9 Steps to Fixing a Clogged Vacuum

Person vacuuming an area rug

A bagged vacuum cleaner is a very simple machine that draws air into one end and blows it out of the other. In between going in and coming out the air is passed through filters and a close woven bag designed to collect any grit and solid material that is carried in the stream of air. If your vacuum is clogged, follow these steps to fix the problem.

Caution: Always unplug your vacuum cleaner when checking it.

Step 1 - Make Sure the Cleaner Really is Clogged

Don't assume there is clog if the vacuum cleaner isn't working efficiently. Check that the cleaner bag is not full. Even if it does not appear to be full it is always best to empty it. Also make sure the beater bar is rotating.

Step 2 - Try Again

Possibly emptying the bag will produce enough extra air flow to drag any blockage through the cleaner and unclog it.

Step 3 - Remove the Vacuum Tube

close up of a vacuum hose

If you have a canister or cylinder cleaner (wet/dry models included) the most likely place for a blockage is in the vacuum tube. Normally this tube can be removed quite easily.

Step 4 - Examine the Tube

You should be able to see through the vacuum tube if you can hold it straight. If there is no one with you and the tube is too long for you to hold up you can try looking through it while you hang it over a stair banister. You can also try laying the tube on the floor or a table and looking through it that way. If you cannot see completely through the tube you have confirmed there is a blockage.

Step 5 - Try to Push the Blockage Through the Tube

Most vacuum tubes are over 1 1/2 inches in diameter so you should be able to push the blockage through using a broom handle.

Test to see which end of the tube the blockage is closest to so you know the shortest way to push it. Next, insert the broom handle into the tube from the end furthest from the blockage. If the broom handle is not long enough, use the concertina construction of the tube to ‘fold’ it along the broom handle until the blockage is reached and finally pushed clear.

Step 6 - Upright Vacuums

Upright vacuums that stop working well when not using the tube attachment need to be checked for a blockage but in a different way.

Step 7 - Check the Underside of the Vacuum Cleaner Head

Make sure that the band that drives the beater roller is still in place. If it is not there is unlikely to be a blockage, the motor simply is no longer connected to the fan that drives the air.

Step 8 - Disconnect the Bag

older upright vacuum

Disconnect the bag from the cleaner head as if you were going to empty it. Often any blockage will be just below the bag connection and can be pulled out.

Step 9 - Inspection Panels

Your upright cleaner will have inspection panels fitted. Refer to your handbook if you do not know where they are. The blockage may be behind one of them.