How to clean a Shark vacuum cleaner: cleaning a filter, canister and brush head explained

Want to know how to clean a Shark vacuum cleaner? Suck up all of the knowledge in this step-by-step tutorial which touches on filter cleaning too

a woman vacuuming with a shark vacuum cleaner in a living room
(Image credit: Shark)

There are so many reasons why you may want to know how to clean a Shark vacuum cleaner. From losing power or suction, to smelling a little funky, most technical issues can be fixed once you've cleaned out your household appliance.

Even the best vacuum cleaner out there need cleaning and some light maintenance. And just because this brand is a Real Homes fave... it doesn't mean that its machines are invincible. So we've asked the experts to share a tutorial on maintaining your device, which includes everything from cleansing the canister and how to clean a Shark vacuum filter so you can give your motorized broom a comprehensive MOT.

How to clean a shark vacuum

'With all of the miles I’ve put on my numerous Shark vacs over the years, I’ve never had one fail. And while the manufacturer boasts that Sharks never lose suction, that is predicated on common sense and regularly cleaning Shark’s canister, filters, rotating brush, and handle hose.' says Mary Hunt, founder of blog.

Signs a Shark vacuum needs cleaning

As someone who uses her Shark vacuum regularly, Hunt knows her way around these machines. So before it (god forbid) blows up, there are some tell-tale signs that you need to look out for - it's all about using your senses. Your Shark vacuum will emit sounds and smells to let you know it's in need of a little TLC.

Here she shares her observations, including what you need to look out for to make your vacuum cleaner live longer and perform at its best.

  • Loss of suction: It happens. A big fat hairy fuzzball or a venerable filter that’s stopped filtering can clog a vacuum and cut off suction. Whatever the cause, a loss of suction is the first sign that someone needs a good cleaning.
  • Visible dirt left behind: When working at peak performance, a Shark vacuum will never leave behind a trail of crumbs and debris. If it does, that’s a clear indication it needs to be cleaned.
  • Weird sound: You’ll know it’s bath time for sure if your Shark sounds like it is gasping for air. That’s because it is. And that can be very hard on the vacuum’s motor.
  • Unpleasant odor: A Shark vacuum should never give off a stinky, dirty odor. If it does, consider that a clear sign this vacuum is overdue for a good cleaning.

A step-by-step guide to cleaning a Shark vacuum

Whether you've invested in a Shark vac, or bought into another brand, removing dirt and debris from your device should form a regular part of your maintenance routine when using a vacuum cleaner. Below, are the basic steps you need to take, according to Jeneva Aaron, owner of The House Wire blog.

  1. Disconnect your shark cleaner from the power outlet.
  2. Remove and empty the dust cup. Wipe clean with a dry cloth.
  3. Remove the handle of your vacuum and check each section for blockages.
  4. Wash the filters, the brush-roller, and bristles and let air dry for up to 24 hours.
  5. Unclog the hose using a wire hanger or stick. Reassemble your vacuum.

Lynsey Crombie's method to clean a Shark vacuum

Cleanfluencers like Lynsey Crombie literally earn their living showing us everything from how to vacuum properly to explaining how often to vacuum our homes. So we reached out to her in hope that she knew how to deal with this well-known dust-busting brand.

She says: "To keep your vacuum in good working order, try to get into the habit of emptying out the canister after every use and then monthly add your vacuum cleaner to your to-do list, rinse the dirt collector canister with warm soapy water and then pull out any of the washable filters and rinse under the tap and leave to dry fully before putting back."

"Turn your vacuum over and clean the brush head from hairs and threads, use scissors and cut these out and if the roller comes out remove this and give it a clean and put it back when fully dry. Check the hose for any blockages, blast it with a hairdryer to get out any dust and debris and if there are any blockages use a wire coat hanger to pull the blockage out."

How often should you clean a Shark vacuum?

'"Empty the dust cup each time you vacuum and periodically during cleaning if debris reaches the MAX fill line." says Shark's product team.

'[To do this], remove the dust cup using the release button(s), hold it over your trash can, and press the latch to empty the contents into the bin. Make sure you remove any debris build-up if needed.'

How to check for blockages in a Shark vacuum

Shark's product team advise that: 'you can check for blockages in the floorhead, wand, hose and airways,'

'If you have an upright vacuum, first remove the handle and check if there is any suction once turned on – if not, there may be an obstruction in the handle or hose. If this section is clear, or if you have a stick vacuum, look through the wand to ensure nothing has become lodged in the pipe. You can also shine a torch into the hose. Finally, check the arm of the floorhead – where you connect the wand – for blockages.'

How to clean a Shark vacuum filter

'Your vacuum cleaner’s filters do an important job, removing dust and allergens from the air sucked in by your vacuum. If the dust that they trap isn’t regularly cleaned away they can become blocked, which can result in poor suction over time,' says Shark's product team.

'To clean foam and felt filters, simply tap off loose dirt, then rinse them under a tap. Only use water — do not use soap. Always let the filters air dry completely for 24 hours before reinserting them. You can also tap loose dirt off filters between washes as needed.'

'To clean a post-motor filter, remove it from the vacuum — you may also need to remove the filter from a frame, depending on your model. Handwash with water and allow to air dry completely before reinserting into the frame and returning to the vacuum.'

'We recommend rinsing your vacuum cleaner’s foam and felt filter kit every month and rinsing the washable post-motor filter once a year. However this will vary by product, so please check your instruction booklet for more information.'

If you do need to replace a filter, the SharkNinja site has a handy tool where you can enter your model number and the site will direct you to the correct parts and accessories for your vacuum specification.

Shark's YouTube channel is also a great resource for finding video tutorials on how to clean a Shark vacuum filter if you learn by following instructions this way. By watching the relatively short clips, you can really get to grips and understand the infrastructure and mechanics behind your machine.

