What if I told you that most people don’t know how to vacuum properly? It surprised me when I learned this myself years ago, because I’d always thought that vacuuming was one of those obvious housekeeping skills.
It wasn’t my mother, or even a vacuum salesman who pointed out my deficient vacuuming skills. Of all people, it was someone who worked for a company I’d hired to clean our home’s air ducts. We’d just bought the house, and since I have indoor allergies I wanted to make sure we weren’t inheriting a lot of built-up dust from the previous owners. The man was very kind when he pointed out the dingy spots on our new home’s white carpets, particularly around the base of the walls. “That,” he said, “is a sign the old owners didn’t know how to vacuum properly.”
You see, when you have a central heating/cooling system it circulates air through the room and pulls it down the walls, toward the cold air returns. If the air is dirty, from indoor pollutants or dust, you can wind up with dark streaks at the bottom of your walls where the flooring meets the baseboard. One solution is proper vacuuming, which involves more than simply going back and forth with the machine.
Of course, I felt very embarrassed to learn this.
Over the next few years, I learned this information wasn’t common knowledge. When I injured my back and hired a professional cleaning service to cover for me, they knew because the company they worked for had trained them to vacuum properly so customers wouldn’t complain about their homes looking dusty the day after cleaning. But last year while taking care of my husband during his cancer battle, the individuals I hired did the same thing I’d been doing years before: running the vacuum quickly in long strokes, while taking care not to bump the baseboards, and calling it done.
So, if you’ve been unsuccessfully battling dust in your home or your carpets are looking dingy, chances are these tips can help you, too!
How To Vacuum Properly
Perform the following steps as part of your weekly cleaning routine then vacuum high-traffic areas at least once mid-week (more often if you have pets or kids who play on the floor).
Years ago, vacuums were notorious for emitting dust along with their exhaust so tidy homemakers vacuumed before dusting. HEPA filters fix this, so now you just need to shake your curtains to loosen dust then wait a few minutes for it to settle before you vacuum it up. Then, using a damp microfiber cloth, dust your furniture — or put a soft bristled dusting brush on your vacuum and let it do the work.
Prepare the area
Pick up toys, pet beds, and other large items from the floor. At least once a month you should also put chairs on top of tables, move small furniture to another room, and pull your sofa from the wall so you can vacuum those places, too.
Prepare your vacuum.
For the best suction, make sure your vacuum’s dust basket or bag is empty. You can improve your machine’s performance even more if you take the time to clean your vacuum before you start, and again monthly.
Vacuum the edges of the room first.
Your vacuum’s main head is no substitute for using the crevice attachment at the base of walls and unmovable furniture. This should be done at least twice a month, but weekly is ideal.
Vacuum under raised furniture.
Yep, dust builds up beneath raised furniture like sofas, entertainment centers, or bookshelves. After vacuuming the edges of the room, switch to the floor attachment and vacuum beneath these pieces at least twice a month.
Adjust the vacuum’s height.
Some vacuums, like Kirbys, allow you to perfectly adjust the vacuum head to the height of your flooring. Others only offer the option of hard flooring or carpet. Either way, adjust the height to the surface you’re cleaning: too high and you won’t be getting up all of the dirt.
Vacuum in two directions.
If you look at your carpet closely you’ll see the fibers are twisted loops. This means they get dirty all the way around, so vacuuming in only one direction doesn’t adequately clean them. On the first pass, vacuum your room left to right then turn and vacuum it from front to back (or vice versa) so you’re cleaning the fibers from every direction. In high-traffic areas it’s a good idea to do a few more passes.
Sure, your vacuum’s brush rotates rapidly but it still needs a chance to do its job. Vacuum slowly to give the brush time to lift up pet hair and dust. Make sure your strokes with the vacuum overlap, too.
Get lovely lines.
Some people love the look of a freshly-vacuumed room where the lines all match up. Me? I could not care less as long as the floor has been vacuumed properly! If you’re interested in getting that look, the key is overlapping strokes and working your way from the far end of the room to the door. That way your feet won’t lift the pile and destroy that “just vacuumed” look.
If this seems like a lot of work remember how expensive new carpeting is. It’s more cost-effective to vacuum properly every week, and treat carpet stains when they happen, than it is to replace your carpet every few years.
Equipment I’ve Used For This: