Modern carpet cleaning relies heavily on regular vacuuming and annual steam cleaning. With these basic steps, you can keep your carpet fresh and clean for years. However, vacuums haven’t always been around, and that leaves you wondering how people cleaned carpets before there was a Hoover or Bissell in every home.
The Fresh Air, Sunshine and a Broom
Early carpets of the 19th century were only for the wealthy, and they weren’t attached to the floor. Smaller in size, they could be taken outside when the weather was nice and hung over a railing or even tree limb. The rug could then be hit with corn brooms to knock the dirt, sand, dust and soot out. While this was effective for the loose dirt, it could not remove spills and other stains. The wealthiest classes of Europe protected their carpets when they would be away or there were major events in the house by covering them with canvas cloth.
Mid-19th Century Stain Removal Techniques
Enterprising housewives and maids found ways to address the stains. One method dating back to the 1830s involved scrubbing the stain with lemon juice and a loaf of hot, crusty, white bread. Taken outside and rinsed with fresh water, the rug was then left in the sun to dry.
By the 1880s, people were creating a solution of three parts water with one part bull’s gall to clean carpets. The bull’s gall has oxalic salts that mix with water to form oxalic acid. More powerful than modern-day acetic acid, the mixture was scrubbed into the carpet using a flannel cloth and then rinsed out with fresh water.
In their effort to clean carpets and make them beautiful again, people even turned to chloroform. While this organic solvent may have been effective at cleaning carpets, the obvious danger to people using it prevented it from becoming a popular method.
The First Vacuum Cleaners
Invested by Ives W. McGaffey, this lightweight cleaner was difficult to use because of the hand crank that had to be rotated while it moved across the floor. However, inventors are persistent and it wasn’t long before a better option was available.
Corinne Dufour of Savannah, Georgia obtained the first patent for a carpet sweeper that was electrically powered. However, Hubert Cecil Booth was the first to patent and start producing motorized vacuum cleaners in 1901. The vacuum, known as the Puffing Billy, was similar to the professional steam cleaners of today in that it was parked outside the building to be cleaned. The machine sat on a platform pulled by horses, and the first models were actually powered by oil engines but later switched to electric motors.
Affordable Vacuums for the Home
Walter Griffiths manufacturer of Birmingham, England started selling a small, portable machine in 1905. A lightweight machine meant to be portable and easy to store, it could be powered by one person and is considered the first domestic vacuum that is comparable the vacuums of today.
The rotating brush was patented by James Murray Spangler of Canton, Ohio in 1908. He sold the idea of the rotating-brush design to “Hoover Harness and Leather Goods Factory”, and they started producing the vacuum known as the “Model O.”
Cleaning carpets has certainly become easier over the years. Vacuums are lighter, easier to use and more effective. Affordable enough that most families can have their own, they remove dirt, dust and other allergens from your carpet. You also don’t have to scrub your carpets with lemon and bread because you can call High Quality Carpet to deep clean the carpet in your home and remove stains.