Thread Number: 15
Cloth Hose Conundrum
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Post# 64   8/26/2006 at 15:31 (4,100 days old) by charles~richard ()        

There's a real conundrum for us collectors regarding original cloth hoses, isn't there: The machines just don't look right with new replacement hoses, especially with the ugly, plain, coiled-plastic hoses and especially the white ones. Ugh. The wrong hose really ruins the appearance to those of us who are really picky (obsessive!), right?

But the original hoses are usually unusable! Even hoses that LOOK beautiful to the eye often leak like a sieve and are impractical for actual use.

"What's a mother to do?!"

A little explanation is in order I guess, for the "Babies" in the club who have no idea what a cloth hose is, haha!

Back in the day (actually up into the early 1960s for some manufacturers), flexible hoses were a very complicated affair. On the outside was a decorative woven-cloth cover done up in various colors and patterns according to the stylistic choices of the manufacturers (as opposed to the bland, monochrome coiled plastic hoses that most modern machines come with).

Under the woven cloth cover was a layer of canvas, then a layer of rubber, then a later of woven twine, another layer of rubber, a layer of coiled steel wire, another layer of canvas, and then a final layer of rubber. Yes, some of those hoses are eight layers thick! If you've ever tried to cut through one, you know just how thick they are. (Example - an Electrolux XXX hose has a combined wall thickness of about an eighth of an inch!!)

The number of layers and order of the different materials (canvas, rubber, twine, wire) varied from manufacturer to manufacturer, but the above-described type was the most frequent arrangement. I believe this is because the hosing for many cleaners was outsourced to the same manufacturer. (Anyone know who that was btw?)

In the mid 1950s, the outer cloth covering was replaced with more durable vinyl and that material was used well up into the late 1980s with many manufacturers.

I have a very rare Electrolux test hose that is the dark gray color with the blue "chevron" (arrow) pattern -- the hose colors used for the LX and early E; but this test hose is of two materials -- the gray background part is made of cloth, but the woven blue chevron pattern is made of vinyl! I asked around about this and was informed by an Electrolux oldtimer that these hoses were made up as in-the-field test hoses to see how durable the vinyl was.

This rare hose came with a mint-condition Model E that was a gift to me from John Lucia who found it at an estate sale -- that hose also has the rare early Model E machine-end metal coupler that is hammertone blue instead of chrome, the only Electrolux hose ever to have anything other than a chrome-plated coupler!

The early electric hoses were even thicker, because the rubber layer that carried the electrical wiring was made extra-thick for safety. The walls of the woven electric Electrolux hoses (Silverado etc.) are about 3/6" thick!! And they had TWO coiled-wire strings, not just one. No wonder they were so heavy and stiff!

But I digress.

The problem with old cloth hoses is that even with ones that appear perfectly good on the outside, the inner rubber linings go bad over time, either crumbling away and thus breaking the airtight seal, or petrifying into a hardened, rigid mass. The latter seems to happen when hoses are stored in hot areas such as attics or garages. I have found cloth hoses that are so stiff that you can't even uncoil them!

I remember the heartache one collector endured when he paid dearly for a "mint brand new in the box never used Electrolux XXX" on eBay ... it was never used all right, but the seller (conveniently?) failed to point out a tiny problem with the hose. When the machine arrived, he discovered that the cloth hose was as hard as a rock and permanently bent into the coiled shape it had been rolled into when placed in the original box. The hose had remained coiled like that in some hot environment for decades until it was permanently baked in that position.

(Another of many eBay lessons learned the hard way by some of us ... I have learned to ask many detailed questions about things I am interested in -- if the seller does not respond in equal detail, I don't bid. End of story. No matter how much I may want it. But I digress again. Sorry.)

Back to cloth hoses...

I tried an experiment once with coating the inner walls of an Electrolux XXX hose with liquid latex, thinking the latex would adhere to the inner fabric lining and seal it. I have gallons of the stuff around here that I have used with my theatrical makeup projects.

I poured the latex [which is about the consistency of pancake batter] down into one end of the hose and sloshed it back and forth until the hose was completely coated inside, then hung it vertically to allow the excess latex to drip out as it congealed and then dried.

