April 22, 2016

To Vacuum the Vacuum Use the Vacuum

vacuum-cleaner-diagram.jpgThanks to the unremitting efforts of two wives and a number of concerned girlfriends I have, over the years, become a fully domesticated man. I cook. I iron. I put the seat down out of pure reflex.

And I clean.

Yes, I clean the house. I have a wide variety of products and tools for floors, ceilings, window, toilets, and counter tops (I’m especially good on counter tops since I not only have cleaning spritzers in plain acid wash and foaming bleach blaster, I also have a compound that renews the polish once the sanitizing has been completed.) I am the very model of the modern major traife buster.

I am, however, a bit sketchy on floors. That is not to say you couldn’t eat off my floors. You could because you’d find a host of food shreds there on any given afternoon. This is not because I like floors configured as mouse buffets but only because, being 6’1”, the floors are so far away I don’t really focus on them. My solution? The world’s most rapacious vacuum cleaner, “The Kirby.”

Actually, I have 2 (two!) solutions since I own 2 (two!) vacuum cleaners. The first is a kind of cheap, plastic metrosexual’s vacuum bought at some box store because it was cheap. Like all metrosexual items, it performs in a manner that lets you know all cheap things are worth much less than you spent on them. It sucks by not sucking as a sucker of floor dirt should. Very sucky. It is, at the best, back-up. Bags and parts for it are sold everywhere.

Then there’s “The Kirby” weighing in are over twenty pounds of solid chromed steel, titanium bristles that can skin a black rhino, and a woven cloth bag wrapped around the vacuum bag that could be made into an outdoor area rug. The motor in this bad boy is so powerful it can suck kittens out of my basement through the floorboards in the living room. It is the chopped Harley Hog of vacuums.


The bags for this hoovering T-Rex are built to blast stresses and are rare as dinosaur eggs. Finding them always calls for an expedition to a far-away strip malls and into some Norwegian albino's small appliance parts shop sandwiched between a sketchy Malaysian smoke shop and a lap-dance rec room. It’s a chore.

So much of a chore that when The Kirby’s bag filled up about six months back I was too lazy to pack a lunch and go find new ones. My solution? Pure genius!

I took out the old bag which was almost rock solid with dust mites, hair, and the bones of desiccated kittens and, holding it over the toxic waste recycling bin behind the garage, cut the bottom open and shook the contents into the bin. Then, because there is nothing it cannot do, I duct-taped the bottom of the bag and slapped it back in The Kirby.

“There. I fixed it.”

Fast forward half a year and I am found manhandling The Kirby over the current mouse buffet and noticing that for a super-sucker its sucking sucks. So I say to myself, “Self, check it out.”

I open the military gauge zipper on the back of the bag and instantly a fibrous tumor of hair and dust mites oozes out. I retreat and don Haz-Mat suit. I inspect the superfund site that is my kitchen.

It would seem that my duct-tape resealing of the bag had, well, failed to hold the bag’s universe together some months back and that all creatures great and small that had been sucked off my floors was now compressed into a hair ball that threatened to expand into all of known space.

Seeing everything that has come off your floors in the last six months in one wad is a unique experience but I resisted the urge to perform an archeological dig on the site. Instead, I deployed a very large garbage back and, grimacing, transferred the dust mite condo from the bag into the bag. It was only the beginning.

Upon inspection of the inside of The Kirby’s bag I found that at least an inch of detritus was still impacted into the cloth on all surfaces. I scraped at it a bit but the dust cloud just deepened around me and drifted out onto the previously pristine floors. Disaster loomed. Then I remembered.

“I own two vacuums. I shall vacuum this vacuum with a vacuum!” Sooper-Genius!

In no time I had deployed vacuum two -- the previously mentioned “cheap, plastic metrosexual’s vacuum” -- attached the hose with the special little attachment that is used for sucking coins and popcorn kernels out of deep crevices in the couch, and switched it on.

