Can You Vacuum Broken Glass?
Broken glass is a safety hazard, and one must be very careful when trying to pick up/clean broken glass from the floors and other surfaces.
Many people wonder what is the easiest and the most convenient way of picking up broken glass and often, without thinking, reach for their home vacuums. But, can a vacuum cleaner safely vacuum a broken glass?
Published: September 7, 2022.
Vacuuming Broken Glass
Broken glass consists of very sharp glass shards of different sizes. Also, glass can be broken on various floors, like tiles and carpets - obviously, it is much easier to clean such debris from tiles than from carpets and area rugs.
Also, it is not the same as what kind of vacuum cleaner You have when trying to vacuum the broken glass.
When glass shards are vacuumed, they travel through the cleaner head to the spinning brush (if present and/or turned on), then through the cleaning wand and cleaning hose, and finally enter either the vacuum bag or the dirt bin.
While traveling through the vacuum cleaner, glass shards can damage any internal surface. Also, if there are clogs or similar obstacles in the, for example, cleaning hose, glass shards can get stuck there, making any clog cleaning later rather dangerous.
If the vacuum cleaner features a vacuum bag, glass shards can damage the bag and make little holes allowing the dirt to escape the vacuum bag - fortunately, most modern bagged vacuums also feature durable motor air pre-filters that may protect the motor from damage for some short time.
If the vacuum cleaner is bagless, its filtration system probably combines cyclonic action with mechanical air filters - fast spinning air may accelerate both small and large vacuumed glass shards to high speeds, damaging the dirt bin and maybe even air filters.
So, if You plan to vacuum broken glass, be sure to:
- Don't use vacuums with cleaning hoses. If You must, be sure to check that there are no clogs or other blockages in the hose.
- Don't use vacuums with vacuum bags. If You must, be sure to replace the vacuum bag as soon as the glass is vacuumed and dispose of the bag properly. Also, check the bag for holes and check the motor air pre-filter for any signs of damage.
- If your vacuum cleaner features a spinning brushroll, turn it Off - a spinning brushroll may scatter the glass shards even more.
- If You have a newer and older vacuum cleaner, use a newer vacuum - they are made from more durable materials and have stronger suction.
- Safety first: wear thick shoes, eye protection, and tough and sturdy gloves.
Obviously, vacuuming a broken glass is possible, but generally, it is not recommended.
It is up to the user to decide whether it is safer to risk the vacuum cleaner or injuries due to the tiny glass shards. Seriously, whatever You do, it is your own responsibility - broken glass is such a tricky thing to clean up ...
Are All Vacuum Cleaners Equal?
While newer vacuums may be better in vacuuming glass than older ones, not all vacuum types are equal.
As probably You can see, we are very cautious about vacuuming broken glass with a typical home vacuum cleaner. But, some vacuum types can be used for vacuuming glass safely. These include:
- most construction sites and workshop vacuums: these vacuums feature stronger and more durable vacuum bags and filtration systems,
- most wet/dry water vacuums feature a layer of water as the first filtration level, effectively capturing even very small glass shards. Some ash vacuums are also suitable for vacuuming glass if allowed/recommended by their manufacturer.
However, most homes don't have such specialized vacuums.
How To Vacuum Broken Glass?
Before even considering using the vacuum cleaner, do the following (be careful - safety first!):
- Manually collect the largest glass pieces,
- Using a broom and dustpan, collect as many glass shards as possible,
- Wrap some duct tape around your hands with the sticky side out. Press the sticky tape on the floor, trying to collect as many tiny glass shards as possible. Dispose of the gloves with sticky tape and glass into the trashcan. Also, a sticky lint roller can be used to collect as many tiny glass shards as possible.
Now, use your everyday vacuum cleaner (your own responsibility!) to vacuum the remaining broken glass. After vacuuming, dispose of the vacuum bag or empty the dust bin. Also, check the air filters for any signs of glass.
Note: when vacuuming, again, turn Off the brushroll. Spinning brushroll can launch the glass shards at a relatively high velocity.
