How to Clean Your Vacuum

Medically Reviewed by Sanjay Ponkshe on May 25, 2024
4 min read

Vacuuming is an important part of maintaining indoor air quality, particularly if anyone in your family has allergies. Depending on how often you vacuum, you may use your vacuum cleaner many times in a year. Cleaning a vacuum will extend its life and performance, so it can keep your house clean for years to come. 

Before you start cleaning your vacuum, gather the following supplies: 

  • New bags if your vacuum uses them
  • New filter if your vacuum uses disposable filters
  • Scissors or a box knife for cutting away hair from your brush roller
  • Compressed air for dusting
  • Pipe cleaners for reaching difficult spots
  • Cloth to wipe down your vacuum
  • Spray cleaner or mild dishwashing soap
  • Broom handle to clear the hose of clogs
  • Gloves to keep your hands clean
  • Mask to prevent you from inhaling dust

Empty your bag or bin. Start cleaning your vacuum by emptying the bag or canister. Never overfill your vacuum cleaner bag or bin because it can clog your vacuum and release dust back into your room. If you're using a bagless vacuum, make it a habit to empty it after every use. For vacuums that use bags, empty them before they get too full. If you notice a decrease in your vacuum's suction power, it can be a sign your bag needs to be emptied. 

Clean the filters. If your vacuum cleaner has disposable filters, just replace them. If they're reusable, they can usually be rinsed gently with cold water, but check with your owner's manual first. Set them aside to dry. Your vacuum cleaner probably has several filters, including one designed to clean air before it gets to the motor and one that filters exhaust. 

Clean the roller brush. Check the brush on the vacuum head for tangled hair, strings, and other debris. Use your scissors or knife to cut away any stubborn tangles. 

Check for clogs. Straighten out your vacuum's hose and gently push a broom handle through it to dislodge any clogs. Don't use anything sharp to do this since you may puncture the hose.  You should also check the transfer points on the vacuum for clogs, such as the area where debris is sucked into the vacuum head on a cannister vacuum and the area where the stick meets the bin on a stick vacuum. Use compressed air or pipecleaners to clean those areas. 

Wipe down the vacuum cleaner parts. Use a soft cloth dampened with cleaning spray or warm, soapy water to wipe down the exposed parts of your vacuum and the attachments. You can use a soft brush to get to any hard-to-reach areas. Wipe out the bin of stick vacuums or the dirt canister of a bagless vacuum. 

If your filter is in a frame, gently knock it against the side of the trash can to dislodge the loose dust. Run it under cold water until the water runs clear. Set it aside overnight to dry. It's important to note that not all filters are reusable. Some filters are made of paper. You may be able to knock some of the dirt off a paper filter and then go over it with compressed air to clean it, but it will eventually need to be replaced. 

On the vacuum head, you may be able to remove the brush roller without completely taking apart the head. Cut away any tangles and wipe down the underside of the vacuum head with a damp cloth. You can also use a hand vacuum to clean the bristles on any of your attachments. Finally, wipe them all with a damp cloth and let them dry. 

Robotic vacuum cleaners often get a lot more use than conventional ones. You should clean your robovac about once a week or more if it vacuums more than five times per day. In order to do so:

Empty the dustbin. Remove and empty the dustbin and then wipe it out with a damp cloth. Let it dry completely before putting it back in. 

Clean the filter. Remove the filter and tap it gently against the trashcan. Use a soft brush or a vacuum to gently remove as much dust as possible. Most robovac filters can't get wet so don't rinse it in water. If your robovac has sucked up something wet or sticky, you'll probably need to replace the filter. 

Clean the brush rolls. Clean hair, strings, and any other debris from the brush roller and side brushes. Use scissors or a knife for stubborn strands. Check the inlet valve for hair or other clogs as well. 

Clean the sensors. Find the sensors of your vacuum by checking your owner's manual. Check the manufacturer's directions; most sensors can simply be wiped clean. Keeping the sensors clean will prevent your robotic vacuum from bumping into furniture and other objects.  

Clean the wheels. Remove any hair that's tangled around the wheels. If the wheels are removable, remove them and wipe down the axle. Wipe the wheels with a damp cloth and put them back on the machine.  

In general, the more you use your vacuum, the more often you'll need to clean it. You should empty the dustbin of a bagless vacuum every time you use it. Robotic vacuums should be cleaned every week or so. Check the manufacturer's recommendation about how often to clean or change your filter since it can vary widely. Otherwise, it's probably enough to clean your vacuum once a year. Of course, if you notice any performance issues, clean it more often.