As noted in Top 5 Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning Tips for Homeowners, regular vacuuming helps to control dust and allergens while also extending the life of your carpet by removing the dirt particles that wear down carpet fibers. Below are some vacuum cleaner maintenance tips to help keep your machine running as efficiently as possible.

The Cardinal Rule

Before we start, it’s important to understand this key concept – vacuum cleaners work based on airflow. A fan in the vacuum cleaner blows air out an exhaust port, which creates a low-pressure area inside the machine. Air then rushes into the low-pressure area, pulling in dirt and debris, which ends up trapped in a bag or filter. In order for your vacuum to work well, the flow of air must not be blocked.

Regular Maintenance

A little regular maintenance should be performed before each use. However, before beginning any sort of maintenance, always unplug the vacuum and consult your owner’s manual for directions specific to your make and model!

The easiest, and the most important, maintenance tip is to empty your vacuum frequently. Depending on the type of vacuum you have, you will likely have either a bag to replace or a canister to empty. Some models will also have a filter that can be washed or replaced. Your owner’s manual will detail the instructions specific to your model. The key point is remembering to replace/empty the bag/canister (as well as the filter) often as the collected dirt reduces airflow. (See the Cardinal Rule for why this matters!)

The second carpet cleaning tip is to check the brush roll (also called the beater bar, agitator, or brush roller). The brush roll is the cylinder with little embedded bristles you will find at the business end of the vacuum. The brush roll spins and the bristles kick up dirt so that it can be pulled into your vacuum. Cleaning this isn’t quite as easy as the step above but regular upkeep can keep this to a quick task. What you will typically find is that hair/thread/strings/etc. will wrap around the bar and tangle in the bristles. In most cases, a few quick pulls on the offending items with a pair of needle nose pliers will dislodge them.

If, however, your brush roll maintenance has been neglected, you might need a little more elbow grease. Shown below is the brush roll from a friend’s vacuum.

Even though my friend has two dogs, and knows the roller should be checked frequently, the situation is clearly out of hand. For situations like this, it’s helpful to have a hook blade that fits into a utility knife. If you don’t have one, here is an example from Home Depot. This sort of blade offers two advantages over a traditional blade. The first is that it’s a “hook” which allows you to slip behind the hair/thread/strings/etc. and pull them away from the roller. The second advantage is the cutting edge is on the inside of the hook so you can cut the material without damaging the roller.

Luckily, even a situation as bad as this only took about 10 minutes to clean up and left the brush roll looking (almost) as good as new.

The last regular maintenance tip is to the check the belt that spins the brush roll. The belt shouldn’t show any signs of cracks and fit securely. If the belt is loose or appears worn in any way, it should be replaced. Your owner’s manual, or a search on the internet, should give specific instructions for your model. If you don’t have a spare belt, you can check retailer sites such as Lowe’s, Walmart, and Target or try a dedicated parts site such as where you just enter your model number.


Even with regular maintenance (or sometimes we forget!) you will have a problem. The nice thing about vacuum cleaners is that they are very communicative, at least in terms of letting you know when things aren’t working correctly. You just need to know what to look for and listen for when using it. You will see the most obvious sign of issues. If dirt, debris, or fuzz remains after your first pass, you know something is wrong.

The sound your vacuum makes can also alert you to issues. While vacuums aren’t usually thought of as having a soothing sound, you know the “normal” sound your machine makes. Any change in that “normal” sound can alert you to something being wrong. A loose belt may squeal while a blocked hose may cause a whining noise.

Often you will both see an issue and hear a change. For example, I once had a situation where a narrow piece from a toy was, at some point, sucked up into the vacuum where it turned sideways and ended up lodged in the hose. While the initial blockage was small, other pieces of debris began to get caught on the piece and soon the opening in the hose was reduced to a fraction of its normal width.  Once the hose was blocked, the vacuum started leaving dirt behind and made a high-pitched wail.

Obvious places to look for blockages are near the roller and where the air flows into the bag/canister. However, also check your vacuum cleaner for access points. For example, the picture to the right shows an access point that slides out to allow cleanout.

Final Thoughts

While regular vacuuming is an important step to keeping your home (or business) clean, it isn’t a substitute for professional cleaning that removes bacteria and allergens. Experts recommend having your carpets professionally cleaned every six months.  And here’s why Extra Effort is your best choice:

  • Our A+ BBB Rating and IICRC Certified Certification
  • Personalized Service with Large Company Capabilities
  • 33 years in West Chester, serving Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky
  • All-Inclusive Pricing (We will give you an exact estimate before any work is started and WON’T tack on extra costs for fuel/trip charges, deodorizer or fabric protection.)

Call us today and get your free – all inclusive – estimate!

Questions? I am always available to answer your stain removal questions and concerns. Call us today at (513) 777-8770 to learn more about our carpet and upholstery cleaning services. Or email us at to learn about this month’s cleaning special.

Elliott S. Fishman, Co-Owner
Extra Effort Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning, Inc.


About Elliott S. Fishman

Elliott Fishman, along with his son Brian, is the owner and operator of Extra Effort Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning, Inc.   We serve the residents and businesses of Greater Cincinnati to include West Chester, Mason, Maineville, Loveland, Wyoming, Fairfield, Indian Hill, Montgomery, Hyde Park and Anderson Township. Elliott started this company in 1984, based on the belief that it takes Extra Effort to make each job a success. The father/son team puts the extra time, extra care, and extra effort go into every task they undertake – no matter how large or small the job. Extra Effort’s quality equipment, trained technicians and safe products have made the company a top choice for residential and commercial carpet cleaning, upholstery cleaning, water damage / water extraction, fabric protection, odor control and spot removal.

Extra Effort Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning

8303 Darlene Dr

West Chester, OH 45069

(513) 777-8770