Friday, March 07, 2008

Vacuum cleaners are from hell and should be sent back there

Among all the household chores my least favourite is vacuuming. This is somewhat surprising, as I really like the somewhat related tasks of mopping floors, mowing lawns or clearing snow off the footpaths. They all require going through every square inch of the area to be cleaned, so there is an aspect of having to do it in a systematic way. Also, there's a real sense of achievement that comes with all of them. In sum, they are all excellent zen activities. Apart from vacuuming, which sucks (pun intended) because the tools are so badly designed.

I've recently obtained a secret memo, this is from a liaison group of vacuum cleaner manufacturers and it details the design principles of really annoying vacuum cleaners.

1) Make it loud.

To allow perfect concentration in the task at hand, the vacuum cleaners should make a deafening sound that can drown out all other sounds in the vicinity, e.g. the ringing of a telephone, crying children, fire alarms and pneumatic drills.

The effect of this can be further enhanced by placing the pitch of the sound to the same frequency range where the human hearing is at its most sensitive.

2) Make it top-heavy

By putting the centre of gravity of the machine high enough, you ensure that the machine falls over every time the vacuumer makes a turn exceeding 90 degrees. As such sudden changes of direction are indicators of erratic and non-systematic cleaning, the falling over of the cleaner is a gentle reminder to the vacuumer to make sure s/he vacuums every corner.

3a) Use self-tangling power cord

Nobody likes messy cords, not even while vacuuming. By using the extra static self-bundling cord (patent pending) you can assure that the vacuum cleaner power cord will stay in one, neat pile even when fully extracted. Following the current green trends, this pile of cord has a natural resemblance of a crow's nest.

3b) The length of the cord

In order to protect the walls, the length the power cord follows the formula below:

c = dr - ve - 30

where c is the length of the cord, dr is the distance from the socket to the furthest corner and ve is the length of the vacuum cleaner and tube itself, fully extended. 30 is the safety gap in centimeters that is left between the system fully extended and the furthest wall.

4) The nozzle

Again, for safety purposes, the nozzle is 3 millimetres thicker than the gap under the cupboard. Also, for historical continuity, the design of the nozzle has remained the same since Attila's wife started using his husband's elephants for cleaning the house, and attached a nozzle into their snouts. This nozzle has two options: uneven metallic base that scratches everything; or plastic brush that goes around the bottom of the nozzle that is handy in preventing dust from entering the suction hole.

5) Wheels

A standard vacuum cleaner has three wheels. One is made by FunnyWheels Inc., the same company that produces all the wobbly wheels in shopping carts (they put in one FunnyWheel in every 100th cart, the one you always get). The main purpose of this wheel is to catch the edges of carpets and pull the carpets along with the vacuum cleaner, as a gentle reminder that they probably need to be taken out. This wheel also sticks to and collects all extra vacuum cleaner cord and helps the self-tangling process.

The two other wheels are made as light as possible, and from cheap and hard plastic so that the friction between them and the floor is the same in every direction, i.e. the rotational feature usually associated with wheels is insignificant. This adds to the great experience of the vacuum cleaner actually being drawn on the floor rather than rolling on it.

6) The bag

A lot of effort has been put into designing the system to attach the replaceable bags into the vacuum cleaner. The main principles are: 1) the system should be loose enough to allow about 10% of the dust and dirt to bypass the bag and end up in the vacuum cleaner itself. This not only extends the capacity of the cleaner by 10%, the small grains of sand etc. end up in the motor and help add to the amazing noise the cleaner makes 2) the system should be tight enough to make sure about 30 % of the dust and dirt in the bag falls of while trying to yank the bag out of the vacuum. This serves as a quick random check to the contents of the bag, so that the vacuumer can make sure nothing of value gets thrown out with the used dust-bag.

7) Storage

The vacuum cleaner must be made out of at least 15 different pieces. The metallic tube should be made out of at least 3 different pieces to allow storage in a shoe box and extra entertainment during vacuuming when these pieces fall off intermittently. Many manufacturers nowadays have vacuum cleaners that stow without needing disassembly. This stowage usually means tilting the cleaner on a labile edge and then connecting a hook in the nozzle to the cleaner. This creates a highly unstable system where the plastic tubing makes a big loop that gets stuck on the doorknob or anything that moves in the vicinity. This serves as a gentle reminder for the user that it might be time to do some vacuuming.

(c) Liaison group of vacuum cleaner manufacturers: because we know best.


Terhi said...

Well said! I have also been told by a reliable source (collague attending the mandatory health and safety training for new staff) that vacuum cleaners are one of the most frequent causes of accidents on the campus.

TH said...

Ahh, good old British Health and Safety... I miss it. :)

Anonymous said...

HAHHHAHAHA!!!! made my day! I have been through 4 vacuum cleaner in the past year. bits fall off, or fall out, cords are either way too short or, way too long and you might strangle the dog accidently, hoses never work as theyre supposed to , there is not such thing as a vacuum that can deal 'effectively' with pet hair. bagless vacuums are a pain, bagged vacuums are a pain, and on :)