A true story about a vacuum cleaner

Filed in Blog by on February 23, 2011 18 Comments
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Have you guessed what it is yet?

Have you guessed what it is yet?

Go on, have a guess what I’m holding in my hand in the photo.

Nope, Mr Green has not been tearing his hair out about one of my crazy schemes …

And I haven’t given the rabbit a trim for the summer …

Once upon a time, Mr Green and I were driving somewhere when we spotted a vacuum cleaner on the kerbside. The owner had put it out for rubbish collection.

Back in the good old days we didn’t own a vacuum; we had a carpet sweeper which was on its last legs and I don’t know about you, but using a carpet sweeper on stairs that go around a corner is not the easiest of chores. You have to get down on your hands and knees and sweep the carpet. Good for a general body workout, not so good for convenience.

Anyway, we decided to ask the person if we could take the vacuum – they were only too pleased to see it go to a new loving home. We asked them what was wrong with it but they didn’t know. All they knew was it had lost its power and no longer picked anything up off the floor. Sounds a bit like a teenager…

Mr Green, being a bit of a Robinson Crusoe on the quiet, decided no challenge was too big and set to work to identify the problem.

He toiled for hours (ok, for 5 minutes), sweating and erm, toiling before coming back into the house with a perfectly working vacuum cleaner.


The problem?

A full bag…

Yes. Really.

I know you don’t believe me, but as true as I’m sitting here typing, I promise that was the extent of the damage. A full bag that needed emptying.

It’s beyond belief, right?

So this week history started to repeat itself. My vacuum lost its suck no less and it was making all sorts of ‘that’ll be the motor packing up’ kind of sounds.

Feeling very ‘Girl Friday’ and being the eternal optimist I decided I could fix it. After taking everything apart, inspecting the pipes and finding no blockage (and no, it didn’t need emptying either) I turned the vacuum over and discovered a horrifying sight:


Yep, basically my landing carpet, bunny fur and goodness knows what else was wrapped around the brushes. No wonder it wasn’t picking anything up, there was nowhere left for it to go.

I set to work pulling off the tangled mess (and I have to confess it was a strangely therapeutic task) to reveal my tiny purple brushes to the world again.


With a hop and a skip they set to work and my floors look as good as new.

My challenge to you, should you choose to accept it, is to pull out your vacuum and give it a bit of a clean out – check the bag or cylinder, clean out the pipes and check those brushes while you’re at it.

If you don’t have a vacuum, join in the fun by pulling all the hairs and fluff off some velcro and then annoy someone with the sound afterwards – how much fun is that!?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (18)

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  1. Jo says:

    Wow – that’s one full vacuum brush! Ours has never gotten that bad but only because it starts to smell like burning when it gets somewhat bound up with long hair. Then I know it’s time to clean it πŸ™‚

  2. Beth says:

    Hilarious, I can’t believe someone tossed a vacuum without at least checking the bag or brushes! I actually spent my weekend in a similar way – my vacuum brushes also covered. I used a pair of scissors and it took no more than five minutes total.

  3. Steve says:

    I’m fasciated to know what you are going to do mrs g with all that wool/fluff,…from that vacuum cleaner head
    If you would like perfectly good appliances for free look no further than your local waste center as we have found, it’s truly awful that people discard ,perfectly good stuff, I mean almost new for what ever reason and theirs nothing wrong with it in most cases but like your vacuum cleaner some are just blocked up !….I suppose their is some lore to stop people recycling other peoples waste somewhere or other from these places

  4. Sooz says:

    We used to have hoover brushes that looked like that – my hair used to be waist length and it would take ages to unravel it all! Strangely enough we have less of a problem since I had a haircut!

  5. CarSue says:

    Mrs. Green, the EXACT same thing happened to me about two weeks back! My little machine was huffing and puffing, but wouldn’t pick up a thing. It’s the type with a clear canister in front, so I could tell that it wasn’t too full. I flipped it over to have a look at the underneath, and found practically miles of my waist-length, blonde hair wrapped around the beater bar and brushes! The Mr. set to it and removed the bottom piece of plastic, pulling out the hair and it’s accompanying debris….only to find that the pins which attach the beater bar were actaully impacted with hair. We pulled it out, and it had wound so tightly that it created little “hair plugs” ! Quite gross, but we saved ourselves a trip to the repair shop at any rate….and certainly didn’t throw the thing out!

    On a related note, we compost the contents of the vacuum canister (after picking out any wayward plastics), because it’s usually just dog & human hair, bits of fuzz from cotton socks, and dust in there. Do you do this? Does anyone else?

    Fun story, thanks for sharing!

  6. Antonio Pachowko says:

    Hi Mrs G that is a funny story but yesterday my 5 year old Bagless Cylinder Hoover decided to give up the Ghost, going out with sparks flying out of the plug and a large bang (which tripped the fuse in the fuse box). I tried the sensible thing and tried to put in a new fuse, but it did not work and I had to conclude that the electric motor was dead. So I had no choice but to buy a new vacuum cleaner, A Vax Power 7, with 2400W of power and a supreme cleaning ability (the old one was recycled via Curry’s). It is another bagless cylinder type with a 4litre container for which you can see the sweepings going into, so you know when it is full. It is also very easy to empty which you don’t have to do so frequently with a 4 litre container. It is alos designed especially for people with pets. I wouls also make sure that all filters present in the vacuum are checked least once aweek and washed once a month with lukewarm water and allowed to dry. A block filter will reduce the filtration efficiency. The ironic thing is that last month I just bought a new telescopic extension tube as the old one was falling to bits. Why do these things happen?

