How vacuum cleaners suck air

vacuum cleaner

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What is a vacuum cleaner? With the help of a fan (suction turbine), an air flow is generated in the vacuum cleaner; this causes a negative pressure, through which air is sucked in and transported out on the other side of the vacuum cleaner (vacuum principle). With the sucked in air, the dust particles are carried away and prevented from escaping again in the vacuum cleaner by the vacuum cleaner bag and various filters.

Before motors were used in vacuum cleaners, bellows, pumps or propellers powered by muscle power generated this air flow. The first electrically operated hand vacuum cleaners were connected to the light line. In contrast to today, these first models were luxury goods, in 1920 an English worker had to pay an average of two months' wages for a vacuum cleaner. With the further spread of the vacuum cleaner, the carpet knocking bars in the courtyards gradually disappeared.


Structure of the vacuum cleaner

A vacuum cleaner is divided into two areas: the motor part and the dust compartment part. The dust compartment part consists of the housing, the suction hose with the suction pipe and the respective nozzle. The motor with a fan is located in the motor part. This creates negative pressure, through which air is sucked in with dust and conveyed outside again through the exhaust air grille via various filter stages (Figure 2). The on / off switch is located on the outside of the housing. The speed of the motor is adjusted by a controller. In addition, an air slide can be opened on the suction pipe. The different suction power makes it possible to vacuum different surfaces. Upholstered furniture, for example, can be vacuumed with low power and carpets or hard floor coverings with high power.

Figure 1: Canister vacuum cleaner

A distinction is made between bag vacuum cleaners and bagless vacuum cleaners. With a bag vacuum cleaner, the dust is collected in a vacuum cleaner bag, which later goes into the garbage, while with → bagless vacuum cleaners, the dust collects in a collecting container, which is cleaned later.

Figure 2: Air flow through a cylinder vacuum cleaner

As Figure 2 shows, with this cylinder vacuum cleaner, the air flow is directed outwards again via the suction tube through the vacuum cleaner bag. As there are more and more people who are allergic to house dust, the number of built-in filters has increased significantly. In order to ensure good suction power and dust retention, the filters must be replaced at regular intervals.


Universal nozzle with extendable bristles for hard floors. Crevice nozzles, upholstery nozzles, radiator brushes and furniture brushes. In this model, the accessories are stowed under the accessory lid.

Figure 3: Top view of the fanFigure 4: HEPA filter
Figure 3: Top view of the fan
Figure 4: HEPA filter

Floor cleaning: types of vacuum cleaners

A distinction is made between dry vacuum cleaners and wet / dry vacuum cleaners. With a dry vacuum cleaner, dry dirt is removed from surfaces such as floors with the sucked in air.
Wet and dry vacuum cleaners are also suitable for vacuuming liquids. If the container is full, a fuse switches off the air flow or the entire vacuum cleaner. The liquid is disposed of via a drainage hose or by tipping the container out.

Suction power

The suction power depends on the negative pressure generated and the amount of air that flows through the vacuum cleaner. These two sizes must be optimally matched to one another. The larger the suction opening, the more air can flow through, but the lower the negative pressure. The negative pressure in turn reaches its maximum with a minimum suction opening. In addition, the motor power (watts) influences the suction power, as does the quality and condition of the filters, the capacity of the vacuum cleaner bag and how easily the air can pass through individual parts of the vacuum cleaner (suction tube, hoses, suction nozzle). If couplings or hoses show leaks, the suction on the floor is also less.


Kettle vacuums

The housing consists of a more or less high rollable cylinder. Often it is a combination of wet and dry vacuums, which is why boiler vacuums are also referred to as all-purpose vacuums. The suction nozzle is attached to a telescopic rod. Kettle vacs are ergonomic and easy to use. There is a large selection of accessories for them, for example water suction nozzles or brush rollers that are rotated by a stream of air. Various filters are available for boiler vacuums.

Figure 5: Boiler vacuum cleaner

Back vacuum cleaner

The back vacuum cleaner has a carrying frame with which it can be strapped to the back (Figure 6). This makes it easier to vacuum in hard-to-reach places such as stairwells, rows of chairs or even narrow cabins on a ship.

Handheld vacuum cleaner

In these devices, the housing with motor, vacuum cleaner bag and filters are attached to a handle. The suction tube is located at the bottom of the vacuum cleaner. Although they are relatively light, they are less handy than cylinder vacuum cleaners, where only the telescopic rod and the floor nozzle are moved (Figure 7).

