Located in Pocatello, Idaho, the Museum of Clean is a museum dedicated to the history of cleaning techniques, practices, and industry, featuring the world’s largest collection of vacuum cleaners and devices. Born in 1935 in Twin Falls, Idaho, Don Aslett is an entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker who is best known as the co-founder of Varsity House Cleaning Company.
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Aslett co-founded the corporation with his friend Arlo Luke while attending Idaho State University in 1957, offering janitorial, construction, and landscaping services to businesses and private individuals. By 2013, the company, now known as Varsity Facility Services, had expanded its business to all 50 United States and several Canadian provinces, providing services to major corporations such as CenturyLink. Aslett is considered one of the most prolific and influential authors and motivational speakers on the topic of household and professional cleaning, with more than 40 books published in 10 languages, and has been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
Aslett’s personal collection started with the purchase of a 19th-century pre-electric sweeper from the Edison Museum in Detroit, which inspired him to begin work on a small museum collection of vintage cleaning equipment for display adjacent to his main Varsity Cleaning Center facility. A 2006 acquisition of 250 pre-electric vacuums prompted the search for a larger permanent facility for the collections. A former 1915 warehouse facility in Pocatello was selected and renovated over the course of five years to meet strict environmental standards, earning the completed facility LEED Certification for its use of recycled materials, energy-saving lighting, and rainwater collection plumbing system. The museum was opened to the public in November of 2011, completed at a cost of $6 million.
Today, the six-story museum houses more than 6,000 historical cleaning artifacts, including the world’s largest collection of vacuum cleaning devices. More than 1,000 vacuum cleaners are on display at the museum, including the items from Aslett’s 2006 acquisition from the collections of Peter Frei. Highlights of the collection include the 1900 “Pneuvac,” a hand-pumped pre-electric vacuum, a horse-drawn gas-powered vacuum from Great Britain thought to be the first motor vacuum, and a large 1912 model requiring two people for operation. A large number of non-electric carpet sweepers are also on display, showcasing a wide variety of technologies and allowing visitors to try their hand at operation of several models, and a collection of vacuum cleaner art pieces presents works created from the parts of defunct cleaners.
Several replica exhibits recreate the working and cleaning conditions of the 19th century, including an Old English City exhibit that details health and sanitation concerns of the Victorian era and an Old-Time Store Display featuring historically-accurate pricing for tools, chemicals, and other cleaning items commonly available for purchase at local general stores. An exhibit on washing machines highlights an early model from 1945, and a vintage toilet collection showcases a model that once belonged to Queen Elizabeth of Austria. Other collections chronicle the history and innovations of bathtubs, brooms, and the cleaning uses of military helmets. A number of exhibits focus on cleaning, recycling, and conservation techniques, including a “Texas-sized trash can” educational exhibit on environmentally-friendly waste practices.
In addition to the museum’s device collection, an Art Gallery showcases more than 200 advertisements, paintings, models, and artifacts related to cleaning practices, including a collection related to Chinese foot-binding cleaning techniques. A 10,000-square-foot Event Center features an 88-seat theater and may be rented for community events, workshops, and private parties. The museum’s gift shop, All Things Clean, offers locally-made goods, children’s-sized cleaning equipment, and educational publications.
Ongoing Programs and Events
The museum serves as a stop on Pocatello’s First Friday Art Walk, a monthly event that features exhibits at more than 20 galleries, businesses, and restaurants in the city’s Old Town area. Exhibit openings and live artist demonstrations are featured, and complimentary refreshments are provided at many businesses. Past Art Walk openings at the Museum of Clean include exhibits by Lauren Borgholthaus, Catherine Auger, Becky Pickens, Rachel Mayer, and the photography students of Wendy Roberts. An annual Young Artist Winter Fair in February showcases the works of area youth and offers performances, demonstrations, and family-friendly activities.
Continuing the museum’s commitment to sustainability, a number of new and ongoing green initiatives are in progress, including a solar collector along the museum’s south wall and an 8,000-square-foot rooftop garden available for private event rental, featuring a park-style landscape setting and event seating with views of the surrounding mountain areas. Contributions to green initiatives and donations to museum collections are accepted on a continual basis through the museum’s website.
711 S 2nd Ave, Pocatello, ID 83201, Phone: 208-236-6906