Dusting off a bit of history. A history of the innovation that led to the DUSTBUSTER.
The U.S. Space Program, the inevitable give and take between husbands and wives, and good old American ingenuity all contributed to the birth of the iconic DUSTBUSTER hand vacuum.
In the mid-1970s, Black & Decker unveiled its Mod 4 cordless power tool system, a set of tools intended for heavy use in garages and workshops. This set included a lightweight cordless hand vacuum that wives frequently borrowed from their husbands' workbenches to clean up small spills in the home.
A light bulb went off at Black & Decker and a new product team was quickly assembled.
The team was headed up by noted industrial designer Carroll Gantz who got right to work on reinventing the Mod 4 hand vacuum for home use.
Gantz believed that this new hand vac should look and function like a dustpan does, quickly collecting dust and debris for easy disposal. From this idea, the shape of the vacuum was designed to resemble the side-view of a dustpan, with a flat wedge shape and a handle. This visually conveyed the idea of a quick and easy solution to small spills.
Next, Gantz and his team addressed battery and recharging issues. The technology that allowed for new battery packs and cordless functionality in household products came from research that Black & Decker did for the NASA Apollo 15 Space Mission in 1971. This research brought effective cordless products to the consumer market, including the DUSTBUSTER in 1979.
Since homes typically didn’t have electrical outlets in storage closets, the charger base for the DUSTBUSTER would be in plain sight near an outlet. This meant that the charger should visually suggest a “home” to which the hand vac could easily be returned after use.
For this, Gantz found inspiration in the simplicity and lines of a 1965 ‘Trimline’ telephone and the modern DUSTBUSTER started to take shape. A handset would “nest” into a charging base. A pistol grip would make the vac comfortable to use and a traditional dustpan shape would allow it to get into tight spaces.
Now all that was needed was a product name. Many were considered but the winning moniker came from an internal naming contest within Black & Decker itself. The DUSTBUSTER was unveiled at the August 1978 Hardware Show in Chicago. It was an enormous hit and was chosen as the “Best New Product in Show.”
The DUSTBUSTER has gone on to become the best selling product in the Black & Decker line, revolutionizing home cleaning along the way and even earning itself a place in the Smithsonian Institution.
The DUSTBUSTER has been redesigned many times over the years in order to continuously make cleaning quicker and easier. In 2006, for example, the DUSTBUSTER was revamped to include an 18 Volt battery – a vast improvement in performance from the original 3.6 Volt model – and a pivoting nozzle, making it the most innovative and powerful DUSTBUSTER ever (model # PHV1800CB). Improvements such as this have resulted in sales of more than 100 million DUSTBUSTER handheld vacs to date.
Clearly, the DUSTBUSTER’s impact has been significant and widespread. The years have brought competitors, inferior rivals, wanna-be’s, and knockoffs. Yet through it all, the trusted DUSTBUSTER brand and reputation have endured.