Why Vacuum Cleaners Lose Suction (And DIY Solutions to Help)

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There are some things you can always count on. Cars will break down, computers will get slow, and most importantly for us, vacuum cleaners will lose suction. One day it will quickly remove every speck of dust in your home, the next you’ll find yourself going over the same spot time and time again with little success. It’s a shame, but it happens.

Why do vacuum cleaners lose suction? Sometimes the answer is obvious (like a clog or poor maintenance), but there are many other reasons why.

We’re going to explore those reasons to help you either improve your current vacuum, or to ensure your next one lasts as long as possible.

Which Vacuum Cleaner Has the Best Suction?

We thought it best to cover which vacuum cleaner has the strongest suction first before getting onto the reasons why vacuums lose suction. This gives you a good baseline and shows you what a great vacuum looks like.

The truth is that starting off with a low-quality vacuum will ensure that the suction deteriorates quickly. Cheap vacuums are made to entice you with price, not performance. That being said, there are many fantastic vacuums out there that aren’t that expensive.

The top three we found are:

Shark APEX Upright VacuumBissell Pet Hair EraserCordless Samsung Jet 90

Each of these excel in a different area. The Shark APEX Upright Vacuum is one of the strongest around, plus you can remove the canister for portable cleaning. It also has a washable HEPA filter that traps allergens. On top of that, the canister is easy to clean, which ensures great longevity.

If you have a pet, then the Bissell Pet Hair Eraser is a remarkably powerful vacuum. It’s perfectly named because pet hair disappears like magic, as does any other particle or dust that gets in its way. This is also an easy to clean and maintain vacuum that will be around for many years without loss of suction.

The last one we want to highlight is Cordless Samsung Jet 90. Not only is this lightweight vacuum easy to carry around, but it has powerful suction, long battery life, and a range of effective tools to help you clean around the home. If you need something light and cordless, but you don’t want to sacrifice power, then the Jet 90 Cordless is a fantastic addition to your home.

Dirty or Tangled Brushroll

Most vacuums have brushrolls, also known as brush bars, that are responsible for cleaning up hair, dirt, and other particles. This is the spinning brush part that you push over the carpet. These can become very dirty or tangled in hair if not maintained properly.

Clean the brush as well as you can and carefully pull or cut away any hair wrapped around the brush. This is easiest if the brush can be removed, but can also be done if the brush is fixed in place. If hair (especially pet hair) is an issue, then you’ll want to consider something like Bissell Crosswave Pet Pro or Bissell ProHeat Pet Pro. These have brushrolls designed to prevent tangling.

Sometimes vacuums don’t have a brushroll, but instead have bristles around the edge of the vacuum head. These can become dusty, which reduces how much air can be sucked in. Clean these bristles and suction should improve.

Replace or Clean the Filter

Another reason why vacuum cleaners lose suction is due to the filter. While filters are great for trapping allergens or preventing large particles from damaging the motor, a clogged filter will dramatically reduce suction. You should plan on cleaning or replacing the filter once a month ideally for the best performance.

There are typically two filters:

  • Motor Filter: found by the back, next to the exhaust port
  • Allergen Filter: found near the bag or dust canister

There are also three common types of filters:

  • Replaceable Vacuum Filter: the most affordable, these must be completely replaced
  • Washable Vacuum Filter: you will normally run these under water to clean them, but check the instructions
  • Self-Cleaning Vacuum Filter: you typically twist a dial to remove dust and dirt from the filter

Clean the filter and see how much your vacuum improves.

Full Bag or Canister

This should go without saying, but if the vacuum bag or canister is full, then it’s going to have a hard time accepting more dirt and dust. Canister vacuums are simple in this regard because they are usually clear and you can see how much debris is in there. Bagged vacuums are a little tougher because you can’t see how full the bag is without removing it.

If you have a canister or bagless vacuum, then you would ideally clean it right after you’re done vacuuming. Most canisters have a fill line, so check this as well as you might be able to vacuum one or two more times without needing to empty it.

As for bag vacuums, check the bag once a month. Most people can go about three months without changing the bag, but this depends on how much dirt you’re sucking up and the size of the vacuum bags. You don’t want to throw it away prematurely because that gets expensive. Simply check to see how much room is left.

Check the Hose or Tube

Sometimes objects like socks, small towels, bottlecaps or batteries get stuck in the vacuum hose or tube. Or, there can be a growing collection of dust that has formed into a small mass and is blocking new dust.

In either case, any obstruction in the tube or hose will reduce suction. This effectively limits how much air is coming into the tube, which reduces how well it picks up particles.

Remove this part and use a flashlight to look through it. It should be completely hollow and light should easily shine through. If you see anything, or if light is blocked, then you might need to find and remove the obstruction.

Broken or Worn Vacuum Belt

Many upright vacuums (especially older ones) use a vacuum belt to spin the brushroll. This effectively connects the motor and brush together, ensuring that the brush spins along with the motor. If the belt is worn, then the rotation can slow down. If it’s broken, then the brush won’t spin at all.

You will want to check your vacuum’s manual for exact instructions, but changing a belt isn’t as hard as you might think.

Order a replacement belt. You will want to find an official one if possible, but generic belts are also available. Remove the brushroll and unscrew the panels until you find the belt. This is usually near the rear wheels. Slip the new belt in place, place the brushroll back and test it out.

Low Batteries

The last reason why your vacuum might be losing suction is poor battery life. This only occurs with cordless vacuums as they require a charged battery to generate power. If the battery is low, then simply allow it to fully charge and try the vacuum again.

If you waited the recommended amount of time (typically 4-6 hours) and the suction is still poor, then the battery might be old or defective. You may also notice that the vacuum dies much faster than expected. In this case, order a replacement battery and give it a try. This should correct the poor suction if it’s due to battery issues.

Shark APEX Upright VacuumBissell Pet Hair EraserCordless Samsung Jet 90

Conclusion

There are many reasons why a vacuum loses suction. You can normally correct this with proper maintenance, but sometimes you’ll need a replacement part (like a battery or belt). Consider checking over your vacuum every few months just to ensure that everything is clean and in order. Doing a little bit of maintenance can improve the longevity of your vacuum.

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