Home

Dirt Be Gone! Getting the Most Out of Your Vacuum

A vacuum cleaner is a versatile machine that goes well beyond cleaning floors
BY Sandy Lindsey TIMEJuly 2, 2022 PRINT

Vacuuming is a simple way to keep our homes free of dirt. The problem is that, while we all know the fundamentals, most units today are used just for basic cleaning when they can do so much more.

The first step is to buy the right vacuum with the right tools. Crevice, upholstery, ceiling fan, mattress, and pet grooming tools, along with dusting and turbo brushes and extension wands, are where the real fun begins.

What to Choose?

The highly popular upright models are well-suited to larger homes with carpet or hardwood flooring. The beater brush loosens dirt so it can be removed via powerful suction. They usually come with handy attachments to extend their versatility, with optional accessories available.

Pet vacuums, another type of upright, feature an easily detached beater bar for convenient cleaning of accumulated pet hair. They also commonly include accessories for upholstered furniture.

Canister-style vacuum cleaners are some of the most powerful on the market and come with a wide variety of tools that turn them into several machines in one. They’re lighter and easier to use than upright models because the heavy canister is on wheels being dragged behind you, but they are bulky to store. They are a top choice for homes with hard floors and small to medium carpeted areas.

When it comes to immediate cleanups of spills when you don’t want to drag out the big machine, cordless hand-held vacuums rule.

Sweeper or stick vacuums take a middle ground between upright and handheld units, making them a quick cleanup choice for hardwood floors.

Robotic vacuums provide constant, if not precise or powerful, cleaning action in between weekly vacuuming.

The 5 Rules for Success

Vacuuming pros know to do it often, take their time, change it up, set the machine to the correct height, and clean the cleaner.

Most people put off vacuuming, but the longer you go between cleaning, the harder it will be when you do get around to it. Don’t wait until your floors are visibly dirty; make a commitment to vacuum once a week or more often in high-traffic areas.

Resist the temptation to rush; by moving the vacuum slowly, you’re allowing time for larger particles and deeper dirt to be pulled out of the carpet or off the floor. Do each spot twice to grab dirt that was loosened but missed the first time.

Change directions as you work to get grit that may be stuck at a particular angle. This also fluffs the carpet nicely to keep it looking its best.

Make sure you’re vacuuming at the correct height setting for hardwood floors and carpeting. If in doubt, check the owner’s manual for their recommended settings. If your surfaces vary considerably, you may want to invest in a model that automatically adjusts the height.

Clean the collection compartment before each use. Most machines function best up to half full; going beyond that point reduces suction. Replace vacuum bags when they’re about two-thirds full. Check the hoses for any clogs, damage, or holes.

Periodically clean the entire machine, starting with the filter. A clogged filter will not only strain the motor, but may also cause allergens to be dispersed back into the air. This is also the time to check the machine’s beater brushes and remove long hairs, thread, pet hairs, and other accumulation. If it’s difficult to remove, use a sewing seam ripper to patiently cut through the mess.

Enhanced Efficiency

Remove objects that are in your way before starting a room. This eliminates the need to stop and pick things up or move them, and keeps small items from potentially being sucked in and damaging the machine.

Dust before vacuuming. That way, any dust that falls to the floor will be suctioned up. Yes, vacuuming does agitate dust, so keep a rag handy to remove any new dust, which should be minimal, after you’re done.

While you don’t need to clean under heavy furniture every time, set a regular schedule to address those areas, as accumulated dust can lead to aggravated allergies.

Home Sweet Home

For a fresher smelling house, put lemon or orange peels—with all traces of pulp and pith removed—inside the vacuum’s collection area. Alternatively, you can use cotton balls with a few drops of essential oil.

Got pets? Sprinkle baking soda on the carpet, let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, and then vacuum. You can also sprinkle baking soda on your upholstery, work it in with a damp sponge, let it sit for one hour, and then vacuum using the upholstery tool to reveal brighter, cleaner (thanks to the baking soda’s abrasive nature), and deodorized cushions and pillows.

Limitless Possibilities

The upholstery cleaner attachment also works on difficult-to-clean blinds, while a ceiling fan attachment makes short work of the blades. Take the crevice tool into the kitchen to clean the refrigerator coils and condenser, crumbs from a toaster, and the tight areas between cabinets and appliances.

For areas too narrow for even the crevice tool to reach, tape a cardboard paper towel roll to the end of the hose and bend the tip into the desired shape. Meanwhile, a soft brush takes care of curtains, lampshades, window screens, and just about anything that will hold still long enough.

Surprising Uses

You’ve cleaned the carpets, lifted the dust, and freshened the house, but don’t put this wonderful appliance away just yet.

Sherlock Vacuum

Dropped a tiny item that you can’t find? Instead of getting down on your hands and knees, pull a stocking over the crevice nozzle. The vacuum can now suck the missing piece into the stocking for easy retrieval.

Pet Spa

While some dogs and cats go crazy at the sound of the vacuum, many others enjoy having their fur vacuum-groomed. The bonus is that you’ll be removing their loose fur directly, resulting in a cleaner house.

The Deflator

An air mattress is wonderful when company comes to stay; that is, until it comes time to press all the air back out so you can pack it away. Place the vacuum nozzle into the mattress air nozzle and let it do the job for you.

Sandy Lindsey is an award-winning writer who covers home, gardening, DIY projects, pets, and boating. She has two books with McGraw-Hill.
You May Also Like