8 Things To Avoid Vacuuming Up With Your Vacuum

When a potted plant or wine glass accidentally gets knocked to the ground and shatters, we know how tempting it can be to whip out your vacuum and easily clean up the mess with one fell swoop. Unfortunately, vacuuming up specific materials and items might be doing a lot more damage to your vacuum than you might think. 

You should never vacuum up any small items that may get stuck in your beater bar or vacuum hose. “These things can get stuck in your vacuum beater bar and can cause the belt to melt and break,” explains Sara San Angelo, a professional home cleaner and founder of Confessions of a Cleaning Lady in Charleston, South Carolina. “If you've ever been vacuuming and smell that burnt rubber smell, that is your beater bar being stuck by something while the rubber belt that spins it, is still spinning and rubbing against the beater bar.” This will melt the rubber and can eventually snap it. 

Vacuum on Wood Floor

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Below, we’ve rounded up all the various items that might be tempting to vacuum up, but should be avoided if you want your vacuum to last for the long term. 

A Liquid Spill or Sticky Mess

Vacuuming up any type of liquids is a bad idea, since you’re using electricity and shouldn’t be mixing the two together anyway. Opt for a sponge or a paper towel instead. 

Wet Food

Whether it be wet dog food or soggy cereal, vacuums were not built to suck up wet food. Avoid this when you can.  

Lots of Hair

Vacuuming up large amounts of hair at a time can actually get tangled in your brush roll and clog up the brush. It’s okay to vacuum up small amounts of hair every once in a while, but in order to keep your vacuum working properly, you’ll want to sweep hair instead. 


You never want to vacuum broken glass because it could easily puncture the inside of your vacuum—especially the vacuum bag. Make sure to thoroughly sweep up any broken glass shards and discard them in the trash.  

Fine Dust

You might be tempted to use a vacuum to clean up dust from a recent home remodel or construction site, but we advise you not to. Unfortunately, fine dust can clog the filters in your vacuum pretty fast, which will make your vacuum useless for future clean-ups.  

Small Items (like coins, paperclips, bobby pins)

How many times have you vacuumed up a small item on the floor because you didn't pick it up while cleaning your space? Don’t worry, we’ve done this, too. In the future, you should avoid vacuuming up anything small like this because it could break the rotating brush on your vacuum. 

Fireplace Ashes

This is another example of fine particles that you want to avoid vacuuming up. Instead, let the ashes cool and then sweep them up and toss them into the trash (or somewhere outside).

Dead Leaves and Plants

Anything dead that has fallen off a plant in your home should not be vacuumed up as it could clog your vacuum and cause issues. 

How To Unclog a Vacuum 

Okay, so what happens if you do accidentally vacuum up one of the above items? According to San Angelo, you first want to make sure the vacuum is unplugged. Then, flip over the vacuum and check the beater bar. 

“If the item is visible, pull it out,” she suggests. “You may need to take the bottom part of the vacuum off to expose the internal mechanisms—this usually requires a screwdriver.” If the item is stuck in the hose, detach the hose from the vacuum and shake vertically to try and dislodge the item.

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