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vacuuming soilPhoto: Getty Images

Vacuuming is by far my most dreaded task -- the moving of the furniture, clearing of surfaces -- and then there's all the dog hair to contend with (and the dog, whose arch nemesis is the vacuum cleaner).

But once I have that vacuum in hand, I've been known to suction whatever's in my path. I admit, I've vacuumed quite a few items that I now regret having sucked up in my haste.

So I've compiled a list of five items you should never run your vacuum over. (No, not even if you "didn't see it.")

1. Soil
Not only can soil stain carpets and/or rugs, but wet soil can become embedded in the surface itself, causing a bigger mess to clean up later. Instead, try this tip for cleaning up wet soil from your carpet: Using a butter knife, scrape the mess from surface of your carpet directly into a dustpan or other collection device.

cereal on floorGrab a broom and a mop for this mess -- not a vacuum! Photo: Getty Images

2. Fresh food
Feeding time with the baby got out of hand this morning, and you now have a floor full of milk-soaked Cheerios. Sure, it may seem smart to vacuum the mess, but chances are, that milk won't smell fantastic when caught in your HEPA container eight days later.

3. Lipstick
I know, I know. Who would vacuum their lipstick? I did, once. By accident, of course, but the repercussions were enough to ensure I never do the same again. Cosmetics are known to smear and melt, and they'll do the same in your vacuum, causing anything else you vacuum immediately afterward to miraculously turn the same bright shade of your new Revlon lipstick hue.

4. Paperclips
Everyone's vacuumed a paperclip or two in their lifetime, right? Like loose hardware, paperclips are a death trap of for your vacuum and should always be picked up by hand.

5. Loose hardware
Nails, tacks and screws can severely damage your vacuum's motor. A good rule of thumb? Avoid vacuuming any area of the garage. Instead, tackle that area with a simple broom and dustpan.

Keep metal items out of your vacuum. Photo: jupiterimages

Long story short? Your vacuum isn't a trash can -- use it wisely!

  • Ole Guy

    I hope your son's beyond the age of 5. Otherwise, you may have a candidate for the Darwin Award.

  • persiancatstoo

    My persiancat Snickers loves the hand held attachment after he is groomed. Probably the closest thing to a kitty vibrator there is.

  • Joe

    You also should never vacuum plaster dust with a regular household vacuum, use a shop vac instead. the plaster dust will overwhelm the filter in a regular vacuum and burn out the motor.

  • radarjsm

    Cat Litter - my daughter "emptied" the cat pan using the vacuum - and cost me $200.00 in repairs. It was a Kirby (and still is), but it really did a number on the moving parts! BTW, I have vacuumed my dogs using the special brush (round with plastic teeth) that came with the vac. Not sure what it was actually supposed to be used for, wouldn't want to vac shag carpet using a hand tool, but it really worked well on the dog. I also vac'd Christmas tree needles with the Kirby; made the exaust smell wonderful!

  • Robt

    The absolutely worst thing to vacuum is the ashes in a fireplace. if there are small unseen live coals in the ashes, the high volume of air will fan them into flames or a blast in your vacuum bag.

  • Abby

    Robert? I'm replying to your comment about vacuuming ashes from the fireplace. There is a special vacuum that you can purchase for cleaning ashes from your fireplace, pellet stove or wood stove. It's a metal bucket with a hose, specially insulated just for this task. Check with a pellet or wood stove dealer in your area. It's clean and safe. I know because I had a pellet stove and the cannister vacuum for it. It's wonderful and saves a lot of time rather than shoveling up the ashes and getting yourself filthy.

  • nancy

    add this one to the list or dog poop...eww its gross for ever after

  • mochajo79

    OMG Total waste of space, AOL. If it has to be said to not vacuum food or lipstick, DANG! I mean, come on, does the average reader not realize that these items would not be good to suck up through a vacuum? Nails or paperclips? Really? The horrid sound it makes should be enough to know it can't be good. I hope the average public realizes this is a "no-brainer." Heck, I just might go get a job to write a bunch of common sense articles...."Home Ec: 5 Things You Should Never Do With An Electrical Appliance While It Is Being Used"---Hm, #1. Do not immerse the appliance in water while it is being used....Hmm #2. Do not attempt to fix the appliance with a metal object while the appliance is being used. #3. Do not attempt to splice the cord while the appliance is plugged in or in the "on" position. #4. Do not drop the appliance on a hard surface. #5. Do not set the appliance on a hot surface due to the risk of fire. There, AOL, can I get paid now? I mean come on....This article is silly.

