Save on Pinterest

13 Things You Shouldn’t Try to Vacuum

Getting out the vacuum may seem like a quick solution for any spill, but some things just aren’t meant to go in this machine.

1 / 13
Ground coffee in a metal spoon on a top of glass jar, shallow depth of fieldGlevalex/Shutterstock

Used Coffee Grounds

All coffee drinkers know the struggles of cleaning out the ol’ coffee maker, unless you’ve given into the coffee-pods craze. Wet coffee grounds are a pain to clean, but don’t make that a job for your vacuum. They can clog pipes, ruin the motor and spurn mildew growth inside the machine. Instead, scoop up those coffee grounds and use them in your garden. Here are some things you can and can’t compost, including coffee. 

2 / 13
Closeup Fresh organic green leaves lettuce salad plant in hydroponics vegetables farm systemKwangmoozaa/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Wet Foods

Some kitchen spills can be cleaned with a vacuum, like sugar and salt. Others, like fresh produce, baked beans and potato salad, cannot. They can clog the vacuum just based on their size and damage the motor because of their moisture. What’s worse, the foods could spoil inside your vacuum and start to smell. You don’t want to be stuck cleaning up that mess. Did you know these cleaning mistakes can make your home dirtier?

3 / 13
Dying dried out blueberry plant leaves shot from above. Hot summer, lack of watering, hawaii gardening concepts.Kara Knight/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Plant Debris

Dead leaves and flowers that fall off houseplants could easily clog your machine. Pick them up by hand instead. Check out what happened when one of our writers started composting at home

4 / 13
Gray ash from the oven background texture, cinder, grey ashes from the wood from the fireplaceRoman Stavila/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Fireplace Ash

Sucking up fireplace ash with a vacuum is basically the opposite of cleaning. The particles are so fine that they could get blown out the back of the machine and right into the air. You can turn to aluminum foil to help when cleaning your fireplace.

5 / 13
MDF chipboard with sawdustRoberto/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Construction Dust

Home renovations are a big undertaking, but don’t try to breeze through the cleanup with a vacuum. Like fireplace ash, construction debris is made up of fine particles that can burn out the motor or get released back into the air. Sweep it all up to keep your vacuum—and yourself—safe. On the flip side, here are some places you’re not vacuuming, but should be

6 / 13
Close up of many different type of coins with jarJorge Villalba/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Coins and Small Toys

These are things you probably wouldn’t vacuum up on purpose. That’s why it’s extra important for you to check your floors before you hit that power button, especially if you have young kids. Small objects that get sucked up could break into pieces, cut the bag or wreck the vacuum’s motor—or do all three.

7 / 13
Spilt milk and a glass of milk on a gray concrete tableKariHoglund/iStock/Getty Images Plus


Vacuuming up liquids is dangerous, plain and simple. You could be electrocuted. At the very least, the machine will undergo certain damage. Investing in a wet/dry vacuum designed to handle these problems is one solution, but there are plenty of other ways to clean spilled liquid: a mop, almost any Swiffer product, paper towels, regular towels, washcloths—you get the idea. In the event you do break your vacuum, we’ll show you how to repair it yourself.

8 / 13
Woman plugging the wire to the outlet Rawpixel/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Electrical Cords

It may not seem like a big deal to quickly vacuum over a cord so you can get that hard-to-reach corner, but it is. The vacuum can break apart the cord’s exterior and eventually expose the dangerous wires inside. Cords for vacuums themselves are usually more heavy-duty, but they can suffer the same damage.

9 / 13
Multiple cosmetic products on black background. High resolution image for cosmetics and fashion industry.czoborraul/iStock/Getty Images Plus


Eyeshadow, bronzer, foundation, blush, even broken bits of lipstick—none of these things should ever go in your vacuum. They could melt inside the machine and cause serious damage. Here’s something else homeowners need to be mindful of: Never put these things down the garbage disposal.

10 / 13
Young entrepreneur transplanting plants at flower shop, wearing apron, using gardening toolsmixetto/iStock/Getty Images Plus


When your family’s shoes bring outside dirt and soil inside your clean home, you may be tempted to get out the vacuum. Bad idea. You could stain your carpet and cause the particles to get embedded even deeper into the material. Wet soil could also cause problems for the motor.

11 / 13
Bunch of trimmed cut off reddish brown hair on wooden floor at hairdressing salon, with copyspacesasimoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Clumps of Hair

As someone with long, thick locks that shed constantly, I can honestly say vacuuming large amounts of hair just isn’t worth it. It clogs up the machine, and you’ll need to fish it all out just to make the vacuum work properly again. Save yourself time and extra effort by sweeping it up or, if it’s on a rug or carpet, just use your hands. These are the best vacuums for cleaning up pet fur

12 / 13
Closeup confidential information Strips of destroyed paper from a paper shredderpiyaphun/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Shredded Paper

Vacuuming up heaps of shredded paper is just as bad as heaps of hair, leading to a clogged machine and a screwed-up motor. A broom is the best solution to this mess, unless the shredded paper is on a carpet, in which case you may just need to use your hands.

13 / 13

Large Pieces of Glass

Cleaning up broken glass is always a precarious situation, we get it. But copping out by doing the job with a vacuum can ruin the inside of your machine. Then you won’t be able to vacuum anything. Throw away big pieces by hand (wear thick gloves if you’re afraid of getting cut) or just sweep it all up. Don’t miss these genius cleaning tips from professional house cleaners.

The Family Handyman
Originally Published on The Family Handyman