13 Ways You’re Shortening the Life of Your Vacuum Cleaner

Don't suck the life out of your vacuum cleaner—follow this advice to help it last longer and run more efficiently.

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Vacuum cleaner - Woman vacuuming living room carpet
Photo: Shutterstock

You don’t remove clogs

Do a quick visual check for clogs to the hose and wand after every time you use your vacuum cleaner. Unclogging your hoses not only improves suction power, but it can help the vacuum run more efficiently and last longer. If you can’t reach the jammed debris with your hand, use a mop handle or a gardening stake to push it through. An easy test: After detaching the hose and wand, try sliding a nickel through them. If it gets stuck, you know it’s clogged.

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Unplugging power cord from wall
Photo: Steve Cukrov / Shutterstock.com

Not winding up the cord after you’re finished

It’s easy to get lazy and leave the power cord out to get stepped on by family and pets. But by winding the cord into a tidy coil after vacuuming, you can prevent damage, while also avoiding potential hazards including electrocution for family pets or inquisitive crawlers who like to chew. If you don’t have time to wrap up the cord, at the very least, you should always unplug it.

Follow our healthy home checklist to eliminate potential hazards in every room.

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Vacuuming carpet with vacuum cleaner. Housework service. Close up of the head of a sweeper cleaning device.

You’re not detangling brushes

Most vacuum cleaners have rotating brushes at the intake port that kick dust and dirt loose from the carpet so they can get sucked up by the air stream. But when hair, pet fur, or loose strings gets trapped in the brushes, they can’t work as effectively. Using a small pair of scissors, gently cut through the debris to free up the brushes, then use a comb to smooth them out.

Here’s expert advice on how to clean the filthiest items in your home.

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A red vacum cleaner with old and new vacum filter bags laying on a white carpet floor with spacing on the left for text. Cleaning and maintenance concept.

Not replacing the bag or emptying the canister

Whether your vacuum uses a bag, canister, or cup, an overfilled unit will run less efficiently and not last as long. While it’s easy to tell when a bagless unit is full, it can be harder to tell when a vacuum bag needs replacing. If you notice a drop in suction, it could be a sign it’s full of lightweight, fluffy material such as pet hair. For maximum performance and to make your vacuum last longer, replace the bag or emptying the canister or cup when it is half to two-thirds full.

Find out what professional cleaners do every day to keep their own homes spotless.

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Person's Hand Removing Dust Bag From Vacuum Cleaner

You’re not changing out or cleaning the filters

Each vacuum is different, but your manual should indicate how often filters need to be replaced or cleaned. Many vacuum models come with an accordion-shaped paper filter and a sponge-like ring filter. For units with washable filters, be sure to follow the washing guidelines from the manual. Of course, the frequency will vary depending on how often you vacuum and how messy your floors are. If the filter looks dirty, it’s time to switch it out or clean it.

Here are nine places you should be vacuuming (but aren’t).

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Vacuuming carpet with vacuum cleaner. Dirt on the rug. Housework service. Close up of the head of a sweeper cleaning device.

You’re not replacing the drive belt

This belt wraps around the beater brush allowing it to turn. If it’s not working correctly, the beater brush won’t loosen dirt and debris from the carpet fibres. By flipping the power-head over, you can glance at the belt, looking for tears or cracks. If the belt looks loose, that’s another sign it’s time for a new belt.

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side view of young man fixing broken vacuum cleaner at home
LightField Studios/Shutterstock

Using the wrong setting

Most vacuum cleaners have different settings depending on the type of flooring you are cleaning, i.e. wood or carpet. If you’re using the wrong setting, this can render the vacuum cleaner less effective and may shorten the life of your unit. “Setting your vacuum on the lowest setting may not be the best option to get enough airflow for the suction action,” reports Angie’s List.

Are you making this expensive mistake with your vacuum?

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Washing tools for floor. Vacuum cleaner tools above top view

Storing attachments separately

Attachments usually come with a storage spot, either on the vacuum itself or in a separate box or bag, yet it’s easy to get lazy. Sometimes, we leave a dusting brush or an upholstery tool on the side table instead of walking it down to the hall closet. Not that big of a deal, right? Until it gets lost or stolen by your puppy for her new chew toy. By storing the attachments together with the vacuum cleaner in a safe spot, parts are less likely to be damaged or get lost.

These home organizing hacks could come in handy!

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Picking up building blocks before vacuuming
Photo: olgsera / Shutterstock.com

Not pre-cleaning the areas

To stretch out the life of your vacuum cleaner, give the room a once-over. Move backpacks, socks, or clothing with drawstrings to prevent them from catching in the belt. While you can turn off the vacuum and pull them out, over time it could loosen the belt and shorten the life of your vacuum cleaner. Next, check for fallen food items like chips or cookies or small toys like building bricks. Scoop them before vacuuming the area.

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Vintage upright vacuum
Photo: Martin Bergsma / Shutterstock.com

Not stopping when there’s smoke

This might seem really obvious, but sometimes we get into turbo-mode—pushing the vacuum beyond its limits. Then even when we smell smoke, we optimistically assume we can fit in just one more room before problem-solving. But prevention is key. “When stress to the motor is present, the motor heats up and usually burns the belt, causing smoke,” suggests Do It Yourself. They advise cutting the burnt belt off with scissors, then replacing it before continuing to vacuum.

Discover 30 nearly-forgotten house cleaning tips from the past.

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Vacuuming mistakes - woman with vacuum holding baby
Photo: PH888 / Shutterstock.com

Using it too often

Think about what’s making your floors dirty in the first place, then try to circumvent it so you can use your vacuum cleaner less frequently. Try storing your shoes in a bin by the front door, for instance. Other tricks: Instead of taking snacks to your TV-room, eat at your kitchen table so you don’t get crumbs everywhere, and brush pets outdoors on a regular basis to decrease the amount of pet hair on your floors and furniture.

These homemade carpet stain removers might come in handy, too.

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Not using a surge protector

These aren’t just for your computers or TVs. According to Lightning Bug Electric, a surge protector can “prevent an electronic shortage from spurts of electricity that go beyond the voltage limits.” The stronger the burst, the more likely your vacuum can get damaged. Causes of power surges vary from downed power lines to lightning storms.

Check out the power bar mistakes everyone makes.

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User manual book on the table
Wor Sang Jun/Shutterstock

Not reading the manual

Many people skip reading the manual until there is a problem, but by then it might be too late. Each company’s manual contains important safety instructions and warnings, such as “Do not handle the machine or plug with wet hands.” Pretty obvious—sure—but it could save your life. They also give troubleshooting tips for how to care for and maintain your vacuum cleaner along with warranty information, which is especially important if you are switching to a new brand.

Next, find out 13 things you should never vaccuum.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest