There are few sounds as heart-stopping as glass shattering — especially if you’re at home. Whether the cat knocked over a vase or the kids threw a ball at the window, when glass breaks, you know you’re in for some major cleanup.

Aside from being annoying to clean, broken glass is a safety hazard — it’s important to handle it right away. However, nobody likes picking up glass shards piece by piece, only to keep finding it for weeks after something breaks.

There’s got to be a better way to clean up broken glass — how about using your vacuum cleaner?

The answer to that question isn’t as clear as you might hope. In short, whether or not you can vacuum glass depends on your vacuum cleaner. Keep reading, and I’ll explain why.

Vacuuming Glass: Can You Do It?

Since you’re here, you’ve probably broken something made of glass — and you want to clean it up quickly. Maybe you’ve looked for advice elsewhere or asked friends and family what they think. If so, you’re likely aware that many people recommend against vacuuming glass.

Glass Can Damage Your Vacuum Cleaner

It’s true that vacuuming glass can damage your vacuum cleaner. Large pieces of broken glass are especially damaging, but your vacuum cleaner could be ruined by smaller shards too.

Glass can damage your vacuum cleaner in the following ways:

  • Puncture or tear the bag
  • Break or jam brushes
  • Ruin the air filter
  • Damage the motor and/or fans

As you can see, shards of glass that enter your vacuum can wreak serious havoc on hard-to-replace components. When faced with that kind of damage, it’s easy to understand why some people recommend against taking such a risk.

Vacuum Cleaner Can Spread Glass Around

After cleaning up, there’s nothing more frustrating than finding leftover glass — especially if your bare foot makes the discovery! You should know that vacuum cleaners can spread glass around rather than suck it all up.

Vacuum cleaners with long hoses are the main culprit in spreading glass. If your vacuum has a long hose, glass shards can get trapped inside. These shards will fall out later, once the vacuum is no longer running.

Bits of glass can also get stuck in your vacuum cleaner’s nozzle or brush. These pieces can fall out the next time you use your vacuum. If you’re not careful, you’ll be finding glass shards all over the house!

Newer Vacuums Are Better at Cleaning Glass

Despite what I said above, not all vacuum cleaners are created equal. You know that vacuum that your mother swears by — the one that’s older than you? As good as it is, that older vacuum cleaner isn’t nearly as powerful as the ones you can buy today.

When someone advises you against vacuuming glass, they’re repeating outdated information. While it’s true that older vacuum cleaners aren’t up to the task of sucking up broken glass, newer models can handle it just fine. That is, of course, if they’re powerful enough.

If you have an older vacuum cleaner that you’d like to replace, look for something like the Bissel Cleanview. A vacuum like this is great for cleaning up broken glass — it doesn’t have a bag, and its brushes won’t kick up debris like older models do.

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How to Safely Vacuum Broken Glass

Let’s say that you have the latest and greatest vacuum cleaner. If a drinking glass shatters on your kitchen floor, you should be able to grab your vacuum and start cleaning — right?

Well, not quite! There are a few things you should do to deal with broken glass, even if you have a newer vacuum cleaner:

1. Put on Shoes

Obviously, you should really wear shoes when cleaning up broken glass. Flip-flops or slippers aren’t enough — closed-toed shoes are always best for walking on or around glass shard-infested surfaces.

Aside from being painful if stepped on, broken glass can cause serious injuries. Slicing your foot open could mean a trip to the ER and a set of stitches. Smaller shards might be hard to remove, and they can cause infection if they’re left alone for too long.

2. Pick up Larger Glass Shards

No matter how powerful your vacuum cleaner is, it won’t be able to suck up large pieces of broken glass. You’ll need to collect the biggest pieces by hand or with a broom if you want to avoid clogging or damaging your vacuum.

But don’t reach for that shard just yet — always put on gloves before handling broken glass. Thick latex gloves for kitchen or garden should protect you from cuts. Be careful — particularly pointy shards can still pierce gloves and leave you with a nasty wound.

3. Use a Brush and Dustpan

If you’re not comfortable with handling broken glass directly, you can also use a brush and dustpan. Brushes can trap smaller shards, so shake your brush out thoroughly after sweeping. You don’t want those pieces falling out later!

No matter which method you use, don’t kneel on the floor when broken glass is around. It’s safer to squat down — you’ll keep your legs and knees out of harm’s way!

4. Vacuum the Remaining Glass

Now that you’ve dealt with the bigger pieces of broken glass, it should be safe to start vacuuming up the rest. If you have a newer vacuum cleaner, just vacuum like you normally would. You should start on a lower power setting — large shards will be less likely to damage your vacuum if its motor isn’t spinning too fast.

You can still use an older vacuum to pick up glass — just cover the hose with an old sock. The sock will collect glass shards and keep them from entering your vacuum. Throw the sock away after you’re finished — don’t even think about wearing it ever again!


If you have to deal with broken glass and don’t want to waste a lot of time, it’s definitely possible to vacuum glass! Do it carefully, and your floor will be clean and safe in no time.

If you broke a glass full of wine or something else that leaves stubborn stains, then my guides to natural carpet cleaners or cleaning with vinegar can help you make your carpet look good as new!

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