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We moved into a house with carpet. We haven’t had carpet in years and years. Therefore, we have had a little hard floor canister vacuum instead of a big one with a brush.


Truman using the hard floor vacuum. Without pants of course. Teaching little brother to be vacuum obsessed as well.

(My Mom calls it a “beater bar.” I don’t know if that is actually what it is called or if that’s just what my mom calls it, but it is the brush part that lifts and separates the carpet…) So, yeah our canister vacuum just has suction for hard flooring and picks up just the very top surface dirt off of carpet. I knew we needed to buy a decent vacuum but like everything else since we’ve lived here, it has been put on the back burner while we figured out money and daycare and jobs and how to manage our new schedules and blah blah blah. Eventually, I got so tired of vigorously vacuuming the carpet and it looking exactly the same as it did before I began, that I just went to Walmart, tossed an $80 vacuum into my cart and never looked back.

I understand that an $80 vacuum is not some kind of top of the line, high quality machine. I know vacuums can cost thousands but for our little house and what we need it for, I thought this Bissell was good enough. It has a rewinding cord and judging from the amount of dog hair and dirt in the bag-less canister thingy, it does a great job of making our floors less disgusting. The only thing I was unhappy about was the Febreze scented filter that came included. I am not a fan of air freshener, plug ins, or any synthetic fragrance in general. (I won’t get on my soap box about how these chemicals impact our health. If you are so inclined, do a little research on fragrance and hormone disruption, cancer and respiratory damage.) I tried to find an unscented filter but I couldn’t find the right size anywhere! I decided I’d worry about the filter later and focus on getting my house clean. Turns out, I was right to not spend a fortune on a vacuum because three days after I bought it, Truman broke it.


As most of you know, he is absolutely obsessed with vacuums. I thought the obsession would go away after a little while, but we’ve been crazy for vacuums for almost a year now and it seems there is no end in sight. The first day, I vacuumed my whole house in peace before Truman got home from daycare. That night I allowed him to use it in the living room, and he was overjoyed. He kept calling it the BIG vacuum, and was dazzled by the canister full of dust, the rewind button and the extra gadgets included. Putting it away was not fun. That night Truman woke up coughing like a seal and wheezing so much I almost took him to the ER. We had albuterol syrup from a previous bout of croup so after a dose of that he was able to sleep and stop coughing. I wasn’t sure if a cold virus was to blame or if it was the dreaded Febreze filter. The second day, we didn’t use the vacuum at all. He went to the doctor and she said his lungs sounded perfect. Hmm.

The third day, I just wanted to quickly vacuum the living room and had no intention of allowing Truman to play with the vacuum. That lasted for around three minutes before his pitiful begging won me over and I allowed him to vacuum the hallway for “two minutes only.” Truman took the Bissell, lovingly dragging it back and forth over the carpet in the hallway, happy as a clam. I decided to clean the bathroom and take the vacuum away as soon as I was done. I was almost done when I heard a funny noise, different from the usual vroom of the Bissell. I paused to listen closer when Truman yelled, “Mommy!” I dropped everything and ran. Truman was in my bedroom, crouched down, looking at the beater bar. The whole room smelled like burnt rubber. I quickly turned the vacuum off exclaiming, “What happened?!?”

Without hesitation Truman answered, “A shirt.” Like, whatever. No big deal Mom, I just sucked up a shirt. And he did. Wrapped around the brush was one of Grant’s onesies. I pulled it out and tried the vacuum. It turned on but the brush didn’t work. Awesome.

“Well, Babe. It is broken.” I said with a sigh.

“New big vacuum is not working?” Truman looked confused and more than a little disappointed.

“Nope. I think you broke it.” Now, before you accuse me of being mean, I wasn’t yelling or speaking in a tone intended to make him feel bad. It was what it was. He broke the vacuum.

“Yeah. It not working.” He replied with a shrug. See? He wasn’t upset or feeling guilty. Nor was he really wanting to accept responsibility for sucking up the onesie. It was more like the vacuum did it all alone, while poor Truman just watched in horror. I decided the vacuum being broken was a punishment all on it’s own, and spared him a lecture.

I fiddled with the vacuum for a few more minutes and could not get the thing working. I do not know anything about fixing electronics. I also don’t have a ton of money. So… I did something that may be frowned upon. Go ahead and judge me all you want, but a few days later, I took the vacuum back to Walmart. I exchanged it for another vacuum. The same kind. I again searched for the unscented filter and again, I could not find one. When I got home I decided to call the company and ask why they only included the scented filter and where I could find the unscented filter.

I spoke with a woman who had no answers, but told me I could order a filter from her for $10. I suggested that maybe they sell the scented filter separately and just include the regular one since not everyone cares to have toxic chemicals blowing around their house and directly into their vacuum-obsessed two year old’s lungs. I let her know how frustrating it was, and how inconvenient it is to search all over town for a product that should be automatically included. She offered to send me an unscented filter in the mail for free. I accepted. I got off the phone feeling triumphant, thinking maybe my suggestion would go to the higher-ups at Bissell and they would sever their ties to Febreze, declaring war on petrochemicals. My outburst would help humankind (at least those in middle class households with small vacuum budgets) everywhere! I opened the box and began assembling my second new vacuum, planning on using it one time with the Febreze filter and then putting it away until my new non-toxic filter arrived. That’s when I saw this:


See line 2? Where it says to remove the unscented filter from the vacuum? Yes. The unscented filter had been there all along. I had thrown it away with the packaging in the previous vacuum, swearing at Bissell and angrily installing the Febreze filter instead. This time I decided to read the directions. In my defense, the filters look totally different so I assumed the one already installed was not an actual filter at all.


Scented Filter


Unscented filter.

Instantly I felt guilty about scoring a free one from the company. As if I wasn’t feeling bad enough about returning the vacuum that my kid broke, now I was a double jerk. I text Mike the whole story so he could make fun of me, and we had a good laugh.

Sigh. One day I’ll fix this little karmic error. I’ll do something nice for someone. Maybe I will apologize to Walmart… or Bissell… or the call center lady from India… well, probably not. Any way, there you have it. Turns out I’m kind of an asshole.