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No straight lines! Here's the 1 pattern you should make when vacuuming

Vacuum cleaners are a household essential, especially if you have rugs or carpets — or big hairy pets.

Yet, despite our love affair with these cleaning staples, do we really know the right way to use and maintain a vacuum cleaner? Cleaning expert Leslie Reichert sure does! Read on as she shares her favorite vacuum dos and don’ts.

How to vacuum

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  • “I vacuum in an M pattern, going over the same area two or three times,” says Reichert. “Start at one point and work your way out of the room. If your vacuum has good suction, you don't necessarily need to go slowly to vacuum up all the dirt. Just don’t move like Road Runner!” (Vacuuming this way removes 85 percent of the dust and allergens, and makes high-traffic patterns less noticeable, says Paul Iskyan, fourth generation owner of Rug Renovating in East Orange, New Jersey.)
  • To keep from bumping into the legs of furniture, use a paint brush to move dust and dirt away from the legs so you can get close without bumping into them, adds Reichert.
  • Make the job even easier by rearranging furniture so that the vacuum head fits easily between pieces without having to move them.
  • As tempting as it is to suck up everything that lands on the floor, it’s a good idea to pick up by hand heavy items like coins or screws and large pieces of paper or trash. This will prevent damage and clogs.
  • Fun tip: Put a few cotton balls with essential oils in the dust container to make the vacuum smell less like dirt and more like a flower garden as you use it

RELATED: Slow-motion vacuuming? 7 cleaning tips you haven't heard before

How to maintain a vacuum cleaner

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  • Replace brush attachments (floor brush, dusting brush and upholstery brush) when the bristles break down. These are inexpensive and keep your vacuum working efficiently.
  • For bagless vacs, run the dust cup through the dishwasher every now and then to leave it sparkling clean. Shake the dust out first, of course!
  • If your vac has a WASHABLE filter, run that through the dishwasher, too. (Check the owner’s manual first.) Just make sure the filter is completely dry before putting it back into the vacuum.
  • Paper HEPA filters should be vacuumed or cleaned by knocking them against a hard surface outside. Never wash paper filters with water.
  • When changing disposable paper bags, clean the dust from around the bag. Otherwise, dust can get into the motor and damage or destroy it.

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Warning signs

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  • Dust and dirt on the outside of the vacuum means it’s time to replace or clean the filter. Filters on some bagless vacuums need to be replaced every 30 days, under normal use. Follow manufacturer’s guidelines.
  • When the vacuum no longer picks up well, it’s time to check the:
  • bag or dirt cup to see if dirt is going into it. If not, there may be a clog in the system. Check the hose and the opening where the hose goes into the machine for blockages.
  • belt: If it’s stretched out or broken, replace it.
  • beater bar: If it’s got lots of hair or string wrapped around it, clean it.
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