9 mistakes everyone makes with vacuum cleaners from Dyson, Shark and beyond

Cordless and corded vac errors to avoid

Vacuum cleaner mistakes
(Image credit: Getty)

Vacuum cleaning is one of the most enjoyable tasks anyone can do. Who doesn't love to fire up their vacuum cleaner, be it cordless or corded, bagless or baggy, and get down to some fun cleaning? It's better than sex! Okay, maybe it's not that enjoyable for a lot of people, but vacuuming can certainly be made into an even more tedious chore if you don't even know how to do it right. The list of potential vacuum cleaner mistakes is a long one, from buying a vac that is no good, to attempting to push it around using only your nose and chin – that would be a crazy thing to do. 

Whether you favour cordless convenience or corded power, the vacuum cleaner is a household essential. According to some estimates, the average household generates 20 kilos of dust per year so without vacuum cleaners, you'd be wondering around with dust up to your knees after a terrifyingly short period of time. This leads to worse allergies, if you're a sufferer, and it also just doesn't look very nice to be quite honest. Vacuuming is something a lot of people enjoy – no really, they do – but even if you don't, you must admit you prefer your home to be clean rather than filth-ridden and disgusting. Or at least I hope you do.

There is not much that can go wrong with your vacuum cleaner, so long as you were sensible and bought something from one of our vac buying guides. However, there are some simple vacuum cleaner mistakes you can make, that will make your life more difficult than it needs to be. That's what we're here to help you avoid with this short but handy list. 

Needless to say, we have guides at T3 to the best vacuum cleaner and best cordless vacuum cleaner. That is by no means the end of it, as there are also guides to the best robot vacuum cleaner, the best handheld vac, as well as the best vacuums from Dyson, Shark and even more besides. But whatever vac you use, these are some (more) of the worst mistakes you can make with 'em…

1. Not using the right attachment for the job

Vacuum cleaner attachments

Admittedly it can be hard knowing where to start, sometimes

(Image credit: Ufixt)

An extreme example of this would be attempting to clean the deep pile carpet of a massive ballroom, using only the crevice tool. That sounds like a bad dream, and is probably not something anyone has ever done in real life, although I did once have to clean my entire flat with a handheld Dust Devil, as that was the only vac available to me at the time. 

All too many people, however, do not use the full range of attachments that come with their vac. It's particularly crazy not to use the small powered brush for upholstery, but there are also those who are just too damn lazy to switch to the soft brush for dusting surfaces. I suspect a lot of owners of premium Dyson cordless vacs don't use the hard floor-specific head, and just stick to the multi-purpose one, too. The reason I suspect that is because I do it myself, but that spongy hard floor head is much better for that task than the standard one. 

I must also admit that I don't think I've ever used a crevice tool for anything, ever. However, if you like nice clean crevices, I expect it's a must.

2. Vacuuming too fast

Dyson Micro

Woah there! Let's slow it down a little there, Action Woman! 

(Image credit: Dyson)

This may not be a popular piece of advice, but we want you to vacuum your house more slowly. Yes, this will take longer, but the results will be so much better. Why is this? Because the more slowly you move your cleaner's head through your carpet, the more opportunity the powered brush inside it will have to rake out dust, allergens, dropped foods and other foulness. Vigorously and rapidly assaulting your floors is a complete waste of effort – just let the brush and the suction of your vac do it for you. Just take a small area at a time, gently move your vac backwards and forwards and your carpets will come up so much better. 

Have you mainly got hard floors? Going slowly is probably less useful, in that case. It's still always worth taking a bit more time, though.

3. Not using your power control (if you have one)

Miele vacuum PowerLine control

(Image credit: Miele)

Okay, so far I have advised you to vacuum more slowly, now I'm telling you to vacuum on a lower power setting. Great tips, huh? However, there are very real benefits to vacuuming on low power. Saving battery life and energy costs is the obvious one but the far more important one is that many things just do not take well to being furiously sucked upon. Drapes, thin rugs and anything in the vicinity of house plants are all areas that demand a lower power setting. 

A more extreme example of this is when vacuuming carpets. If you have an absolute beast of a vac, you run the risk of actually sucking up dust and dirt from the floorboards and even below the floorboards, causing irreparable harm to your precious Axminster. Admittedly if your underlay is sound and the floor well sealed, this is a rather low risk… but then can you really be sure of the state of your underlay? We were told this tip by a carpet fitter, so it must have at least some basis in truth. Unless he was just trying to scare us into buying more new carpet and underlay for him to fit. 

4. Not cleaning your filters or emptying your bin regularly

Yes, I know nobody wants to do this, but if you have filters that need cleaning, you really should clean them. Otherwise, cleaning performance will gradually degrade and the overall life of your beloved vac will likely be diminished. if you or anyone else in your household have allergies, this is particularly important.

