How to clean a vacuum cleaner – expert tips to keep yours working well

Clean your vacuum cleaner inside and out for better suction and a more hygienic home – here's how to do it

Image of VAX Evolve vacuum
(Image credit: Vax)

Vacuuming can be one of the most satisfying cleaning chores – a quick run over your carpets and hard floors can transform them in an instant. And if you're looking to invest in a new vacuum, our in-depth guide to the best vacuum cleaners will answer all your questions to help you choose the ideal model for you.

While you may want to put away your vacuum straight after the job is done, there are a few fast tips for cleaning and maintaining your vacuum cleaner that can help keep it working better, for longer. 

Whatever type of model you have, we've spoken to the professionals to find out their failsafe tips for how to clean a vacuum. Say goodbye to dust bunnies and hello to a clean and welcoming home. 

How to clean a vacuum cleaner

Modern vacuum cleaners are designed to be easy to clean and maintain, whether they are bagless models that collect dirt in a dust cup, or use a bag to collect the dust collected from your carpets and floors.

'A soft cloth is all you need to wipe down the vacuum. You may also need scissors if, for example, the brush bar is extremely tangled with pet hair,' suggests Gavin Sadler, Product Training Manager, Bosch. 'Make sure the vacuum is turned off and unplugged before you do this – it may sound obvious, but we all get distracted from time to time.'

1. Clean the vacuum dust bin

Image of Henry Hoover vacuum in promotional image being used on white carpet

(Image credit: Henry Hoover)

The dust bin or cup is where the dust, dirt and debris from your floors is collected in bagless vacuums. It's designed to be unclipped easily from the body of the vacuum for emptying.

'On our range of Bosch Unlimited vacuums, the dust cup is emptied by disconnecting the main tube, and then releasing the dust container from the main body of the vacuum,' explains Bosch's Gavin Sadler. 'Once the filter is removed, empty the dust box directly into the bin.'

If you have a bagged vacuum, you will need to remove the dust bag when it is full, then dispose of this in your waste bin.

Most vacuum manufacturers recommend simply wiping the inside of the dust cup or vacuum bag area with a damp cloth to clean the area (don't use any other cleaning products, as these may damage the surface of your vacuum cleaner). However, there is a new product range specifically designed to keep any vacuum cleaner more hygienic.

Care+Protect is a professional cleaning product range that helps to give your vacuum the perfect clean, perfect for bagless vacuum cleaners,' says Catrin Davies, Product Manager at Hoover.

'We recommend that you sanitise and clean the dust container of your vacuum cleaner with the Care+Protect Rapid Action Bagless Vacuum Hygieniser. This Hygieniser hygienically deep-cleans dust collection bins, protecting from dust mites and allergens. It has a menthol fragrance and removes bad odours, and is also ideal for waste bins. Simply spray inside the empty dust bin, wait some minutes, then  wipe out with a dry cloth.'

2. Check the hose or stick for blockages

There's nothing more frustrating than a blockage that prevents your vacuum from cleaning properly. Most blockages happen when dust and dirt begins to gather around a small obstruction in the hose, stick or floorhead of your vacuum – that could be as simple as a hairpin or toothpick that acts like a dam, with the dirt from your floors building up behind it, until the airway is completely blocked.

'I've tried and tested a lot of vacuums, from the best cordless vacuums to the best vacuums for pet hair, and blockages can occur in even the best brands,' explains Ideal Home's Ecommerce Editor, Molly Cleary. 'I've learnt that the best way to stop blockages is to be mindful of what you vacuum up from the carpet – don't just run over something with the floorhead and hope for the best. If you do suction something up that you suspect could get caught in the hose or airway, immediately switch off the vacuum and check to see if the item has been sucked into the dust bin. If not, check the floorhead, hose and stick until you find the object and remove it from the vacuum before it can cause a problem.'

Molly Cleary
Molly Cleary

Our Ecommerce Editor Molly oversees appliance content at Ideal Home, including vacuums and cleaning. Molly is a pro when it comes to writing reviews of appliances she’s tested at home and at our testing facility. She knows exactly how to put a vacuum through its paces, tackling everything from clutter and pet hair to hard floors and carpet, and she's our go-to for how to keep vacuum cleaners in tip-top condition.

