Vacuum Not Suctioning? – The 8 Most Common Problems AND Fixes!

The usefulness of a vacuum cleaner depends on its suctioning power. If it can’t pick up dust, dirt and hair from the floor and furniture what’s the point of using it? You’ll get the job half done and have to vacuum the area multiple times.

More expensive vacuums usually have greater suctioning power. But even less expensive under $100 vacuums are often powerful enough for regular use.

So don’t worry: if a vacuum doesn’t have enough suction power from the start or it lost some of it after a period of time it doesn’t really matter. There are a couple of sure-fire ways to improve it. Here are the best methods to improve it:

1. Choose the dial or lever to increase suction

Most vacuums have a small lever or dial that allows you to increase or decrease suction. Many people don’t know this because it’s not often specified. When this dial/lever is pulled higher it will decrease suction. So make sure to lower it instead. Doing this will make the vacuum stick to the floor more, allowing it to suck the junk more forcefully.

On some vacuums the “bare floor” option is present, and then you will have multiple levels of suction to choose from. This is especially useful if you’re vacuuming tiles, a wooden floor or a lower carpet. If choosing the lowest setting doesn’t help, consider the following tips also.

2. Empty the bag or canister

If the bag 0r the canister is full already, the vacuum will sound like it’s working but it’s actually not. Simply because there’s nowhere for the accumulated dirt to be stored. So you’ll hear the motor running but nothing is really happening.

The solution is simple: empty the bag or the canister and try again. This is one of the most common reasons for less suction power and very easy to solve.

3. Remove any blockages from the vacuum hose

Clumps of hair and other objects can accumulate in the hose or the other areas leading to the bag. If you’ve been using your vacuum for a few weeks or longer this can happen. Especially if you and other family members have long hair, or you have a furry pet.

Check the inside of the hose for any blockages, and the hole leading to the bag or the canister. By using a pair of tweezers, remove any clumps of hair or accumulated debris that could be reducing suction. When there is a blockage somewhere in the middle of the hose, it’s impossible to remove with a pair of tweezers due to the distance.

The best way to remove this type of blockage is to remove the hose and take it outside. Then spin it around so that the centrifugal motion forces the clog to one side where it’s easier to remove. Another method is to use a long stick or a similar long object to push the clog out. I recommend doing this outside and above a trash can because it can get messy.

4. Check if your vacuum is airtight

A vacuum that’s leaking air somewhere will lose suction power. After all, suction is dependent on the air that’s generated by the vacuum. If this air is lost somewhere else it will lose some of its power. A broken hose is the most common problem.

It could also be poorly connected to the vacuum. Make sure that it’s screwed well to the vacuum and that there aren’t any holes present. If there are holes, using some tape to seal them can fix the problem, at least temporarily.

Another common reason for air leaks can be a vacuum bag that isn’t pushed far enough. If it’s not well attached or it has fallen of completely, place it again properly. Duct tape can be used on a vacuum bag also to seal off any troublesome holes and gaps.

5. Clean the roller and brush bar

The roller and the entire brush bar can also collect hair and debris, which prevents the vacuum from sucking up anything new. If that’s the case, flip the vacuum over and clean it. Remove hair and other collected debris with a pair of sharp scissors.

Slowly make your way through the hair and other gunk. Try not to damage the roller if you’re using sharp scissors or a knife. A damaged roller can scratch the floor so it’s best to prevent any damage from the get-go.

6. Check for debris or cracks on belt or gasket

A vacuum cleaner belt is important for delivering power from the motor. The belt can get jammed with debris or it can crack in places. In case it’s just dirty, use a mildly damp cloth to remove the debris. In case it’s damaged, it’s best to replace it altogether. If you’re replacing it yourself, use the following steps:

  1. Order a replacement belt from an approved supplier.
  2. Unscrew the bottom panel on the floor head to remove the brush bar.
  3. Slip off the old vacuum cleaner belt from the brush bar and the drive pulley, which will be near the rear wheels of the vacuum.
  4. Fit the new belt in its place and screw the panel back on to keep the brush bar in place. (source)

A gasket can also get worn out and break. Replacement is the easiest option. Both a belt and a gasket are affordable, and most vacuum stores and repair shops will have them available. Or you can check your manufacturer’s website for a replacement for a specific vacuum cleaner model.

7. Clean the filters

Dirty filters will also reduce suction power. There are two types of filters that can be found on a vacuum cleaner:

Motor filter – Typically located at the back near the exhaust of the vacuum cleaner.

Allergen filter – Usually near the bag or canister

You may have only one or both of these filters. Their location can also vary, so check the manual for your model if you can’t pinpoint them.

Filters can be further divided based on the way they are cleaned:

  1. Self-cleaning filter – usually you’ll need to simply twist a dial to shake dirt free from these filters.
  2. Washable filter – remove and run the filters under a tap, or machine wash if that’s permitted by the manufacturer. Leave to dry naturally, ideally for 24 hours or until completely dry, before you put it back in the vacuum cleaner.
  3. Replaceable filter – some filters will need to be replaced periodically to maintain your machine’s performance. (source)

6. Call a vacuum repair shop

Some vacuums are  designed differently than others. A vacuum repair shop deals with this type of problems on a daily basis. Vacuum repairs are often inexpensive unless they require ordering and replacing larger parts. Oftentimes they can help on the phone as you explain the symptoms.

So chances are you won’t have to spend any money at all. And in case none of these tips prove useful, at least you’ll have a good excuse to buy an awesome new vacuum cleaner that will make everyone jealous. Hope this helps!

Need more advice on increasing vacuum cleaner suctioning power? Check out this video to learn more:

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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