How Do I Keep Long Hair from Clogging the Vacuum?

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Dear Home-Ec 101,
Okay so the long hair isn’t exactly clogging the vacuum, but it’s all over the brush thingy and doesn’t work as well. What can I do to stop this from happening? it’s a pain in the butt. I love my long hair, but I also want my vacuum to work.
Signed,
Lovin’ my Locks

I feel your long-haired pain. It’s obnoxious. Did you know the average person loses between 50 and 100 hairs a day? When those lost hairs are an inch or two long, they aren’t very noticeable, but once they get over a foot or so, they don’t just blend in. And, if you have more than one long-haired person in a home, the amount of long hair that gets shed adds up very quickly.

To ensure your vacuum works well, even with long-haired people and animals in the house, you can have two options: prevention and maintenance. Please remember that prevention doesn’t stop the need for regular maintenance, it simply reduces how often you’ll have to perform it on your vacuum.

For what it is worth the Bissell Pet Hair vacuum is a reasonable mid-tier vacuum that does a good job at preventing long hair from wrapping around the beater bar/brush. If none of the prevention ideas appeal to you, this one might work. No vacuum is perfect, but this one worked well in a household with multiple pets and people with long hair.

How to prevent vacuum clogs from long hair:

First, the free option

  1. Brush or comb your hair often and thoroughly, but only in one area of the house and if you want to make your life even easier, do it in an uncarpeted area.
  2. Sweep, Swiffer,—vacuum if you must, but you’ll want to use any part of the vacuum that is not the brush roller—this floor after each time. If you don’t, the strands of hair that are now on the floor will get tracked onto the carpet and completely defeat what we are trying to accomplish.
  3. Ponytails and braids are your friends. These will contain your hair shedding temporarily. Please note that you may see a lot more shed hair in the shower with this method. Unless you are wearing TIGHT ponytails, you’re just seeing the shed hair all at once instead of those hairs slipping away unnoticed. It can be a little alarming. (Wearing tight ponytails can cause traction alopecia which is hair loss from repeated pulling, so just be aware of the changes you make in your hair care routines.)

Small investment option:

Buy a rubber rake of course you’ll actually have to use it for there to be any effect. Pre-raking the floor can only be described as a which-chore-do-I-hate-more option. Would I rather rake the floor before vacuuming or take the vacuum apart?

I know, none of these are magical cures. Unfortunately, Home-Ec101.com doesn’t deal in snake oil or false promises. Adding a small chore to your routine, whether it is brushing your hair in a designated spot, then cleaning up those shed hairs, wearing your hair tied back, or using a rubber rake is as our parents would have said, just part of the “Responsibility of having long hair” <—that should be read in the most disapproving parental tone your imagination can provide.

How to remove long hair from your vacuum as part of regular maintenance:

If the beater bar or brush bar of your vacuum is clogged with long hair it can’t perform its job.

The beater brush’s job is to separate and agitate the carpet strands and throw the bits of dirt and debris toward the suction power of the vacuum. If two-thirds of the bristles are clogged with hair, it’s not going to do a very good job and you’re mostly wasting your time and energy running the appliance over the carpeting. You are getting a little bit of exercise, so take comfort in that. 

Depending on your vacuum you’ll need a screwdriver and a box cutter or seam ripper. (Heather notes she has seen the seam ripper suggested but has really thick hair that would probably reply, “Stop it, that tickles,”)

The box cutter in the image is the one Heather has and likes a lot. It’s reasonably priced, folding, and comfortable to use, even for longer jobs than cleaning up the beater bar of your vacuum.

You may want to remove the hair from your vacuum outside or over an old sheet or a section of newspaper. No matter where you choose to perform your maintenance, unplug your vacuum and get comfortable with it on the ground. 

Use the screwdriver to remove the bottom plate from the vacuum. This may not be possible with all models. If it’s not possible with yours, just do the best you can. In the image below, the plate was left on as this was a quick, clear for demonstration purposes.

Your most important task is to figure out where the belt is.

The belt is the part of the vacuum that spins the brush. If you accidentally nick or cut this part of the vacuum the belt will fail and your vacuum will be temporarily inoperable until you replace it with a new one. Yes, with most vacuums, you will still be able to use the hose attachment, but let’s be careful.

Now use the box cutter or seam ripper to carefully cut the hair off of the roller. You will want to cut away from yourself and away from the belt. Please grip the roller bar behind the box cutter, Home-Ec101.com is not responsible for accidents. While removing the hair from the brush try not to cut the bristles off of the bar. You should be able to slide the blade between the rows of bristles to get rid of the hair. 

Long hair wrapped around the brush bar of a vacuum. A box cutter is slicing through the hair

Reassemble the vacuum, throw away the hair, and marvel at the renewed efficiency of your vacuum.

 Please send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

keep long hair from clogging the vacuum

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5 thoughts on “How Do I Keep Long Hair from Clogging the Vacuum?”

  1. I don’t even bother with a stick-type cleaner. If I comb my hair in the bathroom, I can bend down, sweep my hand across the floor once or twice, and grab a majority of the hair.

    Reply
  2. I usually go outdoors ( balcony or something ) to brush and only do the styling part indoors. The responsibility of having long hair is directly reflected in my vacuum system that I got from the Vacmasters of Toronto. The professionals replaced the brush twice by now. I’m glad that I’d opted their service. These tips are really helpful. Thanks for sharing them here.

    Reply
  3. Very helpful, thanks! Yesterday I realized my vacuum was just not working. I had to take it apart and he-hair it. Ughc the responsibility of having long hair.

    Reply

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