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12 essential secrets of vacuum cleaner maintenance

Sometimes you need a repair shop, and sometimes you just need a wire hanger and some smarts.

Leslie Gornstein
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Check those filters

If your vac seems to be losing power, you may not need a repair.

Before you call a pro, check your filter. Reusable vacuum filters need to be cleaned with water roughly every three to six months, depending on use.

Looking for the best vacuums of 2015? Here you go!

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Check your head, too

Still losing suction? Flip the vac upside-down and you're looking at the head, the home of the beater bar and brushes.

If they don't look as clean as the ones in this photo, that might be your problem: they need to be de-clogged regularly. By you. And by hand.

Read CNET's vacuum cleaner buying guide.

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3 of 12 Bruno Vincent/Getty Images

Show some patience

Be sure to let your clean filter dry at least 24 hours before starting in on this kind of action again.

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4 of 12 Ilya Snopchenko/AFP/Getty Images

Do. Not. Use. Soap.

There are some places where dish soap just isn't any help -- say, public fountains...and vacuum cleaner parts.

If you've been using anything other than water on parts such as filters, you might want to reconsider. You may be attracting unnecessary dirt and courting a date with a repair shop.

Looking for the best vacuums of 2015? Here you go!

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5 of 12 iStock

Whip out that screwdriver

Often, there's a flat plate on the bottom of your vac. Use a screwdriver to remove it and get up close and personal with the roller and its cavity.

Many vacuums let you simply pop the roller out, allowing you to fish around in the cavity for offending dust bunnies that could be jamming your system.

Read CNET's vacuum cleaner buying guide.

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6 of 12 Ace Hardware

Save a buck

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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7 of 12 Ian Waldie/Getty Images

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.)

Looking for the best vacuums of 2015? Here you go!

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8 of 12 Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Know your limits

Word of caution: if you're not sure where the suction hose is in the head of your vacuum, you're risking the health of your vacuum's motor, and it's best to call a pro for backup.

Read CNET's vacuum cleaner buying guide.

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Buy right the first time

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.

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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.

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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.

Looking for the best vacuums of 2015? Here you go!

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Care for your belt

Once a year, replace that belt. Do it yourself and you'll save yourself the hassle of visiting a repair shop when the belt inevitably gets too stretchy and breaks.

Read CNET's vacuum cleaner buying guide.

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