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Design Notes

Sweeping Changes in Housecleaning


If you haven't shopped for a vacuum cleaner since Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" was sweeping the charts, you're in for a surprise: Manufacturers have cleaned up their act in the last few years.

In the past, many vacuums would leave behind up to a third of the dust and what was sucked up was stored in porous paper bags, which become a new home for bacteria and allergens. No wonder the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that indoor air can be more polluted than what's outside.

But now, even vacuums that sell for less than $100 have more suction and come with filters that prevent dust particles from being circulated back into the home. Washable filters have replaced paper bags and additional filters "clean" the airflow that's exhaled from the vacuum.

Top-quality uprights and canisters have high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, which are used in hospitals and labs to capture almost all of the dust mites, pollen spores and other microorganisms (1,500 microscopic creatures can be crawling in a gram of dust).

Among the newest models is the $600 CleanSy vacuum by Zepter Inc., which has eight filters. Water--a natural filter--combines with suction to collect the largest particles of dirt. HEPA and another micro-filter capture the smallest particles. Two sponge filters keep the dust from being released back into the air. An active carbon filter, used in kitchen extractor fans, eliminates odors, and two other filters prevent the typical "hot motor" vacuum smell. A citrus-fragrance allergen inhibitor can be added to the water to scent the air.

The CleanSy, which is about the size of a computer monitor, can be moved from room to room and used on carpet, furniture, drapes and hard floors (wood, vinyl and other nonfabric floors and window treatments are best for people with allergies and asthma because they're easier to keep clean and aren't welcoming to mites).

More information is available by calling (800) 253-2679 or visiting

Another device that makes it easier to stand back (well, sort of) and watch dirt disappear from your home is the new line of compact steam cleaners that shampoo carpets and upholstery.

Bissell's most popular model, the Little Green, has a new bubble body (think of a miniature VW Beetle that maneuvers well on stairs). But the machine, with its soft colors and round edges, does more than look sporty. The tanks are easier to fill with hot tap water and a cleaning solution than the old models, and they are quicker to empty when the job is done. The smaller size makes it convenient to pull out when a spill or accident happens.

There are three canister models ($70-$100); the most expensive has a rotating brush to tackle embedded dirt. For more information: (800) 237-7691;

Also on the clean scene: You're used to seeing Tide in the laundry room, but for the first time, the brand is lending its orange-yellow-and-blue bull's-eye logo to fashion to benefit the Susan. G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Cynthia Rowley's nylon bikini ($48), cotton trunks ($48) and cotton beach towels ($35) are available online ( or later this month at the designer's boutiques in New York City, East Hampton, N.Y., and Chicago.

Janet Eastman can be reached at (800) LATIMES, Ext. 67883 or

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