How To Clean and Maintain Your Vacuum

How To Clean and Maintain Your Vacuum

Vacuum cleaners are one of man’s greatest inventions, in my opinion. I really dislike sweeping, so I love being able to use my vacuum to clean both my carpets and my hard floors. But like any machine, vacuums need to be cleaned and maintained regularly for them to work properly. If you’re not maintaining your vacuum, you may actually be spreading dirt around rather than cleaning it up!

Fortunately, you don’t need to be an appliance repair specialist to keep your vacuum working well. Just by following a few simple steps, your vacuum cleaner should serve you well for years to come. (Oh, and I’m sure this is obvious, but you can never be too careful – always unplug your vacuum before cleaning or servicing!)

Related:  This One Simple Thing Makes Cleaning Easier And More Effective

How To Clean And Maintain Your Vacuum

How To Clean and Maintain Your Vacuum

Step 1 – Empty and Clean the Dust Cup

The dust/dirt collection cup should be emptied regularly, before it gets full. If you operate the vacuum when the dust cup is full, you’re forcing the vacuum to work harder than it should, which could lead to damage. It only takes a second to empty, so it’s best to just get into the habit of emptying the cup before you put it back in the closet after each use.

How To Clean and Maintain Your Vacuum

In addition to regularly emptying the cup, you should also give it a thorough cleaning once a month or so. Just give it a good wash inside and out with warm, soapy water. Let it dry completely before replacing it.

How To Clean and Maintain Your Vacuum

Step 2 – Replace or Wash the Filters

Most vacuum cleaners have one or more filters that need to be cleaned or replaced on a regular basis. The filters are there to keep dust and dirt inside the vacuum. If the vacuum filters get clogged up, you may just be spreading dust and dirt around your home, rather than sucking it up. So don’t neglect those filters!

How To Clean and Maintain Your Vacuum

If your vacuum has a squishy foam filter, those can usually be washed by hand and reused again. This should be done once every couple of months. Let it air dry, but make sure it is COMPLETELY dry before replacing it. Forcing dusty air through a still-damp filter can encourage the growth of mold and mildew, and it will make your vacuum smell unpleasantly musty while you’re using it (unfortunately I’m speaking from personal experience here!)

How To Clean and Maintain Your Vacuum

Many modern vacuums also have a cartridge-style HEPA filter, usually made of special pleated paper or similar materials. These filters generally cannot be washed, and should be replaced about twice per year.

Check the owner’s manual for your vacuum for full details how and when to clean or replace your vacuum’s filters. If you don’t have the owner’s manual handy, most vacuum manufacturers make them available to download on their website. (A quick Google search of your vacuum’s make and model should point you in the right direction!)

How To Clean and Maintain Your Vacuum

Step 3 – Inspect Brushes, Belts, and Hoses

The brush on the bottom of your vacuum can pick up hair, string, and all sorts of other things over time. If it gets too clogged up, it won’t be able to pick up dirt and dust as effectively, so it’s important to keep it clean. The secret to easily cleaning your vacuum’s brush is to use a seam ripper. Run a seam ripper through the hair tangled around the brush, and then you’ll be able to pull it out much more easily.

How To Clean and Maintain Your Vacuum

While you’re addressing the brush, inspect the belt that turns the brush. If the belt is feels loose or is tearing or breaking at all, it should be replaced. You can find replacement belts online pretty easily, and they’re very inexpensive.

How To Clean and Maintain Your Vacuum

You should also take a look at your vacuum’s hose to make sure that there’s nothing clogging it up. If you can remove it from the vacuum, that will make the job a lot easier.

How To Clean and Maintain Your Vacuum

Step 4 – Wipe It Down

Once the brushes, belts, hoses, and filters have been inspected and/or cleaned, the last step is to clean up the outside of the vacuum. Take a clean, damp microfiber cloth and wipe down the exterior of your vacuum. Make sure to pay special attention to places where different pieces connect, so that the vacuum is able to create a tight seal when you’re using it.

How To Clean and Maintain Your Vacuum

Rubbing alcohol is a great thing to keep on hand when you’re cleaning your vacuum, too. Saturate a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol, and use the cotton ball to wipe down the bottom of your vacuum.

How To Clean and Maintain Your Vacuum

This will disinfect that area, so that you aren’t accidentally dragging bacteria from room to room. You can also use rubbing alcohol to buff out any scuff marks on the outside of your vacuum.

Following these steps regularly should mean a long and productive life for your vacuum. But if you ever run into an issue that you’re not sure you can fix on your own, call your local vacuum repair shop. Most issues can be fixed quickly and inexpensively.

How To Clean and Maintain Your Vacuum

And if you’re looking to upgrade to a new vacuum, following the steps above can be a great way to clean your old one up before a garage or yard sale. Your vacuum will be much more valuable to potential buyers if it looks clean and well cared for.

