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Having a Blow-End on a Vacuum Cleaner


A traditional electrical vacuum-cleaner typically consists of an air pump which creates a pressure difference. At one end of the pump, there is the important suction which vacuums muck out of carpets, and at the other end there is an air output, or "blow end".

Vacuum cleaners were equally good at blowing and sucking, and the pipes were arranged to be able to connect to either end, in one way or another. Early vacuum cleaners were supplied with a variety of vacuum tools, for example the upholstery tool for going down the edges of the cushions on the settee, the fine brush for vacuuming the curtains, the main suction tool for cleaning the carpet, and the noisy tool which would also give the carpet a good hammering to beat any muck out of it, although the sound could be frightening to young children. However, as well as a variety of suction-based tools there would also be a sturdy glass bottle with a nozzle. This was the paint spraying tool, and worked on the blow end. Most vacuum cleaners still have their paint spraying tool in mint condition, as the owners of the electrical appliance have not found a need to spraypaint anything just yet.

Having a blow end on a vacuum cleaner was useful for various purposes. Large balloons could be inflated, and small party-balloons could be levitated in a stable invisible column of air. Cats could be persuaded out from under the furniture by being gently wafted with a mysterious (from the cat's perspective) jet of air.

There were many purposes for the blow end of a vacuum cleaner, some of them not yet explored, but oddly some the vacuum cleaner manufacturers seem to have given up on having a blow-end, for no better reason than customers not seeing the need for it. Well that's just dumbing down the market. The fact is, a vacuum cleaner has to pump air out as surely as in, and so it might as well have a blow end as not. The uses may be more obscure and interesting than the bog-standard default purpose of a vacuum cleaner to suck dust out of carpets, but that doesn't mean it should be obviated!

Let's bring back having a blow-end on a vacuum cleaner! Vote for double-ended vacuum cleaners! (Vote with your feet, that is, by choosing a versatile vacuum cleaner that's got both huffing and suction modes). It's an example of something that is Revivo! Ie, it should be brought back.

With a blow-end, you can blow bubbles, you can blow smoke and do your own aerodynamics experiments, and, you can dislodge objects a considerable distance away. That's because a jet of air from a blow-end is a positive force that's directional, it has more reach than the diffuse effect of suction from the normal inlet. If you don't believe this, put it to the test. A vacuum cleaner can blow out candles a distance away, but it can not create suction at a similar distance!

As a historical note, it's a curious fact that in the earliest days of using compressed air for cleaning purposes, the pumps were trundled around on carts and put into use for cleaning by blowing compressed air into the upholstery and expelling the dust. Unfortunately, as there was no attempt to remove the dust, it just settled back down again. Seriously, this is how railway carriages were cleaned a long time ago.

Later, when suction got into fashion, the double-ended vacuum cleaners were the thing. These were good, and it was only later that manufacturers started scrimping on the design so there was no blow end.

It may require a third level in development to realise that there's an even better way to get rid of dust, by using the best of both techniques! Use compressed air to blast the dust out of the furnishings, and use suction to vacuum it up before it's had a chance to settle again.

Also see Considerate Design