How Does A Vacuum Cleaner Work? (The Function of Every Component)

Whether you are pushing around a Bissel, a Hoover, or a DustDevil your vacuum may look very complicated, but in fact most models contain the same components throughout their structure. The functions of each of these components combine together to make a working, easy to use, and efficient vacuum cleaner.

Vacuums commonly contain parts on the outside of the canister such as hose hooks, power switches, cord organizers, and other self explanatory components but inside, vacuums also contain the following hidden components:

  • Dust Bag
  • Electric Motor
  • Intake Port
  • Fan
  • Rotating Brush
  • Exhaust Port
  • Filter

If one of these parts is not functioning properly in your vacuum then you may need to replace it. Check out replacement parts here.

Your Vacuum’s Components

Dust Bag

Dust bag for vacuum

A dust bag allow some your vacuum to capture dust and other pesky particles.

The dust bag is commonly made out of paper, cloth, or other porous materials. Filtering out dirt and other particles from the air and stopping them from being sucked through the vacuum is the dust bag’s main function. This leaves the air clean, particle free, and healthier for humans before it gets pushed out of the exhaust port.

Without a dust bag (or a similar component such as a dust canister) a vacuum would pick up particles from the floor and recycle them back, defeating its purpose.

Electric Motor

Electric Motor For Vacuum

The electric motor supplies energy to the rest of your vacuum.

The electric motor is the powerhouse of your vacuum, and it allows every other component to work properly.

Like other electric motors, the motor inside your vacuum supplies energy to the rest of the functioning components. Without a proper functioning motor every other component would not work.

The main cause of vacuum failure is in fact due to electric motors overheating. Electric motor overheating occurs most of the time when backups occur inside the machine.

When a blockage occurs the motor starts to work extra hard. When the motor continues to work extra hard and the blockage doesn’t move, the motor soon overheats.

Intake Port

Intake Port For Vacuum

The intake port allows dirt, dust, and other particles to be sucked into your vacuum.

The intake port on your vacuum allows air to enter the machine.

The air brings with it dust, dirt, and other particles that are sucked up by your vacuum. The intake port is directly attached to the head of the vacuum, which is used to sweep across the floor.

Once air has been sucked through your vacuum’s intake port the air is then pushed further into the machine by the internal fan. As earlier mentioned, blockages can have catastrophic effects on a vacuum cleaner. Much of these blockages occur here at the intake port. Unattended particles that are sucked up by a vacuum often don’t fit inside the intake port. After becoming stuck these unattended particles then cause blockages to occur.

Rotating Brush

Rotating Vacuum Brush

The rotating brush attached to your vacuum allows hard-to-reach dirt to be sucked up.

The rotating brush allows your vacuum to capture dust particles that lurk deep in the carpet. The brush uses friction to loosen dirt from your carpet. Then, this dirt is sucked up through the intake port of the vacuum.

Where the intake port and rotating brush are working in tandem, several of the other components inside your vacuum also work together. Without the rotating brush your vacuum would only be able to pick up dirt left on the surface of your carpet or floor.

Exhaust Port

Vacuum Exhaust Port

The exhaust port on your vacuum allows air to be expelled.

The exhaust port of your vacuum allows the air that has been sucked up to be released from your vacuum.

However, the air is only released after the dirt, dust, and other particles are filtered out of it. This process leaves your carpet and air clean.

The exhaust port is important in the overall function of your vacuum, because with out such a component air would not be able to escape the vacuum. This hot air would continue to cause your vacuum to overwork and eventually cause it to overheat.

Blockages can also occur in your vacuum’s exhaust port, so it is important to check it frequently.


Air Filter For Vacuum

The air filter inside your vacuum remove some small particles from the air.

The filter inside your vacuum works similar to the dust bag.

This filter removes particles from the air and prevents them from being sucked through your vacuum. The filter cleans the air that is being forced through your vacuum before it reaches the exhaust port.

The dust bag removes large particles from the air, and the filter helps remove smaller, hard to grasp particles from the air. These two parts work in tandem to make the air entering your vacuum cleaner and healthier by the time it is expelled out of your vacuum’s exhaust port.


Vacuum Fan

The fan inside your vacuum allows dirt to be sucked up from your carpet.

The fan pushes air throughout your vacuum, ending at the exhaust port of your vacuum. Using pressure, similar to how a straw can be used to transport liquid, the fan begins to pick up dirt. Once the fan starts spinning, the pressure behind it decreases causing suction to occur. This suction allows air and other particles to be sucked up by your vacuum.

For more information on how the fan inside your vacuum works, check out this article.

Without a properly functioning fan your vacuum would not be able to suck up dirt, dust, or even just air.

Upon first glance your vacuum may look complicated and scary, but as we have learned a vacuum actually functions very simply. The various components inside your vacuum allow it to properly clean your carpet.

Blockages are the main cause of vacuum failure so be sure to check for them frequently!


  1. Betty July 2, 2017
    • Julie October 1, 2017
  2. Kay October 1, 2017

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