Well what happened was that as the latex thickened as it set, a blob of it gathered at the end of the hose instead of running out the nozzle, and completely sealed the hose - solid!, thus completely ruining it. {{{*Waaaahhhh!!!*}}}

I was not willing to sacrifice another hose with further experiments, but it occurred to me that what may have prevented that from happening would have been to have inserted long rolled-up cardboard collars into the ends before pouring the latex in and hanging the hose up, so that when the latex was dried and powdered (to negate its self-stickiness), the collars could be pulled out and any latex that had collected into a mass would have come out with the collars. But as I said...!

Just wondering if anyone has come up with any ideas for restoring cloth hoses that has actually worked. I had also thought about some kind of plastic lining such as the tubing used in aquariums but never pursued it. That may work but it would make the hoses heavier and more rigid, obviously.


In a related subject, some of you have probably heard of the Roger Proehl Hose Test, named after the collector who discovered it.

Here's how to do it:

Take a hose and hold both ends in one hand. Tap one end of the hose with the palm of your hand. If you hear a nice hollow "Tunk-Tunk-Tunk" sound, the hose is good. If you hear a flat, soft "Pfft-Pfft-Pfft" sound, the hose is lousy.

The physics of this are simple -- in a good sealed hose, the air pressure from the tapping of your hand has to travel through the length of the hose, causing the sound to reverberate through the hose. In a bad hose, the air pressure simply dissipates through the lining of the hose.

With cloth hoses, most of them fall somewhere inbetween the two extremes. A good way to get an "audio benchmark" of what a really good hose sounds like is to do the test with a plastic hose.

Of course, you can also tell a leaky hose by actually using it -- if you're not getting much suction at the handle end, and you don't get the "motor ramp-up" sound when you block the handle with your hand, it's clearly a leaker. But the Roger Proehl Hose Test will give you a precise measurement of just how good or bad a hose is, once your ears learn how to tell the difference.

Post# 79 , Reply# 1   8/26/2006 at 19:48 (4,100 days old) by dial-a-nap (Omaha - the home of the TV Dinner)        

dial-a-nap's profile picture
Have you seen the rubber/neoprene hose that is collapsible at the hardware stores? It comes in varying diameters and could possibly be used as a liner to the original vac hose. It's strong, flexible and probably very durable. The challenges would be sealing the ends of the liner to the original couplings/hose-ends although your liquid latex or a silicone sealer, even pliobond would probably work for that. The other issue would be that it would need to be stretched tight inside the hose so the suction wouldn't pull it in on itself and cut off the hose. Perhaps a dose of adhesive, inflating the new hose inside the vac hose and then trim and seal the ends?

Just trying to think 'outside the hose'...

Post# 88 , Reply# 2   8/26/2006 at 21:45 (4,100 days old) by compactc9 ()        

I had this Idea for some type of applicator to apply some type of sealan to the inside of the hose. It would be made of a caulking gun, with a hose coming off the end. On the end of the hose, there would be some type of cone shaped applicator that would spread the sealent on the inside of the hose.

To use this applicator, you would drop the end of the small hose thru the vacuum hose and attach it to the gun. Then you would pull the applicator into the vacuum hose and start pumping the sealant thru the small hose to the applicator once it was at the cloth hose.

Post# 124 , Reply# 3   8/27/2006 at 11:42 (4,100 days old) by eluxomarty (Palm Springs)        
Quick fix

and people laugh at me for doing this. I save the long piece of plastic that covers a new vacuum hose when you take it out of the box and and slip it over a leaky cloth hose and secure the ends with rubber bands. Sort of like a hose condom. It looks tacky but it gets the job done. When the vacuum is on, the suction pulls the plastic against the hose.

I think we should have some kind of demonstration at the convention about hose restoration. That would be very intersting to see. Charles! You should make a video restoring a hose with the liquid latex and put it on this site! What do you think?

Post# 125 , Reply# 4   8/27/2006 at 11:49 (4,100 days old) by eluxomarty (Palm Springs)        
the BLOB

I forgot about the Blob! Nevermind.

Post# 131 , Reply# 5   8/27/2006 at 20:35 (4,099 days old) by compactc9 ()        

I just got another idea. What if after pouring the latec thru th hose, you put it on the exaust of another vacuum to force the extra latex out? Or evern clew the latex into the hose somehow?

Post# 183 , Reply# 6   8/28/2006 at 01:55 (4,099 days old) by swingette ()        

good idea using the blower, reggie.

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