POCATELLO — Don Aslett introduced one vacuum after another with enthusiasm, humor and amazement Wednesday.
The 84-year-old didn’t present them all because there are hundreds on the third floor of the Museum of Clean, located at 711 S. Second Ave. in Pocatello.
The third story of his 8-year-old museum opened to the public for the first time this year to display vacuums, sweepers and vintage advertisements. The floor took two years to prepare.
“People have relationships with their vacuum cleaners,” Aslett said. “People don’t talk about their washing machines or their dish washers. But boy, they really talk about their vacuum cleaners. It’s just unique.”
The vacuums and sweepers range drastically in age and therefore have significantly different appearances, operations and technologies.
Some are around 150 years and most are not electric. Aslett showed one that requires two people to operate.
“In the old days, cleaning was a lot of work,” Aslett said. “They weren’t really effective. They picked up the surface dirt. They didn’t get the dust down in the carpet.”
Aslett said he launched his vacuum collection for the museum with a machine he found in Logan, Utah, that cost just $250.
Aslett said he purchased 250 vacuums for $300,000 as a part of the Peter Frei collection out of Boston in 2006. The rest of the third-floor collection was obtained from eBay, antique stores, museum visitors and from his former business, Varsity Facility Services.
When he was giving a rundown of the sweepers, the former janitor had as many opinions as fun facts. His favorite device on the third floor is the new generation commercial Eureka vacuum that he said sells for $350 and is used at hotels.
While that is his favorite, he has scorn for the Roomba, an automated vacuum that incidentally doesn’t have a place in the museum. He noted that it vacuums the center of the room well, but not the hard-to-reach places.
Although he enjoyed talking about them, Aslett says the Museum of Clean is not just about — nor cleaning in the traditional sense.
Furthermore, he said not to expect a grandmother at the front door, teaching visitors how to clean their household.
That is evidenced by how the museum is looking to expand in around two years to the fifth floor, where it will potentially display clean-related items in the medical field, such as sterilization tools.
“This is not a how-to-clean museum like people think. It’s a be-clean museum,” Aslett said. “We’re talking about clean health and we’re talking about clean teeth. … People love it. The kids come in here and they like it. They come interested and leave inspired. They learn to clean, they feel clean and they be clean. So it’s not like what you think.”
The fourth floor could open in about a year and will feature washing machines and soap, if the collections for the respective items are secured.
In a way, the museum will be complete after the next two floors are opened, as every floor will be showcasing clean-centric objects by that time.
“There is nothing like this, even close in the world,” Aslett said. “We have something in Pocatello that nobody has.”