The Don'ts of Vacuuming: 10 Things You Can't Do with Vacuum

Pulling out the vacuum cleaner often feels like the quickest way to tackle any spill or mess that crosses our paths at home. Yet, despite their convenience and versatility, there are specific things you can't do with vacuum. Understanding these limitations is crucial for maintaining your device's longevity and avoid unnecessary hazards.

This guide debunks some common misconceptions about vacuum capabilities and outlines 10 specific messes that are better left untouched by your trusty vacuum cleaners. Additionally, we'll delve into what happens when these guidelines are ignored to help you understand the risks and provide insights into selecting the right vacuum for various tasks. Join us for better and safer vacuum use.

Common Misconceptions About Vacuum Capabilities

Despite their widespread use, several myths about vacuum capabilities persist, leading to misuse and unrealistic expectations. Let's debunk some of these common myths:

Vacuums Can Handle Wet and Dry Messes Equally

One of the most prevalent myths is that standard vacuums are equipped to deal with both wet and dry messes. While there are specialized wet-dry vacuums designed for this purpose, most household vacuums are only meant for dry debris. 

Vacuums Can Handle All Types of Debris

Another common misunderstanding is that vacuums can suck up any kind of debris, no matter its size, shape, or material. While it's true that vacuums are designed to pick up a wide variety of household dirt and dust, they are not suited for everything. Items like large or sharp objects can cause significant damage to the interior workings of your vacuum or tear the vacuum bag or filter.

All Vacuums Work Effectively on Any Surface

While vacuums come with various settings and attachments, not all are suitable for every surface type. Using the wrong setting or attachment can lead to inadequate cleaning or, worse, damage to delicate surfaces. For example, a beater bar is great for agitating carpet fibers but can scratch hardwood floors or snag area rugs.

10 Things You Should Never Vacuum

From the liquid spills that can short-circuit your machine to the sticky substances that cling onto its internals, let's delve into 10 specific items you should never vacuum:


The answer to the question "Can you vacuum water?" is a big no. Vacuuming liquids with a standard vacuum cleaner can lead to electrical hazards, damage the motor, and encourage the growth of mold and mildew within the unit. For wet spills, use a mop or a wet-dry vacuum designed for such tasks. 

Fireplace Ashes

Ashes from the fireplace may seem like fine dust that a vacuum could easily handle, but they can clog filters and damage the motor. Moreover, hot embers hidden within the ashes can pose a significant fire risk if vacuumed. Utilize a fireplace shovel and metal container is a safer way to handle them.

Large or Sharp Objects

Objects that are too large or sharp can cause physical damage to your vacuum. Large pieces of plastic or coins can obstruct the airflow by clogging the hose or the brush roll, while sharp objects like glass shards can tear the vacuum bag or filter, leading to costly repairs. So, can you vacuum glass? No, it's safer to pick up them up by hand with a rubber glove.


Wet Foods

Just like water in vacuum cleaner, wet foods can also cause electrical shock and damage to the motor. They can stick to the interior components and promote mold growth, which is difficult to clean and can cause unpleasant odors. It's best to clean up these messes with paper towels or a cloth.

Besides, the best way to handle a wet floor is to try eufy S1 Pro, the world's first floor washing robot.


Power Cords

Careless vacuuming over power cords is risky. Not only can it damage the cord, leading to potential electrical hazards, but it can also cause wear and tear on your vacuum's brush roll or even entangle the cord around moving parts. Always remove cords from the floor or lift them away as you vacuum.


Vacuuming large amounts of soil carried from outdoors inside on your shoes or spilled potting mix can quickly fill up your vacuum bag, leading to reduced suction power or clogged filter. Heavy particles can also scratch the interior of your vacuum. If you have a lot of soil or mud inside, it's best to let it dry and sweep it up with a broom and dustpan first.

Hair in Large Clumps

Hair in large clumps can be particularly troublesome for standard vacuums. Long strands can wrap around the brush roll, leading to a decrease in efficiency and potentially damaging the motor if the brush cannot rotate. It's best to pick them up by hand or use a rubber glove to gather them before running the vacuum.

Soft Fabrics

Soft fabrics, such as socks, small towels, or washcloths, should never be vacuumed. These items can easily be sucked up into the vacuum hose, causing clogs that are difficult and sometimes costly to remove. Additionally, the fabric can wrap around the brush roll, similar to hair, and lead to motor burnout. Always ensure small fabric items are picked up before vacuuming.

Sticky Substances

Vacuuming sticky or tacky substances is a definite no. Not only can these substances clog your vacuum's tubing, but they can also coat the interior components, leading to a decrease in performance and potential damage. For spills of this nature, it's best to use a cleaning solution suited to the substance, and perhaps a scraper or paper towels, before vacuuming the residue.

