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By Jura Koncius - Washington Post

Vacuum cleaners are the front line of the war against dust. Today's revved-up, dressed-up machines have ways to suck focaccia crumbs out of a keyboard and Afghan hound hair from a sisal rug. - The first widely known upright vac (a "suction sweeper") was invented in 1907 by a guy who had asthma. His design was marketed with great success by the Hoover company. Today, dozens of brands tout dizzying lists of features.

What's new

Special pet attachments. Some are grooming tools; others gently vacuum hair from your dog before it falls on the floor.

Vacuum wardrobes. Consumers have an average of 21/2 vacuums in their homes, according to industry experts. That can include hand-held and stick versions for quick jobs; robotics for cleaning of larger spaces and wet-dry vacs to attack flooded basements.

Dust up. More models feature self-sealing bags to keep dust contained as you remove and toss the bag, says Allen Rathey, president of the Housekeeping Channel, a website about cleaning.

Operating tips

Dump the dust. In bagless models, empty dirt cups after every use. Change vacuum bags when they are three-quarters full. Never reuse them.

Check the belt. Many uprights need belts replaced every one or two years to maintain optimum power. For details, visit the Vacuum Dealers Trade Association website,

Keep it clean. Jay Morris of Brothers Sew & Vac suggests wiping out the cavity where the bag sits with a damp paper towel or cloth.

Turn it off. Turn the vacuum switch off before you plug or unplug the machine.

Low, middle, high

Susan Ruhl, Home Depot's floor-care buyer, recommends three bagless upright models at three price points. The Shark model is available only at

Hoover Windtunnel:Entry-level unit with cyclonic technology that minimizes clogging. Five carpet-height adjustments. 27-foot power cord. Model UH70107, $100.

Shark Navigator Lift-Away: Swivel steering. Lightweight detachable canister for portable use. Pet hair removal tools. Model NV352, $169.

Dyson Animal: Ball technology for easy maneuvering. Turbine head for efficient removal of dirt and pet hair. Washable HEPA filters and rigorous dust and pollen removal for those with asthma or allergies. Model DC25, $549.

Shop smart

-In addition to cleaning power, consider a vacuum's weight and noise level. Test it in person.

-Consider a model with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, especially if any family member has allergies or asthma.

-Make sure hose and cord lengths are adequate. Allison Duy of Electrolux says, "There is nothing worse than having to keep unplugging."

The Carpet and Rug Institute ( lists ratings of vacuums tested.

By the numbers

55 Percentage of consumers who vacuum two to three times a week.

40 Average pounds of dust collected annually in a six-room house.

53 Percentage of consumers frustrated that their vacuums don't clean stairs well.

Sources: Electrolux; Home Furnishings News