How to Clean a Shark Vacuum and Filters

You know how much I love my Shark vacuum cleaner. And given my inbox where readers can write to me, I know that thousands of you now love your Sharkies, too.  And I love the comments you send in. They make me smile because I know the range of emotions from amazement to flat out embarrassment. Where on earth did all of this dirt and debris come from? I can’t believe what’s been lurking in our carpets!

photo credit:

photo credit:

With all of the miles I’ve put on my Sharks over the years, I’ve never had one fail. And while the manufacturer boasts that Sharks never lose suction, that is predicated on regularly cleaning Sharkie’s canister, filters and rotating brush. It’s right there in the owner manual, which most of don’t think to read until we have a problem. You need to clean your Shark monthly to keep it working at top efficiency. It’s easy.

SIGNS SHARKIE NEEDS A BATH: 1) loss of suction 2) dirt being left behind 3) sounds weird like Sharkie is gasping for air 4) an unpleasant, dirty odor.

ROTATING BRUSH: First unplug the vacuum. Lay it down on the floor so you can see the rotating brush. You may want to place a bag or towel underneath to catch the debris and dirt you’re about to release. More than likely you will see strings, hair, and other material wrapped around the brush. This is normal. I use a pair of scissor to cut through whatever has wound itself around the brush. That makes it easy to release all of that stuff from the brush. You may have to pull and tug a bit, but it will come off.

CANISTER: Of course you are emptying the dirt collection canister on a regular basis, however once a month you need to do more than that. You need to wash it with soap and water, opening it from both ends if your model has that feature. I do this in a sink that I’ve filled with warm, soapy water. I have a long-handled bottle brush I use to get into all of the crevices. The canister has no electrical connections so submersing it in water is not a problem. Once cleaned and rinsed, I open both ends and set it outdoors to air dry.

FILTERS: Once the canister is removed you will see one or more filters made of foam rubber and depending on your model, additional filters made of felt. Remove these taking careful note of the order in which you do this, so you can replace them in proper order. It’s not difficult. Just pay attention. Be prepared for a dirty situation on your hands if you are not cleaning these filters regularly. I take them to the sink of warm soapy (blue Dawn) water and give them a good and thorough bath—I wash both the foam and felt filters, being especially careful to not damage those made of felt. (NOTE: The manufacturer does not recommend washing the felt filter. For the record I don’t like dirty felt, so I carefully hand wash and have done so many times with no problem. Do this at your own risk.) Once cleaned and rinsed, the filter(s) may or may not return to their new white appearance. But don’t worry. As long as they are not torn, broken or otherwise disintegrated, they’ll be just fine, even if they remain stained. Do not return the filter(s) to the vacuum at this point. They must be completely dry first or prepare for mildew and mold, which is the last thing you ever want growing inside a vacuum. I set my washed and rinsed filters outdoors to air dry. Let common sense dictate where you place your vacuum parts to dry.

When everything is clean and dry, replace the filters and canister.  Sharkie will be so happy, he’ll return the favor with an even more exceptional job of cleaning the next time you vacuum.

By the way, filters will eventually wear out, although I have not experienced this yet. And when they do, you can easily replace them. Just make sure you are purchasing the correct filters for your particular Shark model. I’ve decided to go ahead and get them now to have on hand if and when the time comes.

By the way, my Shark model of choice remains the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional Upright. It comes with a hard flooring separate attachment (awesome) and the lift-away feature makes it so easy to vacuum stairs.

Question: Which is your favorite Shark vacuum and did you know you were supposed to clean it from time to time? Don’t worry … you’re not the only one.


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  • MzKlly

    Shark Navigator absolutely love it. Especially since I got almost free…for doing surveys.

  • hey

    I purchased the Shark Navigator Lift Away Pro last spring & was very impressed, however it died within a few months. The company did send me a replacement within 2 weeks.

