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17 Ways You're Vacuuming All Wrong

This simple chore isn't as clear-cut as you'd think.

For most people, vacuuming is one of those thankless, but necessary, household chores—one you rarely relish starting, but don't regret when it's all said and done. However, despite the high price of many vacuums—and the hours you spend dragging the thing around the house each week—you might not be making the most effective use of your vacuum. So, to ensure you're efficiently expunging dirt from every crack and crevice in your home, get ready to come to terms with the many ways you're vacuuming all wrong.

Using a dirty filter

dust-covered accordion vacuum filter, vacuuming tips
Shutterstock/Nor Gal

Most vacuum cleaners come with exact instructions on how to clean or change the filters that are used to store the vacuumed dirt, dust, and grime. "Yet people often don't remember or outright ignore the instructions, and proceed to vacuum with a filthy filter," says Nathan Ripley, who runs Maid Just Right, a house cleaning and maid service. "This will not only reduce the efficiency of your vacuum cleaner but will potentially also spread dust and dirt in your home."

Neglecting the crevice tool

man vacuuming car with precision attachment, vacuuming tips

Your vacuum's primary roller attachment may be great on your carpets, but if you want to get the corners of your home spotless, make sure to break out the crevice tool to clean those hard-to-reach areas, too. "Once a month (or more often, if you have pets), use the vacuum's crevice tool on the edges of the room," says Rachel Kuchle, marketing director for fabric care and protection experts Fiber-Seal Systems. "If the room is carpeted, it will help keep the edges from becoming overly soiled. Even if the room has hard floors, edge vacuuming will help remove dust and soils that could get tracked onto rugs." Bonus: It works great for cleaning your car, too!

Reusing the bag

woman removing bag from vacuum, vacuuming tips

There are plenty of ways to be more eco-friendly in your everyday life—but reusing your vacuum bag shouldn't be one of them. "Never reuse your vacuum bags. Reusing bags can cut efficiency by up to 50 percent," cautions Kuchle. "As the pores of the paper bag become clogged, the vacuum's airflow will be reduced, lowering cleaning efficiency and making the vacuum motor work harder."

Not adjusting the height

man vacuuming carpet and adjusting height of attachment, vacuuming tips
Shutterstock/New Africa

Here's a function of your vacuum that you might not have even known existed: adjustable height. Since carpets tend to be higher than your average hard surface, it's important to adjust the height of your vacuum attachment for the surface you're cleaning. "Some vacuums do this automatically," says Kuchle. "But if yours doesn't, make sure to take the time to make the proper adjustments. It will make a huge difference in the cleanliness of your home's different surfaces."

Keeping the brush roll on when you clean loop pile surfaces

clogged vacuum with rollers on, vacuuming tips
Shutterstock/Dmitry Taranets

Those brush rolls on your vacuum might sufficiently clean some surfaces, like hardwoods and low-pile carpets, but they're not the right choice for every textile. "Turn off brush rolls (where possible) on loop pile wool carpets," suggest Kuchle. "Aggressive brush action on these constructions can cause pilling and fuzzing issues."

Overfilling bagless vacuums

emptying bagless vacuum, vacuuming tips
Shutterstock / Ra3rn

Just because your vacuum doesn't have a bag on the brink of overflowing doesn't mean you can let it fill all the way to the top. "If you've got a bagless vacuum, don't wait for the vacuum to fill up completely before emptying it," says Henry Paterson, operations expert at Housekeep, a London-based house cleaning service. "In fact, you should be making sure it's emptied out after just a few uses for maximum efficiency."

Not listening to your machine (literally)

man removing vacuum bag, vacuuming tips
Shutterstock / Georgy Dzyura

If your vacuum is getting louder by the day—or, worse, you hear grinding noises from inside it—it's time to have it serviced. "Sometimes when you are using your machine wrong, it just pumps up the noise," says Abe Navas, the general manager of Emily's Maids, a house cleaning service in Dallas, Texas. If you're overworking your machine's motor, if your filters are clogged, or if something has entered the device that shouldn't be there, that already-noisy vacuum is likely being even louder.

Not using a freshener

woman vacuuming up powder from carpet, vacuuming tips

A good vacuum can work wonders, but when it comes to making your home smell fresh, it doesn't cut it—especially in terms of carpet odors. "If after vacuuming a carpet, it's still smelly, you should use a freshener," says Navas. When used in conjunction with vacuuming, this product can lift out tough smells. "Yes, you can try to spend all your day vacuuming just one room, but it's way better to just use a cheap freshener and combine it with a good vacuum and any smell will go away."

