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Six things you should never vacuum unless you want to destroy your Dyson

We reveal the common household spills that could leave you with a broken vacuum cleaner – and the simple alternatives to sucking them up

Six things you should never vacuum unless you want to destroy your Dyson

It’s life admin day and the cleaning is in full swing. You whip out your trusty vacuum, ready to suck up all of the week’s dust and debris. But nothing is getting sucked up, and your vac is making a strained, desperate noise. What’s gone wrong? Well, the chances are you’ve vacuumed up something you shouldn’t have.

Poor suction and blocked filters were the most common problem reported by vacuum owners in our 2019 reliability survey. They account for almost a fifth of all reported faults in both corded and cordless vacuums.

This can usually be fixed with some regular maintenance, such as keeping your floor head and filters clean, and regularly emptying the vacuum.

You can also greatly reduce the risk if you remember that some household spills, tempting as it may be to suck them up, are like kryptonite to your vac – Dyson or otherwise.

We’ve picked out six common spills that could damage or block your vacuum and explain why it’s better to clean them up the old fashioned way if you want your vac to last.



1. Soil and plant debris

Whether caused by shoes on the carpet or feline funny business, a bit of soil or dirt on the floor is a common annoyance in any home. Your vac can make it all disappear, right?

Wrong. The push force and weight of your vacuum will more likely push the dirt deeper into your carpet and may even stain it. Plant debris that has fallen from house plants can easily clog up your machine too, particularly if it’s moist. The leaves can stain your carpet too.

What to do instead

Sweep up visible soil, dry mud and fallen leaves to prevent them from going down instead of up. This is a task for your dustpan and brush.


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2. Sharp objects

If you’ve dropped a glass, it can be very tempting to vacuum surfaces near the breakage to make sure you catch any small sharp bits that can cut your hands, feet, or the paws of your pets.

But vacuuming broken glass will damage your vacuum. Tiny shards can lodge themselves in the hose, motor, and if you use a bagged vacuum they can tear the bag, potentially causing everything inside to spill out.

What to do instead

Sweeping up the glass is the best approach, followed by dabbing surfaces with damp kitchen roll to pick up the tiny shards you might miss. Be careful and be patient. You need to make sure you get it all.

3. Ash and sawdust

Ash is a right pain to clear up, especially if you’ve had a spillage while emptying the fire grate. It’s the same with the endless flecks of sawdust and grit you get during a building project.

But you might want to think twice about vacuuming all the leftover ash and sawdust. Ash and sawdust contains dust particles so fine that even a small amount will totally jam up your filters and cause suction to drop.

What to do instead

Even sweeping this stuff can send ultra-fine dust up into the air, which can irritate your lungs, so be careful. One handy trick to help keep it at bay is to dampen it first before sweeping it with a dustpan and brush.

They aren’t for ash, but the best vacs will zap fine dust and pollen particles in your home. Find out how our rigorous tests uncover the leaders in dust-busting, in our guide to how we test vacuum cleaners.

4. Liquids

You can buy ‘wet & dry’ models that are specifically for vacuuming liquids and moist debris such as used coffee grounds, but this is definitely not a task for your everyday vacuum cleaner.

Vacuuming up wet stuff is a sure-fire way to clog your vacuum, as wet items will clog up the tube and block the filter. Sucking up liquids will make whatever’s inside wet too, and will invite any dust you suck up afterwards to collect and build up into a dirty damp mess, which can also become mouldy.

Sucking up liquids into an electric appliance such as a vacuum cleaner is also a safety risk, and can cause electrical failures in the machine that will put it out of action for good.

What to do instead

Use kitchen roll, a cloth or mop to wipe up spilled liquids. This isn’t a job for your vacuum.

5. Small objects

Just because it can be picked up by your vacuum cleaner doesn’t mean it should be.

Sucking up small bits of debris is no problem for most vacs, but you should keep an eye out for anything sharp and bigger than dry cereal pieces or small bits of gravel. Larger objects can block and damage the insides.

Common culprits are objects such as small coins, paperclips and pins – not only can they get stuck in the brush, but their hard or pointy edges can crack or pierce the internal tubing or the motor of your vacuum on their way in.

It may be tempting to just suck them up instead of pick them up, but these aren’t the objects your vac is designed to handle. It will thank you for picking them up yourself. As will you, when you don’t have to spend hundreds of pounds on a new vacuum.

6. Sticky stuff

It does what it says on the tin. It sticks to stuff. It sticks your dusting brush bristles to each other, clogs the filter and jams up the motor.

What’s worse is that sticky stuff such as syrup, glitter or glue will also heat up in your vacuum when it gets stuck and is likely to melt. This is certain to break the motor, and make your vacuum both unsafe and unusable.

What to do instead

A damp, soapy cloth is the only way to handle this kind of mess. And if there’s glue in your carpet, distilled white vinegar can help to dislodge it.

For more advice on keeping your vacuum in top working order, check out our vacuum maintenance guide.

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