The Importance of Vacuum Cleaner Maintenance

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Vacuum cleaner maintenance is imperative if you want to ensure your vacuum operates at its best. After all, if it’s not, your floors aren’t as clean as they should be. When it comes to vacuum maintenance, there are four basic things that you should always be looking at. In the order of frequency that you should be dealing with them, they are Bags, Filters, Belts, and Rollers.


Before you start any maintenance on your vacuum, make sure that it’s unplugged and that the motor is discharged. You can do this by pressing the power button once you’ve unplugged it.

While maintenance isn’t extremely complicated, you should be sure you have a basic understanding of tool use. Use a plastic container to keep any screws you may have to remove.

There’s nothing more frustrating than having one roll away or get lost in your carpet. Above all, before you do any vacuum cleaner maintenance, read the manual that came with your unit.

Bags. Why Does It Have To Be Bags?

Vacuum maintenance

When we talk about dealing with bags, we’re really talking about whatever your vacuum uses to store the debris and dirt that you suck up every week. If you have a bagless vacuum, you should be emptying it after every use. There’s no reason not to, and it will help keep any moist dirt from drying out and caking to your bin.

If you suffer from allergies, use a disposable plastic bag from a grocery store. Dump the dirt into that, and then tie it off. Alternately, just take it directly to your trashcan outside and shake it out there.

You want to rinse out the housing about once every three months. One of the easiest ways is just to take it outside and use your garden hose to flush it clean. Remove any filters that could get wet before you do this.

During the cold winter months, we use the shower to sluice the reservoir clean. Just make sure to let it completely dry before you start vacuuming again.

Empty that Bag and clean the housing

vacuum maintenance

If your vacuum uses bags, you want to empty them when they’re about 3/4 full. The reason is because of how the airflow in your vacuum works. Your machine is basically sucking up air (and whatever else is in the air). With a bag, that air is hoovered directly into the bag and then flows out through the bag to the exhaust.

When your bag is full, the air has to fight even harder to get out. That puts extra strain on your vacuum’s motor, which in turn, reduces the overall life of your vacuum.

Wipe out the bag housing every three months as well. You can use a damp paper towel or cleaning cloth. Don’t use anything extremely wet because you want to avoid liquids pooling inside. Wear gloves and goggles. If you have allergies, a dust mask will save you from a sneezing fit. You’ll be surprised at how dirty the inside of your vacuum can get.

​Can you reuse a vacuum bag?

We get asked all the time about reusing vacuum bags. Can you do it? Yes, but you’re sort of taking a risk. Current bags are made of paper, and the ends are glued shut. Eventually, that end seam is going to give out and you’re going to end up with a vacuum that’s spewing dirt out of its exhaust.

Generally, there are two reasons for reusing a bag: environmental concerns or cost. If it’s the cost you’re concerned about, we recommend moving to a bagless vacuum. Alternately, don’t buy brand name bags. There are online vendors like ThinkCrucial who sell bags at up to 80% off. If you’re concerned about the environment, invest in a reusable cloth bag.

Filters. The Silent Guardian

Vacuum filter replacement

If you like to breathe clean air, then the filters in your vacuum are your best friend and bodyguard. They sit quietly in your vacuum, keeping undesirables from getting out of the vacuum and back into your air. Depending on the strength of your filter, that includes everything up to pollen, dust mites, and other things that make you sneeze.

Over time, as your filter blocks more and more stuff, it will get clogged. And once it gets clogged, air will do its best to find a way through. That means working around the edges of the filter or even causing small tears. And once that happens, your filter is no longer filtering. If you vacuum weekly, you should be doing filter maintenance about once every three to six months, depending on your environment. If you live somewhere where the trees like to dump pollen every spring, you’ll want to do filter maintenance more frequently.

Fortunately, changing your filter is easy. Most filters are cartridges. You pull out the old one and throw it away. Give the filter housing a quick wipe down with a damp cloth or paper towel and put in the new one.

If your vacuum has washable and reusable filters, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to rinse them out. In general, you want to use cool water and no soap or cleaners of any kind. You want the water to flow in the opposite direction that the air would pass through the filter. That’s because you don’t want to force dirt through the filter, you want to push it out the way it came.

Make sure you get all of the filters as well. In modern vacuums, it’s not uncommon for there to be two or three different filters. Refer to your user manual to locate them all.

Belts and Bars

vacuum maintenance - brush and belts

We’re going to cover the agitator and the belts in one go, simply because the two are so intertwined. The agitator, or beater bar, or roller bar is the spinning thing with the bristles. Its job is to brush the carpet and wiggle it around. As the carpet fibers wiggle, the dirt in there gets dislodged, and the vacuum can then slurp it up. The belt is how the power from the vacuum gets transferred to the roller bar. The vacuum motor turns a shaft that the belt is gripping. As the belt turns, so does the roller bar, resulting in clean carpets.

Vacuum belts are made of a stiff rubber, but over time, they stretch out. As the belt stretches, it starts to slip, and that means your vacuum isn’t going to be agitating the carpet fibers as vigorously, which means less clean floors. Let the belt go long enough, and it’s going to snap and all you’ll hear is a thwap thwap sound as the belt flops around a bit.

The beater bar can also wear out. The stiff bristles on the bar are sort of like the bristles on your toothbrush. They eventually wear down or start to fray, and then they can’t agitate the carpet fibers anymore.

Replacing the bar or belt is the most complicated home maintenance that is usually done on a vacuum. Refer to your user manual for complete instructions, but in general, you have to remove the bottom plate and then a side plate to access the belt and bar housing.

DIY vacuum repair

You should replace your belts about once per year and the agitator bar about once every two years. It’s always a good idea to have a spare vacuum belt on hand, however, because they can sometimes break for no reason.


So, here’s a general timeline for how often you should do vacuum cleaner maintenance.

As Needed:

  • Bag Change

Every 3 months:

  • Washable Filters (more frequently as needed)
  • Wipe out dust collection area

Every 6 months:

  • Disposable Filters (more frequently as needed)


  • Belt Change

Every Two Years:

  • Agitator Bar Change

In Conclusion

Much like anything else in your life that has a motor, your vacuum needs some things done to ensure it keeps working for you the best it can. You wouldn’t forgo maintenance on your car and expect it to run at peak performance forever; the same is true of your vacuum. Taking fifteen minutes every few months will drastically improve the life of your vacuum as well as its cleaning power. That’s not only going to save you time cleaning, it’s going to save you money as well.

Author: Think Crucial (

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