10 vacuum cleaner mistakes you’re probs making

These really suck

A yellow vacuum on a yellow background with emoji thumbs down around it
(Image credit: Future)

Okay dear reader — I see you reading this and thinking there can’t be a wrong way to use a vacuum cleaner. But trust me, there are big mistakes you could be making, and there are reasons why you shouldn’t be doing them.

These can range from how you use the machine, all the way to how you clean it. They can damage your machine and stop it working how it should. Vacuum cleaners can be seriously pricey, so you def don’t want to risk breaking it. I use my vacuum all the time, but I’m on a budget, and would rather not replace parts or even the whole vacuum if I can help it.

I’ve rounded up mega common mistakes, plus provided the solutions so you (and me) don’t make the same mistakes again. After all, a mistake made is a lesson learned, and all that jazz.

So, scroll on down and get ready to cringe and learn at the same time…

10 vacuum cleaner mistakes you should def avoid

From vacuuming too fast to not using the right setting, these are vac mistakes not to make, and how to avoid them doing them in future. 

1. Using the incorrect setting for the floor 

If you have a vacuum cleaner that isn’t just a one click and go, it’s important to pay attention to what setting you’re actually using. If it doesn’t match the floor setting that you’re vacuuming on, you could be at risk of damaging your floor. For those living in a rental with a deposit on the line, this is especially a big no-no. Make sure to check the instruction manual of your vacuum, and if it is adjustable on different surfaces, clue yourself up on how to change the setting.

2. Using a vacuum with a damaged brush roller

When you’re picking up your vacuum to clean, you probs aren’t looking at the brush roller as it’s, like, so far away from the handle. But you’ve gotta check your brush roller every time, because this could scratch your surface if it’s worn or broken. If yours is, contact the manufacturer and arrange a replacement with them. This is much better than freestyling with a non-branded brush, as you could void your warranty by doing that (eek!).

3. Not emptying the vacuum bag or canister often enough

I know this task is not the most glam job. In fact, I always feel a li’l bit sick doing it. But if you avoid the task, you could be reducing the suction power of your vacuum — which legit defeats the point of using it. This could also lead to icky odors, which can spread around the home as you vacuum. To avoid this, empty your bag or canister after each use, or when it reaches two-thirds full. Job done.

4.  Using a vacuum with a clogged hose or wand 

Think about how much dust, dirt and hair gets sucked up by your vacuum. Ew, gross right? Before it reaches the bag or canister, all of that goes through the hose, which can get clogged because of it being so narrow. But this could reduce suction power, as the air and dirt won’t be able to travel through properly. Be sure to wash the hose or wand regularly — I soak mine in soapy water in a large bucket. It’s also a good idea to check for clogs or debris before using your cleaner. 

We've got an entire guide on how to clean your vacuum if you're interested.

5.  Not storing the vacuum cleaner properly

You can’t just shove your cleaner in the corner, and walk away cartoon-style whistling and wiping your hands. They’re big ol’ machines, but they are delicate and need to be stored carefully. This is so you don’t damage the power cord, hose, and other parts of the machine. When choosing a home for your vac, make sure it’s a clean, dry location, and wrap the cord neatly once it's in there. Make sure no sharp objects are surrounding the machine as well, so they don’t fall down and damage it. Don’t want the hassle of a cord? Go for a cordless vacuum like the Shark Stratos, which is our overall top-rated vacuum cleaner. Plus, it folds down so it's super easy to store!

6. Not using the correct technique

Just like with exercise, if you ain’t doing it right, you ain’t gonna get the best results. Vacuuming isn’t just a case of running around until the dirt is all gone — there’s a real art to it. If you don’t use the right technique, you can reduce the cleaning efficiency and potentially even ruin your pretty floors. NTY. Instead, make sure you’re doing overlapping strokes, and moving the vacuum slowly and steadily (that wins the race every time, trust).

7. Using a vacuum on wet surfaces

Made a massive mess and want to get it cleaned up ASAP? We’ve all been there. Or maybe you’ve just been mopping and forgot to get all those crumbs off beforehand. Either way, you shouldn’t be using your regular vacuum on a wet surface. The water could legit damage the motor and electrical components of the machine. These power the machine and are tricky to replace, so you don’t want to mess those up. If you know you’re gonna need to vacuum wet surfaces often, opt for a vacuum that specializes in this, like the Tineco Floor ONE S5, which is Amazon’s Choice and our fave wet and dry cleaner.

8. Not vacuuming often enough

I know that cleaning can be a bit of a chore, but that dirt doesn’t just magically disappear if you don’t clean it. Dust and dirt building up can worsen the air quality in your home, which could lead to health problems. Who wants to be breathing in dirt, right? Not me. Ideally, you should be vacuuming once a week, possibly a li’l bit more depending on how much foot traffic you have in the area being cleaned.

9. Using the wrong attachment

Got a vacuum with lots of different brushes? These are so useful to have, so you def shouldn’t be overlooking them. In fact, if you aren’t switching up the brush for each job, you could be making your life a whole lot more difficult, as you won’t be able to thoroughly clean the surface properly. This is an easy mistake to fix: just remember to switch up the attachment. For example, use a crevice tool for small spaces or a dusting brush for delicate surfaces. After a vacuum with bells and whistles like these? We love the Dyson V15 Detect, which has two cleaning heads and eight tools and accessories. 

10. Not cleaning the filter

Just like the vac bag and hose, the filter too needs to be checked and cleaned on the regular. If you don’t, you could be reducing the vacuum’s suction power and the air quality of your home. Oh, and it doesn’t smell great when it’s not cleaned either. I wash my filter in the same soapy water as the hose, along with the head — once a month is about right for doing this. If you still have gross smells coming out your vac, I recommend putting a few drops of essential oil into your filter. BTW, if you’re looking for oils, this Lagunamoon set is Amazon’s Choice.

Eve Smallman
Staff Writer

Hi there! I’m a staff writer at Real Homes. I've been a lifestyle journalist for over five years, previously working as an editor across regional magazines. Before this, I graduated from Nottingham Trent University a degree in journalism, along with an NCTJ gold diploma. I love running, decorating my rented Victorian home, and discovering new cheeses.