How to Clean Your Vacuum Cleaner

How to Clean Your Vacuum Cleaner via Clean Mama

Note:  Always follow the instructions that come with your vacuum cleaner, this blog post is merely a guide.  Pictured and used in this post and in my home is the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal+Allergy vacuum cleaner.  I love it and wholeheartedly recommend it!  The cinetic technology eliminates the need to replace filters, so that makes it much easier to clean and maintain.

Cleaning a vacuum cleaner seems more complicated than it actually is.  A couple tools and 15 minutes and you’ll have a clean and like new vacuum cleaner.  Try this simple step-by-step and you’ll most likely notice that your vacuum works better and runs more smoothly.  Do this little routine monthly and you’ll be extending the life of your vacuum cleaner.

Tools for Cleaning a Vacuum Cleaner via Clean Mama

Here’s what you need:

  • garbage bag
  • old scissors or seam ripper
  • cotton pads
  • rubbing alcohol
  • water source (I use the utility sink in the mud room)
  • cleaning cloth or paper towels


Step 1:  Empty the canister in a garbage bag or remove and dispose of vacuum cleaner bag – I recommend doing this outside or in your garage – the weather was not cooperating with me so these pictures were captured in my kitchen.

Empty Canister in a Garbage Bag via Clean mama

Step 2:  Take everything apart that can be taken apart to ensure you get everything cleaned properly.

Take Everything Apart via Clean Mama

Step 3:  Use a scissors or seam ripper to carefully cut hair/string/yarn/whatever is tangled up in the beater bar of your vacuum cleaner.

Use a Scissors to Cut Anything that's Tangled in the Beater Bar via Clean Mama

Step 4:  Apply rubbing alcohol to a cotton pad and then rub that on the bottom of the vacuum cleaner to disinfect it.  This will dry instantly and disinfect your vacuum.  If this sounds a little extreme, it’s important to disinfect the bottom of the vacuum cleaner because that travels all over your house and is most likely the dirtiest part of the vacuum cleaner (next to what’s inside the canister or bag).  If you still aren’t convinced, here’s a true vacuum cleaner story to convince you.  When I was teaching I had a student (and her whole family) that kept getting the stomach flu every week.  This went on for over a month.  Their doctor finally figured out what was happening.  Someone had gotten sick on the carpet and it had been cleaned, but every time they vacuumed the germs got stirred up and they kept re-infecting themselves.  Soooo…that’s why I thoroughly clean my vacuum cleaner.

Wipe Bottom of Vacuum Cleaner with Rubbing Alcohol via Clean Mama

Step 5:  If you can wash or wipe out a canister, wash or wipe it.  Make sure it’s completely dry before you return it to the vacuum cleaner.  Take the time to wipe and clean the seals as well.

Wash Canister via Clean Mama

Step 6:  Completely wipe down the entire vacuum cleaner with a damp microfiber cloth.  You add a little spritz of your favorite all-purpose cleaner to the cloth to give it a little extra cleaning oomph if you’d like.

Dry Thoroughly Via Clean Mama

Step 7:  Change or clean any filters following the manufacturer’s directions.  Most filters can be washed/rinsed out, but make sure that it’s completely dry before returning it to your machine.  Mold can grow in the machine and you don’t want that.

Step 8:  Over the top tip – If you have any scuff marks from your woodwork, you can quickly remove scuff marks with rubbing alcohol on a cotton pad.  This is great if for any reason you want your vacuum cleaner to look like new – great idea for a garage sale spruce up.  You can apply this tip other places too – have a paint scuff on your car door (not a scratch or dent, a scuff), put a little rubbing alcohol on a cotton pad and you’ll see the scuff disappear.

Remove Scuff Marks via Clean Mama

So what do you think?  When was the last time you cleaned your vacuum cleaner?  Ready to give your vacuum cleaner a deep cleaning?

How to Clean Your Vacuum Cleaner Infographic via Clean Mama

Looking for more DIY posts?  Check these out!


  1. Gwenevere says:

    I have cleaned my vacuum in the past but never to this extent, however, I can see the point and will be doing this in the future. I have grandchildren that seem to pick up every bad germ around. Thanks for the insight.

  2. ah god, i dread this one!! but thanks for the reminder…. it is way past due!

