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Vacuum cleaners are a critical tool in the modern housekeeping closet. They let you keep carpets and rugs clear of dirt and debris with minimal elbow grease. They also come in handy for cleaning furniture, hardwood floors and even curtains. Since the vacuum is an oft-used tool in most homes — and because owners tend to put them through at least some minor abuse — they don’t always hold up as long as you might like. According to Consumer Reports, the median life of vacuum cleaners is around eight years, but certain factors can impact that lifespan dramatically. Here’s what you need to know to make your vacuum last as long as possible.
BUY A VACUUM THAT’S RIGHT FOR THE JOB(S)
The first step toward a long-lasting vacuum is to buy the right one. Read vacuum reviews to find high-quality options that hold up well for other users. Vacuums are like any other appliance; they come in a wide variety of models and costs. You don’t have to splurge for a vacuum with all the bells and whistles to get longevity. In fact, there’s something to be said for a high-quality vacuum that serves only one or two purposes — fewer parts means less potential for things to break.
In addition to quality, consider how you plan to use the vacuum. Even the most expensive vacuum can break down if used for unintended purposes. For example, handheld vacuums aren’t the right tool for vacuuming carpet throughout your entire home. But you can get even more specific than handheld, canister or traditional vacuum. Many companies today offer vacuums meant for particular environments or purposes, such as those that:
- Can handle wet or dry messes
- Are specialized for cleaning hardwood floors
- Include functions that make them better at picking up pet hair
- Include attachments for cleaning upholstery, curtains or cars
Buying a vacuum designed to handle your specific situation makes it more likely the equipment will hold up long-term.
KEEP BAGS, BINS AND FILTERS CLEAN
No matter what type of vacuum you have, it’s purpose is to suck up dirt or debris. And that stuff has to go somewhere.
When you don’t empty the bin or change out the bag appropriately, all that debris builds up. If you continue to use the vacuum after those containers are full, there’s nowhere for new waste to go. This results in issues such as less efficient performance (or no performance at all), waste spitting out or your vacuum overheating.
It’s a good idea to check your vacuum bag every week to every month, depending on how often you use it. If you have a bagless model, get into the habit of emptying the bin every time you vacuum, just as you would a dustpan when sweeping.
Bagless vacuums (and some bagged models) include filters to capture dust and debris that doesn’t get caught in the bag or bin. These filters must be cleaned or changed periodically because they become so clogged with dirt that air can’t easily flow through them. Failure to take this important maintenance step can put a strain on your vacuum and cause it to overheat or break. Check your filters at least once a month or more, depending on how frequently you use your vacuum.
CLEAR ITEMS FROM THE ROLLER AND BRUSH
The brush and roller is another place where things can go wrong quickly. Many vacuums use a roller with brushes or some other similar mechanism. The roller rotates quickly when the vacuum is running, scooping debris and dirt up into the vacuum’s suction.
But hair, string and other items can get wound around the roller or caught in the brush. This can impede its movement, putting tension on the roller. At a minimum, this can impact the performance of your vacuum. If the tension is too much, it can lead to breakage of the roller, motor or belt, completely disabling your vacuum.
To keep this from happening, check under your vacuum regularly to ensure the roller and brushes are unencumbered. Remove any foreign objects, such as carpet fibers, thread or hair.
MAINTAIN BELTS AND OTHER MOVING PARTS
Vacuums have motors and multiple moving parts, which are often run on belt systems. Check belts every few months for signs of wear or tear. Belts that aren’t aligned properly on the tracks, have tears or holes in them or are hanging loosely in place need some attention. In most cases, you can buy a replacement belt for relatively little cost and replace it yourself. You might also consider checking bearings and other moving parts at the same time to ensure everything is in good working order.
INVEST IN A PROFESSIONAL CLEANING
If you’re not comfortable working on your vacuum yourself, you can take it to a professional for service. Professionals replace belts and bearings and make other repairs as needed. They also provide preventative service, including a fullcleaning. Typical cleaning services involve removing various belt and motor covers to give your machine a deep clean and ensure everything looks good. Professionals may be able to address small issues they find at this time before they become more costly problems.
DON’T VACUUM UP INAPPROPRIATE ITEMS
Finally, make sure you know how to use your vacuum properly. One of the best ways to protect your equipment is to avoid picking up items that aren’t meant to be cleaned this way, such as coins, paperclips, rubber bands and small toys. It’s a good idea to do a quick visual inspection of a space before you vacuum so you can manually pick up large debris. You should also avoid vacuuming on autopilot so you don’t run over these types of items without knowing it. And if your vacuum starts making loud noises, always stop to determine if you’ve sucked up something that could lead to internal equipment damage.
Vacuums can last anywhere from a few months to 20 years depending on the quality of the vacuum, how well you use it and how you care for it. By putting these tips into action, you can buy more time between vacuum purchases and reduce many of the frustrations that can intervene in what should be a quick and easy household chore.