top of page

Your Vacuum Should Suck!

With most things if it ‘sucks’, it’s generally not good. Not the case with your vacuum cleaner. Your vacuum *should* actually....suck. While I’m stating the obvious, I’ve heard many laments and people generally don’t know what to do when it doesn’t seem to work well.

What is a “vacuum cleaner”?

Simply put, vacuums need air flow to work effectively. Think of a fan. Vacuums are just fancy fans. If you stand in front of a box fan, say, your hair blows back and if you get close enough and speak, you sound like a robot. If you move to the other side of that fan, a piece of paper will ‘stick’ to the back of it.

That’s really all there is to a vacuum except that there is a container of some sort situated between the “back” and the front of the fan. This is the dirt bag or debris receptacle. The stronger the “fan”, the more it will pick up…theoretically.

If you were to throw a bunch of papers, cat toys, wads of pet fur, strings and such at the back of the box fan, it wouldn’t blow out the other side well. With a vacuum, the debris collected from our floors will become so dense that suction is reduced. There’s a little more to it than that, but that's the gist.

Problem Solving

Before you give up and buy a new machine, there are a number of things to consider (and do) first. The most obvious is…check the waste container or bag.


In my opinion, these are the worst invention ever. I get that it’s supposed to save money by not having to purchase bags, but the containers…UGH! If they are emptied indoors, you just poof a large portion back into the air and eventually down to the floor again. It’s common to ‘flip the wrong lock’ and dump the whole thing on the floor too…!

The plastic container is always made of plastic and plastic is statically charged (think of rubbing a balloon on your hair). They are never fully empty unless washed out with soapy water and air dried. I have only met a handful of people who actually did this, but to keep your machine as effective as possible, it must be done at least occasionally.


If your unit requires a bag for dirt collection, they must be replaced when about ¾ full. If the bag feels as hard as a basketball, it’s too full. There should be a little give left.

Never, ever reuse a vacuum bag! I know they can be expensive…my vacuum’s brand bags are close to $5 each and they feel like a diaper but that’s part of the filtration process.

*If HEPA filters and improved air quality are important to you, stick with the name brand for best performance and change them as often as each time you use your machine.


Filters? Yes…there are usually at least two separate filters somewhere around the bag or container. Most of the time they are like the scrubby side of a sponge and a softish cloth type. Upright models often have one that is dense and sponge-like. These should be hand-washed and air-dried (after plucking off hair and excess debris). Others have a metal cup that looks like a tea strainer.

Filters help keep smaller dust and dirt particles from getting to the fan part (the motor) and are super important because if dirt gets to the motor, it can seize up and you will have to buy a new machine, even if it's still under warranty. Most packages of bag replacements also come with new filter replacements. Use them.


Full and partial clogs also slow the airflow and reduce suction. Things that notoriously cause clogs include:

· Children’s socks

· Cat or dog toys

· Dryer sheets or facial tissues

· BOBBY PINS…OMG ladies…pick up those %@*& bobby pins!

· Dead foliage fallen from houseplants

· Discarded clothing tags

· Pine needles (around the holiday season).

I’ve pulled some crazy stuff out of vacuum, underwear, condoms, lighters, bathrobe belts...! The best way to avoid clogs is to watch where you’re directing your machine and don’t be lazy about just grabbing something off the floor instead.

If your machine DOES get clogged, turn it off right away and locate the offender. A professional trick is that the item will usually come out the way it went in… faster than trying to pull it through. In other words, pull or push it back out with another tool (pliers, crochet hook, broom handle). You may have to pull it out in pieces to get the job done.

An example of a partial clog would be a stick (toothpick, an actual stick, matches...) that gets lodged cross-ways in the tube (this is often those cursed bobby pins!). By itself, not too troubling, but as you continue to vacuum, it can cause a log-jam of sorts as things don’t go past it. Eventually there will be a wad of hair and other rubbish wrapped around it.

Another example is the brush roller being wrapped up in hair. The thicker the wrap, the less suction is available to pick up. This also makes the brush roller less effective at sweeping debris up into the wind tunnel. The hair makes it skim over surfaces rather than brushing it. Cut this off with sharp scissors (it will take some time) being careful not to cut the brushes.

Routine Maintenance

Like any other machine, routine maintenance is key. Change the bag and the filters regularly. Don’t vacuum smelly things like pet beds and cat litter (your machine will forevermore emit those smells) or use it for something it’s not intended for like construction clean up (nails, screws, pieces of drywall), outdoors, and garage debris.

Waiting until there is a problem will shorten the life of your vacuum. While quite helpful, they are not as magical as some advertisers would have you believe. They DO lose suction and there’s no such thing as a “pet hair destroyer”. 🙄

If you’ve done all I’ve suggested, and you still can’t figure out why your vacuum doesn't suck…find a local Sew and Vac shop and call for a maintenance visit. Many of these shops are authorized dealers, have relationships with the vacuum manufacturers, and would know how to work on your machine.

Keep in mind that if you didn’t purchase your machine there, expect to pay for the work they do whether it’s a warranty issue or not. Nobody likes to work for free.

If you like my blogs, please consider subscribing below! I would love thoughtful comments or questions as well!

26 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page