Answer Geek: Do Cyclone Vacuums Deliver?

ByABC News
January 4, 2001, 9:26 AM

<br> -- Q U E S T I O N: Most commercials for new vacuum cleaners seem to talk about the "new" wind tunnel or cyclone technology. Is this a ploy to sell more vacuums or are they really more powerful with this new way of making the air flow inside them?


Q U E S T I O N: Is there anything to the "swirling tornado" effect in most of the vacuum cleaners being sold today or is it more of a "looks cool" gadgetry thing?

Gerard G.

A N S W E R: If you havent been paying close attention to the latest advances in the field of domestic cleanliness, a revolution is underway in the vacuum cleaner industry, with something called wind tunnel or cyclone technology all the rage.

My initial reaction when I heard about it was a hearty yeah, right. Theres something about touting the unmatched cleaning power of vortexes, swirling tornados, and dual cyclonic systems that just seemed suspicious. So when I set out to answer these questions, I must admit, I was hoping to debunk the whole thing as so much hype and hooey.

Not Just a Lot of Hot Air

Imagine my surprise. It turns out that this so-called cyclone technology is the biggest breakthrough in vacuuming since Ives McGaffey invented the contraption back in the basement of his Chicago home 1869. The name of the first vacuum to hit the market? The Whirlwind. A handcranked device, it was awkward to operate and never really caught on. Thirty years later, however, McGaffey added an electric motor to his machine, and during the course of the next decade or two, companies like Hoover, Eureka, Kirby, Royal and improved the device and figured out how to market it to the masses.

So ended the march of vacuum cleaner progress, at least for a while. The basic upright models that most of us use arent that different from the ones our great-great grandparents vacuumed with in the early part of the 20th century. A fan near the bottom of the vacuum cleaner creates suction, drawing air-and dirt-up into the machine. All that air and dirt flies up past the fan and is pushed into the filter bag, where the dirt is trapped.