How do Vacuums Work?

At Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning, we always stress how important it is to regularly vacuum your carpets. It not only is key to maintaining appearances, but also extends the life of your carpet. But as important as vacuuming is, most of us don’t actually know how vacuums work. We all assume it sucks things up with a fan, right? Well, sort of. Let’s look at the four main principles behind all modern vacuum cleaners.

1. The Fan Blows

Everyone knows there a fan of some sort in their vacuum and most of us assume it sucks air in. What it actually does, though, is blow air out. The fan pushes air out of the vacuum, causing its internal pressure to plummet. In other words, the fan creates a “partial vacuum” in the vacuum.

2. Air Rushes In

Air naturally seeks to maintain a uniform pressure wherever it is. If an area’s air pressure is higher, the air will rush away; if an area’s air pressure is too low, air rushes in. So when the fan creates that partial vacuum, there’s too little air in the cleaner so the air outside the machine rushes in to compensate.

3. Friction

As the air rushes into the vacuum, it moves against the dust and dirt in the carpet, creating fiction. If it creates enough friction, the dust and dirt will be lifted up and forced to move with the air into the vacuum cleaner.

4. Separation

There are three main ways the vacuum cleaner will separate the dust and dirt from the air.

Filters and Bags: As the air is drawn into the vacuum, it’s being pulled through a filter/bag of some sort. The air can easily move through and escape the filter, but the dust and debris cannot and is captured in the filter/bag.

Shop Vacs: As the air is drawn into the shop vac, it reaches the large center chamber. The air spreads out to fill the chamber and this causes all the friction to suddenly disappear. Consequently, anything that was being held up by the friction – i.e. the dust and dirt – falls down to the bottom of the chamber.

Cyclonic Movement: This is a unique one. As the air is pulled into the machine, it’s forced into a cyclonic movement pattern. This generates centrifugal force on the dust and dirt in the air, forcing it all out of the air stream and depositing in the machine for easy removal.

And that’s vacuums for you. Despite all their trimmings and attempts to distinguish themselves with names like “Tornado Cleaner 3607X,” all vacuum cleaners are founded on these core principles. So the next time you turn on your vacuum, you’ll have a good idea about how it’s cleaning your floor.

Thanks to Tom Harris’ great article at for the information. Give it a read for more facts about vacuums!

Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning is a green carpet cleaning company committed to providing customers with exceptional results while still being safe for the environment. Read more about Oxi Fresh’s cleaning method or get some great carpet cleaning coupons!

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