How to Clean Your Vacuum & Carpet Cleaner

Your vacuum and carpet cleaner do require a little bit of regular upkeep to keep them performing at their best.  Collect your make and model number and head on over to Google to download an owner’s manual for more machine specific instructions.


First, UNPLUG the machine from the wall.  We do not want to take any unnecessary risks.
  1. Turn your machine over and locate the brushes.
    • I like to lay the handle back and then turn it over flat on the floor. Most vacuums utilize a brush roller that runs along the front edge of the machine.
  2. Locate the screws to remove the plate covering the brush roller, and remove them.
    • This is typically 2 small Phillips head screws, but may also be a twist latch that doesn’t require a screwdriver.
  3. Examine your brush roller for any debris that might be caught in it.
    • This can include hair of the people or pet variety, thread, Christmas tree tinsel, and lots of others things. If you’ve got debris tangled around the brush roller, now is the time to remove it. My favorite tool for the job is a seam ripper from the craft department, but any small sharp scissor will do the job.  Be careful not to cut the bristles of the brushes.
  4. Check the belt.
    • While you’re right there, you should roll that brush around a few times and inspect the condition of your belt.  That’s the black rubber strap that wraps around the brush roller.  You want it to be the same size all the way along, and be snug when you pull on it.  If it’s odd shaped or loosened, it’s time to replace it.  Lift up on the brush roller to remove it and slip the belt off of the brush roller.  Follow it back toward the motor and slip it off the drive shaft at the motor.  Take it to your local superstore or vacuum shop for a replacement, or check online.
  5. Give everything in there a good scrape and a wipe down.
    • Lots of dusty gunk can build up in the nooks and crannies, so scrape as much of that away as you can.  Then once you’ve got it cleared away, wipe it down with something like a Clorox Wipe, or a rag dampened with diluted all-purpose cleaning solution.
  6. Reassemble the brush roller, belt and cover once it’s dry and stand it back up.
  7. The dust collection system – Here’s where we diverge a little.  You’ve got your two major categories of upright vacuums, the bagged and the bagless.
    • Bagged- A paper bag that collects the dust, and maybe a few sponge filters. Just remove the bag, and rinse the filter(s), then wipe out the body of the vacuum like we did above.  Replace a fresh bag.
    • Bagless – The dust is collected in a bin that you just empty and reuse. This variety tends to have more filters, some of which are not washable.  So, to clean it, remove the dust collection bin and empty it.  As we did with the underside of the vacuum, scrape and accumulated dust out and wipe out the collection bin.  Remove and wash any washable filters.  If it contains paper filters, they should be replaced, though I find that taking them outside and giving them a good shaking and tap on the ground will clear them enough to last until you can replace.
  8. Remove any removable hoses and check that they are clear.
    • If you find any blockages, you can attempt to carefully push them through with a straightened wire coat hanger, but be sure to bend the end over so as not to accidentally pierce the hose.  If your manufacturer allows, you can also rinse the hose out with your cleaning solution and rinse until clear.  Make sure it’s fully dry before reassembling.
  9. Clean-out port.
    • Some vacuums have a place to clean out potential clogs.  There is a twist latch or flap of some kind that will need to be opened.  Remove any accumulated debris there.
  10. Reassemble your bag or collection bin, filters, hose and clean-out cover.
    • Double check everything underneath is still secure from above.  You are now ready to plug in and go.  I recommend going through this procedure every few months, or anytime you notice you’re losing suction or efficiency.  It doesn’t take long and it keeps your vacuum working at its best.


Carpet Cleaners
Carpet Cleaners work similarly to vacuums.  Their purpose is to inject and extract cleaning solution from your carpet, and hopefully carry with it any soil or grime you’re trying to target.  Before you begin, UNPLUG your machine from the wall.
  1. Remove or drain any solution tanks from the machine, we don’t want any spills.
  2. Turn the machine over and locate the brushes.
    • These are a bit trickier than vacuums to lay flat, so you may have to prop it a bit to hold it steady.  The brushes are what agitates the solution into the carpet fibers as well as fluffing them back up.  We want them as clean as possible.  Some machines allow the brushes to be easily removed, some require a screwdriver.  Either way, the object here is to remove any collected fuzz from the brushes.  If you’re not able to remove them, just make sure they are fuzz free.
  1. Clean and wipe the underside.
    • Scrape away any gunk that’s collected around the brush area and give it a wipe with a Clorox Wipe, or a rag dampened with diluted all purpose cleaning solution.  Pay special attention to the spray nozzle or solution distribution head.  That needs to be clear or the cleaning solution won’t dispense.  Replace any pieces you removed and stand the cleaner back upright.
  1. Locate the suction nozzle.
    • On many machines it is a clear plastic piece on the front.  This is where the soiled solution is recovered from your carpet.  There is often a bit of loose carpet fiber that is collected as well, which may collect behind this clear cover.  Many models come with a cleaning tool to reach up in there and remove accumulated gunk.  If yours did not, and the clear cover isn’t removable, you can cautiously fish up there with a pipe cleaner or whatever you find that fits your machine.
  2. Cleaning the tank(s).  Here we come to a fork in the road.  Each machine operates a little differently.  The most popular design is 2 separate tanks, a clean solution tank, and a soiled solution recovery tank.  Though there are other machines that employ a tank within a tank, treat those as if you’re cleaning the soiled solution tank.
    • The clean tank really shouldn’t require anything more than a rinse.  It never comes into contact with dirty water so it stays clean.
    • The soiled solution recovery tank is another story.  These get pretty dirty, and can be prone to stink pretty bad.  The best practice is to empty and rinse the tank every single time you use it.  That really does help keep it clean.  But for a routine cleaning or if you’ve forgotten and put it away dirty, now is a good time to deep clean it.
      • Scrub it out with a diluted all-purpose cleaning solution. I use an old toothbrush and pipe cleaners to get into the nooks and crannies. I also like to rinse it out with a sanitizing solution, just to keep it smelling fresh as possible. Even if it has persistent or lingering odor, that will not impact its operation. You can try storing it with and odor absorber tucked inside, bunched up newspaper, baking soda, or charcoal. Avoid using essential oils on the plastic as some will react and cause damage. Remove your odor remover before the next use.
  3. Remove any removable hoses and rinse with clear water.  Reinstall.
  4. Double check that you’ve returned any pieces you removed and everything is back in order and fully assembled.  Now you’re ready to plug it back in and go.


Your vacuum and carpet cleaner can last many years with some routine upkeep.  If you’ve collected your make and model number, there are tons of online resources for parts if you find anything that looks worn or is missing.  Replacement parts are often very affordable.  Most towns have a vacuum repair shop, and they may even have what you need in stock.  Consult your manual for part numbers.


By Megan Barrett