Friday, May 14, 2010

Frugal tip

We bought a used vacuum cleaner a few years ago that can only be described as temperamental at best. But hey, it was cheap.

But whatever the cost of the vacuum, the one thing I won't scrimp on is vacuum cleaner bags. It drives me nuts when a cheap bag suddenly bursts, spewing dust and debris everywhere. So I've been in the habit of buying name-brand bags over the years.

A few months ago, while in a sew/vacuum fix-it store in Coeur d'Alene, I bought some even pricier bags that were "micro-lined." The reason I bought them is they were on sale (otherwise I would have balked at the price regardless of the quality). The dealer assured me they were tough, high-quality bags that wouldn't burst. As he was right, they've been terrific. I bought every bag he had available at the sale price.

Well, I'm down to my last two bags, there's no more sale, AND I have to go all the way into Cd'A to get more. What to do?

Yesterday while vacuuming, the bag became full and the vacuum wouldn't work properly. (Remember, it's a temperamental machine.) So I discarded the full bag and pulled out one of my two last remaining vacuum bags.

That's when I decided to implement a little tip I learned in The Tightwad Gazette (wonderful book, highly recommended).

Before installing the new bag, I teased open one of the sealed ends. It took awhile because I didn't want to tear (and therefore weaken) the paper. But the micro-lining helped, and after about fifteen minutes I had one end of the bag open.

Then I stapled it shut, using ten staples. In theory, this would allow me to remove the staples when the bag is full, empty it, re-staple it, and re-use the bag.

Well, so far it's working beautifully. The stapled end is apparently just as tight as the other glued end, and I finished vacuuming the house without an issue. I should be able to get at least five more uses out of this single bag before it gets so weak I won't be able to stable it any more.

And that's your frugal tip of the day.


  1. What a great idea! I might copy this on my blog sometime.

    Our vacuum doesn't actually use bags--it has a bagless canister that you empty every time you vacuum. But I might be replacing it sometime, and if the new one uses bags, I would definitely use this tip!

  2. Hi Patrice,

    I'm the "vacuumer" in our house. For a long time I was doing basically what you described, only I was pulling the debris out through the same hole that it went in. Admittedly, it was a messy job, and was hard on the bag so it had to be replaced every few times.

    About a year ago we found one of those super-duper whirlwind type of vacuum cleaners at a yard sale for $2. The gal said it quit working, just wouldn't suck anything up even though she emptied the debris bin. But, hey, I'm "handy" so we invested $2 and decided to see if we could make it work for us.

    There were a complicated series of containers to deal with that had several compartments and a foam filter. All these looked good. Then, in a tucked away place I located another filter, a micro-filter, that was all plugged up. I bought a new filter at Home Depot, installed it, and voila, it works perfectly!

    I really like this vacuum because there are no bags to deal with. We just dump the contents of the container in the trash. Every few times, I take the containers and filters out to the workshop and blow them out good with my air compressor.

    As an aside, we also have an old Rainbow vac. That's the model that uses a reservoir of water to trap the vacuumed debris. I don't like using this one, though, because I don't like dealing with the dirty water afterward.


  3. I've done this kind of trick before on other items. When you feel the paper is getting too weak to take another stapling, try using strips of duct tape on the bag before stapling. That oughta get you a few more uses from the bag.

    Steve Davis
    Anchorage, Alaska

  4. I have been doing this for years and it really does work. I only try to get three uses out of a bag though. For some reason, after that, there seems to be more dust blowing out of the vacuum when using it.

  5. We have a bagless vacuum that I used to empty into the trash when it got full. Not too long ago it hit me......all that's in there is dirt and dog hair. I now empty it onto the compost pile.

  6. Thanks for that tip, I'll have to try it. I'm a big bag reuser...I'm the only one I know who washes out and reuses Ziplock bags. You have to be careful to check them for leaks, though. I mark the bag with a sharpie pen "hole" if it only has a tiny pinhole in it, and reuse it for things that aren't liquid-y or powdery.

    Anyone know of anything creative to do with those stupid plastic shopping bags? I've seen people cut them into strips and crochet them into bags, but my crocheting is pitiful.

  7. How about instead of staples, use a length of Twist-tie material like the double-wire kind on new garden hose packaging? Install that at the opened bag end, then roll up bag and fold twist-tie over the seam to seal.