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12 Things You Should Never Vacuum (And Why)

Written by Kaylee Barber |

things you should never vacuum

There are some things you should never vacuum if you want your vac to last. Here are 12 of the most important examples.

The average home vacuum cleaner is durable and long-lasting – but only if you care for it correctly!

One of the biggest mistakes is to vacuum objects that your machine isn’t designed to handle. Vacuuming the wrong thing can reduce performance, damage your machine, and even risk an electrical shock.

Let’s take a closer look at things you should never vacuum and why.

Note: This article is about regular home vacuum cleaners, such as corded uprights and cordless stick vacuums. If you have a commercial vacuum or a wet and dry model, then some of the following tips won’t apply.

1. Liquids

First on our list is liquids, as this one’s particularly risky. Unless your vacuum cleaner is a wet and dry model, you shouldn’t use it to clean any fluids – including very small spills.

Electrical appliances and liquids don’t mix. Vacuuming liquids in a regular vacuum cleaner can destroy the machine through electrical failure, as vacuum filters aren’t designed to stop liquids from reaching the motor. In fact, vacuuming liquids could even electrocute you if the water reaches the electronics.

This one calls for vigilance, so check all rooms, especially your kitchen and bathroom, for liquid spills before you vacuum. You also shouldn’t vacuum wet carpet for the same reason.

Should You Buy a Wet and Dry Vacuum Cleaner?

If you need to vacuum wet spills, look for a wet and dry vacuum cleaner. These models have insulated motors that are designed to handle liquids. While they are often bulky and heavy, wet and dry vacs have exceptional suction power and are versatile cleaning machines.

2. Wet Food

Water and other liquids aren’t the only wet things you should protect your vacuum cleaner against. Yoghurt, porridge, wet dog food – actually, any moist food – can also be a nuisance inside your vacuum cleaner. The same goes for used coffee grounds.

All moist edibles pose a triple threat to your vacuum cleaner: they can clog up its pipes and filter, wreck its motor, and go mouldy (and smelly) inside. Avoid them at all costs.

3. Wet Soil

Don’t be tempted to use your vacuum’s floorhead on wet soil that’s just been brought in on shoes or your dog’s paws.

Instead of lifting the soil away from your carpet, your vacuum cleaner might push the soil deeper into the carpet’s fibres. Any dampness in the soil could also clog up your machine.

If you need to vacuum soil from carpet, start by removing larger particles with a spoon. Then wait for the soil to completely dry before using your vacuum’s hose (rather than the main floorhead) to minimise downward pressure.

Tip: Pick up leaves rather than vacuuming them. The force of pushing leaves against carpet may cause a stain.

4. Fireplace Ash

Fireplace ash spells trouble for your vacuum cleaner because it consists of fine particles that hold heat.

Ash particles are so fine that even a sprinkling can mess with your vacuum cleaner’s filter and drop its suction power. There’s also a chance that the ash will go right through the machine and blow out its air vents into the air you’re breathing, making vacuuming ash not only a futile cleaning attempt but a potential health threat too.

5. Construction Dust 

What happens to your vacuum cleaner when it sucks up fireplace ash can also occur when other types of fine dust, like construction dust and sawdust from home improvements, are vacuumed.

Construction dust and sawdust also clog your vacuum cleaner’s filter, overwork its motor, and can escape through the machine’s air vents. You’ll need a commercial vacuum with a filter that can handle this type of dust.

6. Small Hard Objects

Watch out for small hard objects while you’re vacuuming. Some examples include:

  • Coins
  • Toys
  • Stones
  • Paperclips

These seemingly harmless objects can cause havoc as they travel through your vacuum cleaner. They can get stuck in the machine’s brush or pipes, break into shards and cut the pipes, or strain the machine’s motor.

7. Makeup

Having your eyeshadow or bronzer compact smash on the floor is upsetting enough; don’t make things worse by vacuuming the mess.

Everyday vacuum cleaners aren’t designed to suck up makeup. Whether it’s foundation, powder, or lipstick, all forms of makeup can melt inside the machine, negatively affecting how it works. Like with dirt, your vacuum cleaner could also push the makeup into your carpet, making a stain that will be tricky to get out.

8. Shredded Paper

Shredded paper is another thing you should sweep away or pick up by hand to protect your vacuum cleaner. While a few pieces won’t cause an issue, lots of paper can be difficult for your vacuum to handle.

Keep little scraps of paper away from your vacuum cleaner to prevent blockages.

9. Electrical Cords

Your electrical cords won’t vanish up your vacuum cleaner’s pipes if you vacuum over them, but they might get damaged.

The machine’s nozzle will put pressure on the cords as it works over them, potentially breaking the covering and exposing the wires. So, steer away from electrical cords while you’re vacuuming.

Tip: Avoid sharp bends in your vacuum’s cord when storing it, as this can lead to loose connections over time.

10. Sharp Objects

Sharp objects are as menacing to your vacuum cleaner as they are to your bare feet.

These sharp-edged or pointy objects can damage your vacuum cleaner in various ways, such as scratching its interiors, getting stuck in its pipes, or slicing open its bag.

Instead, use a broom to sweep up sharp objects and pick them up safely. For smaller shards, use a damp kitchen roll (make sure you wear gloves!)

Tip: Be particularly careful about vacuuming broken glass. Larger shards could crack internal tubes, ruin the motor, and damage the filters, so they should always be avoided with a vacuum.

11. Anything Sticky 

If something is sticky, it’s not vacuum-friendly. These substances can stick your vacuum cleaner’s brush bristles together, block its filter, and damage its motor. They could also melt inside the machine, putting its motor permanently out of action.


There are many things you shouldn’t vacuum with a domestic vacuum cleaner. These include liquids, broken glass, wet food, and makeup.

It’s important to know what your vacuum can’t handle. As a general rule, anything that’s sticky, wet, or sharp should never be vacuumed if you want your machine to last.

Do you have any questions about things that you shouldn’t vacuum? Or do you think we’ve missed something from this list? Let us know in the comments sections below.

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