to clean off your windowsills with a dust brush, that to haul out 50 lbs. of machinery bent on tripping you up every chance it gets.

And what's with the flipping? When did they stop making vacuums with four wheels? Now we're supposed to believe that three wheels are just as efficient for getting it from one room to the next, but boy, that thing flips onto its back faster than a dolphin that smells people food. The Shark is even worse: It has just two wheels. They're rather large, and the vacuum is really small, so you'd think they'd be adequate to the task, but no, all I have to do is turn around and my vacuum is flat on its back, spinning its wheels like a motorized cast sheep.

Most galling of all is that dh really loves the things. To him, a house without a vacuum cleaner is unthinkable. How else would you clean? he seems to think. I don't know why. It's not as if we had carpets. I dislike carpets intensely, chiefly because they need to be vacuumed, and because getting them cleaned once a year is outrageously expensive. I'd rather have a civilized little rug on a nice hardwood floor, something you can toss when you're good and sick of it.

And it's not as if you could wash the floor with it. Dust with it? Dust with it?! Who dusts with a vacuum cleaner?! That's like curing a headache with brain surgery. No, all it seems to be good for is lugging around from room to room, periodically setting it upright after it gets cast again, and getting up the grosser dust from nooks and crannies. Did I mention it doesn't even fit under furniture? I have to get out my dust mop for that.

Oh, wait, I know. It makes Noise. Sounds Productive. Rather like having a power mower that you still have to push, pull, lug and chug around the yard -- another 20th-century invention that makes no sense to me. What's the good of adding another 20 lbs. of weight to lug around, when you could do the job with less effort, and a lot more quietly, using a reel mower? Similarly, why subject yourself to all that dust, noise, and pollution, when you could simply push around ye olde dust mop (or Swiffer, if you want to be modern about it), flick a feather duster over the knick-knacks, and let the fresh air sweeten the house?

I've just finished my irregular effort with the vacuum cleaner. I get it out whenever dh looks to be building up a good head of steam, to the effect of, Here I am doing all this yard work, and you're just sitting around playing with the computer again. Now that he has heard Noise, he'll leave me in peace. The house is no cleaner than it was half an hour ago (in my opinion), but I guess there's no arguing with Noise. Oddly enough, that logic hasn't yet extended to purchasing a dishwasher. Now, there's a noisy appliance I could live with.


Philippa said...

Meg, you crack me up! I used to love to use my auntie's carpet sweeper. It did such a great job. Actually better than the vacuum! AND you could get under the bed! But alas, I do like to vacuum, preferably with a tank than an upright. Can't do the steps with an upright.

Do you hate to dust too?

And since when is vacuum spelled with two "u"s? I always thought it was with one. Vacum...hmmm...that doesn't look right either. Must be bed time!

Meg said...

Oh, I *really* hate uprights. Those are the infamous "bagless" vacuums. I don't know how you empty those things without breathing all that crud!

"Vacuum" is spelled with two "u"s because *two* of "u" are supposed to do the chore. ;-> Actually, it has something to do with the Latin word for "empty" -- think of "vacuous."

And I just realized -- I have Mother Nature on *my* side! As in, "Nature abhors a vacuum..." I'd better get into my prayer rule ASAP, this is going downhill fast.

Elizabeth said...

What I really love is my vacuum cleaner - it's a central built-in, and I just plug the hose into the wall in different rooms. It goes all over the house. There's a portable tray for all the attachments (crevice tool, bare-floor tool, upholstery tool, stair tool, etc). And there's an upright "carpet-beater" thingy. No dust - it all goes into a central bucket that DH empties about twice a YEAR. We have a shed that DH built on the side of the house that contains the main vacuum machine, the wood workshop dust collector and the compressor motor. Keeps the sound down, and dust (from the wood workshop dust collector) down.

Central vacuums can be always be installed retroactively, and are "relatively" inexpensive. It's lighter, doesn't "turn over," and really "sucks" up the dirt and dust. There is a long hose to deal with, and it does get twisted. But it also hangs up on the inside of a closet door and is totally unobtrusive.

Yup. I love my vacuum cleaner!

Mary Brigid said...

ROTFL!!!! Actually, I have a bagless vacuum and can't imagine WHY I ever wanted one with bags. Bags by definition are waste incarnate. You can only fill them up so far (true also for the bagless canister, but the canister is reused) and worse yet, the stupid bag only OPENS so far anyway. So the bag, which is awfully expensive anyhow, is also mostly wasted, then thrown away. As well, the bagless unit works better. I have never had a vacuum that was as efficient as the Bissell Cleanview II I bought when my stupid Windtunnel bag vacuum bit the dust (hee hee) this year. BAGLESS,'s the way to go :-)

Mimi said...

Giggle, snort, snicker - we had an Orek that was bought when we bought the house (the previous one had wood floors and we just wet mopped) - and that has now given way to the Bagless wonder.

Dh vacuums, which is good - I don't like them at all.
However, he kept the Orek engine to make a hovercraft ;)

Meg said...

OK, bagless fans -- how do you keep from choking on all the dust, grit, and other pollution that spews out when you have to clean the thing out? (Elizabeth, I can only envy. On the other hand, I just got a new kitchen last year, and while it cost the earth, I'm lovin' it -- our house still had the original 1953 kitchen when we bought it. So I figure I can survive without central vac for a bit longer, especially since, after this past summer, central air is a little higher on my wish list.)

Catrin said...

But it isn't that bad! You just take a plastic grocery store bag, fit it over the "cup" when you take it off, and shake the stuff into the bag.

Sometimes you do have to reach in and pull the stuff out (if you wait too long like I always do and the stuff packs, but the bag is there so you just use the bag like a glove. Kind of. Does that make sense? With my COPD and asthma I do have to watch dust and stuff and it hasn't been a problem since starting to do it this way.

Meg said...

OH, OK! Must admit, I did try using a "reusable bag" for awhile -- I do try to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle -- but even cleaning it out by emptying it directly into a plastic bag, so much dust flew back into the atmosphere that I decided it just wasn't worth the effort.

This all seems so trivial, now -- just as we were getting back to normal after Katrina, along comes Rita. But even while we try to help, as we can, to dig out from under catastrophe -- we still have to deal with our own entropy. Dust.