How to clean your Shark vacuum brush rolls

Again, we got in touch with Shark's product team — here's what they had to say:

Floorheads with one brush-roll: "Detach the floorhead from your vacuum and remove any debris from the bristles. Some models have a removable section of the base for access to the brush-roll – check your instruction booklet for details. Carefully use scissors within the brush-roll groove to cut away any string, hair or debris wrapped around the brush-roll."

DuoClean floorheads: "DuoClean floorheads have two brush-rolls — a bristle brush-roll and a soft front roller. To clean the bristle brush-roll, remove the cover using the guide in your instruction booklet — remove any debris and clear away any dirt or blockages. To clean the soft front roller, simply tap off any loose debris, use a dry towel to wipe the brush-roll clean and remove any debris caught in the teeth behind the brush-roll. Hand wash if needed, using only water, and let it air dry completely for at least 24 hours before reinserting."

How to sanitize Shark vacuum brushes

"If you want to sanitize your brush roll or your soft front roller, you can use a mixture of water and vinegar," says Aaron.

"White vinegar [(available from Amazon)] is used as a household cleaning agent. It’s made from acetic acid and can be used to remove bacteria and mold, as well as mineral deposits. It’s also an odor absorber. So it acts as a natural deodorizer too."

'If your brush is removable and you want an even deeper clean, you can add baking soda. Baking soda [also available at Amazon] is a natural good cleaning mineral abrasive. Mineral abrasives can be used to clean surfaces by creating friction that lifts off stubborn food or debris build-up."

How to clean a Shark vacuum hose

"Remember to turn your cleaner off and disconnect from the power outlet before you detach the hose," says Aaron.

"After detaching your hose completely from the vacuum, inspect the inside of it for blockages. Lay the hose flat and check all openings for clogs or clumps. You can also use a flashlight to help you see any obstructions inside of your hose."

"Use a wire hanger [cheap ones like these from Amazon will do], broomstick handle, or any other stick that fits the length of your entire vacuum hose to remove the clogs."

"If there is a lot of dirt and clogs in your vacuum hose, we recommend that you clean it with water. Place your hose in your sink and wash it out thoroughly with cold water."

"If you want to sanitize your hose, you can use the same mixture of baking soda and vinegar that you used on your brushes. Mix the two ingredients together with some water and pour it through your hose."

"Don’t forget to wash and rinse your hose completely when you finish. Lastly, let it air dry completely for at least 12 to 24 hours before reattaching it to your cleaner. And reassemble your vacuum properly before turning it back on."

Other interesting ways to clean a Shark vacuum

As well as the aforementioned approaches, there are some handy hacks that the product team has on hand. Cleaning a Shark vacuum doesn't require any specialist equipment — in fact, you might have these items in your store cupboard or toolbox.

Removing hair from a Shark vacuum brush roll

You will need:

How to:

  1. If you suddenly notice that your vacuum cleaner isn’t picking up like it usually does, switch it off and take a quick look at the underside of the brush roll. The chances are it has become jammed with hair and string. 
  2. To get your cleaner back up and running in seconds, simply cut through the blockages with a box cutter.

Deodorizing your Shark vacuum with spice extracts

Whether your vacuum has sucked up old food, or you've swept up something smelly that your pet has brought in, there's a whole load of reasons why your vac might smell a little... pungent.

Purging the odor couldn't be easier with one pantry spice and will make your Shark vacuum smell like sweet baked goods. Dollar for dollar, it's also cheaper than any other chemical product and a naturally removes the stench, so is perfect for busy households with young families and pets.

You will need:

  • Ground cinnamon — this Amazon-own brand can also be used for baking and breakfast oats

How to:

  • Add a teaspoon of cinnamon powder to the bag or cylinder of your vacuum cleaner to leave a stunning aroma wherever you clean. If you don’t like cinnamon, vanilla powder (also available on Amazon) works just as well. Just be expected to pay significantly more of this premium product, and, avoid cheaper alternatives which contain dextrose (a type of powdered sugar) which may attract pests!

Mrs. Meyer's Dryer Sheets, Fabric Softener, Reduces Static, Cruelty Free Formula Infused with Essential Oils, Lemon Verbena Scent, 80 Count

(Image credit: Amazon)

Deodorizing with tumble dryer sheets

As well as making your freshly-dried washing smell good on laundry day, the humble tumble dryer sheet can also be used to clean a Shark vacuum. What's more, it'll also make your carpets and the surrounding air smell great.

You will need:

How to:

  1. Place the scented tumble dryer sheet inside the vacuum cleaner’s bag or cylinder.
  2. Go about your cleaning as normal, and let the cleaner do the hard work of freshening up your home.

Where can I get filters and replacement parts for my Shark products?

' carries just about every possible replacement part or accessory you can imagine and for lots of Shark models, even those that are no longer in production. As for filters, I compare prices at SharkClean with Amazon, where the filters (available at Amazon) for my Sharks are usually a bit less expensive. You can also find owner manuals for hundreds of models and exceptional support at SharkClean.' says Hunt.

Looking to buy a new Shark vacuum? See our Shark vacuum deals page for competitive discounts you won't want to miss.

Christina Chrysostomou
Acting head ecommerce editor

Hi, I'm the acting head ecommerce editor at Real Homes. Prior to working for the Future plc family, I've worked on a number of consumer events including the Ideal Home Show, Grand Designs Live, and Good Homes Magazine. With a first class degree from Keele University, and a plethora of experience in digital marketing, editorial, and social media, I have an eye for what should be in your shopping basket. I'm the in-house appliances expert and have gone through the internal customer advisor accreditation process.