Its puny little motor wound up and went to its wheezing limit. I tested the nozzle on my hand and felt the feeble suck but knew it would be better than scraping The Kirby’s inner bag surface with my fingernails. I deployed it inside the clogged bag and carefully and thoroughly went over all the surfaces until they seemed, well, “clean enough for government work.” Then I shut it down and carefully swept the dust and other detritus on the floor into a pile and sucked that up too. Then I mopped the floor of the kitchen. Twice. Until it gleamed.

I took a shower. I mixed a celebratory cocktail. I went to Amazon, found a pack of 12 bags for The Kirby, and ordered them on two day delivery. I went into the kitchen and thought to myself, “A wise man would now replace the bag in the weak little vacuum that has all the leavings from The Kirby in it.”

I opened the “cheap, plastic metrosexual’s vacuum” and knew instantly that many moons ago I had taken a bag out of that vacuum and somehow failed, FAILED, to install a new one. A cloud of hair, dust, dust mites and the bones of small animals exploded from the case and drifted across the gleaming kitchen floor and the carefully polished counter tops. I stood in the cloud at ground zero and felt the dust of ages settle on me.

They say that “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Nature’s got nothing on me.

Posted by Vanderleun at April 22, 2016 1:09 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

You used duct tape on a Kirby?


Posted by: BillT at August 1, 2011 12:55 PM

This is a veiled reference to Keynesian economics, isn't it?

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at August 1, 2011 1:03 PM

Grandma bought a Kirby back in the Paleocene.
Mom inherited it. Coolest attachment was the carpet cleaner as it produced clouds of foam to rival the airport's foam truck.
That particular attachment became a prominent feature at coed basement parties.
It is still being used by Dad in his shop 45 years on. I don't think he knows 'bout the foam thing.

Posted by: Stretch at August 1, 2011 1:21 PM

Now that my wife and I are in or mid to late 70's we now use only IROBOTS. They vacuum under all our tables do not require us to bend and strain our backs to accomplish energy sapping cleaning tasks.

They find their charger when they are finished and are ready to go again when the need arises. They require no replacement bags and notify when they need cleaning that we accomplish with an expensive Hover (the new Kirby).

Irobot has a version that will mop your kitchen floor for you.

I know, you are a victim of your set ways. But wait until having to bend to get under the tables requires treatment at the local medical facility.

Posted by: ChiefTestPilot at August 1, 2011 1:24 PM

Joan, you simply must pause and REGROUP!

Posted by: vanderleun at August 1, 2011 1:46 PM

Whew! For a moment there,the world was closing in on me.

I've tried the ouroboros method of cleaning my vac. With much the same effect.


Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at August 1, 2011 1:56 PM

Dude: Loose the Kirby and the cheapo. Time to spend a few bucks and grow up. Buy an Oreck. Yeah, the ads are cheesy, but the thinks really work and they really are very light.

Posted by: Fat Man at August 1, 2011 2:25 PM

It appears your vacuum abhors nature, Gerard. Thanks for the laugh. I feel somehow....cleansed!

Posted by: Jewel at August 1, 2011 2:26 PM

That's Fat Man for you. Always telling somebody else to empty their wallet. He's a stealth progressive he is.

Posted by: vanderleun at August 1, 2011 2:35 PM

What part of "Chopped Harley Hog of vacuums" don't you understand Joan? The Oreck may be lighter and posses as much suck, but it is the Yamaha of vacuums. The Kirby is a machine that a man can operate with pride, even when his friends are looking. Sometimes, form must triumph over function.

As for those robo-vacuums, when they start making them in the form of Salma Hayek wearing a garter and bustier pushing around a Kirby, please notify me.

Posted by: westsoundmodern at August 1, 2011 2:44 PM

The motor in this bad boy is so powerful it can suck kittens out of my basement through the floorboards in the living room.

I bet that'd be real popular on YouTube.

Posted by: rickl at August 1, 2011 3:39 PM

You CAN reuse the Kirby bag. I've done it in a pinch by carefully opening the bottom first to empty it, then folding it back and stapling it shut, then taping all over that.

Posted by: mary at August 1, 2011 4:10 PM

We have a Kirby Generation 3, with the carpet cleaner. Purchased it in 1990 when we lived in a 750 square foot apartment in San Diego.

