Shark vacuum collage 3

How to Clean a Shark Vacuum and Why You Should

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 many of you have Shark Vacuums, too. It’s super important that you know how to clean any vacuum, especially a Shark, to ensure 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 emotions 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 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.

Here’s a current offering from Amazon for a top of the line Shark Navigator Professional Apex Powered Lift-Away model (there are  many!)



You’ll know it’s time when … 

Step 1: Disassemble

Step 2: Clear obstructions

Step 3: Scrub canister clean

Step 4: Shark vacuum filter cleaning

Step 5: Untangle the roller brush

Step 6: De-gunk handle hose

Step 7: Reassemble


Signs a Shark vacuum needs cleaning

  • 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, it clearly indicates 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 similarly.

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

✅ flashlight

✅ soft brush like a bottle brush

✅ scissors

Step 1: Disassemble

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,  the foam/felt filters, the HEPA filter and its cover, and the handle hose.

Shark Vac Cleaning Disassemble

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.

Step 2: Check for and clear obstructions

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!

Shark Vac Step 3 obstructions

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.



Step 3: Empty and clean the dirt canister

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.

Step 3 cleaning Shark vacuum

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.


Step 4: Shark vacuum filter cleaning

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. 

collage of shark vacuum filters

Foam/Felt Filters

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.

HEPA Filter

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.


Step 5: Clean the rotating brush head

Next, lay the vacuum on the floor to 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.

You will likely 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.


Step 6: Clean the handle hose

Again, since I am not privy to every Shark model, please check your owner’s manual before cleaning the vacuum handle hose. You want to make sure the hose on your model has no electrical components. None of my Shark vacuums ever have, but let’s make sure.

hose handle cleaning collage

The handle hose on a Shark disconnects easily. When you do this and 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.


Step 7: Reassemble the vacuum

Once the filters and handle hose are completely dry, reassemble your Shark vacuum. 

reassemble collage

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 gets trapped in the filters. It’s dirt and debris from the 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 the foam/felt and HEPA filters to be replaced once you notice the machine is losing suction, even after cleaning the filters 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? carries just about every possible replacement part or accessory you can imagine and for many 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 the photo tutorial above in 2015. You wouldn’t believe how many miles I have on it; 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.

Updated 11-16-22


Everyday Cheapskate participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn from qualifying purchases, at no cost to you.

Original: 12-30-15; Republished with updated photos 3 -21-22




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89 replies
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  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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?

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

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