3. Clean the vacuum filters

kitchen sink with two taps

(Image credit: Future PLC / James French)

Most vacuum filters can be washed to remove collected dirt that will stop them functioning properly. 'Usually the filters can be removed and washed with tap water – don’t use any detergent or soap, as this could cause damage. Leave the filters to dry for at least 24 hours before putting them back in the vacuum,' explains Catrin Davis from Hoover. 'However, appliances vary, so make sure to check your instruction manual, or look to see if there is an official maintenance video on YouTube.'

How to clean a vacuum is different depending on the make and model, and this applies to filter, too. For example, the Bosch Unlimited 7 vacuum has an in-built filter cleaning function.

'Filter cleaning is one of those tasks that it is easy to forget. If it isn’t done, however, it will affect the performance of a vacuum,' explains Gavin Sadler from Bosch. 'The RotationClean feature on the Bosch Unlimited 7 means this is achieved easily and hygienically. Simply turn the dial three times to clean the filter, then remove the filter from the main container. After this, remove the outer metal filter and empty the dust into the bin.'

4. Remove hair from the brush-rolls

Dog lying on a barber style rug in a grey living room

(Image credit: Future PLC/Joanna Henderson)

Cleaning the brush-rolls is one of the least-loved vacuum-hygiene jobs. They can often become entangled with pet or human hair, which is why many vacuum manufacturers have developed innovative solutions to help. Shark, for example, has Anti-Hair Wrap Technology (our guide to the best Shark vacuum cleaners has information on the models with this feature).

Hoover's new HF9 cordless vacuum combines high-powered suction with Anti-Twist technology – a special comb behind the brush to remove hair, resulting in fewer hairs becoming tangled. The roller can be easily removed for cleaning.

If hair, string or fibre becomes wrapped around the brush-roll, the easiest way to remove it is with scissors. Snip through the hair, taking care not to cut the roller, then pull the hair away from brush-roll and discard.

5. Wash the brush-rolls

Once your rollers are clear of any hair and other materials, you can remove them from your vacuum, brush away any dirt, then wash them in warm water – manufacturers recommend not to use any additional cleaning products.

'I do this job once a month as part of a deep clean of my vacuum,' says Ideal Home's Molly Cleary. 'It's important to remember to let the brush-rolls dry thoroughly before returning them to your appliance; this takes around 24 hours on average.'

6. Wipe down your vacuum

Cream enamel bucket with soft cloth hanging over the edge

(Image credit: Future PLC/Andrew Woods)

Finish cleaning your vacuum with a final wipe down. 'A soft cloth is all you need to wipe clean the exterior of the vacuum. This ensures parts such as the handle and nozzle stay dust free,' says Gavin Sadler from Bosch.

How often should you clean a vacuum cleaner?

How often you should clean a vacuum cleaner depends on how much use it gets, and which part of the appliance you are dealing with. 'For example, the filter should be cleaned monthly,' suggests Gavin Sadler from Bosch. 'The dust container should be emptied whenever full, and, similarly, the brush-rolls should be cleaned as soon as debris collects to ensure they don’t get tangled.'

How do you deep clean a vacuum cleaner?

To deep clean a vacuum cleaner, you need to focus on all the main parts of the appliance. That includes the floorhead, which contains the brush-rolls and the entrance to the hose or stick. You'll need to check the stick or hose and all airways for blockages. Finally, you should clean the dust bin or dust bag area to remove any residual dirt.

Andrea Childs

Andrea began her journalism career at Ideal Home and is currently Editor of our sister title, Country Homes & Interiors, which celebrates modern country style. Andrea is passionate about colour and how it can transform both our homes and our sense of wellbeing, and has completed The Power of Colour course with the prestigious KLC School of Design. Andrea's career spans interiors magazines, women's lifestyle titles and newspapers. After her first job at Ideal Home, she moved on to women's magazines, Options and Frank. From there it was on to the launch of Red magazine, where she stayed for 10 years and became Assistant Editor. She then shifted into freelancing, and spent 14 years writing for everyone from The Telegraph to The Sunday Times, Livingetc, Stylist and Woman & Home. She was then offered the job as Editor of Country Homes & Interiors, and now combines that role with writing for