Don't panic — here's what to do if your vacuum cleaner isn't suctioning

Easy fixes for when your vac is failing to suck

Vacuuming white sofa with handheld vacuum
(Image credit: Getty)

You’re happily vacuuming the house, pushing your vac along when all of a sudden it looks like it’s stopped picking up properly. The area that you’ve just vacuumed is just as dusty as it was before you went over it and your vacuum sounds a little odd. 

In an instance like this, it’s easy to assume that your vacuum cleaner has broken and can’t be repaired. But — and I speak from experience here — that’s most likely not the case. The chances are, there’s an issue somewhere in the vacuum, hence the lack of suction, but it’s most likely fairly easy to fix. 

Wondering what steps you can take to deal with a corded or cordless vacuum that’s lost its suction? Below I’ve shared a few helpful tips that should make troubleshooting and fixing the problem a little easier. 

What to do if your vacuum has lost suction

While having a vacuum cleaner that's lost suction might be stressful, the good news is that — most of the time — it's usually easy to fix. 

Check the dust container

A common cause for a lack of suction from your vacuum is an overly full dust container. Now, depending on the type of vacuum cleaner you have, it will either use replaceable bags to collect dust and dirt or a removable dust container. Newer vacuums, like the Shark Stratos Cordless Vac that's available on Amazon, tend to have reusable containers. Whereas, older models tend to have replaceable bags. 

Either way, if the container or bag becomes overly full of debris from vacuuming, the vacuum cleaner will no longer work as efficiently, meaning that the power of the suction will reduce, and eventually — when the bag or container has no more space left at all — stop. 

The good news is that an easy fix for this issue is simply emptying the dust container or replacing the dust bag, and your vac should be good as new again. 

See if the filters are clogged

While not all vacuum cleaners contain filters, most modern designs do feature a removable filter that — if not kept clean — can impact your vacuum’s suction ability. So, a good thing to check when there’s an issue with the suction of your vac is how clean the filters are and whether they’re clogged. 

If you notice that a filter looks overly dusty or dirty, remove it from your vacuum, and remove anything that looks like it might be clogging it up, before putting it back inside the machine. 

Check if the hose has a blockage

Admittedly, this has happened to me more than once — my vacuum stopped suctioning, I assumed it was broken, but actually, the hose was simply clogged with pine needles from when I’d vacuumed after taking my Christmas tree down a few weeks earlier. I thought it was game over for my vacuum, but when I took the hose apart I found the blockage and was able to quickly clear it. 

Most vacuums have hoses and pipes that can be completely taken apart, making the process of finding a clog and removing it fairly simple and straightforward. If your vacuum isn’t suctioning properly, take the time to take your vacuum’s hoses apart piece by piece, checking each tube for a clog as you go — and removing any debris buildup that you find. An easy way to remove debris is to gently tap the hose on the floor, helping to force anything that’s stuck to fall out. 

Make sure the hose isn’t cracked

Another common cause of a vacuum failing to suck properly is damage to the hose itself. If the hose is cracked or damaged in any way, air will escape when the vacuum is on, which may impact how powerful your vacuum cleaner is. 

If you spot a crack in your hose, a quick fix is often wrapping a piece of strong tape around the problem area, once again re-sealing the hose. Alternatively, you can opt to order a replacement hose from the manufacturer of your vacuum cleaner. 

Beth Mahoney
Freelance journalist

Hi! I’m Beth Mahoney and I’m a former staff writer at Real Homes. I’ve been a journalist for the national press for the past six years, specializing in commerce and trends-related lifestyle articles, from product reviews and listicles to guides and features. With an eye for pretty things (think: quirky wall prints, scalloped edge furniture, and decadent-looking tableware) but a limited budget, I love nothing more than a bargain buy.