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14 Tips and Tricks to Vacuum More Efficiently

Keep your home clean, and help out a little in the workshop, with these brilliant vacuum hacks.

using orbital sander to clean filter of shop vac Family handyman

Power Filter Cleaner

Remove the dust from your shop vacuum filter by holding a random orbit sander (just the pad, without sandpaper) against the filter. This is best done outdoors, or with the filter inside a trash bag to keep the dust under control. — Bettina Roy.

flashlight at the end of a shop vac hose cleaning out the inside of a carFamily handyman

Lighted Shop Vacuum

I often use my shop vacuum in dimly lit places, like under my car seats. To make it easy to see what I’m doing, I zip-tied a small flashlight to the hose. Works like a charm. — Brian Mischke.

keeping the vacuum cord out of the way with a carabinerFamily handyman

Vacuum Cord Control

Do you hold your vacuum cleaner cord in your free hand to keep your feet from getting tangled while you vacuum? Try this: Clip a carabiner onto the handle and loop the cord through the carabiner. If the carabiner doesn’t fit around your handle, zip-tie it into place. — Karl Burns.

window screen placed in a shop vacFamily handyman

Shop Vacuum Prescreen

I pull out my shop vacuum for many woodworking chores, including dust collection from every power tool with a dust port. But the filter quickly plugs with coarse dust from the table saw and finer dust from sanding.

I solved part of the problem by placing window screen over the filter. Now the coarse particles stay at the bottom of the tank, and the filter doesn’t plug as fast. — Bill Wells.

cutting slits in a vacuum hoseFamily handyman

Stay-Together Vacuum Hose

If the hose or rigid tubes of your shop vacuum come apart while in use, stop cussing and fix them this easy way. With an awl or other sharp pointed tool, score deep X’s on the ends, inside and outside, at each offending joint. The added surface friction from the X’s will keep them together. — Richard Dorsey.

a handle attached to the top of a shop vacFamily handyman

Get-a-Grip Shop Vacuum

Sick and tired of trying to pick up my shop vacuum with nowhere to grab, I finally mounted a large door handle directly onto the top. I used four 1/2-in. No. 8 sheet metal screws. Try it. You’ll wonder why you didn’t do this years ago. — Al Seibert.

cleaning a chair with baking soda and a vacuumFamily handyman

The Baking Soda and Vacuum Trick

Baking soda naturally absorbs odors. To freshen up a fabric-covered furniture, put some baking soda in a salt shaker or similar dispenser and sprinkle liberally.

Baking soda takes time to do its work, so let it be for an hour or so. For really bad situations, leave it on overnight as long as your pets won’t track it everywhere. Then thoroughly vacuum up all the baking soda. This should freshen up most fabrics.

Note: Baking soda neutralizes acidic compounds easily but may not be effective for all problems.

nylon placed over the end of a vacuum hose to find lost itemsFamily handyman

Find Your Lost Items

Everyone knows how annoying it is when you can’t spot a dropped pill or the back of an earring. So how do you find these items quickly and easily? With your vacuum.

Here’s the trick: Before you turn on the vacuum, cut off the end of a nylon and secure it on the end of your vacuum hose with a rubber band.

using a plastic squeeze top bottle on the end of a vacuum for small spaces between blindsFamily handyman

Vacuum Cleaner Spout Hack

Sometimes you need a little creativity to deep clean hard-to-reach areas. If you have a plastic squeeze top bottle, try fitting the tip onto your vacuum nozzle. If it fits, great. If not, there’s always tape. You’ll have a powerful machine to get rid of dirt and dust in even the tiniest of spaces, like a keyboard, headphone port or your car’s dashboard.

woman using a PVC pipe to extend the vacuum length for hard to reach placesFamily handyman

Long-Reach Vacuum

A PVC pipe connected to a vacuum hose lets you reach high spots or narrow crannies, so you can suck up those cobwebs around skylights or exterminate dust bunnies behind radiators. A 10-ft. piece of PVC pipe is inexpensive. In the plumbing aisle, you’ll also find PVC and rubber ‘reducer’ couplings that let you connect your vacuum hose to a different-size pipe.

man in garage vacuuming out the inside of his carFamily handyman

Central Vacuum for the Garage

Install two-inch sanitary tees on the ceiling and drop a pipe near each car door in your garage. Install a long 90-degree bend and a stubout to connect the hose. Cap off the stubout with a standard two-inch pipe cap when not in use.

using a shop vac as an air pump for inflatablesFamily handyman

No Air Pump? Use a Shop Vacuum

If you don’t own an air compressor to inflate your air mattresses or pool toys, use your shop vacuum instead.  Just pop the top off a plastic squeeze bottle and fit the top to your vacuum hose. You may have to use duct tape.

Once you’ve secured the top, attach the hose to the exhaust port. It’ll blow up your inflatables in no time. To deflate, attach the hose to the vacuum port and suck the air out.

close up view of hand cleaning hair out of a bathtub drainfamily handyman

Suck Out Drain Clogs

A wet-dry vacuum slurps clogs out of plugged drains. Even plumbers use this trick sometimes. If you need to increase suction, seal around the nozzle with a wet rag.

woman placing a cardboard tube on the end of a vacuum hosefamily handyman

Simple DIY Vacuum Extension

Another way to clean hard-to-reach spots: Use a leftover wrapping paper tube as a vacuum cleaner extension.

Start by attaching the detail accessory that comes with a vacuum cleaner to the end of the hose extension. Next, fasten the wrapping paper tube over this attachment. For more suction, tape it to the end of the hose. You can also fold the other end of the tube for an “edge” like a hose.

Alex Shoemaker
Alex is an avid DIYer but had little experience before purchasing his first home in 2019. A Family Handyman subscription was one of his first purchases after becoming a homeowner, and he's been hooked ever since. When he’s not working, he can be found fixing up his 1940s Florida home or relaxing on the beach with his family.