Restoring a 1915 Colonial Revival house
Electrolux LX Vacuum

A restored 1952-53 Electrolux LX vacuum, now our primary household vacuum cleaner.

Anyone who owns an old house, or any house for that matter, can tell you that having a good vacuum cleaner can be worth its weight in gold. We had been searching for such a vacuum cleaner since we bought our house in 2009. We have a Shop Vac to use with our projects, but it can be a little cumbersome to lug around for day-to-day cleaning. The smaller vacuums we had purchased weren't up to par for one reason or another - either their hoses were too short to get underneath of furniture and the tops of windows, or they would burn out after six months of use like most of the cheap Chinese made garbage gracing the shelves of stores today. After the frustration of several dearly departed "new" vacuums, we decided it was time to go back to the basics. Instead of spending $150 every six months on a new vacuum, we decided to pursue a vintage vacuum manufactured before the days of planned obsolescence.

Our search turned to estate sales and Craigslist. Within a week's time, we found the three Electrolux LX canister vacuums pictured above along with an assortment of original attachments. We paid a total of $35 for these vacuums. Our research indicated that the LX was a very good vacuum - one of the best and most reliable ever made, though it was only made for about three years. It was introduced in 1952, modified in 1954, and discontinued in 1955. It's hard to tell from the picture, but the left and center vacuums are the original LX design (produced in 1952 and 1953). The vacuum on the right has the design modifications of 1954. The LX was the first vacuum built by Electrolux to use disposable paper bags. Unlike many vacuums that use disposable bags, the bags for the LX are still widely available today. This is due in part that the same style of bag was used for many years in Electrolux vacuum cleaners and is also a testimony to the quality of these machines. How many of today's vacuum cleaners will still have bags produced for them nearly 60 years later?

The LX is designed with an automatic shutoff and bag ejection feature that shuts off the power to the vacuum when the bag is full, pops open the front cover, and ejects the bag out onto the floor. It's a good design and very innovative for its time; however, in the early days, Electrolux received complaints from customers that bags were being ejected when they were only partially full. This resulted in a redesign of the bags to make the walls thicker and keep the dust better contained. It also led to the development of a feature on the 1954 models that let the user select how full the bag should be before the automatic shutoff/ejection feature is deployed.

Here is one of the 1952-53 models. This is the first one we restored for regular use in the house. The vacuum features a retractable cord in a rear mounted housing and an optional attachment caddy that is mounted to the top of the tank. It's hard to see in the picture, but there is a handle on the top in the center. The sides are covered in a blue leatherette material and the vacuum has enough chrome and stainless steel trim to make a mid 1950s Cadillac jealous. The vacuum sits on two chrome helicopter-like skids.

Here is a top view of the same vacuum before restoration. The power on/off switch is on the left. The power cord connects to the vacuum underneath of the blue metal plate on the right.

Restoration of this vacuum consisted mostly of cleaning the vacuum inside and out and lubricating the moving parts. The blue leatherette was cleaned with a rag dampened with Mean Green cleaner. The chrome and stainless steel was cleaned with Mothers Mag and Aluminum polish.

Once it was running smoothly, this vacuum outperformed anything we ever used. The suction was even stronger than that of our Shop Vac. With the extensions, the hose is ten feet long - able to reach anywhere and ideal for cleaning the stairway, under furniture, and in high places. And, it runs quiet! With so much suction power, you would think it would make enough noise to drive you out of the room. The opposite is true. This vacuum has more of a purr than a loud roar. Ever wonder how your grandmother was able to keep a spotless house? More than likely she had an Electrolux.

The only downside, if you can call it that, of the Electrolux LX is that it weighs in at about 25 pounds. For us, it's not bad, but if you're looking for something featherlight, it's not this vacuum. Personally, we don't think it's hard to move around. Don't tell me America has become so wimpy that it's a workout just to move around a 25 pound vacuum cleaner!

Apparently Electrolux was inundated with complaints from the housewives of America because in 1955, the model LX was replaced with the LXI, or "sixty-one" pictured above. The main difference in the LXI was the addition of a wheel in the center of the bottom of the tank and a wheeled axle at the rear. This made the vacuum much easier to move around. The LXI was very short lived, as it was discontinued later in 1955 in favor of the Model E, introduced the previous year. The LXI is a very hard vacuum cleaner to find today.

If you find an Electrolux LX, we highly recommend it. With a couple hours of work, you'll have an excellent vacuum cleaner that will last a lifetime. You won't be disappointed, and you won't be spending a couple hundred dollars every few months!

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