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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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
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.”