Shark vacuum taken apart for cleaning

How to Clean a Shark Vacuum and Its Filters

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 Sharkies, too. Now you need to how to clean a Shark so it keeps performing at top efficiency.

I love your messages. They make me smile because I understand the range of emotions that come from 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!


Shark vacuum taken apart for cleaning

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 regularly cleaning Sharkie’s canister, filters, and rotating brush.

It’s right there in the owner manual, which most of us don’t think to read until we have a problem. You need to clean your Shark every three months to keep it working at top efficiency—more often with heavy use. It’s easy.

Signs Sharkie needs a bath

  • loss of suction
  • dirt being left behind
  • sounds weird like Sharkie is gasping for air
  • an unpleasant, dirty odor


Of course, you are emptying the dirt collection canister on a regular basis. However, once every three months (more often with heavy use) 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 allow it to air dry.


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 a 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—the last thing you ever want growing inside a vacuum.

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 so far I have not experienced this. And when they do, you can easily replace them. Just make sure you are purchasing the correct filters for your particular Shark model.

My first Shark: So Disgusting I’m Embarrassed to Tell

Rotating brush

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.

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.


Photo Tutorial


Taking a Shark Vac Apart to Clean

1. Shark Navigator Pro LiftAway. 2. Remove dirt canister. 3. Remove the foam filter. 4. Remove the felt filter.


5. & 6. Open both ends of dirt canister and wash in warm soapy water. 7. Wash the foam filter; and the felt filter as needed (see NOTE above), then rinse well.


8. Leave the canister and filters in a place that they can dry thoroughly. 9. With scissors cut away all of the wound on threads, hair, and other debris from the roller. 10. Keep working at it until the roller is totally clean.


11. Once completely dry, replace felt filter first. 12. Next, replace the clean foam filter (felt filter goes in first with foam filter on top of it). 13. Close both ends of the canister. 14. Lock canister into place and enjoy your nice clean, fresh Shark Vac!

If you have a Shark vacuum, you can get accessories for it online at Click on “Parts & Accessories.”

As I write, Shark Navigator Lift-Away Deluxe NV360 Upright Vacuum, which comes with  (1) Pet Power Brush, (1) Dusting Brush, (1) 5.5 inch Crevice Tool, is bargain-priced on Amazon. Things change quickly so a word to the wise should be sufficient. 😉


Check out this super helpful video demonstrating how to clean a different model Shark vacuum:

Man sitting on floor taking a Shark vacuum apart to clean it


Original: 12-30-15; Updated 7-27-19

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.

You may also enjoy:

9 Cooking Mistakes We All Make and How to Fix Them

Help! My Shark Vacuum is Acting Awkward and Stubborn

How to Remove Filtration Soil and Prevent It Forever


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49 replies
  1. Natalie O'Brien says:

    Does anyone know how to clean the hose? My shark has been loved and used almost daily for over a year. However its in an almost abusive manner. Vacuuming food and mildly damp floors the inside of the hose is like thick, wet dirt. The main body came beautifully clean. The hose however is a problem. Can it be removed from electronics somehow?

  2. Cindy says:

    I’ve used a Shark for years and love it. One thing missing from the cleaning information though – the very front filter (lower center of vacumn – my has the model written across it) also pops off and it can also be cleaned and should be cleaned. I discovered this pops off too by happenstance when I was taking everything else apart to clean.

  3. Tushi Roy says:

    I simply bought my initial Shark, supported this text. It’s an incredible machine. It works even as publicised . I bought a refurbished machine off of Groupon and solely paid $88, as well as tax and shipping. check up on refurbished items–they’re cheaper and are all repaired for no matter reason they were came back.

  4. Tom Stough says:

    I have the Shark Rotator Professional. The Canister has a Metal Cone permanently fixed inside. There is a plastic collar molded inside the cone and not accessible to clean any accumulated dirt out of. Any suggestions.

    • Gregory Hall says:

      I similarly had a issue I believe you had, if you are referring to the dust bin, my model is the Navigator Upright Vacuum, I washed it normally but also soaked it with isopropyl and warm water and shook it around over my sink to get some stains off the metal cone inside that plastic collar sleeve. Not perfect but sure to help a bit.