I don't know for sure if it will suck a kitten through the floor, mainly because all five of our cats are the size of moderate basketballs. They all head for the bomb shelter when I fire up the Kirby, anyway.

The motor is getting tired but it will still fill a HEPA rated filter bag with one lap around the first floor.

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 1, 2011 4:35 PM

Shit, what in hell do ya'll think illegal house cleaners are for?

Posted by: Peccable at August 1, 2011 4:53 PM

My cats call "The Kirby" the "Cat Eater".

Posted by: David McKinnis at August 1, 2011 5:27 PM

Ah, Mr. Westsound. You missed your mark. And it was such a well-loaded volley, too. The Fat Man is your huckleberry.

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at August 1, 2011 5:30 PM

Didn't it occur to you to turn the kirby bag inside out and throw it in the dryer? Or, tie it behind your car and drive around for a half hour?

If all the scorpions and spiders and baby lizards I've sucked into my vac got loose I'd have to sleep in the garage. He's not there now, but once sucked up a small snake, too. Feeling bad for it, I let him go outside.

Posted by: John Hinds at August 1, 2011 6:09 PM

Domestic Darwinism rocks!

Posted by: richard mcenroe at August 1, 2011 6:15 PM

Oh this just gets better and better with every new read. This is the sort of science fiction reality that a woman like me can enjoy. Housework: Drudgery? I think not! So long as I can watch someone else do it.

Posted by: Jewel at August 1, 2011 6:19 PM

Jewel, the pleasure is to serve.

Posted by: vanderleun at August 1, 2011 7:06 PM

Xlnt as always Gerard

Trust me, the Oreck sucks, and not in a good way. Underpowered, overpriced and overrated. I still use mine for very light jobs, but the old all metal American - made Hoover I have is da bomb. The next best thing to hardwood floors.


Posted by: Rob Miller at August 1, 2011 7:17 PM

I had a Kirby. I sucked half my bedspread into it.

We included it with items for sale when we were trying to make weight for a military move. It was the Kirby vs several boxes of books.

All vacuums are doggie monsters at my house. Sounds come out of them you will never hear in the wild.

Posted by: Sara (Pal2Pal) at August 1, 2011 7:51 PM

Clearly, you are the sort of man who needs three vacuum cleaners. It's called triple redundancy and is used for systems where failure is not an option.

Posted by: chuck at August 1, 2011 8:37 PM

Seriously man. Give a try to the Rainbow vac. My sister swears by it.

Posted by: Jewel at August 1, 2011 8:53 PM

That was a well-written short story. It sucked me in from the first sentence....

My dad accidentally-maliciously sucked up a big western centipede (scolopendra robustus) with the old Electrolux tank-vac. Oh, with much trepidation we eyeballed the tube and the hose.... With no easy options left, we took the bag outside. It fell to me to cut the bag with a steak-knife; and the damned monster came bursting out like The Alien out of a human chest. I stabbed at it with the steak knife until I finally got it. Both halves ran different directions. We both needed a stiff drink after that.

Dyson, man.... Dyson.

Posted by: Gray at August 1, 2011 9:34 PM

I don' think I could bear a third vacuum cleaner. The risk would be too great.

Posted by: vanderleun at August 2, 2011 1:30 AM

I owned a Kirby for 20+ years. Kept fixing the motor until it finally breathed its last. Every vacuum since then is a poor second best. Very poor.

Posted by: physics geek at August 2, 2011 5:39 AM

WTF? The remote is a man's tool. There is an order in the universe, and it is disrupted when men vacuum or clean the bathroom. That's how we ended up with Komrade Doofus. You need to go outside and shoot at something until you can't remember where you keep those vacuums.

Posted by: Casca at August 2, 2011 7:40 AM

I had a Kirby, I loved like one of my children.
Until a cleaning lady thought it was a shop vac and vacuumed a wet floor with it..It had major surgery, after that I could no longer afford the cleaning lady, but she was grumpy anyway.
The Kirby served me well for many more years,and was never grumpy.
Now that I'm older, I use mostly cordless,cowardly little things, but it's okay, I just take my glasses off and everything looks fine to me.

