For as long as there’s been glass, humans have been dropping it – and its contents – on the floor. When you’re standing among the remains of your refreshing drink It may be tempting to just reach for the vacuum cleaner, but is that a simple fix or an accident ready to happen? Is it safe to vacuum broken glass? And if not, what should you do?
Whenever there’s broken glass, think of safety first. If possible, shut the area off to children, pets or vulnerable adults, then make sure you’re wearing thick-soled shoes. It’s usually safest and easiest to sweep most of the glass up with a dustpan and brush, so do that unless it’s really not possible. Use your hands as a last resort, and then only wearing thick work or garden gloves – a pair of Marigolds won’t do.
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Deal with the worst of the glass before tackling anything that was inside it. You could use several sheets of kitchen roll to mop up liquids or scoop up thicker mess like a casserole, but again it’s imperative that you protect your hands with thick gloves. Don’t be tempted to use a towel – you could get glass fragments stuck in it.
Vacuuming broken glass
You’ve swept up the shards and mopped up any surface liquid. Can you vacuum up broken glass now? Opinions differ, but we’ve seen information that’s simply wrong. It’s a common misconception that glass shards could damage the cleaner’s motor or fan – they’d have to get through multiple filters first. Bigger shards could do some damage, however, so always sweep or pick them up first. Don’t attempt to vacuum anything if your cleaner is missing its bag or any filters – it could get damaged, or eject material with the exhaust air.
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In most cases, it’s now not only safe to vacuum up glass, it’s the best way to make sure you get it all up, but there are some things to remember. Before you even think of vacuuming glass, check your cleaner’s hose isn’t partially blocked – it’s hard and dangerous to clear any blockage once you get glass shards in it. Don’t use the main floor head of an upright vacuum, or any attachment with rotating brushes, as they could scatter or flip glass around.
If possible, start to vacuum on a low power setting that will minimise any damage should you pick up a bigger shard by mistake. Only once you’ve cleaned the whole area should you clean again on full power. When you’re done, use a bright, portable light such as a mobile phone torch to check for telltale glints where you might have missed any bits.
If you’ve got a cyclonic cleaner, remember that it filters air by rotating it, with the heavier items tumbling around against the clear plastic chamber. Empty glass out quickly to minimise scratching. And if your vacuum uses a bag, remember that it will contain chunks of glass that could easily cut through when you handle it – use extreme caution, or gloves.
Finally, spare a thought for the people who handle your rubbish. Always put broken glass or vacuum bags that contain it in a cardboard box, or wrap them in many layers of newspaper. Seal the package up and mark it clearly as ‘glass’ before putting it in the household rubbish.