5 Messes You Should Never Try to Clean Up With a Vacuum

published Jul 22, 2019
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Whether you have a standard vacuum, a stick vac, or a Roomba, you probably appreciate how efficiently vacuuming takes care of messes on your carpet or rugs. For most messes, any of these dirt-suckers are a safe choice—but to protect the integrity of your vacuum (and prevent an even bigger mess!) there are some things you’ll want to avoid altogether.

Here are five messes to avoid cleaning up with a vacuum:

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Dirt or plant debris

Since dirt and moisture can cause mold to form inside of a vacuum—and running a vacuum over moist dirt can cause it to engrain more deeply in the carpet—Jennifer Gregory, Brand Manager of Molly Maid, a Neighborly Company, says it’s generally best to avoid vacuuming plant messes. “If a plant or flowers tip over and spill, pick up as much of the leaves, petals, and dirt as possible with your hands,” she says. If the mess needs a vacuum, wait for the wet soil to dry completely first.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Fine powders and dust

Often, vacuums blow dusty, fine particles—like flour or construction dust—back into the air, making your work counterproductive. If you’re concerned about breathing in a particular substance, or making a bigger mess, Gregory suggests swap your vacuum for a broom and dustpan, or use a wet paper towel to clean up instead.

Small objects

Before vacuuming your carpet, always do a quick scan for small toys, coins, paperclips, or bobby pins on the floor. These items may seem too small to matter, but they can clog, or even break, your vacuum.

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Your standard vacuum isn’t a wet vac, so don’t treat it as such. It might be tempting to use your vacuum for liquids, but vacuuming a spill can cause mold to form inside the vacuum, or even electrocution. “Always make sure your floor is totally dry before any vacuuming takes place,” says Gregory.

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Broken glass

To prevent damage to your vacuum (or an injury to yourself), never vacuum glass shards—no matter how tiny they might be. “Vacuuming glass can do serious harm to the inside of your vacuum cleaner,” says Gregory. “Use a dustpan to collect glass to avoid the possibility of the glass puncturing the bag or getting stuck in the hose.”