Posted by: della street at August 2, 2011 11:46 AM

My doctor-pal next door put a spring mounted catnip mouse on his robot vacuum. As it goes on it's rounds, it entertains the cats. I think it has brought a lot of joy to his household.

Posted by: Gray at August 2, 2011 9:05 PM

Take a Dyson to your mattress and watch the transparent canister fill with a stratum of flesh-coloured filth an inch deep (if you haven't done it before and slept on the thing for 10 years). I have never vacuumed a non caucasian mattress, but I'm tempted to ask the Indian family down the way to let me have a go.

Posted by: Edward The Booble at August 3, 2011 4:14 PM

Thank you, Edward, for that mental image that has now consigned me to sleeping on the floor forever.

Posted by: vanderleun at August 3, 2011 5:02 PM

My floor cleaner is from El Salvador. I pay her in cash once a month.

Posted by: B Lewis at August 29, 2012 4:57 PM

Thanks for the smile, Gerard. I see that you were having "one of those days".


Hale Adams
Pikesville, People's Democratic Republic of Maryland

Posted by: Hale Adams at August 29, 2012 6:35 PM

Clean? Vacuum? Horse pucky, that's why moving isn't such a chore. Giving up the cleaning deposit avoids that crud drudgery.

Posted by: Peccable at August 30, 2012 5:47 AM

See, you learned something there: If you're gonna be cheap and re-use the vacuum cleaner bag, empty it outside.

Shouldn't have to learn that lesson more than a couple of times.

Posted by: Rob De Witt at August 30, 2012 6:49 AM

If I asked the man for a new vacuum cleaner for my birthday tomorrow, I might get lucky and get a dual bag. That would at least be a suckworthy endeavor. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5RDAQFAh6Q

Posted by: Jewel at August 30, 2012 4:04 PM

A great vacuum cleaner but noisier than my five sons!

Posted by: Patricia at August 31, 2012 4:29 AM

One of the problems with cheap vacuums is that their hoses get clogged.

Solution? A sink drain auger. No mutilation of hoses, no punctures.

Posted by: Cond0011 at September 2, 2012 1:35 PM

How ancient a device. Hie thee down to a lawn and garden shop, get a decent backpack leaf blower and never be bothered with having to empty a vacuum bag again.

Start at the farthest point of the abode and proceed to the remotest door. I strongly advise that you have that entry open before commencing so that all the detritus propelled before you is ejected properly to the exterior.

Fear not, you will only forget to open the door once.
(Hint: Recommend using a nail gun to fasten down the drapes, antimacassars and light weight pets)

Posted by: Vermont Woodchuck at April 23, 2014 6:17 AM

Thanks for the laugh.

Over the years I've owned every top line vac known to mankind, Kirby, Royal, Sebo, Miele, Nilfisk, etc...and as much as I dislike the smug twat, Dyson vacs are by far the best.

Our DC15 Animal hasn't missed a beat in 8 yrs of heavy use(we have dogs & cats). As a bit of a clean freak, the thing I like best is that the canister and filter components come apart and you can wash them out. A big deal with dog funk...which penetrates a cloth bag cover.

The uprights have a design flaw for multi-purpose cleaning, the wand attachments need an articulating joint, but the vac itself works exactly as advertised. I even vacuum out the wood stove, suck up cat litter, and a dropped bag of flour; stuff that would choke a bagged vac.

I recently bought a DC47 Animal canister model for the upstairs, and while it's not as powerful as the upright it's far better than the Miele it replaced.

Posted by: BJM at April 23, 2014 10:25 AM

I love my husband beyond all reason and qualifications. I married him when I was 17 and we are at 44 years of wedlock, and still going strong. For 30 of years, he sold janitorial supplies. In middle of that time, we had a janitorial service for 10 years, so I know on both hands (and my back, and feet---neck, too) of which I speak.

He has not showered me with diamonds, but he has given me the finest of the best in janitorial supplies and equipment. So when I tell you to buy an Oreck, I mean it. We tried other commercial brands and they could not stand up the demands of industrial usage, and they were heavy. Mind you---he serviced the vacuums every day before our employees took them out---cleaned the bags, checked belts, power cords, and rollers. Buy an industrial model Oreck, and keep it clean. Buy an extra belt and slip it over the handle. Tape a package of filter bags on the wall where you keep the vacuum and replace them when the dirt hits the fill line. Oh, and don't vacuum over your cord.

