Make Your Vacuum Vacuum Better

You’ll spend less time vacuuming and achieve better results when your machine sucks up and bags dust and dirt efficiently. Efficiency happens when you use common sense and occasionally inspect the machine to ensure all components are working properly.

Maintenance doesn’t always involve tipping the vacuum cleaner over and removing parts. Following is a quick checklist for what to do (and not do) before and during vacuuming:

* Check the bag before each use. Keep it emptied, or discard it, once half full. At that point, the pores in the bag are clogged enough to reduce suction by nearly half. Reduced suction means more back-and-forth strokes to clean a carpet or rug, and it increases chances that dust will be blown back into the room as you work.

* Pick up small, hard objects before vacuuming — don’t make the vacuum do it. These objects can damage components inside your vacuum cleaner, reducing suction. In particular, look out for metal objects such as coins, paper clips, tacks and the like. Also, be sure to remove small toys and other objects that could jam or damage the machine.

* Don’t abuse the cord by running over it or pinching it in doors and under or around furniture. Move the plug to a new outlet before it reaches its limit, instead of waiting until the plug gets yanked out of the wall and bending the plug blades. Never use an extension cord, which can overheat the motor and/or electrical cords.

* Height adjustment is important in both effective cleaning and reducing wear on the motor and other interior components of an upright vacuum. Don't abuse the machine by letting small kids "ride" on top of it while you work, for example.

Now, on to the mechanical checks, most of which should be performed at least once a year:

* Inspect belts and replace any that are stretched, worn or frayed.

* Check impeller blades for damage and replace the assembly if necessary. Chips in the blades are the most frequent form of damage.

* Remove wound-on hair or string from the beater bar with a utility knife. Replace the beater bar or brush strips when necessary. Brushes that are worn down or distorted from heavy use can't be expected to agitate dirt well enough for removal by suction. Also check for cracks or any jagged edges in the beater bar, which can damage carpeting.

Purchase only original-equipment replacement parts sold by dealers or manufacturers. Most warranties in force will be invalidated by installation of parts not made by the original manufacturer. Parts and supplies are available from dealers listed in the yellow pages under “Vacuum Cleaners — Service and Repair” and “Vacuum Cleaners — Supplies and Parts.”

Reference: Don Aslett in The Cleaning Encyclopedia: Your A to Z Illustrated Guide to Cleaning Like the Pros.

© 2006

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