9 vacuuming mistakes you should avoid

Are you guilty of any of these vacuuming mistakes? Here’s how to avoid them.

Are you vacuuming your home wrong? You might think that vacuuming is a simple task, but experts say that most people make mistakes that can make their home dirtier. And as someone who has tested a lot of vacuum cleaners in my line of work, I know only too well what these mistakes are.

Combining my knowledge with the advice of experts, these are the vacuuming mistakes to avoid. Get ready to experience the joy of spotless floors

Close up shot of a vacuum cleaner on a thick rug to illustrate Vacuuming mistakes to avoidCredit: Shutterstock/VGstockstudio
There are some basic rules to follow to make sure you vacuum properly

1. Not clearing the floorspace

Don’t try and vacuum around things

Not clearing floors is a big mistake says Laura Mountford, author of the book Live, Laugh, Laundry, who advises that picking up everything will make the job so much easier and effective. 

As someone with an untidy teen and a dog who leaves her toys all over the place, I am guilty of this one. But while cleaning the floorspace may seem like a drag, making sure you’re not vacuuming around errant objects not only makes the job quicker, but also ensures you’re getting all that dust and debris up.  

A baby plays on the floor with some balls while someone vacuums nearbyCredit: Shutterstock/Ground Picture
For a thorough vacuum it’s best to pick up everything blocking the floor – including small children

You also won’t be in danger of sucking something up into your machine that could break it – so speaks someone who once sucked up a Lego brick and broke a very expensive vacuum cleaner. 

To make it easier in our household, we keep baskets in each room where we can throw things in quickly before we run the vacuum around. 

2. Vacuuming too quickly

Slow it down

It’s tempting to try to race through vacuuming, but this is counterproductive. By rushing, you risk leaving behind dirt, dust and debris that can accumulate over time. Slow and deliberate movements allow the vacuum cleaner to effectively pick up all the dirt and allergens, ensuring a cleaner living environment.

This is something that Mountford agrees with, and she advises that a thorough, slow vacuum is the only thing that will get rid of all the dirt. 

“Start in the far corner of the room and work your way from back to front, top to bottom,” she says.  

3. Only vacuuming in one direction

Vacuum in straight lines forward and back

One Direction may have been a successful band, but it’s not a successful way to vacuum. Instead, you need to vacuum in both directions, forwards and then bring it fully backwards, to get the best result.

In fact, some vacuums like the GTech AirRam MK2, rely on this forwards and backwards movement to create greater suction. 

I use overlapping, slow, deliberate strokes backwards and forwards in a straight line so that I cover the floor systematically. 

4. Using the wrong type of vacuum

Get the right vacuum for your flooring

Not all vacuums are created equal. Some vacuums are better suited for carpet, while others, such as the Dyson Omni-glide, are better for hard floors. If you’re not using the right type of vacuum for your flooring, you’re not going to get a good clean. 

Woman vacuuming a rugCredit: Shutterstock/M_Agency
If you have carpets and hard floors, make sure you choose a vacuum cleaner that can handle both

Corded cleaners also tend to have better suction than even the best cordless vacuums, so if you have heavy duty dirt to tackle, I definitely recommend them.

Saying that, the new Dyson’s suction power has become the thing of legend in our testing lab and performed well on both hard floors and carpet, but it’s not a cheap option. 

5. Not cleaning filters regularly

Vacuums need a clean too

Vacuum filters get dirty over time, and if you don’t change them regularly, your vacuum won’t be able to pick up as much dirt and debris.   

Not sure how to clean your vacuum cleaner and its filter? It all depends on what kind of filter you have says Sarah Dempsey from myjobquote.co.uk. 

“There are usually a couple of removeable filters on a vacuum cleaner,” she advises. “For some, you simply need to tap out the loose dust, but others can be rinsed under the tap. The filters need to be left to dry thoroughly before you place them back in the vacuum.” 

Most manufacturers advise doing this monthly, however, I do it a little more regularly – every two to three weeks – because I have a very hairy dog. 

Always follow the guidance from the manufacturer

You’ll find instructions on how to clean the filter in the manual, along with instructions on how to remove parts such as the brush bar. And be sure to unplug your vacuum before you do anything.

