You Get What You Pay For (vacuum cleaners)

I’m at my parents house in Ohio this week, and as I watch my two-year-old nephew wreaking havoc around the house, this particular bit of research jumped out at me.

If anyone takes one look at my sister and brother-in-law’s floor, they can instantly tell it could probably use a deep cleaning, or at the very least, a vacuuming. Not that it’s any fault of their own; the rugrat does an ample job of continuously dropping and spilling things while simultaniously using up all available free time that could be used for cleaning. However, with as often as the little guy is down there, it’s important to keep the bacteria at bay so that the little buggers don’t make him sick (or me for that matter.)

Commercial vacuum cleaners are sold for anywhere between $100 and $1,000, but are the more expensive ones really worth the money? Apparently, if they contain UV light technology, they are.

In a new study appearing in Environmental Science and Technology, lead author Timothy Buckley of the Ohio State University shows that when used in tandem, these types of vacuum cleaners work better than either the UV light or vacuum could on their own.

Standing outside in the sun for too long should make it readily apparent that UV light can be a dangerous thing, especially in concentrated levels to microscopic bacteria and pathogens. In their experiment, the researchers took samples of carpet including tight-knit rugs from office buildings and looser carpets from houses. They tested vacuuming alone, UV light exposure alone and vacuum cleaners that utilize both.

The results were pretty clear – the vacuum that uses both combines the effectiveness of both. It seems the vacuum misses what the UV light gets while the vacuum gets what the UV light misses. Specifically, the UV light alone destroyed 60 percent of the microbes while the vacuum alone picked up 78 percent. But together, the fancy-schmancy UV vacuums obliterated 87 percent.

What’s more, it seems that the combo vacuum was even more impressive when it came to completely ridding the carpet of entire colonies of different bugs. It wiped out 13 entire colonies per trial compared to 6.6 and 7.3 for the UV light and regular vacuums, respectively. Again, doing some simple additions, the two technologies seem to compliment each other rather than overlapping their effectiveness.

Now if I only had $1,000, I could make a difference on my nephew’s health…


About bigkingken

A science writer dedicated to proving that the Big Ten - or the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, if you will - is more than athletics.
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