You’re Probably Vacuuming Way Too Fast

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Photo: Kostenko Maxim (Shutterstock)

Generally speaking, there are two types of vacuuming: A few quick sweeps to pick up crumbs, spilled snacks, and visible dirty; and a more thorough sweep of the entire room while cleaning. Of course, a lot depends on the kind of flooring in the space, and when it comes to carpet, slower is better. In fact, even when you think you’re taking your time, you’re still probably vacuuming too fast. Here’s what to know.

What is ‘slow vacuuming’?

There is no shortage of cleaning hacks and before-and-after reveals on TikTok, including a subset of posts featuring the results of “slow vacuuming.” This is exactly what it sounds like: Vacuuming carpet much slower than you (probably) normally would, and then showing the previously empty canister full of dirt, dust, and other debris.

But slow vacuuming is hardly new; in fact, it’s how the labor-saving devices were intended to be used. Back in the early 20th century, when the first electric “suction sweepers” became available to consumers, they were designed to replicate (and replace) beating a rug.

The bristles on a rolling brush would kick up dirt and dust, which would then be sucked up into a bag or canister. If you think about it in terms of beating a rug, vacuuming slowly makes sense. You wouldn’t bring a rug outside (or stick it out the window) and only give it a few whacks, then call it a day—if you wanted to get out as much dirt as possible, you’d spend more time beating it.

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How to properly vacuum carpet

While modern vacuums are more powerful and much easier to maneuver than the early models, the general concept is the same—even for higher-end machines. For example, these are part of Dyson’s instructions for vacuuming carpet:

Vacuuming slowly gives the airflow and brush bar more time to “agitate” the dust and dirt between the carpet fibres and remove them entirely. It also means you’re more likely to capture invisible allergens hidden deep in the carpet pile.

So how slow should you go? Really, that’s up to you, and how much time you have and want to spend vacuuming. Suggestions range from going the same speed as you would using a carpet cleaner, to 15-20 seconds per square foot, to “allow[ing] your vacuum to sit on your carpet as long as you can.”

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