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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!

  • HenryJ

    No one here thinks running over a long piece of string is the worst thing to suck up in your vacuum?

  • Jim

    It's not the worst thing, but it definitely does severe damage, depending on the length and material, to the brush roll . I ran over some nylon sewing thread one time from my blind stitcher (because I didn't see it before the brush grabbed it) and it ruined the brush roll; it bent the brushes down so tightly that even after I IMMEDIATELY removed it, they were ruined. I had to call the Kirby dealer and spend another 37.95 on a new brush. I can only imagine the damage a guitar string would do!

  • scott

    Item # 6: .22 caliber ammo. My mom accidentally vacuumed a 22 shell from the floor and it went off in the vacuum. Loud bang! didn't hurt the vacuum or anyone else luckily.

    Item # 7: Your genitals. When I was in the service a guy in my company tried pleasuring himself with a vacuum. He went to the hospital.

  • gibby

    Who vacuums ammo? Anyway, I used my ex-girlfriend's pool vacuum to try to get off last summer and apparently it was turned on "high" and nearly sucked it right off! So, sadly, your friend's not the only one to try that!

  • pashta

    OMG... Men are so stupid LOL.

  • k-10

    i thought nothing of vacuuming up poinsettia leaves that had fallen off- until my brand new carpet turned pink! Even if you THINK the petals are completely dry- they usually aren't and will leaves streaks of color that is impossible to remove from carpet.

  • Linda

    I accidently vaccumed up a penny one time. It went right through the head of my new Kirby, Big hole! No more vaccume. Little plastic Army men are killers as fleas are another thing. Did you know the little devils can live in your vaccume? I shudder to think of Roaches. Can you imagine any of thoes icky creachers having a party in your wind tunnel or Kirby bag! Nooooooooo!

  • Robin

    Let me add one more to this list - PINE NEEDLES! Never, ever vacuum pine needles! Those pesky leftovers from the Christmas tree will clog your vacuum and its hose to the point of having to purchase another machine.

  • Lisa


  • jennifer

    I once accindently vaccumed up puppy poop on a rug that looked like poop. I didnt see it, but man as soon as it hit it, the crap went everywhere as did the smell! I had the hardest time getting that out of my vac. Ewww

  • Linda A.

    I've accidentally sucked up all sorts of metallic items with my vacuum over the years (nails, screws, batteries). Once, I even sucked up one of those water faucet aerator rings, you know, the part that holds the strainer and screws onto the end of the faucet, and I've never done any damage to my vacuum's motor.

    By the way, Erin. You move the furniture when you vacuum? I don't! I just run the vacuum under the furniture. That's some of what the vacuum's attachments are for. It's no wonder you don't like vacuuming because you make it harder than it needs to be.

  • Becki Williams

    I thought it was a good article! Especially about the fireplace's amazing how many people don't realize that...however, I do, & I have a fireplace vacuum that I NO LONGER I moved into a home with a gas if anyone in the Stkn-Modesto area needs a fireplace vacuum, let me know! I will be happy to sell it VERY inexpensively. Thank you AOL, for the article!

  • Rachel

    My ex once vacuumed up pancake batter that he had spilled, it took a few days for him to admit to what the ungodly smell was that had become the vacuume cleaner good thing it was a cheap one cause i had to toss it. there was no getting the smell out of it.

  • Fan in Montreal

    One other thing that should NEVER be vaccumed is a broken CFL (the new spiral type light bulb. There is mercury inside and a vaccum cleaner will disperse the mercury into a fine mist and into the air.

    Mercury will actually be drawn THROUGH the filters and bag of the vacuum cleaner and out the exhaust in a lethal fine mist and either be breathed in or settle back onto the carpet where it will be constantly stirred up into the air.

    A broken CFL must be blotted with wet paper towels and disposed into a plastic dsiposal bag and removed immediately from the living area.

  • LB

    My husband is a very intelligent man, but when he dropped a bottle of his cologne, he VACUUMED the spilled cologne -- broken glass included! From there on out, our vacuum smelled like that cologne everytime we used it. I coulda clobbered him! :-)

  • Mary

    A girl's best friend is a small shop vac.I have used one for 25-30yrs.
    as my household vac.It's great for hardwood, carpet and most especially pet hairs.It's small and lightweight compared to the very expensive major brands, hard on your back.Have converted most of my
    single girlfriends to this must have.Wal-Mart has had them on sale for $15. generally $34. Ladies give your backs a break.

  • Kat Dudley

    Heres one for the books! Never, ever, ever, vacuum cheese. I once vaccuumed pizza cheese out of the bottom of the freezer. Days later, people began to notice a horrible smell in my house. I thought something had died under my house. We looked, we searched, but couldn't figure out where the smell was coming from. Until I turned on the Kirby. It smelled like rotten roadkill, worst thing I ever smelled in my life. Turns out it was all gunked in the motor. Had to take it to a vac mechanic, who had to take the motor apart and clean every thing in it. Expensive lesson learned.

  • ff

    Car headliners are a no-no, I learned that one the hard way.

  • Deb

    This is one of the most interesting and helpful blogs I've been on. Thanks for sharing. I've ruined a couple of vacum cleaners and it's a royal pain in the neck.

  • Nancy Garrison

    I own 3 dogs - 2 are black. I got so sick of the dog hair everywhere that I finally purchased a Bissell vacuum specifically designed to help with this problem. It is one of the best things I have purchased. I LOVE it! My carpet looks great after using it.


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