What Happens if You Vacuum Water?

Are you curious about what happens if you vacuum water? Maybe there’s some water in your home or car, and you’re wondering if you can remove it with your vacuum. Or perhaps you just accidentally vacuumed water, and you’re wondering if it harmed your vacuum cleaner. 

When you vacuum water, you could damage your vacuum’s motor, risk electrocution, and make a huge mess. Unless your vacuum is a wet/dry vacuum rated for water, you should never vacuum water. 

With that said, trying to vacuum a puddle of water will be different from accidentally vacuuming light moisture. As with everything in life, this question isn’t cut and dry. 

Let’s talk about the nuances. 

Why Would You Want to Vacuum Water? 

Most vacuum cleaners are made for a specific purpose. If you have a home vacuum for carpet and corners, it’s likely only designed to pick up dust and dirt. 

Why would you want to vacuum water anyway? Well, some people might worry about accidentally vacuuming moisture during their regular vacuuming routine. Other times, it might seem convenient to get rid of a puddle of water by vacuuming. Some people even use a wet/dry vacuum to clear drains. There are many home improvement projects around the house that will be suitable for vacuuming water.

There are many reasons to use a vacuum to clean up a puddle of water. Unfortunately, it’s easy to confuse wet/dry vacuums with regular vacuums. What’s the difference between a vacuum for water and a vacuum for dust and dirt? Below, we’ll talk more about these issues and give you some advice for vacuuming water. 

Will Sucking Up Water Ruin a Vacuum Cleaner? 

If your vacuum isn’t rated for water, then vacuuming water could ruin your vacuum cleaner. However, this doesn’t mean that a single drop of water will instantly blow up your vacuum.

How much water does it take to ruin a regular vacuum? I’ll offer some advice based on research and personal experience – but know this: this is purely opinion. There are many types of vacuums, designed in millions of different ways, so what goes for one machine probably won’t be the same for the next. 

Here are three levels of water exposure and their potential to ruin your vacuum: 

  1. Light moisture. This might just be only equivalent to a few drops. This is unlikely to ruin a vacuum cleaner completely; however, it can still create a mess within your bag or vacuum chamber. You’ll probably need to let it dry out before using the vacuum. 
  2. Medium moisture. This would be equivalent to a small puddle of water, maybe from a light spill. This level of moisture might ruin your vacuum, but it might not. You certainly wouldn’t want to risk this, but if you accidentally vacuum a medium amount of water, shut off and unplug your machine. It might work after drying out completely. 
  3. High moisture. This would be equivalent to vacuuming full buckets of water. This is almost guaranteed to ruin your vacuum, causing a huge mess, and possible electrocution. Do not attempt! Turn off the unit and disconnect the power. 

In the next section, we’ll talk about several bad things that happen if you vacuum large amounts of water.

Several Bad Things that Happen if You Vacuum Water 

If you use a vacuum that isn’t rated for water, you should be prepared for several issues – none are pleasant. However, keep these in mind should you ever feel the urge to vacuum a puddle of water. 

Things that happen when you vacuum water: 

  1. Water spills everywhere 
  2. It makes a huge mess in your vacuum 
  3. Clogs
  4. Ruins your vacuum
  5. You get electrocuted 

Let’s talk about the nuances. 

Water Leaking from Your Vacuum 

You might be surprised to find out that most vacuums are not watertight. They are designed with filters and seals to prevent dust from escaping, but these filters will not stop water from leaking out. 

If you attempt to vacuum large amounts of water, you’ll find that it just begins leaking from your vacuum, which makes the whole act of vacuuming pointless anyway because you still have a huge mess. Except, this time, it’s mixed with dirt, so it’s more like mud. 

Now, let’s talk about something equally problematic.

Huge Mess in Your Vacuum 

If your vacuum cleaner happens to be watertight – this is unlikely – you’ll still have big problems. All the dust and dirt currently inside your vacuum cleaner now becomes sticky mud. 