  5. celticwanderer64 says:

    I have a Shark Rotator Lift-Away and I love, love, love it. After going through many supposedly good vacuums, including an Oreck that turned out to be a piece of junk and for which the company would not stand behind, I noticed my daughter-in-law had a Shark and she loved it. I buy Shark irons because I sew a lot and they are very dependable, but I hadn’t tried one of their vacuums. I bought one and am in love. I love the lift-away part and the ease of going from floor to carpet and the suction regulator. I have a Cocker Spaniel who sheds hair to the point I can’t understand why she has any left, and this vacuum is the best. It never gets clogged and I love the ease of emptying. But I do tend to forget that these new vacuums need their own housekeeping so when my vacuum sounded “strange”, I started looking for the reason. Oops! I hadn’t been cleaning the filters. Fortunately I hadn’t bought it that long ago or used it that much (no comment) so while it was bad, it wasn’t dreadful. I pulled out the foam filter and took it to the sink and just started running warm water over it. I was afraid to use soap for fear I wouldn’t get it rinsed good enough. Sour soap is not a good smell. After much running of water and squeezing, my filter actually came out white again. And I’m here because I wasn’t sure how to wash the felt filter. I’m going to chance washing it also. Also, I got dust under where the filters go and worried about that, then I remembered I have a portable mini-vac I use in my sewing room and so I got that and vacuumed all the dust out. Clean as a whistle.

  6. Betty Thomas says:

    I had an Oreck and liked it a lot but when I started to hear all the Shark reviews, especially Mary’s, I made my leap to the Shark. It is heavier than my Oreck but not hard to handle. The heft to me means quality and this vacuum has it in spades. I vacuumed an area rug that I was thinking it was time to shampoo because it just looked dingy. After the first time of vacuuming it I was shocked at how much dirt the Shark extracted, the rug looked amazingly bright. I’m sold. I love the step by step on the cleaning of Sharkie. I folloed your instructions on the cleaning of my Eufy and it still works like a charm. My broom has been relegated to the porch for sweeping of steps… lol! Thank you Mary!

  7. Jan New says:

    I just bought my first Shark, based on this article. It’s an amazing machine. It works just as advertised . I bought a refurbished machine off of Groupon and only paid $88, including tax and shipping. Check out refurbished items–they’re cheaper and have been totally repaired for whatever reason they were returned.

  8. Susan Sharp says:

    Whenever I clean or disassemble something I take pictures with my phone of the items laid out in the order they come off, saves a lot of frustration.

  9. Shannon says:

    Hi there, I have had my Shark Navigator for a few years and didn’t realize I needed to clean the HEPA filter. I know, terrible! I have washed it, per the owners manual. It is still black. Do I have any options here, or do I need to replace it? I have noticed you can order them for about $10 from amazon or Walmart, but I am not sure if these will work as well as the ones that are Shark brand (3x the cost). Do you have any experience with this?

  10. Dixie Olson says:

    My daughter dumped a bag of BBQ potato chips on the carpet. I was lazy and used my Shark wand to suck up the mess. Not my best idea. Dirt and hair clogged it up after that. I ended up taking the whole vacuum apart and cleaning all the hoses and tubes in soapy water in the bathtub. My Shark still works!

  11. Audra says:

    I bought this vacuum almost 5 years ago per your recommendation and I have loved it! Though the button on the extension want recently broke, making it impossible to pull the vacuum back towards me. I just got off the phone with customer support, and for $8, I’ll be back in operation 🙂 perhaps I should give my Shark a good deep clean while I wait for the part to be shipped to me. Then it’ll be ready to suck up all of the extra dirt that has accumulated while it and my Eufy robot vacuum have both been inoperable.

  12. sadnana says:

    Thank You! I love my Shark, and I want to clean it, but I was intimidated by the thought of getting the parts wet. Now that I know I can safely clean them with soap and water I look forward to a newly efficient machine.

  13. heveyman says:

    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.

  14. heveyman says:

    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.

  15. Elizabeth C says:

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

  16. Joni says:

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

  17. Terry says:

    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 says:

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

  18. Greg Logan says:

    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.

      • Crabpaws says:

        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 says:

      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 part of the 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.

    • Greg Logan says:

      Great question!!! I would like to know too… I did – thought I had dried – but it sure is ugly in there right now. Ready to go back with bleach/vinegar/tea-tree/baking soda, TSP or whatever the hell else is needed!

  19. Cyberwizard Productions says:

    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 🙂

  20. tboofy says:

    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.

  21. Marilyn says:

    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 says:

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

  22. Texasgirl says:

    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!

  23. Janie Dale says:

    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. says:

      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 says:

        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.

      • Mary Hunt says:

        The felt filter goes in first. The foam filter goes on top of the felt. Or think of it this way: Felt is last one out, first one in. Hope that helps!

  24. hey says:

    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.


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