How to Clean a Vacuum Cleaner

Disinfecting and Deodorizing Your Daily Cleaning Tool

vacuum cleaner in a living room

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 25 mins
  • Total Time: 2 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Whether you have a canister, upright, or hand vacuum, learn how to deep clean a vacuum regularly for optimum performance. If you don't clean your vacuum, it will capture all the dust and soil on your floor because the filters, hoses, and beater bars are clogged. In that case, you're just spreading the dust around with a soiled cleaning tool.

We'll cover how to clean every type of vacuum and address how to care for the different types of filters. Many vacuums have a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter that traps 99.97 percent of particulates larger than .3 microns. Made of finely-woven synthetic fibers, HEPA filters usually cannot be washed at home and must be replaced. Refer to your manual for the suggested frequency of replacement.

However, almost every vacuum does have one or more sponge-like filters that can and should be washed regularly.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Seam ripper or small scissors
  • Small bucket or basin

Materials

  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Hot water
  • Microfiber cloth or sponge
  • Compressed air
  • Essential oil (optional)

Instructions

materials for cleaning a vacuum

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Instructions for Cleaning a Vacuum

  1. Unplug the Vacuum

    When it's time to do a thorough cleaning, unplug the vacuum or remove it from its charging station.

    You may wish to clean your vacuum outside to prevent spreading dust in your home.

    unplugging the vacuum

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  2. Empty the Bag or Dust Cup

    You can't clean a vacuum bag. If your vacuum has a disposable bag, remove it and throw it away. For vacuums that use a dust cup or bin, empty out the container. Disassemble as many parts of the dust cup as you can for easier cleaning. Refer to your instruction manual for help. If you can't find your manual, you can usually find instructions online.

    emptying the bag

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  3. Mix a Cleaning Solution

    You can clean certain removable components of your vacuum with a cleaning solution, but never wash the inside of your vacuum cleaner or it could damage the motor.

    Fill a sink or large basin with hot water and add one teaspoon of dishwashing liquid. If possible, choose a product that also contains a degreaser to cut through any residue in the dust cup.

    mixing a cleaning solution

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  4. Wash the Dust Bin or Cup

    Completely submerge the removed dust bin in the hot, soapy water. Allow it to soak for at least 10 minutes. Use a sponge or microfiber cloth to clean the inside and outside of the bin. Rinse well with hot water and allow to air-dry.

    Warning

    Do not submerge any electrical components or non-washable filters in water.

    washing the dust cup

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  5. Clean or Replace Filters

    Cleaning vacuum filters should be done regularly. Many vacuums have lights that indicate when a filter should be cleaned or changed. Learn where the filters are located (many vacuums have more than one) and whether they can be washed or need to be replaced.

    Most sponge-like filters are washable. Remove the filter from the vacuum and shake it out over a garbage bin. To clean, rinse under a cool, running faucet to flush out as much dust and dirt as possible. The filter may still look soiled. Gently press out excess water with paper towels. Lay the filter flat on a rack to dry. Allow up to 24 hours for drying. Replace the filter into the vacuum.

    cleaning the vacuum filter

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  6. Wipe Down the Vacuum Housing

    Use a slightly damp microfiber cloth to wipe down the vacuum housing. If you see dust in crevices you cannot reach, use compressed air to blow it away.

    wiping down the vacuum exterior

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  7. Detangle the Beater Bar and Inspect Motor Belt

    Cleaning the vacuum head (at the base of the vacuum) involves the removal of any tangled hairs or threads from the beater bar by using a seam ripper or very small, sharp scissors. If the brushes look crushed or worn, consider replacing them.

    Wipe down the motor belt with a damp cloth to remove dust. If it seems loose or cracked, it is time to replace the belt.

    inspecting the beater bar

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  8. Clean the Hose and Attachments

    If your vacuum has a suction hose, it will trap dust inside. Clean a vacuum hose by detaching it if you can. Then submerge it in hot, soapy water for 10 or 15 minutes. Rinse well with hot water and hang to "drip dry".

    Tip

    If your hose is clogged, use a yardstick, broomstick, or garden hose to dislodge the clump of debris. Work slowly and carefully so you will not puncture the hose.

    Inspect and clean attachments like the upholstery or dusting brush, crevice tool, turbo brush, and extension wand for clogs, tangled hairs, and dust.

    This is a good time to check the vacuum cord for cracks that may cause problems.

    cleaning the hose

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  9. Reassemble Vacuum

    Once everything is clean and dry, reassemble the vacuum.

    reassembling the vacuum

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Tip

If you have a vacuum that smells, here's how to clean it. Get it fresh again by putting a few drops of your favorite essential oil on the vacuum's filter and it will smell good again while you're vacuuming.

How Often to Clean a Vacuum

Bagless vacuums that use a dust cup or bin should be emptied when the debris level reaches the top of the cup or after every use. Vacuum bags should be removed and discarded when captured debris reaches the indicated full line.

At least quarterly, or monthly if your home is very dusty, take a few minutes to check the brush rollers and hose for problems, wash out the dust cup, change or wash filters, and wipe down the outer housing to remove dust.

Disinfecting Your Vacuum Cleaner

Take these steps to clean and sanitize a vacuum cleaner:

  1. Frequently wipe down your vacuum with an antibacterial wipe.
  2. Soak removable bins, cups, and hoses for 15 minutes in soapy water to quickly sanitize the parts.
  3. Spray the removable components using a warm water and bleach mix. Add a tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach into a small spray bottle filled with warm tap water. Shake the bottle and spray on the component. It's best to let the vacuum part air-dry to fully sanitize the surface.
  4. Pop out your brush from the vacuum head, clean out the hair and dirt particles, then spray it with a disinfectant, whether it's store-bought or DIY. Let the spray dry thoroughly before vacuuming another area.
FAQ
  • Should you vacuum first or dust first?

    It's best to dust the room first. That way the particles that float in the air can settle down on the floor and you can vacuum them up. Heavier particles fall first and faster than lighter and more respirable particles. Wait at least 15 minutes, if not longer, to vacuum after dusting.

  • Should you vacuum daily?

    It's not necessary to vacuum daily. However, if you have pets, a busy household, or members of the household who work in dirty jobs, it may be wise to vacuum daily. You will not damage a rug by vacuuming it daily.

  • Do vacuums spread germs?

    If you don't disinfect your vacuum's brush and bristles, it's a possibility the vacuum is spreading some germs. In addition, if the vacuum spits out a bit of dust due to a dirty filter, a clog in the hose, or an overstuffed bin, it could be releasing allergens into the air.