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Can You Vacuum Glass From Carpets and Hard Floors?

Written by James Hall |

A shattered wine glass

Broken glass can be a nightmare to clean up – but is it safe to use your vacuum cleaner? Keep reading to find out.

The sound of glass smashing on the floor is one of the worst to hear – at least from a housekeeping viewpoint! While it’s tempting to grab your vacuum and suck all the shards up, this may not be the safest (or best) option.

In this article, we’ll discuss whether to use a vacuum on broken glass, and some alternative tips for cleaning it up.

Disclaimer: Safety is the key when clearing up glass. Before you start cleaning, make sure you block off the area from pets or children. Wear thick gloves and sturdy shoes.

Can You Use a Vacuum Cleaner for Glass?

The short answer is that you shouldn’t use a vacuum cleaner for sucking up large pieces of glass. Doing so could damage your machine. You should also never vacuum glass that’s been broken along with food or drink.

Vacuuming small, fine glass shards is unlikely to cause damage to your machine – as long as the pieces are dry and the vacuum’s filters are intact. In many cases, a vacuum is actually the most effective way to get rid of those small shards.

Just make sure to sweep up any larger shards and (safely) mop up liquids before you consider using your vacuum. If possible, use a wet and dry vacuum, as these are sturdy and won’t be damaged if the broken glass is covered in liquid.

Liquids Will Ruin Your Vacuum Cleaner

Electricity and liquids don’t mix! You should never suck up even a small amount of liquid, unless you’re using a wet and dry vacuum. Don’t be tempted to vacuum broken glass that’s combined with spilt drink or other fluids.

Large Pieces of Glass Can Damage Your Vacuum

While small shards of glass (probably) won’t damage a modern vacuum cleaner, big shards or large quantities certainly can. A few of the potential risks include:

  • Ruin the motor. While this is unlikely if the filters and bags are properly installed, any glass that manages to enter the motor could cause permanent damage.
  • Damage the filters. Shards of glass can shred the foam filters of your machine. This could reduce the effectiveness of the machine’s filtration.
  • Tear the bag. Glass could tear the bag, allowing dirt and other debris to directly hit the filter. This can cause clogging and may damage the filter.
  • Cut the brush bar bristles. If your vacuum has a rotating brush bar, then glass could damage the bristles. We don’t recommend using a tool with a rotating brush bar for cleaning glass.
  • Block your vacuum. If a larger shard gets stuck within the vacuum’s tube or wand, it could cause a blockage that’s difficult to remove.

It’s worth noting that any existing blockages in your vacuum could become dangerous to remove after cleaning up glass. Check for existing blockages in the hose before you start.

Your Vacuum May Spread Glass Across the Floor

Some vacuum cleaners tend to scatter larger debris across hard floors. If this happens, you could be spreading smaller shards around the home.

This is less likely on carpets, as the carpet fibres should stop the shards from being scattered, but it’s still a possibility.

For these reasons, avoid using your vacuum’s primary floorhead for cleaning glass if it has a rotating brush bar. Instead, use a hose or wand attachment without a brush roll.

Higher Power Settings Are More Dangerous

The faster a shard of glass is moving inside the vacuum, the more likely it is to cause internal damage.

To minimise the risk, it’s a good idea to use your vacuum’s lowest power setting for the first pass, just in case you accidentally suck up a large shard. You can then follow up with a pass on full power once you’re sure that the floor is clear of bigger pieces.

How to Safely Clean Up Broken Glass

You shouldn’t vacuum up large pieces of glass or liquids with your vac, so how should you clean broken grass instead? Here’s a quick method.

  1. Stay safe. As we mentioned in the introduction, the first step to cleaning up broken glass is to make sure the area is secure and safe. Block it off from children or pets, then put on protective gloves and thick-sole shoes.
  2. Sweep as much glass as possible. It’s usually best to use a dust pan and brush to remove most of the glass. Try to avoid picking up large pieces with your hands. If it’s absolutely necessary to handle glass, then make sure you’re using thick gardening gloves.
  3. Mop up any liquids. Once the worst of the glass has been removed, you can mop up the worst of the liquids. Kitchen roll is useful for this, as long as your hands are properly protected. Don’t use a towel as it may be difficult to remove the stuck glass shards.
  4. (If the Floor is Dry) Use your vacuum hose on the remaining small shards. If there are smaller shards remaining, you can suck them up with your vacuum’s hose – but only if the floor is dry. Don’t use the main floorhead with a spinning brush roll, as this could spread the shards around the home. Start with the lowest power setting to reduce the risk if you accidentally pick up a large shard, then go over the same area with the highest power.
  5. (If the Floor is Wet) Use slices of bread to pick up smaller shards. A soft slice of bread is a great tool for picking up smaller pieces of glass – especially if the floor is damp and can’t be vacuumed. As always, make sure you’re wearing thick gloves.
  6. Double check the floor with a torch. Shards of glass may be difficult to see. Shine a torch at an angle and look for any glinting pieces.

Tip: If you vacuum up broken glass with a bagless vac, make sure to empty the bin immediately afterwards. Sharp glass could scratch the canister if left to rotate with other dirt. Bagged vacuums should be emptied carefully while wearing gloves, as the glass could cut through the thin fabric or paper.

Summary

You shouldn’t vacuum large shards of glass with a vacuum. This could damage the motor, ruin the filters, rip the bag, and cause blockages.

It’s probably fine to suck up smaller shards with a vacuum though. Make sure that you don’t use a vacuum on a wet floor, however, and start with the lowest power setting just in case you accidentally pick up a larger shard.

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