  • Lance

    Hey Mochajo79 ~ lighten up, friend. Typically, most folks DO know to use caution when operating vacuums, drills, weapons, vehicles, chainsaws, dynamite, space shuttles, and even toothbrushes! Does it bother you THAT much when somebody provides a simple reminder of the the Do's & Don'ts and a few safety reminders? I figure if it'll save somebody an injury, death or even damage to a vacuum cleaner, then this "waste of space" on AOL is well worth the bandwidth!!

  • Brian

    There are 2 types vacuum cleaners , some draw air through the bag and "can" pick up small solid objects , some draw air through the fan and blow it into the bag (often an upright vac) those hate solid objects and picking them up will often cause damage as the object passes through the high speed fan,as expected never vacuum liquids (unless a wet dry vac) or any materal with even the remote posability of containing embers, like woodstove/fireplace ash, cigerette butts etc.

  • R

    #1 should have been pennies. DO NOT VACUUM THEM UP! They will worth money if you stash them in piggy bank. I ended up having $50 ready.

  • Kathy Nabity

    Although they are less common now, ABSOLUTELY NEVER vacuum up a broken glass & mercury thermometer!! It will aerosolize the mercury which is highly toxic.

  • Lillie

    The spray can doesn't clean my pc, the dust is oil based if you know what I mean

  • Jason

    How bout adding something really important like here, like broken CFL bulbs. Vacuuming stirs up the mercury. I think now if people read the comments they might get some value reading this article. Your welcome diylife.

  • Richard A. Walter

    I have an even less expensive solution than bringing out the 5hp shop vac. Fuller Brush makes the Workhorse Wet/Dry Electrostatic sweeper, which has a vinyl roller blade which allows it to sweep up the liquid in the glass as well as th glass that broke. And it is only $63.00. It is commercial grade, but you don't even have to plug it in, so you don't use electricity, and you don't have a cord to trip over. I have one, and I love it. And yes, it will pick up the nails, paper clips and other things that your vacuum cleaner is not meant to pick up.

  • Marcia Eckert

    I have a Bissell Little Green Machine that is the best for cleaning up wet messes like wet soil and spilled food. I've used it to clean up a spilled bottle of wine from my tiled kitchen floor and it did an awesome job. Actually I broke the bottle of red wine on the floor and my Little Green Machine helped me deal with the broken glass as well. This little wonder of a machine cost about $129 and is a priceless member of my clean team.

  • tt

    my bf is a vacuum repair man and after years of fixing and cleaning vacuums he says the worst is cat litter not only does it wear out your motor but it is not a very nice thing to do to your repair guy.also alot of people have gone febreeze crazy ,this stuff is not good for alot of reasons it leaves a film behind and altough it smells good it is going to ruin your furniture in the long run . in a vacuum it leaves a sticky glue-like substance on your brushroll that everything sticks to and makes like a tar that will smear into you carpets and destroy them, this film is also toxic to your childern and pets so if you are one of those febreezers you are slowly poisoning your babies!!! and when you think of vacuuming up somehting gross think not only of what it will do to your machine but also about the guy who has to stick his hands in there to fix it

  • SK

    NEVER vacuum guitar strings! They're very difficult to see and will quickly wrap around that beater bar in the bottom of the vacuum. Then it's off to repair...

  • Jim

    As a former vacuum cleaner repair tech, I've seen it all: People who vacuum animal feces, their child's vomit, the list is endless and gross. As far as vacuuming hard objects such as small screws, nails, stones, etc., that depends on your vacuum cleaner. If it is a traditional tank design, where the dirt goes directly into the bag and not through a plastic fan first, then vacuum away, it won't hurt it. About plastic fans: some are far more resilient than others; the lexan material used in my Kirby has never broken, and I've accidently picked up a few items that would have killed a department store vacuum. Also, bagless machines are a filthy mess to empty, and they still leak dust like a sieve, contrary to the lies the manufacturers tell consumers. Give me my hepa-filtration Kirby cloth-like disposable bags any day, or my Air-Way Sanitizor tank that uses the same cloth/hepa type of disposable bag. Never had a repair problem, and the dirt is MUCH more sanitary to dispose of.

  • brian

    DUHHH! Is this something someone really needs to tell anyone with an IQ above 70? This includes all the other "do nots" in comments. I am not trying to be mean but stop assuming everyone is stupid....and if you are dumb enought to vacuum up milk or paperclips or MERCURY (really?), well you get what you deserve. Have a wonderful day!


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