  3. Ughhh I am so horrible at this! My old vaccum started acting up, my bf took it apart and asked when the last time was that I took it apart and cleaned it… “umm..never…”
    Needless to say, I do now.

  4. I never thought of using a seem ripper. Ive always just cut hair out but had gunk build up in the brissils on the hardfloor attachment. Just tried using the seem ripper and i think i might be sick after seeing how much crap was in it and to think thats been all over my floors is even worse!

  5. Thanks for sharing! I’m sharing this with my readers as it’s overlooked way too often!

  6. Lady Susan says:

    I cleaned my Dyson last weekend. I used an air compressor to remove the dust from the turbines – was amazed how much dust came out of them! You could use the air hose (for putting air in car tyres) at the local garage and blow it through all the turbines

    • Great tip!
      xo, Becky

      • Thanks for sharing!! I’m giving my car a thorough vacuuming this weekend using the industrial one at the local car wash. I’ll bring my Dyson with me!

    • Lori Jones says:

      First lest me say thanks! For the remaining Nader! I have been doing this for a number of years now.
      The canister ready was dirty any I thought I would give it a try. So I took it out side and used the water hose on it.

      I have cleaned the turbines? ( the piece that the clear container snaps on to) with hot water.
      I was surprised at the amount of dirt that can out of it!
      I just take it out side and use the water hose then leave it out side to dry. Have not had a problem with doing it this way..
      Did not think of the air compressor, will have to try this.

    • Who knew!!
      Thanks for that tip

  7. You can pull out the “beater” on your Dyson to get rid of all of that hair efficiently…and easier! On the side there is a slot you turns and it slides right out!!! I have 3girls and use this feature all of the time…I’m shocked we have any hair left on our heads!!!

  8. Just got extra Dyson you have for Black Friday. Very excited to use it. Abdolutely wonderful vacuum & thank you for the tips.

  9. Is there any easier way to clean those brush rollers? I think you called them beaters… Between my dog and I, there is SO MUCH hair and it’s awful to clean having to cut and then tug at the hair repeatedly. I feel like there should be a better way. Praying to the vacuum manufacturers that they do something about the horror that is cleaning those brush rollers!

    • As far as I know, there isn’t – but it would be great if it just popped off and you could empty the hair without touching anything, right?

      • They make small wire hair pullers (can’t think of a better name) made to clean hair brushes. They’re amazing. You tease the slightly angled head through the bristles of the brush and never have to use your fingers. It gets almost all the hairs and loosens any other “stuff”. The width of the wire head is about an inch so it should get into small spaces.

  10. How do you suggest cleaning the hose?

    • You can remove it and wash it, but make sure it’s COMPLETELY dry before returning it to the vacuum cleaner because if it isn’t you could get mold 🙁

  11. Patricia says:

    I do way better than this. I have a Bissell Pet Lifter upright and I get the screwdriver out and everything. Remove the roller, clean that, run water through the hose to make sure there’s no debri in there, replace all filters (3 of them). I love cleaning with CLEAN tools. Makes it a more pleasure experience. I even pay a little more for the Febreeze filter in mine. Wonderful. Makes me wanna go get the screwdriver right now.

    • Febreeze filters? I didn’t know they made them I will check it out. I am wondering if after washing and drying you spray the filter with Febreeze on it and let it dry again if that would work? I have 5 dogs and 2 cats so my Dyson gets a real work out. I do need something to make it smell better! I too use an air compressor to clean the dust out of the turbines really blows out the dust.

  12. Wow thank you! I’m off to disinfect my vacuum cleaner.

  13. I bought a a Dyson pet canister vacuum two years ago – while it’s good at picking everything up and not spitting out dust in the process (I have respiratory problems, so this was the primary reason for buying the Dyson), cleaning it is the bane of my existence as the dog and cat fur gets stuck and I have to yank it out with a bamboo kebab skewer… which then has all the dust flying right into my face. :/ Thanks to your post, however, I am going to figure out how to take the canister apart to make the process simpler – did not even think to do that! And thank you for pointing out about the importance of disinfecting the machine! I’ve yet to throw up on the floor myself, but the dogs do, and I’d never thought of the possibility of transferring any potential viruses from one dog to the other. 🙁 Looking forward to reading your other posts!