Read This Next

Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Homekeeping Tips

  • I just bought this brand of vacuum cleaner, so I was thrilled to see this post. I found that a swiffer duster is really handy to clean out the remaining dust and dirt in the dustcup. Thanks again Jillee! I’m learning so much from you.

  • Good tips, always take your vacuum roller apart and clean everything you can get at, do this outdoors. It’s best to do when the bag is changed out. The best vacuum we use is a Panasonic from the 1980’s this sounds crazy but it”s unbelievably quiet and picks up most everything in two passes. It has outlasted 3 newer machines and they don’t pickup near as good.

  • Great post… I have that same model vacuum. By far the best one I’ve ever had. Do you have a recommendation on how to restore the floor pads? I wash them regularly and rotate them so I’m not using the same one all the time. But they just don’t look very clean after washing.

  • My Bissell recently got clogged up. I tried everything to remove the clog. Eventually the clog was so far in, that nothing would reach it. I finally got a zip-it, the plastic strip to get hair out of the drain. Took me about 2 minutes to clean it out!

  • Of course, I read this right after vacuuming and putting it away LOL. I WILL be dragging it back out to clean it though. This was really a fantastic post and something I don’t think most people knew could be done to the degree that you have shown! Thank you again!
    Make it a great day!

  • I am so happy to see that other people have dirty vacuums also. Mine is hideous, and I clean it every time I use it. I’m going the extra mile with essential oils. I also didn’t know that you could fill the dirt canister with soapy water.

    Thanks a million for this great post.

  • To quote Theresa “I have always dreaded having anyone else using my vacuum. I empty my canister multiple times during cleaning, we have pets, but it seems everyone else doesn’t.”

    I am in the same boat. Does anyone know how to get rid of a pet smell that fills the air when the vacuum is being used? People who will remain nameless have used it to vacuum everything and anything!

    I had my husband take it apart clean it and put in all new filters, but it is still terrible. It’s only a couple of years old. I hate to spend another couple of hundred for a new one that my end up the same way.
    Ant help would be appreciated.

    • I too have pets, and work at keeping the vacuum clean, I also use essential oils on small pieces of paper, and as they are sucked in, they clean the air. An alcohol wipe into crevices and canister help before using the oils.
      I use a purification one, or tea tree oil, and or lemon,
      I really disliked that I could vacuum and then it smelled like pets more than clean.
      Hope this helps.

    • Nikki, in my experience I have found if I empty the canister after each use and use clean filters each time there is no odor. I also go over my carpet twice once to get all of the big stuff emptying often when I see movement slow in the canister, and a second time to get the deep down dirt. The forward push I pick up surface dirt and fluff the fibers to loosen fine soil. The backward stroke I pick up the loosened and deeper soil. Sometimes it’s this deep fine soil holding onto odors. I Pick a 4×4 area and go over it a few times with slow steady movements (moving my vacuum slowly seems to allow my vacuum to do its job even better!) , empty canister, and repeat until I no longer extract dirt. This gives me an idea of how heavily to vacuum my carpet. If I continue to have an odor issue with my vacuum or carpet I know it’s time to get it sanitized (baking soda works for me ) or cleaned (usually I do it 2x per year ~ Hope this helps!

  • Jillee, I have always dreaded having anyone else using my vacuum. I empty my canister multiple times during cleaning, we have pets, but it seems everyone else doesn’t. Not only is the job not well done, but I’m usually left with a clogged vac and a 10 minute cleaning before I can even use it again. I have 2 filters on my Bissell so I keep extras of each on hand. The foam one I change with each use. The “paper” one is now rinse and reuse- but I have to say I’ve been doing that all along! I Just knock out any extra dust and gently rinse with warm water and a drop of soap. Jillee, I agree they must be COMPLETELY dry, and that’s why I have extra. I’ll always have clean,dry filters! Thanks for the great tutorial! I hope everyone shares your article with everyone,LOL.

  • Hello everyone! if you don’t have a seam ripper carefully use a sharp blade – it works faster than a seam ripper…just swipe across with a sharp blade and everything splits and its easy to pull off.

  • Good Morning- We have similar machines and I try to keep up with cleaning practices. I will go the next steps with the alcohol wipe down – have a family who may be bringing in germs on her feet. But my question is regarding the vacuum hose. Do you have any suggestions on cleaning in the inside of it. Best just to soak and rinse ? Thanks! Lori

    • If you want to get the inside of the hose really clean, you could get a brush made for cleaning CPAP tubes. Google CPAP and you’ll find sites with supplies.

  • I had an old Hoover which was wonderful in the past but heavy and clunky. Finally found a good deal and upgraded to a Shark from Costco and what a light, fast, strong, agile, multipurpose machine it is…And reasonably priced to boot. Will keep these tips in mind, but as an ICU nurse, the really resistant bacteria doesn’t often respond to alcohol. Soap and water or a strong disinfectant is better if you really believe you may have a problem. That said, if you have tenacious bacteria on your floor, vacuuming is the least of your worries and it won’t really take care of it anyway!

  • >