  7. Tracey says:

    @ CarSue
    We compost our dyson collections… I’ve never found anything wayward/non-complstable in it, but it only gets full every few weeks (despite having 4 cats and waist-length hair!).

    I try to brush the cats regularly and pop the lumps of fluff into the bird-wool-supply for their nests (they don’t seem to mind that it smells of cat – it should still be cozy warm!) and hopefully this reduces the wear and tear on the vac!. πŸ™‚

  8. Ben says:

    My vacuum cleaner is some kind of ancient orange VAX my family gave me. It’s a bit too big for me really, it has a massive 5 L bag so rarely needs emptying, but my problem is what to do with the bag and contents when it does fill up?

  9. Condo Blues says:

    That looks like my Roomba. I have one of the very first ones (that wasn’t made to stand up to long dog hair.) I have to dig out the brushes from the dog fur often.

  10. Peter says:


    More perhaps than reuse, repair is an even poorer cousin in the ‘re’-hierarchy.

    In case the motor is beyond…hope… here’s another option:


    *1st time Junkk users will need to register to view.

  11. Teresa says:

    More and more people are getting so impractical they don’t know how to change the bag and filter in their vacuum cleaner let alone clean the brushes. I’ve spent many a happy hour getting the brush out and cutting away my hairs from the bristles. They would rather chuck the vacuum cleaner out and go and buy another one but shopping also takes time.

  12. Mrs Green says:

    @Jo: Ahhh, you know what? There HAS been a burning smell; nothing too strong – now I know what it is. Thank you!

    @Beth: I know, it’s crazy how impractical we have become. My Granddad’s answer to everything was “a bit of solder” πŸ˜€

    @Steve: It’s on the compost heap, Steve – it’s all compostable stuff – natural carpet fibres, bunny fluff and my hair πŸ˜€ At our recycling centre you are not allowed to take anything; it’s such a waste of resources…

    @Sooz: perhaps we should all have crew cuts – bunny too!

    @CarSue: So glad you managed to rescue your vacuum; yep; all contents are composted; it adds a valuable ‘brown’ to the mix πŸ™‚

    @Antonio Pachowko: Antonio, sparks flying out of a vacuum cleaner and setting off the trip switch could surely only happen to you πŸ˜€ Anyway, glad you managed to recycle your old one and the new one sounds a beast; sounds great though…

    @Tracey: Hi Tracey, we used to put cat fur outside for the birds too and now they help themselves from the rabbits hutch; it’s very cute to see them all sharing πŸ™‚

    @Ben: 5 litres? blimey! Do you have a friend with a compost heap who would accept the contents of a full bag?

    @Condo Blues: See, it happens to the best of us πŸ˜‰

    @Peter: Thanks for sharing. I agree, we rarely repair things now due to escalating costs and cheap items; it’s a crime really.

    @Teresa: HA! good point that shopping also takes time (especially if you’re like me and find making a decision about anything difficult!)

  13. I don’t know why, but that underside with the brushes is something I check every few times I use it. It is probably related to a bad experience I don’t remember. My friend who worked for an attorney offered me a broken 4-way copier..you know–copy, fax, print, and something else. I brought it home and plugged it. Six years later it has never missed a beat. Something fell off the copier on the backside near the wall and knocked the plug from the wall. It pays to check things thoroughly. I was given a vacuum that did not work. The hose was solid with gunk. yuck.

  14. Jane says:

    Hair stopped the castors on the office meeting room chairs from working. Some of them broke. Luckily the castors all come out and have now been replaced. This has saved the whole set of chairs from being chucked out but had the castors been looked at earlier no doubt the hair could have been removed. Maintenance is a word disappearing from use!

  15. Jane says:

    Elderly in-laws took their microwave to the tip because the light didn’t work and they couldn’t find anyone to fix it. This is where the younger generation should be able to step in and help only we need to be proactive to know that they need help and offer. It is easier for us to find the parts online – bits and bags for the many many more machines that are available for sale whereas the in-laws had only thought of the local shop which didn’t stock spare parts. There are videos online showing how to mend some things. We need to publicise and use repairers that we know of so that more things are repaired instead of junked so quickly and unnecessarily. Which magazine also I believe have lists of repairers.

  16. Mrs Green says:

    @Practical Parsimony: Well you are most definitely our vacuuming hero then! It’s great that you adopt the ‘prevention rather than cure’ philosophy.

    @Jane: Blimey, now there’s a story and what a headline – Office hair kills chairs LOL! I hear you on helping elders; we have access to things like transport and internet which we take for granted. We have an 80+ year old friend in the village and it’s lovely to be able to help out with things that are simple for us but so challenging for her like sourcing a part online…

  17. Jane says:

    @Mrs Green: Absolutely – there are so many different types of vacuums now needing different bags for instance. Elderly in-laws prefer this type as it is easier for them to just chuck out a filled bag than struggle emptying the bagless type. Unless you know where to source these things from it is much easier to buy a new one. We need to turn this around.

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