If your vacuum cleaner features strong LED headlights, be sure to turn them ON - such light can be very helpful not only when vacuuming in low-light conditions, but it can also be very helpful in spotting small particles of dirt, glass in this case.
Vacuuming Broken Glass From Carpets and Area Rugs
We have mentioned several times in this article that it is essential to turn OFF the vacuum cleaner brushroll when vacuuming broken glass.
But what about vacuuming glass from carpets and area rugs?
First, thick carpets and area rugs prevent the glass from breaking - but it happens occasionally.
In that case, vacuum the broken glass as You normally would: manually collect the largest glass pieces, use a broom and dustpan to collect as many glass shards as possible, and use duct tape or a sticky lint roller to collect the remaining glass shards before vacuuming without the spinning brushroll.
After the carpet and area rugs are thoroughly vacuumed without spinning brushroll, turn ON the brushroll and repeat the vacuuming task.
As the brushroll spins, it agitates carpet fibers and all the embedded dirt, including glass shards, while strong suction picks the dirt and transports it into the vacuum bag/dirt bin.
Note: This is very things become tricky. While spinning brushroll helps to remove the glass shards from the carpet, it can also scatter them around - be sure that the main cleaner head height is set properly to prevent the dirt from being scattered around.
And that would be all, more or less, regarding vacuuming the broken glass.
Whatever You do, be careful and use safety gear. Also, having a strong light (if not available on the vacuum cleaner) can help spot even the tiniest glass shards.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most popular Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about vacuuming broken glass and vacuuming in general:
Will vacuuming glass break the vacuum? Can You vacuum glass using a regular vacuum?
If larger pieces of glass were manually removed, smaller pieces were collected with the broom and the dustpan, and small glass shards were picked up using a sticky lint roller (or duct take or even bread slices), the remaining glass shards will probably not damage your vacuum cleaner, but that cannot be said with absolute certainty!
After all, not all vacuums are the same.
Can a vacuum cleaner spread glass around?
Yes, spinning brushroll can make a rather large mess if turned ON while collecting glass shards.
Are newer vacuums better at cleaning glass?
Generally, yes, newer vacuums are made from more durable materials and have better suction.
Can I vacuum glass with my Dyson?
Vacuuming small solids can damage any vacuum cleaner, even HEPA vacuums like Dysons. It is forbidden by Dyson to use their vacuums to vacuum small solid particles, but it is your own decision if You want to risk the Dyson vacuum or injuries due to the tiny glass shards.
Can You use a vacuum to clean up broken glass on the carpet?
Again, generally, yes, carpet vacuum cleaners can be used to vacuum broken glass from the carpets; just be sure to collect larger pieces of glass manually, collect with the broom and the dustpan remaining smaller pieces and very small glass shards pick up using a sticky lint roller (or duct take or even bread slices), after which vacuum the carpet with the brushroll Off and later once again using setting the brushroll to On.
Also, it cannot be said with absolute certainty that there will be no damage to the vacuum.
Can You use an old vacuum cleaner to vacuum glass?
While newer vacuums are built using more durable materials and have better suction and better air filtration systems, older vacuums can also be used to vacuum the broken glass, but again, with no guarantee that they will not break down.
Before using older vacuums, remove as much of the broken glass as possible from the floor and place the old sock (or even socks) on the cleaning wand/hose - fix it using, for example, a rubber band.
Now, vacuum the area thoroughly, and without turning the vacuum Off, place the wand/hose above the trash can - now, You can turn off the vacuum letting all the dirt from the sock fall down in the trash can. Through away the sock as well.
Empty the vacuum cleaner bag/dirt cup as You normally would, and just in case, check the vacuum's air filters - socks can be of great help, but tiny glass pieces can pass through it ...
Long Story Short: Cleaning a broken glass is a very tricky thing to do, and vacuuming such dirt can lead to a damaged vacuum cleaner.
However, by removing as much of broken glass as possible manually and using a broom/dustpan and sticky lint roller, the risk of damaging the vacuum cleaner is reduced greatly. But, it is still there.
It is up to the user to decide what to do - to risk damaging the vacuum cleaner or perhaps getting injuries from remaining glass shards, no matter how tiny they are ...