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100 years of vacuum revolution

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The company's first home vacuum cleaner – the Lux 1 - was quite hefty and weighed in at 14kg. In response to consumer requests for a vacuum that was easier to move about the home, vacuums on skids were designed at ElectroluxThe world’s first consumer robotic vacuum cleaner was debuted by Electrolux in 2001Today, vacuums like the Ultra Silencer Green lead the market in environmental sustainability and noise reduction while in operation.

The first household vacuum cleaner by Electrolux turns 100 this year. Since its introduction in 1912, this modern appliance has saved millions of hours in cleaning for homemakers everywhere. This revolution in home cleaning was started by Electrolux founder Axel Wenner-Gren, and the company he began has not stopped raising the bar for vacuum cleaners since.

It all started with a consumer insight by Wenner-Gren that the industrial vacuum cleaner could be adapted for use in households. As an enterprising salesman, Wenner-Gren was a pioneer in not just appliance design, but in a new mode of payment by instalment. This helped introduce the company’s first household vacuum cleaner – the Lux 1 – to homes everywhere.

lux 1

At 14kg, the Lux 1 was a heavy machine that was not easily portable. In promoting the product to housewives, salesmen had to arrange for demonstration times that ensured their husbands were at home to approve the investment in an instalment plan. For each meeting, the sales representatives had to pull the machine on a hand-cart to homes.

Despite the success of the Lux 1, Wenner-Gren did not stop thinking about improving on the vacuum. In 1921, the Model V vacuum made its debut, designed by Wenner-Gren himself. This new model was the precursor to modern vacuum cleaners as we know it today. It was made much more mobile and convenient to use by  having it lie on the floor on two metal runners. You can still see this design legacy in modern vacuums.

Vacuum on skids

The 1930s saw a trend in the streamlining of design. Cars and trains were increasing given sleeker, more elegant designs. Recognising the value in bringing this philosophy to household appliances, he tracked down and hired leading industrial designers to design more streamlined appliances. This resulted in the Model XXX vacuum cleaner by Lucrelle Guild. Design and form increasingly gained importance in attracting buyers, and this has carried on till today.

Surviving World War II, Electrolux went on to establish a full-time design department in 1963. One of the department’s first projects was the Luxomatic vacuum cleaner, which had ground-breaking features such as a cord winder, self-sealing paper dust bags and a dust indicator that displayed how full the bag was. This vacuum cleaner was emblematic of the company’s vision and dominance in this category. By 1974, Electrolux was the number one producer of vacuum cleaners globally.

From there, the company went on to introduce several firsts in the innovation of vacuums. In 1991, the first robotic vacuum cleaners were introduced for commercial use in hospitals and airports. A decade later, in 2001, the company launched the first consumer robotic cleaner, the Trilobite. Measuring only 13 cm high and 35cm in diameter, the Trilobite featured cutting-edge technology such as using ultrasound to navigate,  turn itself off and recharge once its job was done.

Trilobite

This spirit of innovation based on consumer insight continues today. The new millennium saw Electrolux combine innovation with an increased emphasis on environmental sustainability. This has led to green models like the Ultra Silencer, the quietest vacuum cleaner on the market, which is made from recycled materials.

Ultra Silencer Green

The Ergorapido, launched in 2004, was a result of new consumer insight into new, shorter cleaning behaviours in modern households that also demanded a visually appealing design with the convenience of a cordless, standing vacuum cleaner.

2010 saw further improvements in sustainability with the launch of five green vacuum cleaners made from recycled plastics. This Green Range of vacuum cleaners even consumes up to 50% less energy whilst in operation.

To find out more about Electrolux vacuums over the years, head on over to The Little White Book’s 100 Years of Vacs tab. Look out for the featured vacuum every month in 2012, as well as contests where you could stand to win some great Electrolux appliances!

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