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 dirty 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 merely 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, 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 then 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).
First things first
Years ago, vacuums were notorious for emitting fine debris 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. Then use a damp microfiber cloth to 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.
Check your machine
For the best suction, make sure your machine’s dust basket or bag is empty. You can improve performance even more if you take the time to clean your vacuum before you start, and again monthly.
Your vacuum’s brush 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.
Go down under
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 monthly.
Adjust as needed
Some vacuums, like Kirbys, allow you to adjust the vacuum head to the height of your floor. Others only offer the option of hard flooring or carpet. Either way, change the height to suit the surface you’re cleaning, or your machine won’t suction properly.
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, so you’re cleaning the fibers from every direction. In high-traffic areas, it’s a good idea to repeat this process.
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.
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.