A woman kneeling on the floor and removing the hose from her vacuum attachment

How to Clean a Vacuum Cleaner: The Steps I take Every 3 Months

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Ever wondered how to keep your vacuum not just running, but running well? It’s one of those things we don’t think about, but when it stops doing a good job, cleaning your vacuum should be your first response. It’s easier than you think and your vacuum (and floors) will thank you for it.

Before we get started, though, if you’ve got the manual then take a look at it. (Who does that, right?) Most of the manufacturers include specific cleaning steps.

Cleaning Your Vacuum: Step-by-Step

What follows are the steps I use to clean the vacuums in my home: a Kirby upright, a Dyson cordless, a Bissel vacuum/mop combo, a Roomba, and some little hand-held thing that I got to clean up cat litter. (What can I say, I like my floors clean.)

Step 1: Gather your Vacuum Cleaning Supplies.

  • Cleaning products: Warm water, dish soap, disinfecting wipes.
  • Cleaning equipment: Microfiber cloths, an old toothbrush, scissors.
  • Cleaning location: You’ll need to use your bathtub or sink, so make sure it’s free.

Step 2: Belt Inspection.

Those weird vacuum noises or a lot of dirt left behind are both signs your belt is on its way out. Check for loose or worn belts—they should be tight and intact. If you find any issues, replace them following your vacuum’s manual. And about that burning rubber smell? It’s a sign to replace the belt immediately.

Step 3: Power Cord TLC.

Yanking the cord is a no-no, but we’ve all done it. If the prongs are bent, gently straighten them with pliers. Inspect the cord for any fraying or damage. Safety is key here: a damaged cord needs professional help. Don’t use your vacuum until you’ve had the cord repaired.

Step 4: Wash the Hose and Attachments.

Unplug and remove the hose and attachments. For clogged brushes, use scissors to carefully cut away tangled hair and debris. Fill your tub or sink with warm, soapy water and let these parts have a good soak then rinse. Afterward, use that old toothbrush for any stubborn spots. Rinse well and let everything air-dry thoroughly.

Step 5: Cleaning the Canister and Filter.

On bagged models, remove the bag gently. For bagless vacuums, empty and wash the dust bin in soapy water. If your vacuum has a reusable filter, give it a wash too. Non-washable filters should be replaced every six months to keep your vacuum healthy.

Step 6: Wipe it All Down.

Wipe your vacuum’s exterior with a damp cloth to remove any dust buildup. If you find stubborn grime, use some soapy water and rinse with a clean cloth. Make sure everything is completely dry before you reassemble it—we don’t want mold growing in there!

How Often Should You Clean Your Vacuum?

Change or wash your vacuum’s filters every three months and clean it at that time. Replace HEPA filters every 6 months. And if you vacuum up a lot of pet hair or have a shedding carpet, you might need to clean it more often.

Tips to Keep Your Vacuum Working Well

  • Regular emptying: For bagless models, empty after every use. For bagged ones, change the bag before it’s three-quarters full. It needs space for proper suction.
  • Post-Use inspection: Always check for clogs. Clearing them right away can prevent motor damage.
  • Brush maintenance: Regularly clean the brush roll to keep it spinning smoothly.
  • Wheel cleaning: Dirty wheels can leave marks. Wipe them down after use to keep them (and your floors) clean.
  • Odor control: Keep your vacuum smelling fresh by cleaning the canister and bag. If odors persist, a homemade carpet deodorizer might just do the trick.

Cleaning your vacuum is like giving it a checkup—it might not be fun, but it’s necessary for top-notch performance. Follow these steps, and you’ll be on your way to a cleaner home with a vacuum that’s up for the task.

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5 Comments

  1. 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!!!

  2. 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.

  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. 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,

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