Vacuum Cleaner Spitting Out Dirt? – 8 Common Reasons and Fixes!


Your vacuum cleaner is supposed to clean the floor, but instead it’s doing the exact opposite: spitting out dust and dirt like crazy! This is not a pleasant situation in the least, but luckily it can get fixed. These are the main reasons why it happens and what you can do about it:

1. Check for clogs in the vacuum and remove them

Clogs are basically accumulations of dirt and possibly larger objects that get stuck in the vacuum. They occur most often in these three places: behind the brush roller, the hose and the dust cup air duct.

To get to the clog in the hose try removing it from the vacuum and probing inside with a stick. The clog could be somewhere in the middle where it’s hard to reach with your hand so a stick (like a broom stick for example) can come in handy.

2. Clean the HEPA filter

The vacuums HEPA filter can also get clogged. In order for the vacuum to blow out clean air the HEPA filter needs to be clean. If it’s dirty, the air blown out will be dirty as well. In order to clean a HEPA filter you’ll need to check first if it’s labeled as washable or “permanent”. If it’s not, washing it can damage the mesh of fibers that allows the filter to remove particles from the air.

So you need to check this first because there’s a difference in quality of the “weave” of glass fibers used in its construction and the integrity of the frame. If it’s not washable it could reduce its performance after you clean it. Once you’re sure that it’s washable, you can rinse the filter in water, tap excess dust off or remove some dust with a vacuum.

Here’s a video tutorial for changing and cleaning the filter on a H-2665 Vacuum. Although you might have a different vacuum, the process is usually quite similar.

Small warning: Even if the HEPA filter is labeled as washable or permanent it doesn’t meant that it will be 100% effective after you’ve cleaned it. There haven’t been any serious tests conducted on this, although the ones who’ve earned that label are supposed to be more resistant to damage. If you can’t wash the HEPA filter for whatever reason, the only other option is replacing it with a new one.

3. Unplug the vacuum and reverse the plug

It could be that your vacuum is spitting dirt out because it’s not even trying to suck in any air! This can happen if the electric motor or the vacuum is plugged in the reverse. This can happen if someone else was messing with your vacuum or you got a new vacuum and it wasn’t plugged in correctly. In that case, unplug the vacuum and reverse the plugs. Now try to plug it in again and see if it makes a difference.

4. Inspect the fan belt

Sometimes the drive belt from the electric motor to the fan can get twisted. A single twist of this belt can cause the fan to work in reverse. In that case, removing the belt and straightening it out will solve the problem.

To investigate, disconnect power and lower the cleaner head, then turn the vacuum cleaner over and remove the belt cover on the cleaning head. Look inside the housing at the belt and replace the belt if it seems to be damaged, worn or broken. (source)

5. Fit the bag in properly or patch it up

Perhaps the common problem is forgetting to put in the bag or not fitting it properly or if the bag is damaged. In that case, the dirt will circulate through the machine and because it isn’t captured inside the bag it will be released by the air current.  If the bag is damaged, either replace it or patch it up with some tape.

6. Clean or remove the bag/container

If your vacuum’s bag or container is already full of dirt, there isn’t any place for the new dirt to come in. So instead, the vacuum spits it out to preserve its health, just like a person would do after serious overeating.

7. Connect the vacuum hose to the right end

Cylinder cleaners have the option to ‘suck’ or ‘blow’ air depending on where you connect the hose. If could be that you’ve connected it to the ‘blowing’ end so it’s working perfectly fine in that sense. In this case, simply remove the hose and place it at the other end.

8. See if your vacuum has a spraying option

Some vacuums can be used for spraying paint or water, and they’re known as combination machines. So it’s very similar to having a hose at the wrong end but you’ll usually find a button for sucking or blowing if you have a combination machine. So choose the right option and see if it helps.

Final Word: Vacuum Spitting Out Dirt

Your vacuum could be spitting out dirt for a number of reasons. Maybe the bag is poorly fit in or you forgot about it entirely. Maybe its ripped in some places or its simply full and can’t contain any more dirt.

A clog behind the brush roller, the hose and the dust cup air duct is also a common problem. A problematic driver belt is another common reason because it can reverse the fan, making it blow air instead of sucking it in. Lastly, sometimes a vacuum cleaner has options for sucking and blowing air and the users use the blowing option by mistake.

Hopefully these 8 tips will help you find the solution and fix it. If you’re unable to do it, your next best option is to visit a repair shop and have your vacuum checked by a professional. Hope this helps!

Peter Baron

I learned how to fix many appliances while working part-time in a repair shop. Appliance Solver is the result of this experience, coupled with my interest in writing helpful content online. When I'm not fixing stuff, I'm usually either playing with my kids or on a walk with my golden retriever. Doesn't get much better than that.

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