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How to Fix a Vacuum Cleaner That’s Lost Suction Power

Written by James Hall |

How to Fix a Vacuum with No or Little Suction

Has your vacuum cleaner lost suction power? Before you pay for expensive repairs, try these simple fixes.

It’s common for a previously powerful vacuum to gradually lose suction power. This can be frustrating, especially if you’re not sure why it’s happening.

The good news is that there’s often a simple solution. Fixing suction loss may be as simple as unclogging the filter, removing airflow blockages, or untangling the brush bar. And even if your vacuum needs a new part, you may still be able to fix it at home.

Tip: If you’re sure you need a new vacuum, then check out our list of the best vacuums in the UK.

1. Clean the Vacuum’s Filters

Example of a clogged filter

A clogged vacuum filter is probably the most common cause of suction loss, so it’s the best place to start.

Vacuums must force air through filters to prevent small particles and allergens from escaping, so a layer of dirt can greatly reduce airflow. If you haven’t cleaned your filters for a long time, then there’s a good chance that this is the culprit.

Most vacuum cleaners have two filters: exhaust filter or motor filter and the pre filter.

Both of these need to be cleaned regularly, although you should check with your manufacturer about how and when to do so.

If your vacuum comes with a washable filter, then you can usually clean it by running it under a tap (check the manual first.) It’s vital that the filter is allowed to fully dry before being used again, which can take more than 24 hours.

Other vacuums have filters that can’t be washed and must be replaced when they get clogged. These are less common, but check in your manual to see whether the filter can be washed or not.

2. Check the Brush Bar Isn’t Tangled or Stuck

Many vacuums have a spinning brush bar in the floorhead. Brush bars agitate carpet fibres to remove more dirt and hair, making them particularly important for thick carpets or homes with pets.

As you might expect, it’s common for brush bars to get covered in dirt, which can affect your vacuum’s cleaning performance. Hair can also get tangled around the brush bar, which prevents it from turning properly.

To allow your brush bar to spin freely again, carefully cut long hairs with scissors and then pull out the hair and other fluff. Make sure you wear gloves when doing this to keep your hands clean.

Tip: The most convenient vacuums have a removable brush bar, as it’s easier to use scissors to cut away hair once the bar has been detached. Removing the brush bar also allows you to gently clean it – although make sure it’s fully dry before you re-attach it.

3. Unclog the Floorhead

A dirty floorhead

Along with the brush bar, it’s common for the air inlets in the floorhead to become clogged with fluff and dirt. This can have a big impact on your vacuum’s suction power, so it’s important to clean the floorhead regularly.

This task is easier if the floorhead doesn’t have a brush bar, like with many cylinder vacuums, or if the bar can be removed. If your brush bar can’t be removed, just do your best to remove as much of the clogging material as possible.

4. Check for Tube Blockages

Another common issue is that a tube or hose in the vacuum can become blocked.

All it takes is for a twig, hair clump, or larger item to get stuck in the tube, then incoming debris will start to build a barrier that quickly increases in size. Blockages can also be caused by sucking up debris when the vacuum is already full. This type of suction loss will increase gradually as the clogging gets worse.

If you can’t work out what’s causing your vacuum’s suction loss, take the time to check the vacuum hose, wand, tube leading into the dust canister, and anywhere else where there might be a hidden blockage. You may need a torch and a pair of tweezers to remove the debris.

Sometimes blockages are deep inside the hose. If this is the case, detach the hose from the vacuum, hold it straight, and shine a torch through it. If light doesn’t get through then there is a clog inside (you may also be able to see the clog.) A broom handle can be a useful tool for removing this type of blockage.

Be careful not to damage your vacuum’s hose though. Avoid using sharp objects to dislodge the blockage and don’t be tempted hit it on anything.

5. Remember to Empty the Dust Bin or Bag

Full dust canister

Modern vacuums are much better at maintaining suction power as they fill up. But a full bag or dust canister can still greatly reduce suction power, even with advanced cyclonic technology.

For this reason, it’s important to empty the vacuum regularly to maintain your vac’s cleaning performance.

Bagged vacuums don’t need to be emptied as often as bagless models, as they have larger dust capacities. You also don’t want to waste bags unnecessarily! Even so, it’s important to switch to a new vacuum bag whenever it’s full, particularly if you notice the suction is starting to decrease.

Bagless vacuums should typically be emptied after each use, as they have smaller dust capacities. Cordless vacuums have particularly small capacities, so you may need to empty these multiple times during a cleaning session.

Tip: Your dust canister should have a fill line to show when it’s “full” and to indicate when suction is likely to be affected. This line is often nowhere near the top of the canister!

Troubleshooting Other Potential Causes of Suction Loss

The five tips above are the most common causes of poor suction from a vacuum cleaner, but they aren’t the only potential reasons. Here are a few more to watch out for:

  • The floorhead is on the wrong height setting. Some floorheads have different heights for carpets and hard floors. Usually the lowest setting is for hard floors, while higher settings are used for carpets. If the floorhead is too high, however, the head won’t clean as effectively.
  • There is an air leak. If air can escape before it reaches the floor tool, then the vacuum won’t be able to deliver as much suction. Check that the hose, tools, filter, canister, and other pieces of the vacuum are correctly fitted.
  • The hose is cracked. A crack in the hose can cause air loss, which reduces suction power. If this is the case, then you’ll probably need to purchase a new hose.
  • The vacuum belt is broken. If your vacuum’s brush roll isn’t spinning at all, even after you’ve removed tangled hair, then the belt may be broken. You can often buy replacement belts for an upright vacuum cleaner and fitting them is a simple process.


A loss of suction doesn’t mean that your vacuum needs to be replaced. By following the tips above, you’ll probably be able to restore your vacuum cleaner to its former strength. For more serious problems, a vacuum repair company should be able to source most spare parts and fit them for you.

With that said, there are situations when a vacuum is beyond repair. If you need a new vacuum cleaner, make sure you check out our list of the best vacuums.

2 thoughts on “How to Fix a Vacuum Cleaner That’s Lost Suction Power”

  1. Avatar

    Really useful article. Would give maximum number of stars but can’t get it to work!

    • James Hall

      Thanks Mandy, glad you found it useful!


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