Can't figure out how to pop out your roller brush? DIYers often clean their vacuum heads with bent wire hangers or $2 plastic drain augers. Follow the route of your suction hose (if you have one) into the cleaner head.
Use the auger or hanger to root around near the area where that hose meets the head, and...ta-da! Paper wads and other offending cloggers are gone, without a visit to a repair shop.
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Look for an evil twin
Still losing suction after you've cleaned your filter? Your vac may have a second filter, and it may also be choked with hair or dust. (Our guess is that this guy's vacuum is actually clogged with shark teeth and the smell of fear.)
Sometimes your vacuum isn't broken. It's just the wrong appliance for the job. Some vacuum repair experts insist, for example, that uprights, such as this one from Panasonic, do a better job on thick carpets than other constructs.
Watch out for powder
Ever spill something powdery on your rug -- say, a carpet freshener or odor-fighting baking soda? Might want to leave your vacuum cleaner out of the cleanup.
Yes, really: some powdery substances can actually hurt your vacuum cleaner and clog its HEPA filter or even the motor.
Listen to your nose
If your vac smells like burning rubber, it's time to eyeball its drive belt, that little loop of black rubber that keeps the beater bar spinning.