How Did They Clean Carpets Before Vacuums? A Brief Story

It’s no secret that vacuum cleaners can save you a lot of time. And that’s why around 40 to 50 million vacuums are sold in the US every year.

But how did they clean carpets before vacuums?

The most common way to keep carpets clean at the beginning of the 1800s was to place druggets under tables and in high-traffic areas. Such rugs would be, in turn, kept clean by beating them over railings and window seals.

Let’s take a closer look at the history of carpet cleaning from the early 1800s.

How Did They Clean Carpets Before Vacuums?

Before vacuum cleaners were invented, cleaning a carpet was tough!

Here is the evolution of carpet cleaning starting in 1800:

1800

In 1800, the most common way to keep carpets clean was to simply cover them with rugs. These rugs were then beaten over railings and window seals to remove debris. 

Beating the rugs was hard work, so some people would opt for sprinkling tea leaves on the carpet instead to draw debris to the surface.

1830s

In the 1830s, housewives began to experiment to find effective methods to get rid of stains from carpets.

They came up with the idea of scrubbing carpets with lemon juice and a hot loaf of bread. 

They would then proceed to rinse it with fresh water and leave it outside to dry. 

In addition, they would sweep the carpets with straw brooms.

1860s

In 1860, Daniel Hess invented a carpet sweeper, which had a rotating brush and an elaborate bellows mechanism to create suction power. 

1870s

In 1868, Ives W. McGaffey created the first manually operated vacuum (Whirlwind). 

The invention completely revolutionized the way carpets were cleaned. 

In 1876, Melville Bissell patented a device with a central bearing brush and rubber tires. 

The device comprised a wooden box with wheels that carried the box when pushed with the handle. 

The wheels were, in turn, connected to the brush roller that would rotate when the device was pushed. 

Dust would get collected and end up in a container.

1880s

Several publications began to release tips on carpet cleaning, with a focus on removing stains and restoring colors.

One tip entailed mixing clay paste with water and letting the mixture sit on the carpet overnight. 

They would then sweep the carpet the following day to get rid of the paste, which, in turn, would remove soil and stains.

1900s

In the 1900s, electric-powered vacuum cleaners were invented. 

Corrine Dufour was the creator of the first electric-powered carpet sweeper. Hubert Cecil Booth then invented the  “Puffing Billy,” which initially worked with petrol and was then replaced with an electric version.

FAQ

What Was The First Vacuum Cleaner Made Of?

In 1860, Daniel Hess invented a carpet sweeper with a rotating brush and an elaborate bellows mechanism to create suction power. In 1876, Melville Bissell patented a device with a central bearing brush and rubber tires. The brush would rotate when the device was pushed. The dust would then end up in a container.

Did Victorian Houses Have Carpets?

Victorians used small and midsized detailed rugs, as well as wall-to-wall rugs that created the experience of modern-day wall-to-wall carpet. Around 1840, wood carpets became popular and it was a way to own a carpet that was affordable.

When Did They Start Putting Carpet In Houses?

Wall-to-wall carpets as we know them became popular in the early 1900s, when Americans began to build bigger homes and used affordable carpets for flooring. These carpets were labeled as “W2W carpet” and were cheap to make, meaning that the industry did not suffer while other factories were closing.

How Did They Clean Carpets In The 1800s?

In the 1800s, carpets would be kept clean by placing druggets in high-traffic areas and under tables. The druggets would then be beaten while hanging over railings and window seals to allow dirt and debris to come off.

Conclusion

We often forget how lucky we are with modern home appliances.

Cleaning carpets with a vacuum is a breeze, but that was not always the case.
To summarize, here is how they cleaned carpets before vacuums:

  • Carpets were kept clean by placing rugs over them
  • Rugs would then be beaten to remove debris
  • Techniques to remove stains were later developed, including scrubbing carpets with lemon juice and a hot loaf of bread

Author

  • My name is Brenda Pearlman, and my friends always joke about the “pearl” part. Why? Because I am a clean freak, who likes to see everything shine like a pearl, lol. With years of using my vacuum to clean almost everything in the house, I have discovered tips and tricks that I want to share with you! I am looking forward to helping you make your home shine 🙂