  • Janie Dale

    I have a complete set of extra filters for my vacuum cleaner. This allows me to clean and dry the hard pieces and immediately insert clean filters. Then I thoroughly clean the dirty set. Living in Oklahoma we have high humidity most of the year, thus taking longer for things to dry. By having the extra set I can allow a couple of weeks to dry all the way through. I want to mention I only dry filter pieces outside for 1 day, only in direct sunlight (naturally killing bacteria) and then place the pieces on an airy shelf to finish drying in the house. They are ready to use for the next cleaning. It also allows the filters to last longer.

    • Amber W.

      Hi, can anyone PLZ help me!!? I took my filters out for the first time to wash & forgot how & where they go back in!! & can’t find the owner’s manauel either!! PLZ help me!! Ty!!

      • kfilly

        Check YouTube. You can learn anything from that site. Felt filter closet to the motor. Foam filter just above that. HEPA filter where the air exhausts from the vacuum.

  • Texasgirl

    One additional important thing! Check, check, check that receipt before you leave the store! OFTEN I find I was charged the wrong amount, not charged the posted, lesser amount, or charged twice for an item. It means at trip to Customer Service to correct it and get a refund, but this adds up over time!

  • Marilyn

    I do love my shark lift away but after washing my canister like you suggested I ended up with water in the top of the canister. Mine is different than the one you have showing, mine is completely sealed. I am still trying to get the water out.

    • Nancy Gardner

      I wld just take windex & a paper towel to it! Wouldn’t get it too submerged in water. Hope this helps!

  • tboofy

    Thank you so much! Our Shark had started overheating, and my mom didn’t know what to do. I printed off these instructions, and she washed everything out, and it’s working perfectly now! The article was very timely for us.

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  • Eric

    Thank you

  • Amanda

    Can I put the filters in the dryer?

    • Cyberwizard Productions

      no. they have to air dry. the dryer will deteriorate the foam.

  • Cyberwizard Productions

    yay 🙂 Cleaning that foam filter under the canister was really bugging me. Nothing in my manual, well that I could find, and it needed it. Thank you very much for this post. It looked like a thin sheet of foam glued on. Didn’t realize it was a thick pad that could be removed without tearing it.

    Just wish you’d included photos of the filters and how to remove them. But I got it figured out 🙂

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  • Crabpaws

    Hi! Do you have any tips on how to clean the inside of the hose? Thanks.

    • Joni

      Did you get an answer i need to know this also!

      • Crabpaws

        You need to replace the hose. If your Shark is still under warranty, Shark will send you a new hose and handle free of charge.

    • kfilly

      If you are talking about removing a clog, take the hose off the vacuum and gently push a broom handle (or something similar) through the hose to push the clog. To clean the internal hose. Leave end of the hose where it goes into the machine attached so that the hose still has suction through and remove the other end. Turn the machine on. Extend each section of the stretch hose apart starting farthest from the vacuum and working towards the machine.

  • GregLogan25

    Great question – what really bugs me is the cleaning instructions show that metal cone as coming apart….and it really s/h been so designed. Negative on Shark for this one.

  • Terry

    My shark navigator has a foul odor. The bottom air filter keeps popping off when I turn the vacuum on. I have cleaned the filter but still has a bad odor. What do I do? Also I bought this used and it did not come with the filter that is placed under the canister.

    • Eric Walker

      If you’re referring to the HEPA filter where the air exits, I don’t think that’s supposed to be washed.

  • Joni

    Can you wash the attachments also like the hoses just rinseing they hold dirt in their . so can i just rinse them or no?

  • Elisha Mack

    Can you clean the hose??

  • Elizabeth Caldwell Coker

    My canister locks keep coming loose. Suction seems to be maintaining, but the latches keep coming undone. Shark Navigator Lift Away, model nv360. Thoughts?

  • Dale Neibert

    hepa filter???

    • CBDS

      In the front of the vacuum where the vents are. You can pop off the vent and the HEPA filter is behind it.

  • heveyman

    Run water through the metal cone from the outside of the canister (reverse flow) For extra cleaning use a de-greasing detergent inside the canister first.

  • heveyman

    I haven’t found anything but if I try something that doesn’t break the vacuum cleaner I will post it. I’m thinking I can just run soapy water through it separate from the cleaner itself and let the hose air dry.