If you have a vacuum where the filters need to be replaced, you should do this as well. Although a better solution would probably be to buy a better vac, with cleanable filters as well.

Regular bin emptying is also a must. If your bin is bagless, this should be easy enough, and there's no excuse for not doing it. With bagged vacs it can be extremely tempting to leave emptying for as long as possible, while your bag swells to the size of the Hindenberg, filled with dirt that in some cases may date back to the late 2010s. Resist this foul temptation, however: again, partly because your cleaning prowess will be greatly reduced as the suction is blocked by your clogged bag. But mainly because it's just really gross.

5. Not using the headlight

Dyson V15 Detect review


(Image credit: Dyson)

If your vac has a light built in – or a bleedin' laser, in the case of Dyson's V15 Detect – keeping it on is a must, although what it reveals every time, if it's any good, will probably shake you to the core. How can it be that you vacuumed only two days ago, and yet under the sideboard in the hall there is already enough dust and muck to fill a shoebox? I don't know, but it's best that you see it, so you can deal with it (again). Be brave.

6. Not using a 'bendy' vacuum cleaner tube

Shark under appliance wand

(Image credit: Shark)

And speaking of vacuuming under things… Shark calls this an 'Under Appliance Wand' apparently, which is a terrible name, but you can see from the image above what it does. Game changer, right? Shark pioneered this miraculous concept as far as I know – did I mention we have a guide to the best Shark vacuum cleaners, by the way? – but you can now get these 'bendy' tubes for various other makes of vac, including Dyson. 

If you are into cleaning under things – especially when utilising the power of your modern vacuum cleaner's dirt-revealing headlights, like I just told you to – this invention is as brilliant as it is stupid looking. From wardrobes to beds to coffee tables to… other things that are mounted on legs, the 'bendy tube' is arguably the greatest vacuuming innovation of the past decade.

7. Not charging your cordless vac after every use

Dyson V11 Outsize

Clunk click, every trip

(Image credit: Dyson)

Imagine the nightmare scenario. You have just dropped a Kilner jar filled with Rice Crispies. It's smashed and the cereal is everywhere. You race to your expensive cordless vac from Dyson, Shark or Miele and return, ready to do battle. But you haven't been plugging it in after using it, and after 2 seconds of vacuuming, the battery runs out. Happy now, are you? Well are you?!

Seriously, the battery life on cordless vacs is not great, especially if you are like me and always use it on the Turbo Max Super Speed setting. It is foolhardy in the extreme to not recharge after each use. 

Most cordless vacs come with a wall dock that keeps your vac neatly stored between uses and charges it up. It really is worth the small amount of effort it takes to install this, but if you can't be bothered, do remember to plug it in with the cable after each cleaning duty.

8. Trying to vacuum the next room, while you're still plugged in to the last one

So your vac isn't cordless? While your vacuum cleaner's cable may be long, but this approach always leads to tears. Or, if not to tears, at least to getting to the far corner of the room and not quite being able to reach it, then trying to stretch the hose and tube to their absolute fullest extent, and then the plug gets pulled out of the socket in the other room anyway, and you realise what a fool you've been, again.

The other classic cable mistake is not standing well back as you press the cable retracting button. On some more upmarket vacs, failing to take evasive measures while doing this can result in severe shin bruising, plus accidental self-whipping with electrical flex. On the flip side, there are few things more depressing than an older vac, where the retracting spring mechanism has become exhausted, and your cable is spooled painfully slowly back into your vacuum, with the exhausted and listless air of an elderly dog. Sad.

9. Buying a robot vac and expecting it to do everything

Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra news

Robots are amazing – but they can't do your stairs

(Image credit: Roborock)

The best robot vacuum cleaners are fairly miraculous devices nowadays, but they still can only do flat floors with minimal stuff left lying around on them. They also aren't amazing at doing edges and corners, or around larger obstacles. So for cleaning stairs, surfaces, edges, corners and more, you will still need an old-fashioned vac that you have to push around by hand. Sorry about that.

Duncan has been writing about tech for almost 15 years and fitness ever since he became middle aged and realised he could no longer rely solely on his boyish good looks. He used to be on telly loads, but an unfortunate incident put a stop to that, so he now largely contents himself with telling people, "I used to be on the TV, you know."
Pre-lockdown Duncan was widely regarded as the best-dressed man ever to work for T3 – admittedly not saying much. Post-lockdown he is looking forward to wearing clothes other than shorts and hoodies again very soon, assuming he can still fit into them. He currently writes about cycling, fitness tech that isn’t too heavy, and all things kitchen and home related.