This creates several problems. First, it’s a huge mess, so you’ll have to carefully clean everything out and avoid using more water. And, if you let this sticky paste dry inside your vacuum, it will create clogs.

Second, the water will act as a transport, carrying grime to the inside of your machine. This means that, even if the water does dry, there will likely still be dust and dirt trapped within the innerworkings of your vacuum cleaner. The result? The vacuum will be destroyed or much less efficient. 

Clogs in Your Vacuum 

Even if you don’t vacuum water directly, if you allow your vacuum cleaner to frequently suction moisture, this could lead to clogs. Why? 

Because the water mixes with the dirt and dust to create a sticky paste, even after you’ve finished vacuuming any moisture. This sticky mud will continue attracting other bits of dirt and dust and could lead to clogs within your vacuum cleaner. 

Even if it doesn’t cause a clog, this could at least lead to a loss of suction and an inefficient vacuum. 

Water Can Ruin Your Vacuum Motor 

If water invades the motor, you may have a completely failed vacuum cleaner. Again, not only will the water be inside your motor, but it will be carrying dirt and grime with it, making it unlikely (or at least very difficult) to restore the motor to a safe condition. 

However, ruining the vacuum should be the least of your worries. Mixing electricity with water can lead to something even worse – we’ll talk about this in the next section. 

Vacuuming Water Can Risk Electrocution 

By vacuuming large amounts of water, you could expose yourself to electrical shock. As you probably know, water is a conductor of electricity, so you could get zapped if the water creates a connection to you through the vacuum cleaner. Depending on the type of power source, this could cause serious injury. 

In the next section, we’ll talk about what to do if you accidentally vacuum water. 

Note: the best thing to do is research your specific make and model of vacuum cleaner. Also, consider contacting the manufacturer when you get the vacuum and asking them questions about how to stay safe. 

What to Do if You Accidentally Vacuumed Water

At different times in our vacuuming careers, we may find that we accidentally suction small amounts of water. Depending on the vacuum and the amount of water, you will either have a minor problem or a big problem. 

Here are several steps to take if you accidentally vacuum water: 

  1. Turn off the vacuum. 
  2. Cut the power. 
  3. Remove components. 
  4. Let the vacuum dry. 

Let’s look at these in more depth. 

Turn off the Vacuum 

If you notice you’ve accidentally vacuumed water, the first step is to stop vacuuming the water and turn off the vacuum cleaner. If you’ve just suctioned a tiny amount of water, you may just need to allow the vacuum to dry out before using it again – this will ensure you don’t develop clogs. 

However, if you think you suctioned a large amount of water, you may need to take further action.  

Cut the Power to the Vacuum 

If you’ve accidentally suctioned a significant amount of water, you’ll need to cut the power to avoid any risk or electrocution. Depending on the situation, you may be able to unplug the vacuum safely. However, it may be safer to shut off the outlet at the power breaker and then unplug the vacuum. 

You never want to take a chance when it comes to electricity! 

Remove the Components 

After cutting the power and safely unplugging the vacuum, it’s time to let it dry out. This first step involves removing the hoses and the bags so that everything can dry out. 

Let the Vacuum Dry 

Finally, you need to wait until you know the vacuum is completely dry. If you completely flooded the vacuum, it may not be worth trying to salvage. However, if it’s just a little bit of water, you should be able to reassemble it later and give it a try. 

Note: It’s best to reach out to the manufacturer and ask them how to restore your vacuum. They will know best how their machine operates. 

How to Safely Vacuum Water 

To safely vacuum water, you need a wet/dry vacuum. These vacuum cleaners look like shop vacs, and they act almost identical; however, they can suction both dirt and water. 

These wet/dry vacs are made to safely suction water without leaking, damaging the motor, or risking electrocution. 

Key Takeaway on Vacuuming Water

Unless you have a vacuum cleaner built for water, vacuuming water is a bad idea. If you accidentally suctioned a small amount of water, you may be able to save your vacuum by turning it off and allowing it to dry. However, if you’ve suctioned large amounts of water with a regular vacuum, you will likely need to replace it.