6. Neglecting the brush roll

Get rid of tangles

The brush roll on your vacuum is what helps to loosen dust and dirt from your carpets. If the brush roll is clogged with hair or other debris, it won’t be able to do its job properly.

To clean the brush roll, simply remove it from the vacuum and ensure nothing is tangled in it. You may need to use some scissors to fully remove the offending item.

Dyson V15 Detect long fibre pickup test on laminate head and brush detailCredit: Saga Exceptional
You may have to dismantle your brush head to ensure all debris is removed fully

The easiest option is to choose a vacuum cleaner that has special anti-tangle technology.   

If you’re about to buy a new vacuum, look out for one with antitwist or similar technology, as this means you won’t have to worry about removing tangled hairs from the brush, advises Catrin Davies, senior product manager at SDA Hoover. 

7. Overlooking hard-to-reach areas

Adapt your vacuum to reach everywhere

When vacuuming, we tend to concentrate on the main floor space, but it’s equally important to pay attention to those hard-to-reach areas such as corners and – my particular vacuum nemesis – under furniture.

Neglecting these areas allows dirt and dust to accumulate, which can then spread onto your nice clean floors. It can also affect those with allergies.  

Thankfully, there’s no need to lift heavy sofas or TV units out of the way now. You can, for example, use a robot vacuum to get to those difficult under-furniture areas. I have the Shark IZ300UKT Anti Hair Wrap cordless pet vacuum, which uses ‘flexology’ technology. This allows you to bend the cleaner on the wand, so it then effortlessly glides under sofas and drawers.

A man using a Shark Anti Hair Wrap Cordless Vacuum IZ202UK to vacuum up highCredit: Shark
Using the attachments that comes with your vacuum cleaner allows you to clean all those difficult nook and crannies

For corners, the crevice attachment is the perfect choice and is the one addition that Dempsey says is a must-have. 

“A nozzle or crevice tool is invaluable for using in corners, and along ledges and skirting,” she says.  

I also love using this attachment for those high-up corners, to suck up any cobwebs. 

8. Not emptying the bag or bin

Bin it!

While bagged vacuums, such as the Hetty Quick, don’t need to be emptied until the bag is full, cylinders should be emptied after each clean. Not only does this improve the suction, but it also makes sure the vacuum isn’t harbouring any nasty bacteria.  

It’s also a good idea to clean out the bin once a month with warm, soapy water. I find this helps keep my vacuum smelling fresh and lovely. 

9. Dusting before your vacuum

Switch it around for the ultimate clean

“The most common method for cleaning is to dust first and then vacuum after, but did you know that when you vacuum, it can cause dust particles to move around the room?” asks Mountford. 

Her recommendation is to vacuum first, but if you just love to dust first, you may need to go over everything quickly again after your vacuuming session. 

A man damp dusts a glass coffee tableCredit: Shutterstock/Pressmaster
Damp dusting is the most efficient way to keep your house dust free for allergy sufferers

If you have allergy sufferers in the house, it’s best to dampen dust, says airborne allergens expert Max Wiseberg 

“Normal dusting with a dry cloth can just raise the allergens into the air,” he says. “It won’t make things worse if you clean with a damp microfibre cloth.” 

And if you’re looking to combine your dusting and vacuuming, some vacuums come with a dusting attachment. I love using mine to clean blinds, dust my skirting boards and even clean my keyboard. I’m a bit of a desk snacker, so my keyboard is always covered in dust and crumbs. The dusting attachment is a lifesaver. 

Jayne Cherrington-Cook

Written by Jayne Cherrington-Cook she/her


Jayne is the Senior Editor at Saga Exceptional. She cut her online journalism teeth 24 years ago in an era when a dialling tone and slow page load were standard. During this time, she’s written about a variety of subjects and is just at home road-testing TVs as she is interviewing TV stars. A diverse career has seen Jayne launch websites for popular magazines, collaborate with top brands, write regularly for major publications including Woman&Home, Yahoo! and The Daily Telegraph, create a podcast, and also write a tech column for Women’s Own.

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