Powerless Against Dust Bunnies
As I pushed the vacuum cleaner around in ritualistic patterns over the carpet I noticed that it was not performing with its usual appetite for dirt. It didn't feel like it had the same tug on the carpet fibers that had been present a few days ago. Furthermore, when I scrutinized the contents of the canister as I emptied it into the trash, the customary volume of crumbs, cat hair, dust bunnies, and dirt wasn't typical either. The machine clearly wasn't functioning properly, but I put it away and made a mental note to check into the matter later.
You may define 'later' as the next time I hauled the vacuum cleaner out of the closet, having totally forgotten the aforementioned incident and fully expecting to give the carpet a thorough cleaning. I sensed, once again, that something was amiss. "Oh … I remember now … I was going to look into that," I said to no one in particular (unless you count the cat that was making a hasty exit for a more serene setting).
There are two disk-shaped spongy filters underneath the removable canister that are supposed to be cleaned periodically before they get hopelessly clogged up with dust. (Commonly referred to as 'regular maintenance'.) I removed them and washed them under running water in the kitchen sink; a process which requires rinsing and squeezing them multiple times until the water runs clean. To be perfectly honest, it never seems to ever get completely rinsed, so I am generally satisfied after a period of several minutes that it was much cleaner than before I started. The sponges should air dry for a day before reinstallation into the appliance. Meanwhile, the kitchen sink needed to be scrubbed due to the muddy residue.
Eager to get the dirt the vacuum had been leaving behind, I was back at it again first thing the following morning. The chore was beckoning even though Phoebe, the cat, let it be known that she was annoyed to see the dreaded vacuum cleaner make a public appearance two days in a row. Apparently the sponge filters were not at fault, however, because there still wasn't adequate suction.
Process of elimination now led me to suspect the problem was with the top portion of the canister. Granted, it was not too difficult to reach that conclusion, considering it has only two ends. This region houses a complex filter system engineered by someone who once had dreams of employment at NASA. I removed the canister and opened that end to peer inside. When I tell you I couldn't see anything, that's actually intended to be an indicator of how thick the layer of dirt was in the interior. Even the instructions that admonish that the filter should be cleaned every three months were obscured under a thick crust of grime.
I turned the canister upside-down over the kitchen sink and tapped the sides a couple of times. This was not the most brilliant thing I did that day, but in retrospect, I find it problematic to rank all my choices regarding this entire matter, so I'll let it pass and focus on the outcome. A rather large mound of dirt had now taken up residence in the sink. Fine dust floated in the air and was slowly drifting over every surface within a three-foot radius: kitchen curtains, countertop, flooring, and me. Phoebe peeked cautiously around the corner as I coughed from somewhere deep within the haze, staring at me with a curious look as though to say, "Seriously, I thought you were trying to get rid of that stuff." She turned away, flipping her tail aloft as a sign of superiority as she marched off in search of a place to nap … and shed more fur.
My defense for not taking the contraption outside to clean was that it was breezy and I envisioned dust flying all over me. All I can say is I had a reason; I never claimed it was a good one.
Since I had already made a mess, I went ahead and continued tapping powdery dirt out of all the nooks and crannies in the filtration system. An old toothbrush was used to gingerly scrub the impacted dust out of a wire screen so the airflow would be restored. I reassembled the canister and cleaned the kitchen, hoping the muddy mess in the sink would wash through the plumbing without incurring any further issues to an already unproductive day.
I feel in the interest of honesty I should interject that the last time these filters were cleaned (let's not revisit that 'every three months' interval warning) my husband took everything into the garage and vacuumed them out with his shop-vac. I admit that it worked nicely, although there is something about using a vacuum cleaner to fix a vacuum cleaner that strikes me as 'odd'. Besides, he was recovering from foot surgery and I was endeavoring to be self-sufficient in my own short-sighted way.
I plugged in the appliance, flipped the switch and resumed vacuuming, only to recognize the same lack-luster suction. As I waltzed over the carpet with my 'partner', I tried to figure out what my next plan of action should be. Just thumping the dirt out was probably not sufficient enough. The canister was removed once again and I studied it for a moment before deciding there really wasn't anything in its construction that couldn't withstand water. Back to the recently cleaned sink I went for Round 2 (or was it Round 3 now?).
I removed the filter and soaked it in a tub of warm water while I ran a stream of water through the plastic cylinder. The cylinder was too large and awkward to fit under the faucet effortlessly, so filthy water was splashing everywhere. Yes, I know. This was also a task better suited to the great outdoors. Some days are just like that; the brain undeniably refuses to function above Neanderthal level. Perhaps my sinuses were too clogged with allergens to function any more efficiently than my vacuum cleaner...
Fast forward to attempting to dry all the pieces … only to realize there was no way that was physically possible. While the canister was made of plastic, I didn’t want to chance any moisture migrating to the electrical parts. I decided to place all the pieces in the bathtub to air dry, noticing as I did so, that this would have been a much better place to clean the canister and filter in the first place. Sigh.
The kitchen got cleaned for the second time that day and I decided the most prudent thing would be to sit down and quietly read a book for a while before I did any more 'uncleaning' around the house. Phoebe jumped up in my lap, purring contentedly to soothe my sulky mood.
Sometime in the middle of the night I woke up and began wondering hopefully if the machine would work right when I tried it out in the morning. What else could it be? Had I overlooked something? As I drifted back to sleep I considered that the hose attachment may not be in position, but ... yawn ... that didn't seem likely. When not in use the flexible hose looped up from the bottom of the machine and over a hook on the handle of the upright vacuum, and then the rigid end (where you add attachments) married into some sort of receptacle. The hose had never stayed on the hook as it was designed to do, habitually falling off as I moved back and forth across the carpet. One day I had, in a fit of frustration, ultimately slipped a large rubber band over the vacuum's handle down to the point of the inadequate hook, and then run the hose through that when not in use. It solved the problem, so that couldn’t be it.
Morning dawned and I greeted the vacuum cleaner politely (it never hurts to offer machines appreciation when they are being temperamental). Phoebe, who hates vacuums as all self-respecting cats do, indignantly left the vicinity when she saw that I was about to do battle with the dust bunnies yet again; this was getting old.
I turned on the despicable device and … wait for it … no improvement. Simply going through the motions now, I vacuumed the bedroom, my sewing room and had almost completed the hallway as I tried to decide if this was just all in my mind. I turned off the machine and just stood there, feeling like I'd hit a dead end with nowhere else to go. But then, my nocturnal musings slowly drifted into my consciousness. I leaned over and gazed down at the side of the contraption and sure enough, the blasted attachment hose had vibrated upward and out of its holster, which effectively broke most of the suction.
Ever so calmly (at least outwardly), I shoved the end of the hose firmly back into position and powered up the vacuum. I felt the satisfying pull against the carpet as the air was sucked through the fibers, lifting all that dirt, pollen, and cat hair into the freshly cleaned canister. An extremely satisfying track in the carpet followed in my wake. Success at last!
Note to self: Clean vacuum cleaner filter in three months. Preferably outdoors. Firmly smack appliance hose into place just for good measure and personal therapeutic benefits.
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