How to Find and Repair a Vacuum Cleaner Leak

Yellow vacuum with hose leak repaired with clear tape

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Vacuum cleaners are the workhorses of household cleaning tools. While a fairly simple machine, all of the components must be air-tight to create the vacuum suction necessary to trap and hold dust and dirt. When that vacuum seal is broken by a leak in the hose or a malfunctioning gasket seal, you might as well go back to the broom and dustpan to clean floors. Or, you can identify the problem and make repairs.

Signs of a Vacuum Leak

When you notice that the dust cup or bag on the vacuum isn't as full as it usually is after cleaning or that dirt seems to scatter instead of being suctioned away, your vacuum either has a leak or a clog. Leaks must be repaired or the leaky component replaced for the vacuum to operate properly. Clogs can usually be located, broken apart, and easily removed.

Leak or Clog?

Leak
  • The air seems dusty while the vacuum is in use

  • Reduced dirt collection in the vacuum cup or bag

  • Loss of suction

Clog
  • Motor runs at a higher but quieter pitch

  • Reduced dirt collection in the vacuum cup or bag

How to Find a Vacuum Hose Leak

The vacuum hose is the component most likely to spring a leak. Hoses get stretched farther than they should, or they become brittle and crack.

To find a leak, run your fingers over the surface of the hose. You may be able to feel a bump, a rough spot, or a slit that is allowing air to leak out.

If you didn't find the leak, you will need to remove the hose from the vacuum, For canister vacuums, this is a simple process, but it can be more complicated on upright vacuums where one end of the hose is permanently attached. This usually requires unscrewing a panel to gain access to the hose coupling. Always refer to the user's manual or search the manufacturer's website for repair diagrams.

Take the hose to a large sink, bathtub, or outside to a bucket of water and fill the hose with water. Be sure to hold it from both ends so the water is trapped in the hose. With the hose in a U-shape, slosh the water back and forth until you can spot the area that is leaking.

If you cannot disconnect the hose from the vacuum, be sure to keep the motor components of the vacuum at a higher level than the water so that no moisture will enter the vacuum housing.

How to Repair a Vacuum Hose Leak

Small repairs can be made easily and let you get back to cleaning. However, the best solution is to replace the hose. Many home improvement stores carry replacement vacuum hoses, or one can be ordered from the manufacturer.

Leaks Near the End of the Hose

If the leak is located near the end of the hose, use a pair of pliers to remove the plastic connector from the end of the hose. Then, use a utility knife to cut off the end of the hose above the leak. Replace the connector and reattach the hose to the vacuum cleaner.

Warning

This repair technique will not work if the hose has machine-fitted plastic connectors. If you can't remove the connector easily, never cut away the area of the leak.

Leaks in the Center of the Hose

  1. For leaks in the center of the hose, duct tape is your best short-term fix-it tool. To get a good seal, clean the area around the leak with a sponge dipped in hot, soapy water to remove as much of the grease and dirt as possible. Allow the hose to dry completely before proceeding.
  2. The hose needs to be stretched so that you can apply the tape flatly over the slit and a significant area of the hose. A broom handle that you have sprinkled with talcum powder or cornstarch can help you stretch the hose. (The talcum powder or cornstarch keeps the duct tape from sticking to the broom.)
  3. Insert the broom handle and stretch out the leaky area. Use strips of duct tape to seal the crack. Overlap the strips to get the best seal.
  4. Sprinkle some talcum powder or cornstarch on the floor and vacuum it up. This will coat the interior of the hose repair and reduce the chance of clogs from dirt and hair sticking to the duct tape.
  5. If the repair begins to warp from the power of the suction, clean away the old tape and repeat the steps with fresh tape. Remember, this is a short-term repair until you can buy a new hose.

Repair or Replace Your Vacuum?

To get the best results from your vacuum, it should be cleaned regularly. A good cleaning can keep seals tight and flexible enough to create powerful suction.

Repairing a hose leak or replacing the entire hose is much less expensive than purchasing a new vacuum.

If the vacuum has stopped working completely or the repair is going to cost more than half of the cost of a new vacuum, it is probably time to buy a new vacuum.