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13 Things You Should Never Vacuum

Vacuuming may seem like a quick solution for any spill, but these things are better left for the broom.

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Freshly-washed lettucePhoto: Shutterstock

Never Vacuum Wet foods

Some kitchen spills can be cleaned with a vacuum, like sugar and salt. Others, like fresh produce, baked beans, and potato salad, cannot. They can clog the vacuum just based on their size and damage the motor because of their moisture. What’s worse, the foods could spoil inside your vacuum and start to smell. You don’t want to be stuck cleaning up that mess!

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Used coffee groundsPhoto: Shutterstock

Used Coffee Grounds

All coffee drinkers know the struggles of cleaning out the old coffee maker, unless you’ve given into the coffee-pods craze. Wet coffee grounds are a pain to clean, but don’t make that a job for your vacuum. They can clog pipes, ruin the motor, and spurn mildew growth inside the machine.

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What not to vacuum - fallen houseplant leavesPhoto: Shutterstock

Plant debris

Dead leaves and flowers that fall off houseplants could easily clog your machine. Pick them up by hand instead.

These genius hacks can help bring a dead houseplant back to life.

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Fireplace ashPhoto: Shutterstock

Fireplace ash

Sucking up fireplace ash with a vacuum is basically the opposite of cleaning. The particles are so fine that they could get blown out the back of the machine and right into the air. Good Housekeeping suggests covering them with wet coffee grounds before sweeping them up so you don’t inhale any potentially harmful dust.

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SawdustPhoto: Shutterstock

Construction dust

Home renovations are a big undertaking, but don’t try to breeze through the cleanup with a vacuum. Like fireplace ash, construction debris is made up of fine particles that can burn out the motor or get released back into the air. Sweep it all up to keep your vacuum—and yourself—safe.

You’ll wish you knew these home improvement hacks sooner!

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Canadian coinsPhoto: Shutterstock

Coins and small toys

These are things you probably wouldn’t vacuum up on purpose. That’s why it’s extra important for you to check your floors before your hit that power button, especially if you have young kids. Small objects that get sucked up could break into pieces, cut the bag, or wreck the vacuum’s motor—or do all three.

Don’t miss these cleaning tips from professional house cleaners.

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Condensation on woodPhoto: Shutterstock


Vacuuming up liquids is an expensive mistake. At the very least, the machine will undergo certain damage. Investing in a wet/dry vacuum designed to handle these problems is one solution, but there are plenty of other ways to clean spilled liquid: a mop, almost any Swiffer product, paper towels, regular towels, washcloths—you get the idea.

Find out 13 cleaning mistakes you didn’t know you were making.

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Electrical cordsPhoto: Shutterstock

Electrical cords

It may not seem like a big deal to quickly vacuum over a cord so you can get that hard-to-reach corner, but it is. Over time, the vacuum can break apart the cord’s exterior and eventually expose the dangerous wires inside. Cords for vacuums themselves are usually more heavy duty, but they can suffer the same damage.

Learn how to corral that mess of cords with these genius home organizing hacks.

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MakeupPhoto: Shutterstock


Eyeshadow, bronzer, foundation, blush, even broken bits of lipstick—none of these things should ever go in your vacuum. They could melt inside the machine and cause serious damage.

Find out how to clean a bathroom with an arsenal of DIY cleaning supplies.

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Soil from plantPhoto: Shutterstock


When your family’s shoes track dirt and soil inside your clean home, you may be tempted to get out the vacuum. Bad idea. You could stain your carpet and cause the particles to get embedded even deeper into the material. Wet soil could also cause problems for the motor.

Learn the 13 secrets of people who always have a clean house.

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Clumps of hairPhoto: Shutterstock

Clumps of hair

As someone with long, thick locks that shed constantly, I can honestly say vacuuming large amounts of hair just isn’t worth it. It clogs up the machine, and you’ll need to fish it all out just to make the vacuum work properly again. Gross. Save yourself time and extra effort by sweeping it up or, if it’s on a rug or carpet, just use your hands.

On the other hand, these are the places you’re not vacuuming—but should be!

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Shredded paperPhoto: Shutterstock

Shredded paper

Vacuuming up heaps of shredded paper is just as bad as heaps of hair, leading to a clogged machine and a screwed-up motor. A broom is the best solution to this mess, unless the shredded paper is on a carpet, in which case you may just need to use your hands. Good luck.

Are you making this expensive mistake with your vacuum?

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Broken glassPhoto: Shutterstock

Large pieces of glass

Cleaning up broken glass is always a precarious, but copping out by doing the job with a vacuum can ruin the inside of your machine. Throw away big pieces by hand (wear thick gloves if you’re afraid of getting cut) or just sweep it all up.

Now that you know what not to vacuum, find out the surprising ways you’re shortening the life of your vacuum.

The Family Handyman
Originally Published on The Family Handyman