Figure 6: Back vacuum cleaner Figure 7: Hand vacuum cleaner
Figure 6: Back vacuum cleaner
Figure 7: Hand vacuum cleaner

Upright vacuum cleaner

The special feature of upright vacuum cleaners is the rotating roller brush built into the brush head, through which the pile is erected and loosened. This means that deeper-lying dirt can be vacuumed up more easily. The result is significantly better than with other vacuum cleaners. Upright vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters are now also available. These filters also hold back fine dust. Since upright vacuum cleaners (like handheld vacuum cleaners) have the vacuum cleaner and the brush head connected to one another, vacuuming under low furniture is not possible. This is why some models have a removable suction tube for corners or for vacuuming the skirting board. Available accessories: upholstery and crevice nozzle, quick-change system for power cord, height-adjustable roller brush and extension tube. Upright vacuum cleaners are not recommended for deep-pile and knotted carpets. There is a risk here that pile and fringe fibers are also absorbed. In the case of carpets with coarse loops (e.g. Berber structure) matting can occur due to upright vacuum cleaners. Needle fleece or ball thread coverings may be roughened by upright vacuum cleaners. As a result, the floor coverings wear out faster. Floor coverings that are highly electrostatically charged are also not suitable for upright vacuum cleaners → carpets.

Cordless vacuum cleaner

In the beginning, battery-powered vacuum cleaners were very small and usually suitable for vacuuming small amounts of dirt. Since the batteries have become significantly more powerful, cylinder vacuum cleaners and handheld vacuum cleaners with batteries are now available. The running time is about 30-60 minutes. By using several batteries, the operating time can be increased significantly. The advantage of battery-powered vacuum cleaners is that they are independent of a power source and that there is no need to handle the cable [9, 10, 11].

Robot vacuum cleaners

The dream of everyone who has to vacuum large areas: a robot that takes on this tedious work. But what is very easy for us is very difficult to implement for a machine. How does the machine know where the space ends and where something is in the way? How does the robot find out where vacuuming has already taken place and where not and how does it work with the power supply? There are robots that simply change direction in the event of a collision (knocking), others have infrared or ultrasonic sensors that determine the position of objects in space. There are currently two systems in place so that vacuum robots can systematically travel around a room in lanes: One is oriented with the help of laser distance sensors (Lidar, abbreviation for light detection and ranging). Other models work with a camera [3]. The route guidance is supplemented z. B. with a position sensor (gyro sensor), the rotational movements and the change in direction of travel determined. The camera has the disadvantage that when there is insufficient lighting, some vacuum robots navigate significantly worse and sometimes leave out areas [1]. In one model, integrated infrared lights should provide better illumination in twilight [2].

Figure 8: Robot vacuum cleaner

In household robots, the power supply is released via a battery, because cables lying around are an obstacle for robots. Most models can independently go to the charging station after their work and recharge. With a few exceptions, there are one or more brushes on the underside of the vacuum cleaner robot that remove the dirt from the fibers. This is sucked in and collected in a dirt container. As a rule, the containers have to be emptied by hand. However, there are also models that can automatically empty the collecting container at the base station. This increases the time in which the vacuum cleaner robot works autonomously [6].

Further equipment includes, for example: dirt sensors, filters, voice announcements in different languages ​​or fall sensors that prevent falling on stairs. There are vacuum robots that allow time programming or concentrated cleaning in a small area as well as manual control. Many vacuum cleaner robots can be operated by remote control or smartphone. If control via a smartphone app is possible, the vacuuming process can also be started remotely and the cleaning work can be monitored via the vacuum cleaner's front camera [14]. In this case, the robot vacuum cleaner must be connected to the WLAN. Software updates can also be downloaded from the Internet. The latest coup is voice control via Alexa or Google Home [12, 13].

Figure 9: A vacuum cleaner robot can usually vacuum under the bed and living room table.

It remains difficult: corners are vacuumed more or less well. Dust collects under furniture that cannot be driven under and cables lying around can get caught in edge brushes. Some people find the background noise at work extremely annoying. So far, the suction power has not yet reached that of a good conventional cylinder vacuum cleaner [7].

Zone cleaning

At IFA 2018, a vacuum robot was presented that can be used to set up zones. A map is created the first time you drive through the apartment. No-go lines can be drawn on this map to exclude areas with cables or decorations from vacuuming. In addition, however, zones can also be defined, which z. B. should be vacuumed separately due to high levels of dirt. For this purpose, a rectangle is drawn in the floor plan in the associated smartphone app, which is then cleaned by the vacuum robot. [4, 5].

Central vacuum cleaner

In the case of a central vacuum cleaner, a central device is installed in the basement or an adjoining room, for example. From there a pipe system goes into each room and ends there with a suction socket. Instead of driving the vacuum cleaner from one room to the next, a flexible suction hose with suction tube and vacuum cleaner nozzle is connected to the socket. The sucked in air is transported to the central vacuum cleaner, where it is freed of dust and the exhaust air is blown outside. Central vacuum cleaners work like → bagless vacuum cleaners based on the cyclone principle. The performance of the central vacuum must be adapted to the living space so that there is sufficient negative pressure for vacuuming in every room.


In addition to the trend towards more vacuum cleaner robots, Miele started making templates for 3D printers available for download free of charge in May 2020 [8]. The templates can be used, for example, to print out accessories for vacuum cleaners with a 3D printer. This is very practical, especially for small spare parts, because reordering them is often very time-consuming.
Numatic presented the ReFlo technology at the CMS 2019. Products are made from recycled plastic, which has a lot of CO compared to new plastic2 saves. In addition to vacuum cleaners, cleaning and hotel trolleys are also on offer [15].

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Interesting links

The virtual vacuum cleaner museum: Accessed May 8th, 2020
Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy: The new EU energy label - from March 2021. Access on March 1st, 2021
TriMeXa GmbH (Ed.): Navigation methods of vacuum robots: overview, FAQ and tips. As of April 26, 2019


[1] Stiftung Warentest (Ed.) (2017): Vacuum robots in the test: This is what autonomous vacuum cleaners do. Accessed October 11, 2017
[2] Stiftung Warentest (Ed.) (2017): Dyson 360 Eye vacuum robot: Hard-working, but expensive. Accessed October 11, 2017
[3] Stefan Porteck: Heinzelmänner. Vacuum robot with room recognition and app control. c't magazine for computer technology. 6/2018
[4] Heise Medien GmbH & Co. KG (2018): Vacuum robots: News from Neato and more functions for the Botvac D7. Accessed September 2, 2018
[5] Caschy's blog: Neato Botvac D7 Connected: Tried vacuum cleaner robots. Accessed September 1, 2018
[6] CHIP Digital GmbH (2019): iRobot Roomba i7 +. Accessed on February 6, 2019
[7] Stiftung Warentest (Ed.) (2019): Only two vacuum cleaner robots clean well. Accessed 08/08/2019
[8] Miele & Cie. KG (2020): 3D4U - Miele offers 3D printing templates for exclusive accessories that can be downloaded free of charge. Access on May 8th, 2020
[9] Wetrok AG: Monovac Freedom. Accessed on 09.09.2020
[10] Alfred Kärcher Vertriebs-GmbH: VC 5 Cordless: Compact cordless vacuum cleaner. Accessed on 09.09.2020
[11] Nilfisk Group: VP600 BATTERY - without charger. Accessed on 09.09.2020
[12] Vorwerk Deutschland Stiftung & Co. KG: Kobold VR300 robot vacuum cleaner. Accessed on 09.09.2020
[13] Internet Magazin Verlag GmbH (Ed.): Smart vacuum robots with Alexa control in comparison. Accessed on 09.09.2020
[14] Miele & Cie. KG: robot vacuum. Accessed September 10, 2020
[15] Numatic International GmbH (Ed.): News - Numatic on the CMS. Accessed on March 909, 2021
Ben Schwan: Korean-German vacuum cleaner robot. Heise Zeitschriften Verlag, June 3, 2014
iRobot Germany GmbH: Roomba® vacuum robot. Accessed September 11th, 2020
LG Electronics: HomBot Square with Dual-Eye 2.0 for intelligent and convenient cleaning. Accessed October 11, 2017
Nilfisk Group: VU500 12INCH SMU. Accessed on 09.09.2020
Nilfisk Group: Nilfisk commercial vacuum cleaner accessories catalog. Accessed on 09.09.2020
Cleaning advisor: Cleanfix BS 360 C upright vacuum cleaner. Accessed October 11, 2017
Alfred Kärcher Vertriebs-GmbH: Upright brush vacuum cleaner CV 38/2 Adv. Accessed on 09.09.2020
FAWAS GmbH: The Platinum central vacuum cleaner ... Accessed on 01.09.2018
Electrical systems Gerd Wießner: Advantages of a central vacuum cleaner system - system ZSA. Accessed September 1, 2018
Family Home Verlag GmbH: Central vacuum cleaner - Interesting facts about central vacuum cleaners. Accessed September 1, 2018
Cleanformat - Stolze and Lüder Gbr: Planning and installation of the central unit. Accessed September 1, 2018
Wikipedia entry: vacuum cleaner. Accessed on February 6, 2018 at 5:25 p.m.
Martin Lutz: Practical guidelines for building cleaning, Expertise compact. 2014
Andreas Carl: Carpets and their cleaning, magazine rhw management. 2| 2011
Kärcher Academy: Basics of cleaning. Alfred Kärcher GmbH & Co. KG. 2010
Instructions for use cylinder vacuum cleaner S 200 electronic, S 220 electronic, S 220 Turbotronic, S 250 supertronic, S 300 electronic, Fakir household appliances
Mitschek (Ed.): Household technology, educational publisher EINS. 2003
Christoph Glauser: Simply squeaky clean: the history of the vacuum cleaner. 2001
Georg Schnurer: Saubermänner 24 vacuum robots from 200 to 1150 euros in the test, c't magazine for computer technology. 18/2011
Visit of the CMS 2017 in Berlin

Detailed references

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