Lit Cigarette Butts

Vacuuming lit cigarette butts can pose a fire hazard within the vacuum, potentially melting plastic components and filters. Even when they are completely extinguished and cool, vacuuming them should be avoided due to the odor embedding into your vacuum.

What Happens If You Ignore the Guidelines?

Ignoring these guidelines can lead to several issues, affecting not only the appliance itself but also potentially your safety and well-being. Here's a closer look at the consequences:

Damage to the Vacuum

Vacuum cleaners are designed to handle specific types of debris and usage conditions. Introducing materials like liquids, sharp objects, or sticky substances can cause physical damage to the machine's internal components, including the motor, hose, brush roll, and filters. This can lead to costly repairs or necessitate a complete replacement of the vacuum.

Reduced Efficiency

Even if the vacuum doesn't break down immediately after vacuuming inappropriate materials, its efficiency can be significantly reduced. Clogs in the hose, filters, or brush roll can diminish suction power. This means more time and effort is required to clean your home, and even then, the results may not be up to par.

Safety Risks

Perhaps the most immediate concern when ignoring vacuuming guidelines is the safety risk it poses. Vacuuming over power cords or using a standard vacuum to clean up liquids can lead to electric shocks, endangering you and your household. Similarly, vacuuming flammable items like fireplace ashes or lit cigarette butts can cause fires within the vacuum cleaner, posing a significant risk to your home.

What to Consider When Choosing a Vacuum for Different Tasks?

Now that you understand the don'ts of vacuuming, there are several factors to consider when you are choosing a vacuum cleaner for the various tasks it can handle.

Suction Power

The heart of a vacuum's performance is its suction power. For general cleaning, a vacuum with moderate suction might suffice, but for more demanding tasks like deep-cleaning carpets or removing pet hair, look for models with higher suction capabilities. The eufy HomeVac H30 Mate vacuum cleaner, for example, features 80 AW / 16kPa strong suction power and a mini-motorized pet brush to pick up pet hair with ease.


A versatile vacuum that can adapt to different surfaces and situations is invaluable. Look for models that offer a range of settings or attachments for various tasks—such as hardwood floors, carpets of varying thickness, upholstery, and tight corners. Features like an adjustable brush roll height can make transitioning from carpet to hard flooring seamless and protect delicate surfaces.

Additionally, compact handheld models, such as eufy handheld vacuums, are perfect for quick cleanups, reaching tight spaces, cleaning car interiors, or addressing specific spots that are too cumbersome for larger full-sized vacuums.

Filtration System

A good filtration system not only improves air quality but also prevents fine particles from being expelled back into the room. Vacuums equipped with HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters are especially beneficial for those with allergies or respiratory issues, as they can trap a higher percentage of dust mites, pollen, mold, and other airborne particles. Ensure the vacuum's filter is easy to clean or replace to maintain its effectiveness.

Attachments and Tools

The right attachments can significantly extend a vacuum's utility, making it a more valuable cleaning tool. Look for accessories tailored to your specific cleaning challenges—be it crevice tools for reaching into narrow spaces, upholstery attachments for furniture, or soft-bristle brushes for dusting delicate items. Specialized pet tools can also make a huge difference in homes with furry friends. The more targeted the tool, the better the cleaning outcome.


As we've navigated through the things you can't do with vacuum, it's clear that while vacuums are powerful tools for maintaining cleanliness, they have their limitations. From liquids and fireplace ashes to sharp objects and sticky substances, it's vital to recognize what your vacuum can and cannot handle. Ignoring these guidelines can lead to damaged equipment, reduced efficiency, and even safety risks. Moreover, by considering factors like suction power, filtration systems, and attachments, you can choose a vacuum that enhances your cleaning efficiency without compromising safety or performance. Remember, knowing the limitations of your tools is the first step towards using them more effectively and ensuring they last for years to come.


Can I vacuum up rice?

It is recommended not to use your vacuum cleaner to pick up rice, whether it is cooked or dry. Dry rice grains can easily clog the filters in a vacuum cleaner. And if the rice is wet or cooked, it could clog your vacuum's hoses and potentially damage the motor.

Can I vacuum a fly?

Yes. Vacuuming is an effective method to quickly remove flies from your living space without having to chase them around. However, using a vacuum might not always kill the fly, and it could potentially escape when you next use or empty the vacuum. To minimize this risk, you might want to immediately empty the vacuum canister outside after capturing the fly, especially if you're using a bagless vacuum.

Will sawdust ruin a vacuum?

Using a regular vacuum to clean up sawdust can indeed potentially damage it. Fine particles like sawdust can clog the vacuum's filter, reduce suction power, and even lead to motor burnout due to overheating.

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