How To Clean A Vacuum Cleaner

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When your vacuum isn’t working as expected, try deep-cleaning it to remove hidden debris and dust that may be to blame.

Woman begins to disassemble vacuum cleaner as first step to deep-cleaning it

Cleaning equipment occasionally needs a thorough cleaning if you want it to keep performing at its best. This includes your vacuum cleaner as well as its accessories, dust bin or canister, and bag.

Steps to Deep-Clean Vacuum Cleaners

Time required: 20 minutes.

The best way to clean your vacuum depends on the type of machine. If you have the owner’s manual, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations if they differ from those below. Otherwise, let your vacuum completely cool after use before you clean it, and make sure the parts can air-dry for 24 hours before you reassemble your machine to keep mold and mildew from forming inside your vacuum.

What You’ll Need

  • Dish soap and warm water
  • Cleaning cloths
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • An old toothbrush
  • Scissors
  • A screwdriver
  • A tub or sink basin
  • Compressed air (optional)

Step 1. Inspect the Belts

Over time, a vacuum cleaner’s belts can become worn or stretched out. Inspect your vacuum belts when you clean it and replace loose or worn ones as needed. Signs that your vacuum cleaner’s belts are going bad include a high-pitched squeal, a rolling brush that doesn’t turn, or the smell of burning rubber.

Stop using your machine and inspect the belts and cord immediately if you notice a burning smell. Replace any worn belts following your manufacturer’s instructions. If the power cord is frayed, consult a repair person or electrician.

Step 2. Check the Plug and Cord

The prongs on a vacuum cleaner cord often get bent, especially if you unplug the machine by yanking the cord. Inspect the plug and use a pair of pliers to straighten bent prongs.

It’s not uncommon for vacuum cleaner cords to develop thin or bare spots. Sometimes, it’s from a pet chewing on it. Other times, it’s from getting caught on furniture when you’re vacuuming. Fraying vacuum cords pose great safety dangers, so unplug your vacuum before cleaning it and inspect the line. If you find a damaged cord, take your machine to a repair person or electrician.

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Step 3. Clean the Hose and Attachments

With your machine unplugged, remove the hose and attachments. Use a screwdriver to open the brush roller case and remove it. Use scissors to snip tangled hair and threads on other attachments and pull them out of the bristles.

The easiest way to clean your vacuum’s hose and non-motorized attachments is in a tub or basin filled with warm, soapy water. Let them soak for 20-30 minutes to loosen grime, then gently scrub stubborn debris with an old toothbrush or microfiber cleaning cloth. Rinse each piece separately, shake them to dislodge excess water, and dry them with a cloth. Let the parts air-dry on an absorbent towel overnight so they’re completely dry when you reassemble your vacuum.

How to Clean Vacuum Dust Canisters

Most bagless vacuum cleaners have a pre-filter, a washable dust bin, and a HEPA filter. Disassemble your machine and wash the pre-filter if it’s reusable. Otherwise, plan to replace the pre-filter and HEPA filter every 6 months.

To clean a bagless vacuum’s dust canister, wash it in warm, soapy water. If the pre-filter is washable, you can clean it at the same time. Use an old toothbrush to dislodge any stubborn grime, then rinse thoroughly. Dry the dust bin inside and out with a cloth, then go over the interior with a disinfecting wipe. Let the container air-dry overnight before reassembling your vacuum cleaner.

How to Clean a Bagged Vacuum Cleaner

To clean a vacuum cleaner that uses a bag, unzip or open the exterior and press the release latch. Be careful when removing and disposing of the bag so you don’t spread dust and debris in your home. Before installing a new bag, wipe the machine’s interior with a damp, soapy cloth. Make sure the rag isn’t dripping wet since excess moisture could damage your vacuum cleaner. Dry the interior with a fresh cloth.

Once you’ve completed the deep-cleaning steps, go over any solid, non-electrical parts inside the machine with a disinfectant wipe. Let the machine sit open overnight without a bag so the interior has a chance to thoroughly air-dry, then install a new bag.

How Often Should You Clean Your Vacuum?

To keep your vacuum working at its best, change or wash the filters every 3 months, replace the HEPA filter, and deep-clean the rest of your machine. If you have several pets or new carpets that shed a lot, you may need to clean your vacuum and change the filters more often. Finding a lot of dust in your home is also a sign that you need to clean your vacuum.

Related: How Often to Clean Everything in Your Home

Tips to Keep Your Vacuum Clean

• Still feel like your vacuum isn’t getting your floors clean enough even after deep-cleaning it? Here are some more ways to get your vacuum working like new.

• Empty it often. Vacuum cleaners work best when they’re not full. For bagless vacuums, dump the canister after each use. Replace vacuum cleaner bags when they’re no more than two-thirds full or when your machine’s indicator light goes on if it has one.

• Check tubes and hoses after use. It’s common for tissues or small toys to get stuck in vacuum hoses or pipes without completely clogging them. You might not even notice the reduced suction, but your machine’s motor can overheat. Make a point to inspect hoses and tubes after using your vacuum. If you find a clog, use a dryer vent brush to dislodge it. (I use this one.)

• Keep the brushes clean. Thread, hair, and other items get tangled in the rolling brush at the base of your vacuum. If it can’t spin properly, it can’t clean properly. Pull the threads free, or use a seam ripper or small scissors to remove them.

• Wipe the wheels. Dirty vacuum wheels can leave tracks on your clean carpet or cause scuffs on your hard floors, and you’ll also wind up struggling with the machine. So, after use, give the wheels a quick wipe with the damp cloth to remove dirt and debris.

• Deodorize as needed. Vacuum cleaners can emit all sorts of odors if they’re full of grimy debris. If your machine smells terrible, start with emptying and cleaning the canister or changing the bag. If the odor persists, deep clean your vacuum and consider sprinkling a homemade carpet deodorizer on the floor before vacuuming.

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  1. Small Town Mommy says:

    I definitely need to do some maintenance on my vacuum. ¬†I hate vacuuming but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t take care of it,

  2. your pun became true with my vacuum cleaner . thank god it didn’t end up in motor . I agree with you that vacuum doesn’t suck good when the vacuum bag is full . Dyson is good at doing the job but still why would anyone want to risk an expensive vacuum ? it better to empty it when its half filled . I usually empty it when it is around 75% of the bin .

  3. How does one clean the build up off the wheels other than scraping it? Is this some kind of cleaner one can use?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      If that gunk doesn’t come off with a microfiber cloth and soapy water, I’d try scrubbing with an old toothbrush. For particularly bad buildup, you could try rubbing the wheels with a bit of baking soda and water then wiping them clean with a damp cloth.

  4. geraldine says:

    I like to use the vacuum for cleaning up the dust above my ceiling. And some times, I forgot to wrap up the cord around its body and cat plays with it.

  5. My entire home smells like bigfoot after running my Dyson Ball vacuum. I’ve tried everything finally gave up and bought the Shark lift away which I’m really happy with. We’ll see how it holds up in the long run. LOVE your site and advice Thank You!!!