5 Biggest Mistakes You Make Vacuuming

Vacuuming isn't rocket science, but a little extra know-how can help you clean your home that much better.

1. Waiting until the bag is full to empty it. Even though some vacuums have "check bag" indicator lights, check the bag yourself and change it when it's three-quarters full. This keeps your vacuum's suction strong. And if you have a bagless vac, don't forget the dust cup — dirt collects there, too.

2. Vacuuming with a dirty filter You won't effectively remove allergens if your filter is clogged with grime. You don't have to change the filter as often as the bag, but if the filter shows signs of wear, or if it's very dirty or torn, it's time to replace it. Change HEPA filters every six months or with every sixth bag change. Check the owner's manual or your brand's website for the recommendations for your model.

3. Not using the attachments Dusting brushes and crevice tools are your best friends! They make above-the-floor cleaning much easier, and pick up dust and allergens from areas you might otherwise overlook, like upholstery, light fixtures, baseboards, and lampshades.

4. Rewinding your retractable cord without guiding it Merely pressing on the rewind button and letting the cord snap in might send it off its track (which requires a service repair to fix). Instead, hold the cord in your hand as you press the pedal to wind it back onto the reel.

5. Not cutting out tangled hair and strings A brush roll that doesn't turn, doesn't clean — it's that simple. Worse, the stress of tangled hair and threads can burn out the motor (not a cheap repair). To prevent this, unwind or snip away any tangles. Most vacuums have a brush roll that you can easily remove for more thorough cleaning.

Carolyn Forte is the director of the cleaning products lab of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute.

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