How to Clean a Vacuum for Stronger Suction and Peak Performance

Even your cleaning tools need a good scrub every now and then. Here's everything you need to know to clean a vacuum.

Do you ever feel like your vacuum is just pushing dirt around your floor? That's a major red flag that your vacuum needs a little TLC. Like most appliances, a clean vacuum is most efficient. When it's clogged up with debris, your vacuum works slower and with less suction.

The most necessary step to keep your vacuum performing at peak performance is to regularly empty its contents. Bagged vacuums utilize bags to capture particles and need to be replaced when they are full. An indicator light will come on to tell you it's time to replace the vacuum bag, as the time will vary depending on how often you vacuum and your bagged vacuum model. Bagless vacuums, or canister vacuums, also need to be emptied regularly. Dump out the dirt canister after every use. Pay attention to the max fill line while vacuuming as you might need to empty a bagless vacuum mid-job.

The next step to keeping your vacuum in tip-top shape is a thorough cleaning. A good rule of thumb is to clean your vacuum every month, but if you notice it's not working as well as you'd like, if it's smelly, or if you've used it for an extra yucky cleaning job, you might want to clean it sooner. Cleaning your vacuum cleaner is a simple maintenance task that will help your vacuum's performance, and it doesn't take long. Here's everything you need to know to do it correctly.

person cleaning vacuum with scissors
Adobe Stock/LoloStock

How to Clean a Vacuum Cleaner

Cleaning a vacuum doesn't require any special tools or supplies. Here's what you need to do it right.

What You Need

  • Scissors or a utility knife
  • Water
  • Dishwashing soap

Step 1: Unplug the Vacuum

This might seem obvious, but because you'll be dealing with water and electricity, unplug the device before cleaning your vacuum. Safety first!

Step 2: Remove Hair from Vacuum Rolling Brush

If you've noticed your vacuum leaving debris behind, check the rotating brush. If there's hair wrapped around it, carefully cut it away with scissors or a utility knife. This will allow it to spin freely.

Step 3: Check the Lint Trap

Some, but not all, vacuums have a dirt/lint trap. Look for a small door that you can open or remove. If you find one, pull out any lint, dirt, or hair that might be trapped.

Step 4: Remove Vacuum Attachments

Next, detach all non-motorized pieces of the vacuum, such as the attachments, vacuum filters, hoses, and brush heads. If you're cleaning a stick vacuum, you can also remove the canister. Shake off any dirt or debris outdoors or into a garbage can.

Step 5: Wash Vacuum Parts

Place the removed vacuum parts in a sink or tub filled with warm, soapy water. Soak and rinse everything well with hot water. Use a faucet sprayer to quickly remove tough dirt and sticky residue. If needed, scrub with a sponge or microfiber cloth.

Editor's Tip: If you're cleaning a robot vacuum, be sure to keep liquid cleaners away from any small openings where it could reach the electrical components. For most robot vacuums, simply remove hair and dust from the canister and filter, then wipe the exterior and sensors clean with a dry microfiber cloth.

Step 6: Let Dry

In the sink or on a clean towel, let the vacuum parts sit to air dry.

Step 7: Wipe the Exterior

While the pieces dry, spray the exterior of the vacuum and any pieces that couldn't be removed with an all-purpose cleaner. Then, wipe it off with a microfiber cloth.

Step 8: Reassemble Vacuum

Put the vacuum back together, and it's ready to clean your floors!

How to Disinfect a Vacuum

Every so often, take a few extra minutes to disinfect your vacuum. This is especially important if you use your vacuum in rooms where germs are a big safety concern, such as the kitchen or bathroom, or if members of your household have been ill. To disinfect your vacuum, remove the attachments as normal and rinse them well with hot water. Next, add 1 Tbsp. bleach to a spray bottle filled with water. Spray the solution on any pieces you want to disinfect, then let them air dry.

How to Deep-Clean Your Vacuum

When it comes to tough-to-clean debris, grab a can of compressed air. In addition to the steps above, canned air can help remove anything hidden in the nooks and crannies of your vacuum, whether it's clogged with pet hair, dirt, or a small object. You can also replace worn-out pieces, such as the filter or rolling brush, if they're still not back to their original functionality after cleaning.

The first time you clean your vacuum, it might take a bit of time to figure out how everything comes apart and goes back together. However, you'll quickly get the hang of it, and will see that having a clean, well-running vacuum will make your home sparkle with less effort.

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