You're probably making this mistake with your vacuum

Your house isn't the only thing that needs to be cleaned regularly.

Vacuum Credit: Scyther5/Getty Images

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Your vacuum is supposed to clean your home, not make it more dirty. So why is yours refusing to suck up all that dirt your dog tracked in or, worse, blowing dust back out onto your floor?

The answer could be that you have a dirty or clogged filter.

"But I took it out and emptied it in the trashcan," I can hear you arguing now. And while that may be true, it also likely isn't enough to thoroughly clean your filter. Below is everything you need to know about cleaning (and replacing) your vacuum filter, based on your brand and model.

Why—and how often—you should clean your vacuum filter

Credit: Getty Images

What's really lurking inside your vacuum?

"A dirty filter isn't cleaning the air coming out of the exhaust properly, meaning the dust and dirt that the brush is picking up could be flung back into the air you're breathing," our senior lab testing technician, Jonathan Chan, explains. Not only that, but he adds, "As the filter gets clogged, the airflow gets reduced and that can your vacuum to lose suction." A.k.a all those hours you spend vacuuming could be futile.

So how often should you change your filter to avoid said problems? Jonathan recommends consulting your vacuum's owner manual, which should provide cleaning and replacement timelines. However, if you've lost your manual, he says, "A good rule of thumb is to replace the filter if you notice and odor coming out of the exhaust or if your vacuum is losing suction when there aren't any clogs." Keep in mind, too, that many vacuums have two filters (one in front of the motor and one behind it) so you'll want to clean and check both.

How to clean a Dyson vacuum filter

Credit: Dyson

All you need is water.

If you have a Dyson vacuum, Jonathan explains that your filter can be removed and easily washed in the sink. According to Dyson's website, you should only use cold water and never use detergent or put it through your dishwasher or washing machine. Rinse the filter until the water runs clear, then let it sit out for at least 24 hours until it's completely dry.

How to clean a Shark vacuum filter

Credit: Shark

Keep your Shark vacuum running smoothly.

Many Shark vacuums have both foam and felt filters. And just like a Dyson filter, these filters can also be rinsed with cold water (and no soap or detergent!). After you hand wash your filters, let them air dry completely before placing them back in your vacuum. Shark's website suggests doing this about every three months.

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How to clean a Miele vacuum filter

Credit: Miele

Replace—don't reuse—Miele filters.

What's the best way to clean the filter of a Miele vacuum? Trick question—because you don't. Miele vacuum filters have to be replaced, Jonathan says. If your vacuum has a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA filter), you'll know it's time to replace it when the indication strip turns red. According to Miele owner manuals, this equates to about once a year.

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