Can You Vacuum Broken Glass? Here's How to Handle It

Broken glass being swept up with broom

The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

How can one small shattered glass tumbler or lightbulb create so many tiny pieces of glass? When a breakable item hits the floor or a countertop, glass pieces seem to scatter to every corner of the room. Your first instinct may be to grab the vacuum cleaner to clean up the mess as quickly as possible. But, is it safe to vacuum glass?

The quick answer is it depends on the type of vacuum. Learn which types of vacuums can safely be used to vacuum glass and other recommended methods to get rid of every tiny piece of glass.

Type of Vacuum  Safe for Vacuuming Glass
Vacuum With Hose No
Handheld Vacuum (Dustbuster) Yes
Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum Yes

Tip: Never Use a Vacuum With a Flexible Hose

Using your vacuum with a flexible hose to suction away glass can ruin the hoses in the machine. Even if you pick up the larger pieces by hand, the sharp edges of glass shards can cut the vacuum hose. A tiny slit in the hose will cause the vacuum to lose suction causing it to be ineffective in suctioning away dust and dirt.

Many vacuums have powerheads with beater brushes to help loosen dirt embedded in carpet fibers. The beaters or rollers can cause the glass shards to scatter even further or the glass can become embedded in the roller.

How to Vacuum Glass With a Handheld Vacuum

  1. Sweep Up Large Pieces

    Begin by using a broom and dustpan to sweep up the large pieces of glass. Dispose of them in a thick paper or plastic bag. Try to remove as much of the glass as possible before moving on to the handheld vacuum.

    Broom sweeping up broken pieces of glass from floor

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  2. Use a Handheld Vacuum

    If you have a handheld vacuum that does not use a flexible hose, you can vacuum away shards of glass. Be sure that all filters and the collection cup or bag are firmly in place. Since you will probably be working close to the floor and the shattered glass, it's a good idea to wear eye protection, thick gloves, and sturdy shoes. In the brightest light available, work slowly and methodically in a grid to capture as much glass as possible.

    Handheld vacuum cleaning up small shards of glass from floor

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  3. Dispose Of the Glass

    When you are finished, carefully empty the collection cup into a thick paper or plastic trash bag for disposal. If the vacuum uses a disposable collection bag, place it in a trash bag and dispose of the bag immediately.

    Broken glass pieces collected inside brown paper bag

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

How to Vacuum Glass With a Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum

A wet/dry shop vacuum that can handle water and metal shavings can also vacuum glass. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines for operation and follow these tips for any brand of shop vacuum:

  1. Sweep the Glass Into a Pile

    First, be sure to wear safety goggles and thick shoes when vacuuming glass. Be sure there are no blockages in the hose or collection port. Wearing thick gloves, pick up the large pieces of glass before vacuuming and sweep as much of the glass as possible into a small pile. Use a dustpan to dispose of the glass.

    Broken glass pieces swept up with broom

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  2. Vacuum Remaining Glass on Low

    To clean up the remaining pieces of glass, begin vacuuming on the low setting and move to the highest suction level to capture the smallest shards. Use a bright, LED light held at different angles to be sure you have gotten rid of all of the glass.

    Wet/dry shop vacuum cleaning up small broken pieces of glass

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  3. Dispose of Glass in Thick Trash Bag

    Use a disposable collection liner when vacuuming glass for easier clean-up. Wear gloves when removing the liner from the shop vacuum and dispose of it in a thick trash bag.

    Broken glass pieces collected inside light blue trash bag

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

How to Clean Up Broken Glass Without a Vacuum

  1. Safety First

    Remove children and pets from the area. Put on thick shoes, eye protection, and sturdy gloves before cleaning.

    Eye protection glass held in gloved hands

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  2. Work in Bright Light

    Turn on every light or use your cellphone flashlight to provide as much light as possible while you work. The glass will glitter in the bright light, making it much easier to capture.

    Bright light being shined on floor with broken glass pieces from phone

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  3. Use a Broom and Dustpan

    While wearing gloves, pick up the large pieces of glass. Place the pieces in a heavy paper or plastic bag for disposal. Use a stiff-bristled broom to sweep the shards into a dustpan. Use short, efficient strokes to prevent the small pieces from scattering around the room.

    Broom sweeping up pieces of glass into dustpan

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  4. Capture the Tiny Shards

    There are several ways to pick up the tiniest shards once you have finished sweeping:

    • Layer three sheets of paper towels and fold them into a square. Dampen and press the square onto the glass shards. They will stick to the paper towel for easy disposal.
    • Press a slice of fresh bread onto the glass shards. Be sure to dispose of it promptly (no one needs to nibble on that bread).
    • Wearing gloves, wrap some duct tape around your hand with the sticky side out. Press the tape on the glass and then carefully toss it in the garbage bag.
    • Use a sticky lint roller to pick up the glass. A roller designated for pet hair removal has a stronger adhesive and will do the best job at picking up the glass.
    Tiny pieces of glass picked up with sticky lint roller

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  5. Don't Forget to Do the Final Clean Up

    Once the glass is gone, carefully rinse off your broom and dustpan to remove any glass shards. Check and clean the bottom of your shoes to avoid tracking the glass through the house.

    Bottom of shoes wiped off with damp rag to remove glass pieces

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic