I’m pretty sure you know by now just how much I love my Shark vacuum cleaner. And given my readers’ letters and comments, I know that many of you have Sharkys, too. It’s super important that you know how to clean a Shark vacuum to make sure it keeps performing at top efficiency both now and for many years to come.
I love your messages. They make me smile because I understand the range of emotion that comes with using a Shark vacuum for the first time—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 my carpet!
With all of the miles I’ve put on my numerous Shark vacs over the years, I’ve never had one fail. And while the manufacturer boasts that Sharks never lose suction, that is predicated on common sense and regularly cleaning Sharky’s canister, filters, rotating brush, and handle hose.
- Loss of suction: It happens. A big fat hairy fuzzball or a venerable filter that’s stopped filtering can clog a vacuum and cut off suction. Whatever the cause, a loss of suction is the first sign that someone needs a good cleaning.
- Visible dirt left behind: When working at peak performance, a Shark vacuum will never leave behind a trail of crumbs and debris. If it does, that’s a clear indication it needs to be cleaned.
- Weird sound: You’ll know it’s bathtime for sure if your Shark sounds like it is gasping for air. That’s because it is. And that can be very hard on the vacuum’s motor.
- Unpleasant odor: A Shark vacuum should never give off a stinky, dirty odor. If it does, consider that a clear sign this vacuum is overdue for a good cleaning.
How to clean a Shark vacuum
In the more than 12 years I’ve been using Shark vacuums, the company has come out with a crazy number of models. However, my experience is that all Shark vacuums have the same basic parts and operate in much the same way.
What follows are general instructions. Your particular Shark model may vary. If you get stuck, ask in the comment area below, or refer to your owner’s manual.
What you’ll need
✅ warm water
✅ dishwashing liquid
✅ cleaning cloth
✅ wood skewer, or similar
✅ soft brush like a bottle brush
Make sure the vacuum is disconnected from power, then take it apart. Don’t go crazy here. We’re not talking about removing screws or detaching wires. Remove the dust canister and the foam/felt filters, the HEPA filter and its cover, and the handle hose.
Take note of the placement of the filters so that you can replace them in the same proper order. It’s not difficult. Just pay attention.
Check every opening. You’re likely to see fuzz, hairballs, and clinging dust. You may find other things like a Lego brick or maybe even a sock!
Remove all obstructions using your hand or a damp microfiber cloth. Can’t reach it? A wooden skewer works well to fish out or release any weird accumulation.
Open both ends of the dirt canister over a trash can and dump out whatever is in there. Now take the canister to a sink of warm soapy water.
Open both ends of the dust canister and put it right into that warm bath. Using a long-handled brush or a rag, get inside that canister and scrub it clean. Once rinsed, dry it thoroughly with a good microfiber cloth.
Shark vacuums have an excellent filter system consisting of one or two (depending on the model) thick foam filters plus one made of felt; and a HEPA filter.
Rinse the foam and felt filters in cool, clear water (manufacturer recommends no soap), being especially careful not to damage them.
It takes a good amount of squeezy and scrubbing of the foam filter to get it clean. Once cleaned and rinsed well, 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.
NOTE: The manufacturer does not recommend washing the felt filter. I’m not too fond of dirty felt, so I carefully hand wash and have done so many times with no problem. Do this at your own risk.
Most Shark vacuum models have an additional filter—a HEPA filter. This is located on the lower front of the machine behind the filter grill (door). Firmly pull the door off to reveal the HEPA filter and pull out the filter. Rinse the filter well in clear water and allow it to dry fully.
Do not return the filter(s) to the vacuum at this point. They must be completely dry first or prepare for mildew and mold—the last thing you ever want growing inside a vacuum. Set the still wet filter(s) on the counter so they can air dry. This may require an overnight stay.
Next, lay the vacuum 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 scissors to cut through whatever has wound itself around the brush. That makes it easy to clean up the brush. You may have to pull and tug a bit, but it will come off. You want to return the rotating brush to its nice and clean condition.
Again, since I am not privy to every single Shark model, please check your owner’s manual before cleaning the vacuum handle hose. You want to make sure the hose on your model does not have any electrical components. None of my Shark vacuums ever have, but let’s make sure.
The handle hose on a Shark disconnects easily. When you do this and take a look inside, you’ll see that it is laden with sticky dust and grime. Removing all of that will help your Sharky to continue to perform smoothly.
Take the hose to your sink or tub of soapy water and drop it in so it can fill with water. Using a brush or rag, reach into the ends to clean it. Warning! Don’t get anything get stuck, especially in that bendy part.
Allow the hose to sit and soak for a while, to loosen the grime in the areas you cannot reach easily. Finish by running clean water from a faucet through the hose until it comes out clean and clear from the other end. Find a place to hang the hose vertically so it can drip dry.
Once the filters and handle hose are completely dry, reassemble your Shark vacuum.
Replace the felt filter first. Next, replace the clean foam filter on top of the felt filter. Replace the HEPA filter and then the “grill” cover. Reattach the handle hose. Close both ends of the dirt canister and lock it into place.
Enjoy your nice clean, fresh Shark Vac!
Why does my vacuum smell?
More than likely, you are not emptying the dirt canister frequently enough. Just think about what goes inside that dirt canister and also gets trapped in the filters. It’s dirt and debris from outdoors, bits of food, and other organic matter. Allowing that debris to remain in the dirt canister creates a breeding ground for bacteria and mold and the potential for a stinky situation.
How often should I clean a Shark vacuum and filters?
- Each use: Empty the dirt container after every use.
- Monthly: Shark vacuum owner manuals generally instruct that the foam/felt filters should be cleaned monthly.
- Quarterly: Every three months, take the vacuum apart (see above), give the dust canister, brush roll, and hose a good cleaning.
- Annually: Clean the HEPA filter once each year.
When should I replace Shark vacuum filters?
Your owner manual will most likely advise both the foam/felt and HEPA filters to be replaced once you notice the machine is losing suction, even after cleaning the filters as mentioned above. That’s a strong sign that the filters are no longer effective.
To be on the safe side and since they are not expensive, my practice is to replace the foam/felt filters annually and the HEPA filter as needed.
Where can I get filters and replacement parts for my Shark products?
SharkClean.com carries just about every possible replacement part or accessory you can imagine and for lots of Shark models, even those that are no longer in production. As for filters, I compare prices at SharkClean with Amazon, where the filters for my Sharks are usually a bit less expensive. You can also find owner manuals for hundreds of models and exceptional support at SharkClean.
There are so many models of Shark vacuums. Do you have a recommendation?
You’re right, there are many models to choose from! I am partial to the models with the Lift-Away feature, making it easy and efficient to vacuum a staircase. And I prefer the Navigator line of Shark vacuums because they maneuver so well.
I purchased the vacuum in this photo tutorial above in 2015. You wouldn’t believe how many miles I have on it, and it still looks and operates as if new.
My current recommendation is this Shark Navigator Pro Lift-Away. It comes with several accessories including a pet power brush and crevice tool. It weighs in at just 13.7 lbs., which is just one more thing to love. And oh, that price!
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Original: 12-30-15; Updated with current information and photos 1-24-21