  14. Amanda LeBlanc says:

    Thanks for the wonderful information

  15. I have an old dyson animal (I think it’s a DC 07) which I love. I don’t clean it as often as I should. I keep telling myself I’m going to bring it into the shop for service, but so far I haven’t. I’ve never washed out the canister–great idea! Hate the beater bar. I can get it partway out but putting it back in correctly is a bear!

    Anyway- when I DO clean it, I put a couple drops of my favorite potpourri refresher oil on the outside of the filter that sits on the side near the wheels. It works awesome since I have a huge dog (Great Dane) and my house usually smells like her, even when I clean like crazy. Of course then I just want to vacuum all the time to keep that nice smell in the air!

  16. What if there is mold in the canister? I have taken a new job and the vacuum has mold in it. I told them I would try to figure out how to clean it. So, what do you do? Please?

    • Same procedure but you are going to want to use something like white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide to remove the mold. If you can’t remove it you might want to consider a new one because you don’t want those mold spores in your air and on the floor.

  17. Susan Williams says:

    I had to get a clog out of my vacuum cleaner. At first it was easy to pull out stuff but then it got far enough back in the hose and nothing could reach it. I finally hit on using a zip tool (that wonderful little tool you use to get hair out of the drain. Took on a few minutes to complete the job. Now thanks to this post I can clean my vacuum . Just thought
    My hint would be helpful.

  18. Marissa Duren says:

    Ok, I did this! After reading your article, I just couldn’t resist! I’ve wiped my vacuum down and gotten the hair and stuff out of the underneath, but never taken it apart (and I’ve owned it for like 6 years – I know, yuck!). I was shocked to see how much dirt there really was INSIDE my vacuum. I never knew I had 2 filters also! I even took the core apart and cleaned inside that. So gross! But it’s totally gleaming now! I just filled my sink with hot, hot water (a couple times due to all the gunk) and added a few drops of dawn and a cup of white vinegar. Voila! Thanks for the inspiration and the tip about the rubbing alcohol. So clean!!

  19. Sharon Schepicoff says:

    My dyson I is always clogging up where the tube meets the beater bar. Then it starts making a loud noise. I thought these cleaners weren’t supposed to clog up. I have to take the whole thing apart to get that clog out. Doesn’t seem like a very good design to me. I have to do this after every five uses its very annoying.

  20. Once you have the clear canister off, there is a screen left right under the turbine part. How do you clean under that screen? I can’t seem to take it off and I can see dirt under there. I didn’t know if you could run water over there?

  21. Karen Bruno says:

    Accidentally vacuumed up cat bark so my dyson is getting a complete overhaul. I regularly clean the canister and filter but was so grossed out by the black goo on the bottom. Thanks for the tip on the rubbing alcohol! Dyson truly is the best vacuum ever! I bought a small sharp pair of sewing scissors that I keep just for the threads and hair on the brush roller.

  22. Maybe try mixing vinegar and baking soda ~ let it dry completely then vacuuming up the dry bake & vin. combo and let sit for a couple days before using again. I always keep a small spray bottle of rubbing alcohol handy. It’s very useful cleaning or if you need a quick disinfectant. Remember it evaporates really fast so I use it just about everywhere (not wood or delicate surfaces obviously). Being a nurse I will never get the magnified picture of dust mites and other live critters! And UGH!! did you ever see EYELASH MITES!!! you will throw away every eye makeup & start fresh when you see one. (& sorry we ALL HAVE THEM)

  23. I would put a few drops of tea tree oil in the alcohol to wipe out inside of canister— it kills mold.

  24. Nancy Brewer says:

    I have had two Dysons and two Roombas. I have cleaned them. Used the air compressor outside on the Dyson. You have to clean a Roomba nearly every time you use it. Recently moved to a house with Mexican tile floors and carpeted bedrooms. Dyson seemed increasingly heavy giving me a back ache and Roomba’s battery lasts for only one room before I have to recharge. Neither of these expensive machines would get the dog hair out of the area rugs. Bought a $149 Shark and the difference is amazing! The amount of dirt and hair I got out of one room is disgusting! Now I’m on a mission to vacuum one room a day to keep up with it.

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