Getting the Most from your Vacuum Cleaner

Most of us tend to take our vacuum cleaners for granted, expecting them to simply perform with great power and efficiency whenever we need them and getting annoyed if there is any loss of suction or manoeuvrability. But like all household tools and machines, vacuum cleaners will perform a lot better and more reliably if given a bit of regular TLC. Modern vacuum cleaners are so well-designed that they generally need minimal attention – however, a bit of a simple maintenance can go a long way to ensure that your vacuum continues to run smoothly and to prolong its life and prevent costly repairs. So here are some tips on how to care for vacuum cleaner and get the most out of this important piece of cleaning equipment:

  • Remember, always unplug the vacuum before doing any maintenance work – a vacuum which starts unexpectedly can cause injury; similarly check for any breaks in the cord insulation (particularly if you can see the wire through the outer rubber covering) and avoid using the vacuum cleaner until the cord has been repaired or replaced.
  • Check the bag/bin – check the bag (or bin on a bagless model) regularly and empty it frequently. This can make a huge difference to the vacuum working efficiently. In particular, if you notice the vacuum missing debris or leaving fuzz behind, this is an indication that the bag or bin may be too full to clean efficiently. Even being 1/3 fill may affect the vacuum’s optimal function, as air must pass through the collected dust and debris so the more there is, the harder your vacuum will have to work.
  • Check the beater bar (also known as the brush roll) – this is the spinning brush located under the machine, which helps to dislodge dirt from carpets. If you notice any debris, hair or thread clinging to it, then it is time to clean it.
  • Clean the beater bar/brush roll – to do this, you may need to remove the bottom plate, which may involve unscrewing or unclipping some parts – make sure that you don’t lose any screws or clips. Now gently remove the brush roll by pulling it out of the slot at either end and sliding it out from under the belt. Using your fingers, remove any debris clinging to the brush, especially the ends near the bearings and the spots where the belt engages. You may need a pair of scissors to remove any stubborn hairs or strings wrapped around the brush.
  • Check the brush roll bearings – these may need cleaning and lubricating. To check if you have cleaned them thoroughly enough, spin the brush roll on its axle with your fingers to make sure that it spins freely.
  • Check the belt – carefully look at the belt and check for signs of wear and tear, such as cracks, unevenness or melted or worn spots. If the belt is sliding off the drive shaft or shifting out of position, this probably means that it is worn and loose. Replace the belt if it looks worn – normally, it should be replaced every 6 months to 1 year, although this may vary depending on how much you use the vacuum cleaner.
  • Check the air passages and remove any accumulation of dust and debris and look in the hoses for any clogs or obstructions. Even a partial obstruction can affect the suction. Use a hook made of a bent coat hanger to gently dislodge and remove any debris that is stuck but be very careful not to puncture the hose.
  • Check the filters, especially the vacuums which come with HEPA filters, as they need to be clean to provide their optimal function. Read your manual for the correct instructions on how to clean and care for them, as you may inadvertently damage them or impair their function with the wrong cleaning technique. Many filters can be rinsed clean and re-used but some may need replacing – check your manufacturer’s instructions for a guide of the timeframes. If you do wash your filter, make sure that it is completely dry before re-installing it in the vacuum cleaner.

Finally, some tips to remember when using the vacuum:

  • Don’t expect your vacuum to pick up large objects – forcing it to do so may cause blockage and damage. Bend down and pick up large items of rubbish, pennies, debris, etc with your hands or sweep away with a broom first.
  • Be aware of the power cord and never push the machine to the end of the cord, so that it snaps out of the wall socket while the vacuum is still running. This can cause an electric arc which can damage the cord itself and the prongs in the plug.
  • If the vacuum sounds like it is struggling with something or there is an abrupt change in the tone or volume of noise it makes, turn off the vacuum immediately and check for any obstructions or other problems.
  • Unless you have a vacuum especially designed for this purpose, don’t use your vacuum to suck up liquids or in outdoor areas.

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