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How to Use (and Not Use!) Your Vacuum Attachments

Category: Tips and Tricks

Most vacuum cleaners come with lots of specialized attachments. Use them right, and you’ll get a great clean. But, use them wrong and you risk not only an inferior clean, but also excess wear and tear—maybe even damage—to your floors, carpets, and upholstery. Here’s a PRO tip sheet on what attachments to use where:

Crevice Tool This thin, flattened, straw-shaped tool is perfect for sucking dirt out of tight crevices, usually between upholstery cushions. It’s great for spot cleaning, but remember not to suck up anything too large or you might clog it.

Dust Brush This small, round brush is usually lined with a ring of horsehair bristles. It’s designed for dusting hard-to-reach and delicate surfaces, such as window frames and central air vents. If vacuuming delicate items such as drapes, be sure to open the vent on your vacuum hose to reduce the suction strength as much as possible so you don’t mar the fabric.

Upholstery Brush This small, rectangular-shaped brush—usually 4 to 5 inches long, often with a removable row of nylon or horsehair bristles—is made for cleaning upholstery and stairs. The smooth edges should be safe for most leather and upholstery, but the horsehair bristle option is best for removing pet hairs and protecting delicate fabrics.

Floor Brush This large, rectangular shaped-brush—usually 10 to 12 inches long and edged with a row of nylon or horsehair bristles—is for cleaning hard floors. The horsehair bristles are critical for protecting fine hardwood floors and lifting stubborn hairs off the ground.

Commercial Carpet Tool This large, rectangular-shaped brush is also 10 to 12 inches long, but has smooth plastic edges and no bristles. It is effective only for cleaning very short pile commercial carpets and should never be used on deep pile carpets or hard floors, for fear of inferior cleaning or scratching.

Rug and Floor Combo Tools These large rectangular tools often include a retractable brush that can be lowered with a switch. Attempting to be a jack of all trades, combo tools are often master of none, providing inferior cleaning of thicker pile carpets and potentially scratching delicate wood floors. Avoid using unless you absolutely must!

Large Rotating Floor Brush Tools The “beater bar” brush that spins on the bottom of upright vacuums and many specialty floor-brush attachments is critical for deep cleaning plush carpets. The spinning brush opens the carpet fibers to allow cleaning at the base, as well as removing embedded hairs. This broad group of attachments includes both electricity-powered brushes—such as those on upright vacuums—as well as brushes that are spun by air-driven turbines—such as those on most backpack and canister vacuums. Beater-bars powered by electric motors tend to be the strongest and provide the best cleaning on deep pile carpets.

Small Rotating Floor-Brush Tools These tools, often referred to as hand power brushes or pet-upholstery brushes, feature a small 4 to 5-inch rotating brush that replicates the same deep pile carpet cleaning and hair removal of larger rotating brush tools, but are for more difficult-to-clean surfaces such as stairs and upholstery. These tools are highly recommended for homes with pets.