Is it Safe to Vacuum a Hardwood With a Vacuum Designed For Carpeting?

A Modern Day Myth?

There has long been a cleaning standard that says we should avoid cleaning our hardwood floors with vacuums because of potential damage to the flooring. Way back when vacuums were first being introduced, and designed specifically for carpets, this was a good rule of thumb. Have things changed in modern times? Yes and no.

What’s Changed?

In the beginning of the vacuuming age, and for years afterwards, these machines were made to keep carpets clean. There’s not a whole lot of other ways to accomplish this well without a vacuum cleaner, so life got a lot easier after their invention. However, since they were aimed at cleaning carpets in the most effective manner, hardwood floors took a beating when vacuumed. This is mostly because the features required to clean carpets don’t necessarily make great hardwood floor cleaners.

Because of this, some people would find damage developing on their hardwood floors over time.The simplest solution was to save the vacuum for the carpets and keep up the regular method for cleaning floors: a trusty broom and dust pan.

As those of us who have been practicing this method for years are well aware, your back tends to suffer a bit more if you choose to sweep rather than vacuum. Also, the floors won’t get quite as clean as they otherwise could, simply because a broom pushes dirt around instead of trapping and filtering it.

Luckily, modern day vacuum makers have heard the cries of frustrated sweepers and created solutions to the age-old vacuuming dilemma mentioned here.

What Should I Look For to Clean My Floors?

Go ahead and get a vacuum cleaner for you hardwood floor! You don’t have to feel guilty about the damage you might be doing as long as you make sure to follow some simple suggestions on how to find a proper hardwood vacuum:

  1. No brush-roll! – This is the biggie of the list. Nothing kills your floor’s shiny surface like a hundred rough plastic pieces beating against it constantly. Brush-roll heads were created to aggravate dirt in carpets to allow for a more thorough cleaning. They do an excellent job at this, but it’s a completely unnecessary feature for hardwood floors since the dirt has nowhere to hide. Find a vacuum that either does not have a brush-roll head, or has a switch to turn it off.
  2. Suction power – Stronger suction is usually recommended for hard surface floors of all kind because you’re counting on straight suction alone to pick up the dirt around the floor. Power on a vacuum is usually talked about in terms of watts, with the average being around 1000. This is about as low as you want to go for a hardwood floor vacuum, since anything lower won’t be good at picking up all the dirt without multiple go-overs.
  3. Crevice tools – While not really a necessity, a crevice tool is going to make your life a whole lot easier when it comes to reaching every part of the floors. Edges, small gaps between furniture/walls, and spaces underneath objects can all be reached by this handy little helper. Don’t underestimate exactly how much you’ll be using your crevice tool, especially on a hardwood floor!


The verdict is in, and it’s good news for all of you with sore backs from sweeping!

Yes, you can safely use a vacuum to clean your hardwood floors, but only if that vacuum is set up properly for the task. If you have a vacuum that is only designed for carpets, you might have to keep doing what you’re doing now until you can get the right kind of vacuum for the job.

After all, cleaning your floors is about keeping them in good shape, so you don’t want to pick up the dirt at the expense of your floor’s life expectancy.

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