Brooms are used around the world for cleaning the floors of all manner of buildings, from huts to barns, houses, warehouses and garages. Brooms are ordinarily made of long, thick fibers of broomcorn, although palm fronds and long, thin branches are used in some parts of the world.
The earliest form of broom was the "besma," Old English for a "bundle of twigs." Another Old English word, "brom," referred to varieties of shrubs with yellow flowers as well as bundles of branches used for sweeping.
Most modern brooms are made from broomcorn, a grass with a long, stiff stem, related to sorghum and Kafir, with origins in Africa.
The North American Shaker community received a patent for the broom with a flat bottom in the 1820s.
Modern brooms in traditional forms are sometimes made of plastic and other synthetic materials with hollow aluminum handles.
How Brooms Are Made
Over time, broomcorn replaced bundles of twigs. Long, straight branches grow off the stalk of broomcorn. After the plant is harvested and dried, the seeds are removed from these branches. The remaining long, stiff bristles are stitched together to make the sweeping part of the broom.
In the tropics, brooms are sometimes made of the leaf fiber of palm trees.
Brooms with plastic fans and hollow aluminum handles are made in the same sizes and shapes as traditional brooms. They are generally lighter than brooms made with broomcorn and having wooden handles.
Some specialized industrial brooms have wire or rubber teeth.
Traditional Broom Types
∙ A besom broom is a round bundle of twigs.
∙ A flat broom has a flat, evenly-trimmed bottom. This is the widely-used classic broom. It has a strong wooden handle.
∙ An angled broom is like the flat broom except that it is cut at an angle so that the sweeper can more easily clean corners.
∙ A push broom is ordinarily wider and often thicker. The sweeper pushes this broom. It is useful for sweeping large indoor areas.
∙ A whisk broom has a short handle and is useful for cleaning out the floors of vehicles and other hard-to-reach places.
∙ A fan broom, traditionally used to clean the hearth of a fireplace, has a wider reach, or fan.
∙ A turkey-wing broom has an even longer, wider reach than the fan broom.
∙ A camper broom ordinarily has a short handle.
∙ An electric broom looks like a thin, upright vacuum cleaner. These brooms, ordinarily cordless and rechargeable, can sometimes be converted to a hand-held vacuum cleaner.
∙ Snow brooms are designed to push, drag or sweep snow off vehicles. They ordinarily have handles that telescope. The brushes associated with traditional brooms are often replaced with a synthetic material that scrapes the snow off a car without harming its finish.
∙ A power broom is combined with a power shove. While the shovel clears snow, the power broom clears leaves and debris.
∙ There are brooms that are combined with a squeegee or scraper for special kinds of sweeping.
∙ A concrete finishing broom has stiff fibers. This broom is dragged across the surface of fresh concrete to give it a textured surface.
∙ There are numerous specialty brooms, including those designed to sweep streets, decks, barns, garages and patios. Contractors have special brooms to help clean up work sites.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Traditional wooden brooms are heavier but they are also stronger and can withstand more use. The weight of a wooden broom gives it stability and momentum for hard sweeping chores. Brooms with hollow aluminum handles are lighter but easier to break.