Everyone knows how to use a vacuum, even if we don’t use it as often as we should. You can be one of those vacuum ninjas who uses every single attachment for its intended purpose and shifts settings like they’re driving a stick-shift sports car in a police chase, or you could be someone who just presses the ON button and slides the thing around for a few minutes, but either approach qualifies you to say you know how to use the machine. But vacuums have a lot more unused potential. You have this device that creates suction powerful enough to pull cookie crumbs out of deep pile carpet and collects enough pet hair to make a sweater with every single time you use it. Vacuums are kind of incredible machines.
If all you’re doing is breaking it out when your parents come to visit to create the illusion that you don’t live like an animal, you’re missing out, because there are a lot of off-label uses for your vacuum. Here are all the ways you should be using your vacuum, but probably aren’t.
Locate small items
If you’ve ever dropped a tiny screw, an earring, or other small object, you know that your house doubles as a voracious Black Hole that devours these items. They vanish into some nether dimension for weeks or years, then suddenly turn up in unexpected places.
Instead of crawling around on the floor with a magnifying glass, break out your vacuum and stretch something sheer over the nozzle — tights or stockings will work, or even a thin T-shirt in a pinch. Secure it tightly with rubber bands and start vacuuming the area. If that speck of a screw or piece of jewellery is hiding in your carpet or wedged in the grout lines, it will appear trapped against the material as if by magic.
Freshen pillows and cushions
Human beings are disgusting. We’re constantly venting fumes, fluids, and germs — and often enough what we’re venting them into are the cushions and pillows we sit on, sleep on, and rest our feet on. If you think that doesn’t eventually result in some pretty stinky bedding and couch situations, you’re fooling yourself. In other words: Many things in your house smell like feet, and you don’t even realise it.
But your vacuum can rescue you from, er, yourself. Sprinkle a little baking powder on your cushions and pillows, work it gently with a damp sponge, then let it sit for about an hour. Then, vacuum it all away. The result will be visibly cleaner cushions and upholstery and a much fresher smell throughout the house.
Remove carpet dents
If you have carpet in your home, you know that heavy furniture and other objects can leave semi-permanent dents behind. You decide to re-arrange your living room and you discover that there are literally holes in your carpet where the couch used to sit, and they never go away.
But you can make them go away using your trusty vacuum. Just take an ice cube and place it on the dent. Let it melt, then take your vacuum’s crevice attachment (the thin, narrow one designed to get into tight spaces — its narrow opening makes for the most intense suction) and run it over the dents. The suction will pull the treated carpet fibres back up, and the dent will be gone.
Soothe a baby
This might sound a little out there, but it’s a proven (if very, very weird) fact that white noise helps fussy babies fall asleep, and calms a colicky baby almost like magic. And just about any white noise will do the trick — your vacuum’s steady roar might send your dogs running to hide, but there’s an excellent chance your screaming hellchild will suddenly calm down and start cooing in delight.
It’s the same principle as taking a crying baby for a ride in the car, and so many people swear by this trick there are long-play recordings you can stream and CDs you can purchase if you don’t feel like actually vacuuming. Bonus: You can fire these recordings up any time you want to cut a phone call short.
Freshen your air
Everyone gets a little “nose blind” to their own home eventually. Odours that would have you wondering about the health (physical and mental) of a friend if experienced at their place don’t even register in your brain anymore. But they’re there. Oh, they are there.
You can buy air fresheners, of course, or waltz around the house dousing everything in Febreze — but there’s an easier way. Your vacuum is essentially a very large, very loud air filtration system. Put some essential oil on a cotton ball and drop it into the canister before you clean your house. As you move from room to room, your vacuum sucks in the stale, stinky air you’re somehow living in, filters out dust and dirt, then pumps it back out — now lightly scented. If you want to imagine cartoon flowers blooming in your wake that’s entirely up to you.
The world is full of off-label uses for things, and knowing what they are is a kind of superpower. Your vacuum just solved several problems for you, so treat it nicely.