Forgetting to pretreat stains

red wine spilling on carpet, vacuuming tips

Your vacuum may be capable of sucking up dirt, but staining requires pre-treatment before you bust out the Hoover. If you fail to pretreat stains—whether on your hardwood floors, carpet, or other textiles—they'll likely become too set-in or stuck-on for your vacuum to handle. Even a mild agitation of the stain in its early stages can help break it down, allowing your vacuum to suck it up with ease.

Vacuuming surfaces just once

man vacuuming floors, vacuuming tips
Shutterstock/Dragon Images

Sure, it may be frustrating to discover that you've got more cleaning to do; but if you want to get your carpets spotless, you really should be giving them a second pass. "Most people don't know this, but you're actually meant to vacuum your carpet twice," says cleaning expert Joanne Archer, the editor of life hack blog Expert Home Tips. "The carpet fibers are twisted in different directions, so if you only ever vacuum in one direction, you'll miss a lot of trapped dust and dirt."

Vacuuming in random patterns

african-american woman vacuuming living room, vacuuming tips
Shutterstock/LightField Studios

Vacuuming your floors or carpets haphazardly, in any random direction you please, won't get them as clean as if you stick to a specific pattern. "The best approach is to vacuum in one particular direction back-and-forth, moving across from one side of the room to the other," says Sean Parry, a cleaning expert with London-based house cleaning company Neat Services. "Once that's complete, then turn 90 degrees and use the same approach. This means that the vacuum's suction power will pick up dirt on all four sides of the carpet fibers."

Not going for the deep clean

carpet cleaning machine, vacuuming tips
Shutterstock/New Africa

If you're not deep-cleaning your carpets with a specialty vacuum from time to time, you're making your regular vacuum work harder—and getting worse results when it comes to quality, too.

"If your carpets have been neglected for a while or have a number of hard-to-remove stains, then it's worth considering a full carpet steam or shampoo," says Parry. "You won't need to generally do this more than once a year—and you'll need to get in a carpet cleaning company to help as they'll have specialist equipment. But the results can be incredible and it can genuinely look like your carpets are back to being brand new."

Vacuuming liquids

shop vac, vacuuming tips

Unless your vacuum is intended for wet use, using it to suck up water or other liquids is a major no-no. That water can damage your machine if it's not intended for use on spills. So, when in doubt, soak up as much of the liquid as you can with a cloth. Then, wait for it to sufficiently dry before vacuuming it with your normal machine, or use a shop vac capable of sucking up liquids without damage.

Only vacuuming when things get dirty

vacuuming dirty carpet, vacuuming tips
Shutterstock/Kulikov Alexander

The longer you go between vacuuming sessions, the harder your job is going to be. Even if your floors and carpets look relatively clean, make sure to give them a pass at least once a week with your vacuum. If you don't, dust and dirt can sink into the cracks between your floorboards or into the fibers in your carpet, making them harder to clean over time.

Not investing in a decent machine

man and woman shopping for vacuum, vacuuming tips
Shutterstock/Kusan Petkovic

"You can use all the best techniques, but if your vacuum hasn't got very good suction, for example, then you'll never be able to get clean and fresh-smelling carpets," says Parry. "When choosing a vacuum, find a good all-rounder—one that is effective across all floor types including hard floors and carpets, and is relatively lightweight so you can easily take it up and down stairs."

Rushing through the chore

woman vacuuming carpet, vacuuming tips

Slow and steady wins the race—at least when it comes to vacuuming. "Take your time," says Kuchle. "Vacuuming slowly will allow the brush roll to agitate the carpet or rug more effectively, your machine to suck up more dirt and dust, and ultimately get your rugs and carpets much cleaner."

Dusting after vacuuming

couple spring cleaning their kitchen, vacuuming tips

If you dust after you vacuum, you're only creating more work for yourself in the long run. "It's easy to forget that above-the-floor dusting is not a perfect operation. Even with microfiber rags and other effective tools, at least some of the dust will be knocked from higher surfaces," says Kuchle. "This loose dust that falls to the floor is taken care of when vacuuming is done after dusting." And for genius products that will make your life easier, check out these 17 Home Appliances So Advanced They Make Us Feel Dumb.

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Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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