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Do It Better — Vacuum Care: Caring for your Cleaning Machine

By Joyce Venezia Suss

A household with pets that shed most likely has a vacuum that gets used regularly. This month’s column is focused on caring for the vacuum, not the pet!

You may use your vacuum frequently – perhaps even daily – to remove dirt, dust and debris from floors, carpets and upholstered furniture. If you have a pet that sheds fur and dander, the vacuum gets a tougher workout.

Yet how often do you clean and care for your vacuum? Routine maintenance isn’t difficult and will help this household tool run efficiently and last many years. The best care tips are in the instructions that come with a new vacuum; if missing, they can often be found online by looking up the brand and model number. Here are some basic tips:

Replace the bag or empty the collection receptacle frequently. Never let a bag get more than two-thirds full. Many models have an indicator to alert when the bag needs to be replaced or the dust receptacle needs to be emptied, but the most obvious sign is if the vacuum is leaving debris behind or when the suction sounds weak. Be sure to use the proper bag for your model, and make sure the bag opening is securely and properly attached to the nozzle to avoid damaging the machine’s internal parts. 

Clean the canister. Before replacing the bag or dust receptacle, wipe down the vacuum’s interior with a dry microfiber cloth. Also wipe down the exterior of the vacuum, paying close attention to areas where parts connect. Rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball will disinfect dirty areas, especially on the bottom.

Focus on the filter. Many vacuums have filters to trap small particles inside the vacuum. These can usually be shaken into a trash can to remove debris, but should also be replaced when dirty. Some filters can be washed by hand, then dried completely before it is replaced. Refer to the owner’s manual to see what is correct for your vacuum.

Detangle the brush roll. If your vacuum has a floor brush attached to a roller, it will likely get tangled with human hair and pet fur. If you can’t easily remove the buildup with your fingers, use scissors or a seam ripper to cut it into smaller pieces that can be pulled out.

Check the belt. After the brush is clean, check the belt that turns the brush. If it seems loose or is old and crumbling, it must be replaced.

Explore the hose. If you have a vacuum with a hose, it will not work properly if something is stuck in the flexible tube. Small toys, socks and other small items are easily sucked inside, and may require some gentle nudging with a broomstick (not a wire or anything sharp). If the hose is detachable, run water through it to dislodge the item. Just be sure to hang up the hose afterward and dry it completely before reattaching it, to avoid electric shock.

Treat your vacuum to a tune-up. Just as you take your car for regular tune-ups, your local vacuum repair and maintenance shop can restore a much-used vacuum to like-new condition, often at a reasonable cost. These small businesses are invaluable, not only for saving people money but also to keep things out of landfills.

And possibly – groom your pet with a vacuum! Although many pets are afraid of loud sounds, some can be trained to enjoy having their fur removed with a special vacuum attachment designed for pets. Removing fur directly at the source means less fur to vacuum off your floor and furniture.

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