Experts Warn This #CleanTok Vacuum Trend Is Actually Dangerous

Here's why you should steer clear of this #CleanTok trend—and how to effectively clean your vacuum instead.

<p>Getty Images / Aleksandr Grechanyuk</p>

Getty Images / Aleksandr Grechanyuk

If you've been scrolling on #CleanTok lately, you've probably seen videos of people pouring scented laundry beads directly into their vacuums. The viral video has more than half a million views on TikTok and claims that vacuuming up scented laundry beads keeps the appliance (and your carpet or furniture) smelling fresh for weeks. And while there may be a grain of truth to it, it comes with a potential cost to your vacuum and your health.

Monika Stuczen, senior research scientist at Dyson, breaks down why you should skip this TikTok cleaning hack and shares the best methods for properly cleaning your vacuum so it smells good and lasts for years to come.

Related: 5 Common Vacuuming Mistakes That Could Be Making Your Home Dirtier

What Is the Laundry Bead Vacuum Trend?

This cleaning 'hack' is a pretty straightforward trick that involves placing laundry beads inside your vacuum cleaner. They can either be scattered on the floor and vacuumed up, or tossed directly into the dustbin (this only works for bagless vacuums). The heat from the running vacuum supposedly releases the scent into the air, making both your vacuum and carpet smell good.

According to those who have tried it, the fragrance may last for weeks or until you empty the canister. I have a small Dyson vacuum and, personally, like to unload it of debris immediately after vacuuming—so already, the trick doesn't seem worthwhile. Plus, numerous commenters confess they didn’t notice a difference in smell at all, which seems almost as wasteful as the product overload trend.

Related: How Often Should You Vacuum? Here's What the Pros Say

Why the Viral Laundry Bead Vacuum Trend Is a Bad Idea

There are two main reasons why you should avoid trying it in your home. Stuczen explains the trend can not only ruin your vacuum, it can also be harmful to your health.

It could ruin your vacuum cleaner (and void any warranty).

A nice vacuum is typically a big expense, so you want to be sure to care for it properly. “We don’t recommend that owners expose their machines to any liquid including water or essential oils,” Stuczen says. Most laundry beads—even homemade versions—include essential oils in their ingredients and will melt when exposed to heat. This means they can make a mess within your vacuum as it’s running and possibly clog it or cause it to malfunction.

Not only can this cause your vacuum to function poorly, it could prematurely nullify the vacuum’s warranty. “Owners should refer to the instructions in the manual provided with the machine upon purchase, as usage of their machine outside of what it’s designed to do may void their guarantee,” Stuczen says. Be sure to check with the manufacturer to confirm what is and isn’t covered before performing any risky hacks with it.

Related: The 8 Best Vacuums of 2023, According To Our Testing

It could also cause harm to your health.

Just as the Tide Pod trend for cleaning upholstery can lead to skin rashes, respiratory issues, and headaches for someone sensitive to the chemicals or smell, the laundry bead vacuum hack can produce similar side effects. You should be particularly careful using beads around any household members or pets with allergies. If you wouldn’t mix scent beads in with their laundry, don’t expose them to the product via the vacuum. And if you have small children or pets who like to lounge on or crawl across the carpet, they could easily put a stray bead in their mouth and require treatment for poison control.

Even if it’s only adults in the house, you still want to be cautious. “We love the idea of finding ways to reduce bad odors in your home,” Stuczen says, “but we would never recommend intentionally increasing your exposure to organic compounds.” She says that even if you don't put them in your vacuum and only use them as intended, laundry beads can still cause harm in your household. “Whenever possible, we recommend using unscented products as scented products, including laundry beads, can introduce harmful VOCs and other pollutants into the air," she says.

With more natural and green cleaning products on the market today, a nontoxic laundry scent booster is easier to find. But it’s still not something you should vacuum up. To keep your carpet and vacuum smelling fresh, Stuczen recommends a few alternative solutions.

Related: How Long Do Vacuums Last? 4 Signs It’s Time for a Replacement

How to Keep Your Vacuum Smelling Good

The laundry bead trend is a quick shortcut, but the best way to avoid an unpleasant odor from lingering in your vacuum is to give it a thorough cleaning.

Stuczen recommends these tips for cleaning your vacuum:

  • Empty the bin of your vacuum regularly (before it reaches the ‘max’ line) and wipe down your vacuum bin and attachments fairly often.

  • Wash your vacuum filter under cold, running water at least once a month to keep your machine running at maximum efficiency.

  • Be sure to let all parts of the vacuum dry completely before reattaching anything, as a damp filter or bin can trigger the growth of microorganisms and promote odor formation.

Related: How to Clean a Vacuum for Stronger Suction and Peak Performance

How to Keep your Carpet Smelling Fresh

If you're not sure whether the funky smell is coming from your vacuum or the carpet, it's smart to tackle both. Again, Stuczen warns about the use of essential oils and liquids during the cleaning process. "Avoid introducing liquids unnecessarily as damp carpets create the potential for mold and bacteria to grow, causing it to develop odors over time,” she says.

As with your vacuum, Stuczen suggests cleaning carpets routinely. Follow her tips for a sweet-smelling space that looks almost like new.

  • Use a vacuum with powerful suction and vacuum slowly to capture invisible allergens deep in the carpet pile.

  • Go over the same spot multiple times to give you the best chance of properly cleaning the carpet. Two to three passes should be sufficient, according to research in the Dyson laboratory.

  • Tackle stains immediately and, depending on the type of stain, use soap and water or biological cleaning products to remove them.

  • If you have to use a liquid cleaning solution, let the carpet dry completely to prevent mold and bacteria growth as these usually cause unwanted odors.

  • If you have a pet, properly wipe and dry their paws when entering the home to prevent dirt and moisture from embedding into the carpet.

Related: How to Clean Carpet for Floors That Look Like New

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