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How To Clean Your Bagless Vacuum So It Sucks Like New Again

Don't waste money on a new machine. A nasty clog is likely to blame for your vacuum's poor performance.

No one has ever accused me of being a fabulous housekeeper, but I can say that the bagless vacuum in my home gets a ton of use. But after more than a year of sucking up dirt, crumbs, dog hair and the occasional loose change or hair tie (oops), it seemingly went kaput.

Panicked that I was going to have to drop more than $200 on a new vacuum, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I tore that thing apart, cleaning every nook and nozzle. Fortunately, I remembered how to put everything back together. And when I did, it worked like new ― maybe even better.

So if the suction on your vacuum has become, er, sucky, here’s the step-by-step guide to deep cleaning it and getting it back in working order (according to actual experts).

Here’s What You’ll Need

Abe Navas, general manager of Dallas-based house cleaning service Emily’s Maids, said there are a few key tools you’ll need handy before you get started:

Dish soap: You’ll need to fill your sink or a large tub with warm, soapy water to clean off parts, and regular household dish soap works best. However, Navas warned that only plastic items should go in water, and everything needs to be 100% dry before you reassemble the vacuum to avoid electrical dangers.

Microfiber cloths and a toothbrush: Navas said that microfiber cloths are a good option for cleaning parts that can’t go in water, since they trap dust in the fibers. For hard to reach areas with buildup, a toothbrush comes in handy.

Scissors: If your vacuum has a rolling brush, hair is undoubtedly tangled in its bristles. Have a pair of scissors ready for when you reach this step of the cleaning process. A seam ripper works, too.

Compressed air can: There will be some dusty nooks and crannies that you can’t reach. For these tight areas, the best tool is a can of compressed air, which is often used to clean computer parts and other electronics.

A few other items you might also need include:

  • Wire hanger.
  • Screwdriver set.
  • A new filter, if needed.
  • Your owner’s manual. Lost it? Just search your vacuum model + “manual” in Google and you should be able to find it, according to Craig Anderson, co-founder of Appliance Analysts.
  • A working area you don’t mind getting dirty, a dust mask and/or allergy meds. “Unlike switching out a vacuum bag, bagless vacuums practically explode with dust and debris. Be ready to get messy,” Anderson said.

How To Clean Your Bagless Vacuum

Ready to begin? There are three main areas you should focus on, which you can reference in the diagram above.

And one big safety warning before you get cleaning: Keep your vacuum unplugged the entire time you’re working on it.

1. Clear the hose and passageways

One of the common culprits of an underperforming vacuum is a clogged hose, particularly where the hose meets the housing unit.

Start by detaching the hose from the vacuum. Using your wire hanger, dig around in the hole where the hose connects to dislodge any hair, lint and other bits and pieces that could have built up. If you’re able to remove a clog from this area, your vacuum will likely start working much better. But don’t stop here ― we’re just getting started.

Next, clear out the hose itself. Lie it on the floor and bunch it up so that it’s at its shortest length. Use your wire hanger or another long object to push all the way through from beginning to end, just in case there are additional clogs. If you like, you can also give it a rinse with soapy water and let it hang dry before reattaching.

2. Dismantle and soak the main components

This next part is a bit more labor intensive and requires a few steps.

Start by taking apart the main unit and remove all of the washable pieces from your vacuum. “This usually includes the dust bin, the cyclone piece that attaches to the top of the dust bin and the motor filters,” said Jeneva Aaron, founder of TheHousewire.com. “It also includes all of the attachments and accessories.”

Once you’ve dumped whatever debris was sitting in the main barrel, it’s time to clean all the parts. “For any plastic pieces, soak them in soapy water,” Aaron said. For metal pieces, wipe them down with a damp cloth and set them aside on a towel to dry.

Next, decide on the best course of action for your filter. Did you know that you’re supposed to replace most filters every three to six months? Neither did I.

Don’t leave your filter unchanged for too long. It’ll lose the ability to separate dust from the air,” Anderson said. “This is especially true if you regularly use it for rugs and carpets.” Also keep in mind that some models use more than one filter. If you aren’t sure what to replace, refer to your handy manual.

Some filters are actually washable (again, check your manual), though you still need to replace them if there’s wear and tear. If all your filter needs is a good cleaning, though, rinse it under warm water until it runs clear, then gently wring out the excess water and set it aside to dry.

Finally, use the can of air duster to remove excess dust from inside the vacuum. “Make sure to hit all of the nooks and crevices where dust tends to collect. I’d recommend doing this outside because you don’t want to breathe in any of that dust,” Aaron said.

3. Clean the roller brush

Though you can certainly get on your hands and knees to wrestle hair and fibers trapped in the roller brush, it’s much easier if you detach the whole thing. Aaron said you can use a screwdriver to remove the floor brush from the bottom of the vacuum. “It tends to collect some nasty buildup, but you can use your scissors to scrape that stuff off,” he said.

While the floor brush is still removed, plug your vacuum in and turn it on to expel any clogged dust from the passageways. Again, you might want to do this outside. Unplug it when you’re done.

Once everything is clean and dry, you can pop in your new filter and reassemble the vacuum. “If you just focus on following each step, it’s a simple process that only needs to take around half an hour,” Anderson said.

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