P.S. I grew up with a Kirby. The bottom of the bag should have a metal gripper that slides tightly over the bottom of the bag to seal it. Your's must have been lost at some point. You can buy another. Inside the zippered pocket on the bag is an internal scraper you can use to scrape out the inside of the bag---from inside the zippered pocket. Feel around for it. Alternately, you can buy a new bag for the Kirby if your credit is good.

Posted by: Deborah HH at April 23, 2014 10:44 AM

We had a Kirby. Would still have it if the vacuum matched the sound.

"Chopped Harley Hog" is an excellent simile. Loud, gaudy, of a style only appreciated by the faithful, and mediocre at it's supposed purpose. Did I mention loud?

In the MC world, the term "poser" is applied to (mainly) Harley types; from the french "poseur" but also having a hearty American connotation in its Funk & Wagnall's sense.

I think that you have created a new category: vacuum poser. :-)

Posted by: bud at April 23, 2014 1:08 PM

Ah....the Kirby. After bequeathing you the Big Sucker my regret was tantamount when I found myself keeping house with a garage sale icky non sucking piece of crap my paramour called The Vacuum. My lament was heard when I spied gently used late model Kirby at an estate sale for $50. My darling Mr. promptly went to the bank and extracted the cash. Nothing beats the suck of a Kirby. Nothing.

Posted by: Sushisistah at April 23, 2014 4:36 PM

Amazon. All your vacuum bags delivered to your door.

Posted by: Nobody Atall at April 24, 2014 7:09 AM

Toilet seat? By pure matter of efficiency, I leave it as it was at last use.

I never followed through, but drew up plans to turn my mom's Kirby vacuum cleaner into a supercharger for my 1976 Chevette. It simply would have been connected between the carb and intake manifold.I could have made adapters for the carb and manifold connection in foundry class. I never came up with a good solution to drive the Kirby through the timing belt/cam/crank assembly. Certainly would have been cool though.A supercharged four cylinder Camaro slayer!

Posted by: Snakepit Kansas at April 22, 2016 5:21 AM

I'm a man. I use a ShopVac.

Posted by: Larry Geiger at April 22, 2016 6:06 AM

I have two cats, I had a Dyson animal vacuum.

When I moved into my new place I ditched the Dyson and got a Roomba 880 and it is the BEST thing I have ever done! It gets under everything except the coffee table and end tables and a few narrow places that I use a dustbuster on. I named it Scotty because it truly is a miracle worker. I have it vacuum all the flooring, both hard and carpeted, daily. It picks up everything and it has a "dirt detector" feature that goes over an area that is dirty until it no longer detects any dirt (great for the cat litter that gets tracked out of the box.)

My house looks like I have a maid cleaning it daily. The Roomba keeps the dust down in the house so I don't have to dust as much, too. The only things you have to do maintenance wise is empty the dust cup and knock (or blow out with canned air) the HEPA filter daily and clean it once a week. Cleaning consists of removing the rollers to make sure there is no string or hair wrapped around them, blow out the dust and wipe off the sensors. That takes all of 10 minutes, a soft cloth and a screwdriver. Considering I'm no longer spending an hour every other day vacuuming I'm not going to make a fuss about doing maintenance on it. BTW-All parts are easily replaceable by even the most non-mechanical of people and the only tools you need are a straight and Phillips screwdrivers. I've never had a mechanical problem with it so far and I've had it for a year.

I know you probably think I was joking when I called it a miracle worker. I wasn't. My brother-in-law is very allergic to cats and has never been able to spend more than ten minutes in my house due to this. Last week I had him and my sister over for dinner and a movie and he was comfortable the whole way through and didn't have to use his inhaler. They are thinking about getting one, too. They have three dogs who track in a lot of dirt and shed a lot of hair.

Posted by: Nahanni at April 22, 2016 10:27 AM

When next you're done with your household chores could you make me a sammich?

Posted by: Fuel Filter at April 22, 2016 10:32 AM