Your Vacuum Works Fine—You’re Just Not Vacuuming Correctly

published Oct 6, 2020
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People often talk about their most dreaded chores around the house, like cleaning the oven or scrubbing the toilet. Any spoonful of sugar that makes those onerous tasks go down is most definitely a welcome tip or trick—whether it’s a strategy like remembering to dust before wiping down the toilet or a hack like using dryer sheets to clean your oven grates.

What people don’t talk about as often is the chores they actually enjoy—or, at least, detest less. You might like those to-dos because they have an immediate visible result, like cleaning glass or mirrors, or they’re just plain easy to accomplish. Vacuuming falls under both these categories: a freshly fluffed rug or a newly spotless floor are instant look-lifters and making them happen involves little more than pushing a suction stick around, right?

Well, your middling technique might be giving you middling results. You might even be wondering if you should spring for a better vacuum cleaner (read: that more expensive machine that everyone seems to have but you) because vacuuming doesn’t seem to be quite as effective as it used to be.

Not so fast. Before you spring for a new machine, check through this list of common vacuuming mistakes that could be sabotaging your attempts. Here are some common vacuuming mistakes:

Mistake #1: Vacuuming too fast

Heaving your vacuum cleaner to and fro on carpeting and floors might seem to result in a better clean, but you’re really robbing your unit of the ability to suck as much dust and debris from your floors as it can—especially out of your carpets. Slowing down not only allows you to see and capture every errant dust bunny and crumb, but also gives the machine more time to suck up dirt. Be methodical and deliberate and remember that, as with so many things, the tortoise wins the vacuum cleaning race.

Mistake #2: Not vacuuming in different directions

Vacuum methodically, yes. And then change directions. Although this strategy can help ensure you don’t miss any spots on hard floors, it’s especially pertinent when running the vacuum cleaner over carpeting. As you push the vacuum cleaner head over the fibers of the carpet, you’re also pushing and pulling them back and forth in one direction. Dust and dirt can cling to fibers and “hide” unless you turn perpendicularly and/or diagonally. This also helps give your rugs that coveted fluffy-clean you might have been missing.

Mistake #3: Not sweeping first

We have vacuum cleaners so that we don’t need to sweep anymore, right? Nope. Making it a habit to quickly sweep before you vacuum means you can get to those toe-kick areas in the kitchen and around the corners of baseboards, areas that most vacuum heads can’t quite reach thoroughly, particularly if you don’t follow up with the nozzle attachment. Sweeping also helps guarantee you aren’t accidentally leaving things that are too big or that could damage your vacuum on the floor.

Mistake #4: Not picking up large items first

I once knew a parent who would just vacuum up her kids’ LEGOs if they left them on the floor. Well, not only is this going to make the kids sad the next time they’re looking for that one piece they need to finish their Technic race car, but it’s also not good for your machine. Before you vacuum, take a look at the space you’ll clean and pick up things like paperclips, rubber bands, pine straw (ask me how I know), glass, or larger pieces of paper that could either chip the machine’s components, wrap around the brush bar, get stuck, or otherwise harm your unit.

Mistake #5: Vacuuming with a bin that’s too full

A bin that’s too full is the most common reason for a unit that seems to have lost its suction. Not only does an overloaded bin affect performance in the short-term, but it can damage the unit, and badly, over time by causing the motor to overheat. This mistake can shorten the overall life of your vacuum cleaner. Always make sure to empty the bin or replace the bag by the time it gets to the full line.

Mistake #6: Not cleaning your filter

Like over-full bins or bags, clogged air filters restrict air flow, resulting in a unit that loses suction. If you’ve never replaced or washed your filter, doing it could drastically improve performance. Disposable filters should be replaced, on average, about every six months. Washable filters should be washed about every one to three months. As always, check your owner’s manual for specifics regarding your machine.

Correcting these common vacuuming mistakes will not only save you from having to spend money on a new machine, they’ll make your current one run like new.