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6 Things You Should Never Do With Your Vacuum Cleaner

Person with vacuum cleaner

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Few household appliances get more use than a vacuum cleaner. We depend on them through thick and thin to swoop in and suck up the worst messes life can create. But there's a limit to how much abuse these usually sturdy machines can take. No matter what kind of vacuum cleaner you own, there are several actions you should avoid to ensure that the machine is always ready when you need it.

Here are six things you should never do with your vacuum cleaner.

  • 01 of 06

    Vacuum up Hard Objects

    Most of us have done it: While vacuuming the house, we spot a penny, screw, or small stone on the floor, and rather than stopping to pick it up, we simply run the machine over the obstacle and hope for the best.

    But this can be a big mistake. These hard objects can cause serious damage to the interior of the machine or become lodged in areas where it will be difficult to remove. True, such a mistake may not ruin the vacuum cleaner every time, and some machines are pretty good at accepting this kind of abuse, but one time can be more than enough to ruin an expensive vacuum cleaner. Avoid the risk, and always pick up hard objects manually.

  • 02 of 06

    Vacuum up Liquids

    Regular vacuum cleaners are not designed to pick up water and other liquids. If you are ever tempted to run the vacuum cleaner over a puddle of water, remember that you run the risk of electrocution and serious damage to the machine. Even if you avoid disaster, you'll have a nasty mess on your hands when it comes time to empty the dust bin or bag.

    Wet-dry vacuums, also known as shop vacs, on the other hand, are specially designed to pick up water and other liquids without risking your life or that of the machine. Wet-dry vacuums are relatively inexpensive and can be a great addition for those emergency situations where you need to vacuum up spills or puddles. But never use a regular vacuum cleaner to do this job.

  • 03 of 06

    Run the Vacuum When Overfilled

    It should go without saying: When the dust bin or bag is at capacity, it needs to be emptied. If you don't, the performance of the vacuum cleaner will be drastically reduced and you run the risk of overheating and damaging the machine. Yet, all too often, we're in a hurry and figure the full bag can handle just one more chore. Then one more. And another.

    If you notice the vacuum cleaner doesn't seem to have as much suction, check the bag or bin first. Most of the time, emptying these can make a huge difference in how well your vacuum is operating. Regular emptying will also reduce stress on the motor, thereby lengthening the life of the machine.

  • 04 of 06

    Running Over the Cord

    Vacuum cleaner cords are tough and can usually withstand some trauma, but running a vacuum cleaner with a spinning brush over an electrical cord is a bad idea. That same motion that forces the dirt up into your vacuum cleaner can fray or damage the exterior of the cord. Over time, even the best cords will start to show damage, making them unsafe for use.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Throw Away the Machine Prematurely

    Maybe your vacuum cleaner isn't picking up dirt the way it used to. If you just assume that it's old and needs to be replaced, you could be very wrong. A number of easy solutions can return the machine to perfect operation.

    First, try checking the dust bin or bag. When full or nearly full, many vacuum cleaners will begin to perform poorly. If emptying that doesn't work, you may have a blockage in the vacuum cleaner. Unplug the machine, and do some detective work. Is the hose blocked? What about the openings where the hose goes into the machine?

    Is the brush roll turning freely, or is there a build-up of hair and carpet fibers that needs to be removed? Cleaning the brush roll can magically rejuvenate a vacuum cleaner. Regular inspection and maintenance of your vacuum cleaner will keep it running like brand new.

  • 06 of 06

    Assume the Motor Is Broken

    Did your vacuum cleaner suddenly turn off in the middle of a cleaning session? Does it do so repeatedly? It's easy to assume such performance means the motor is burning out, and you might respond by shopping for a new vacuum cleaner.

    But it's more likely that the vacuum cleaner motor has simply overheated due to a full dust bin or bag or that hair or fibers have locked up the brush roll and caused overheating. Check for these issues as well as for clogs, and then try to turn the machine back on. Your vacuum may have an automatic shutoff feature that shuts down the motor when it overheats; it may start back up once it cools down.

    Be aware that some models have a manual reset button that needs to be pushed in order to reset the motor. Refer to your manufacturer for instructions on how to reset your model.

    To prevent such shut-downs, regularly inspect the various parts of the machine: dust bin or bag, hoses, hose connections, and the brush roll.