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How to vacuum like a pro

B&W image of a woman with a retro vacuum cleaner

N.B. It proved impossible to find a vintage photo with a man wielding a vacuum. Please email us one if you can!

The importance of a good vacuum cleaner in the home is clear to everyone, particularly those with children or animals. Or both. Our very existence is a continual process of cell renewal and, in order for this to work, dust is created. A few minutes of Internet research yields this:

"The percentage of the dust in your home that is actually dead skin cells is approximately 75 to 90 percent.

According to The Boston Globe, 30,000-40,000 skin cells fall off you per minute, and on average 8.8 pounds of dead skin cells fall off your body per year..."

Definitely, a sobering fact. Certainly, it's a fact I'm planning to throw into the mix next time one of the kids moans about doing the vacuuming.

We live in a dusty world, then. One which, if we think about it, can never be perfectly clean, unless you're planning to live in the sort of vacuum-sealed sterility practised in  a clean room. With this in mind, it's no wonder that every household we get called into has its own protocols with regard to cleaning.

Many homes have a combination of carpet and hard floor. Each present the owner with a range of cleaning challenges. The key issue to bear in mind is that carpets are designed to trap dust, as well as provide insulation and comfort. Hard floors seem superficially easier to maintain, and we find that a soft, long handled brush and dust-pan and brush, followed by a decent mop does a good job - but, in the interim, where does the dust go?

B/W photo of 1930s-Dust-Bowl

Without a filtration system or a trapping system like carpet, dust will circulate freely and be breathed in (and filtered by your nose!).

How to vacuum a carpet

Carpets are constructed in several different ways, some are woven, others are tufted. Either way, you essentially have a three dimensional matrix of fibre to navigate. There is little point even beginning unless you have a decent vacuum. Or at least, you will have to waste a lot more energy (and electricity) to do a good job with a poor vacuum.

For more specific advice on how to choose a vacuum, read our advice section.

If you have a carpet with any depth to it, you need to ensure that your vac has a motorised beater bar. This is the component that agitates and brushes the particles from within the pile so that they can be vacuumed up. We tend to adopt the Compass Method of vacuuming, meaning simply moving from North to South, then East to West. It's worth noting that most vacuum cleaners will perform more efficiently on the pull-back part of the motion. When there is a heavy soil load/lots of debris, go slower. Repeat.

colour photo of rally cars.

Don't expect a rally around the front room to produce results!

How to vacuum stairs

Stairs require the same thoroughness as other areas of carpet but, for obvious reasons, are less easy to negotiate. At Green Man, we tend to use the same Sebo BS36 machines on stairs as the rest of the house, using the following method:

  • Work from top to bottom (obvs)
  • Slowly draw the machine sideways across the stair
  • Slowly pull the machine from front to back, then slightly over the nose of the stair to agitate this area too
  • Stop every 4 stairs and use the crevice tool to vac the front face and edges of the stairs

Instinctively, I tend to get slowly as I near the bottom because the lower stairs will always take the brunt of initial soiling.

The BS36 is quite a heavy machine and we wouldn't expect many customers to wield this beast often at home. At home, we have a Sebo K1 with a turbo-brush attachment. I know that Miele have a similar cylinder-type machine. These type of vacuums are also great for stairs, as they combine decent power with a motorised brush head for that necessary agitation.

Another contender is the Hometek Hunter.

Photo of Hometek Hunter

It's a cracking little machine that has a motorised brush and HEPA filter. It doesn't have a large capacity, but is perfect for stairs. Failing all of these options, an old fashioned dust pan and brush is not a bad option, as it is lightweight and just requires a little elbow grease!

Rechargeable vacuum cleaners

As a rule of thumb, most rechargeable vacuum cleaners lack the power of corded models. Customers have recommended various brands, notably Dyson, and we remain open minded. At the moment, Dyson advertise their (at £550) as having 40 minutes use before recharge. If you are using the motorised tool with this, expect the battery to become fatigued fairly rapidly. Technology moves fast and- who knows - before long, maybe we will be converted.

Vacuuming remains an inescapable part of modern life. Hopefully, if you follow some of the advice on machines and technique given here, you can turn a chore into a score!

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