Living the Green Life: Repair That Vacuum, Don’t Replace It!


You eat organic, shop locally, and try to leave the smallest carbon footprint possible. Why on earth would you throw away a perfectly good vacuum cleaner? More than 1 billion pounds of cleaning equipment is added to the landfills each year, and vacuum cleaners are a large part of that total. At their heart, vacuum cleaners are just small fans sealed inside a series of tubes and flexible hoses. There are only so many things that can go wrong with such a simple system, and you can repair almost all of them by yourself.

The Brush Roller

On an upright vacuum, the brush roller is at the front of the appliance, underneath the housing. It spins around and loosens dirt from carpeting, brushing it up into the suctioning air stream. When the brush fails to spin, there are two basic reasons for this to happen. First, the belt that spins the brush could be worn out or broken. Fix this by slipping the old belt off the roller bar and replacing it with a new one. The other reason for a non-spinning brush could be that it’s jammed with debris. String, yarn, and even hair can bind the brush along the sides where it attaches to the vacuum head. Remove the brush and inspect it, taking off any strands you may find that can bind up the works.

Loss of Suction

If air just isn’t flowing through the vacuum cleaner, the culprit is most likely a clogged hose. Vacuuming up large debris, or large amounts of small items, can overwhelm the small diameter of vacuum hoses, causing a clog that prevents air from flowing through. One of the worst examples of this is Christmas tree needles. Clumps of needles stick together halfway down a hose and completely block the airflow. Push a broom handle or hose-cleaning brush through the detached hose to remove any blockage.

Another common cause of lack of suction is a full bag. A full vacuum cleaner bag won’t allow the air to flow out again, which blocks up the system and prevents the incoming suction. Open the cannister and feel the bag. If it’s at least half full, change it for a fresh, empty bag. Never empty a full bag and reuse it; the pores in the paper bag fill up with dust during use, and a newly emtied bag has very little airflow left in it. Most bags are held in place with a rubber o-ring, and you can find the correct replacement size by checking a metric o-ring size chart.

Safety First

Vacuum cleaner repair can be a simple job, but even the simplest of jobs carry a danger of injury if you’re not careful. Always unplug the machine before beginning to inspect any part of it. This will eliminate any danger of electric shock. Take off any loose clothing or ties to prevent them from being tangled in the fan or roller brush. Wear work gloves if you open the machine, and a disposable mask when changing the bag if you have any dust or pollen sensitivities.


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