How To Clean A Vacuum Filter (Plus Why You Want Too!)

Mickey Mouse & his vacuum cleaner

Your vacuum cleaner goes through a lot! Whether you vacuum once a week or once a day, the amount of hours a vacuum is asked to perform in its lifetime is impressive.

This means that all the elements of the vacuum are placed under strain; from the rollers to the vacuum filter.

Did you know the average vacuum will only last between five and seven years?! There’s a good reason for this. Read on to find out…
  1. Vacuum Cleaners are Made of Plasticplastic homemade vacuum cleaner Instead of being built to last, many vacuums are actually designed to work for a limited period.

    The plastic becomes durable and prone to breaking.

  2. Vacuum Filter becomes BlockedThis is a common and not surprising issue. Your vacuum will pick up a huge range of different items during its lifespan.

    It is likely that the vacuum filter will become choked and affect the performance of the machine.

    If you do not clean or replace the vacuum filter then you will lose suction. In addition the rest of the parts will be placed under additional strain and be likely to break.

  3. Limited Warranties

    vacuum filter blockedThe warranties which come with almost all vacuum cleaners will only cover defects and are usually only for a year or two.

    After this period you will find it is cheaper to replace the machine than it is to attempt to get it repaired.

Maintaining Your Machine

By looking after your vacuum you will be able to extend its life and ensure it never loses suction.

This is exceptionally important if you have pets and need to use it every day to clear up the pet hair.  Check out these articles to find out why your dog is shedding so much or your cat is losing hair!

 There are several parts of your machine which need to be checked and maintained regularly: 

  • The Vacuum Filter

Various vacuum filterThe vacuum filter is usually fitted inside the machine, as the dirt is sucked from the floor it passes into the bag and the air is expelled out of the back of the vacuum.

Most cleaners now incorporate a filter into the exit air pipe which makes sure the air exiting the vacuum is clean.

It is this which prevents you from blowing pollutants into your living space.

  • The Roller

As the piece which is in touch with the floor the most, the roller is the most likely part to become snagged. Pieces of carpet, hair and other debris can stick to the brush and prevent it from operating properly. This reduces the effectiveness of your cleaner.

  • Emptying

It should be automatic to empty your vacuum periodically. This needs to be done whether the cleaner has a bag or not.

Hot Tip
A full bag or container will reduce the suction power of your vacuum cleaner; empty it regularly!
  • Hoses

trying to vacuum catIt is exceptionally easy for a hose to become blocked. An odd sock, a small toy or even an errant piece of jewellery can completely or partially block the pipes. This will prevent the vacuum from gaining suction.

You can usually see or feel the obstruction in the pipes; although you may need to use a hook or similar to pull the object out.

This is usually a simple process, if you are unable to remove the blocakge in this way you may need to take the vacuum hoses off.  You will then be able top push something through the entire pipe.

How to Clean the Vacuum Filter

It should, by now, be obvious that the vacuum filter is an important part of your machine.

If you choose not to clean it regularly then it is likely your machine will not last as long as the average cleaner.

Important Fact – There are usually two filters fitted; one is on the exhaust and the other protects the motor from dust.

washing vacuum filterThe filters are usually set up inline; this provides a double opportunity to capture any dust and pollutants and prevent them from harming the vacuum or the environment.

It is important to know how many filters your machine has and where they are located.  If you are not sure then you can look in your user manual or online to find the vacuum filter or filters on your machine.

Cleaning is simply a case of removing it and assessing which type of filter it is. You can then gently tap all the dirt, dust and debris out of the filter. Most of them can be washed in warm water.

Remember This
Your Filter is only clean when the water flowing through it remains clear.

However, it is essential to allow the vacuum filter to dry completely before you put it back into your machine.
If you don’t you will have the delightful smell of damp dog emanating from your vacuum!

Knowing Your Filters

There is not just one type of vacuum filter! That would simply be too easy. The following guide will help you to identify which type of filter you have, and, whether it is washable or not:

  • Cartridge

cartridge filterThese types of filters are cylindrical with a hole in the middle and cardboard fins creating a circle round the outer edge.

These are not generally washable but the excess dirt can be tapped out and the vacuum filter can even be replaced as needed.



  • Cloth

This type of filter is generally reserved for high powered industrial cleaners. These can be washed many times and generally very durable.

  • Foam

foam vacuum filterThese are generally fitted as a second vacuum filter. They are designed to filter the air and are not capable of removing dust.

These usually form the exhaust filter to protect the air in your house from being polluted. They are almost always washable although you are advised to check the manufacturer’s guidelines.

  • Disk

disk vacuum filterThese are the most recent type of vacuum filter. They are used in the latest technology and are very robust.

Indeed, they are actually capable of collecting a large amount of dust before they need tapping out and washing.

It is very unusual for these not to be washable.

Top Fact – HEPA filters are commonly used in modern vacuum cleaners to remove 99.995% of all air particles.

A HEPA filter will still conform to one of the types above; it is merely a specialized vacuum filter.

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